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Web site suits pop music fans to a T

Aside from ringing ears and memories, the main thing most fans take home from a concert is a T-shirt.

Now, thanks to a Dallas company, fans can skip the concert and buy the shirt directly from the Web. What's more, the bands get a sizable piece of the profit, something that rarely happens with the T-shirts and other promotional merchandise sold at concerts.

Bandwear.com is the brainchild of four Dallas-area entrepreneurs with music business roots. Two of the partners, Mike Swinford and Paul Nugent, run Rainmaker Artists, a management company for groups such as the Nixons, Sugarbomb, Deep Blue Something and Soak. They partnered with former Alantic Records promotion rep Zan Hefner and Crystal Clear Sound owner Sam Paulos to form Bandwear.com a year ago.

The offices, in a huge North Dallas warehouse, are filled with everything from baby T's to hockey jerseys emblazoned with logos of the bands du jour.

The Internet site features posters, caps and T-shirts for 400 local and national bands in several categories, including country, punk, pop, rock, reggae and alternative.

Shirts on the site cost an average of $17.99, shipping included, much less than a fan would pay at a gig. The artists also profit from selling through the site.

"Most bands have licensing deals, and they only make a buck fifty on a shirt they sell at a concert," notes Swinford, adding that a large portion of the profit goes to the concert venue. By selling through Bandwear.com, he says, they make $5 to $7 a shirt.

Bandwear also provides optional design services for bands who want them. Most of the in-house designs _ sugary-colored baby T's for Jibe, a Batmanesque logo for the Nixons _ are more unusual than the standard-issue, extra-large black T's emblazoned with bad airbrush art that make up the bulk of their inventory.

Most items come from an artist's most recent tour, and, though there is a wide spectrum of groups, you won't find everyone at Bandwear. One aftereffect of the recent industry-rattling Polygram merger was the discontinuation of early T-shirt designs by artists such as U2, Sheryl Crow, Shania Twain and Hanson. You also will not find shirts touting the Dixie Chicks, who sell only through their own concerts and Web site.

"A lot of artists are short sighted and don't get the big picture," says Swinford, noting the potential for crossover shopping. "You might look for one country artist and end up buying a Dixie Chicks shirt at the same time."

Until the Chicks decide to link with Bandwear, other top sellers such as Blink 182 and Korn will do just fine, but beware of the "here today, gone tomorrow" factor: "We can't give Alanis Morissette away," says Swinford, "and, when Ricky Martin's Livin' La Vida Loca was a huge hit, the shirts weren't available until eight months afterwards. A company paid him $9-million, and, by the time the shirts were out, it was all over."

Bandwear.com is more likely to seek out artists with a little less exposure. They're currently talking to the Cult, who haven't had new T's in more than 15 years.

Swinford acknowledges that lots of fans will always prefer the old-fashioned way of buying souvenirs.

"You're never going to take away the experience of getting a shirt at the concert," he says, "but if (a group) is coming in three weeks, you can get it beforehand for much less, and, if you don't buy a shirt at a show, you don't have to wait a year for the tour to come back."

Bandwear.com's top best-sellers

+ Blink 182

+ Korn

+ Backstreet Boys

+ Metallica

+ Pink Floyd

+ Godsmack

+ Britney Spears

+ The Beatles

+ Rage Against the Machine

+ Christina Aguilera

+ Jibe

+ The Nixons

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