Merchandising Bob Marley

Bob Marley headphones display. Torino, September 2012.

“These headphones stand for peace, love and togetherness,” reads the product description for the Redemption Song on-ear headphones on the website for House of Marley, the official merchandise company for the Bob Marley brand. Despite such stomach-churning marketing copy (which doesn’t describe whether the ‘phones scramble the signal of Skrewdriver songs,) the Marley brand presented in displays like this one, in an Italian Saturn store, exemplify what alt.consumerism is all about.

While alive, Bob Marley mitigated most concerns over his integrity as a rich superstar by helping financially support countless residents in his Kingston 6 neighborhood, along with his extended family. In this age of conscientious merch, House of Marley LLC has allowed Marley’s widow Rita to ensure a quality of life for the legend’s 13 kids and 53 grandkids, all the while benefiting her 1Love philanthropy hub, which partners with such groups as Save the Children, Every Mother Counts and charity:water. Furthermore, the retail audio gear and bag collections are made with components sourced from earth-friendly materials including wood, stainless steel, recyclable aluminum and leather.

Any hand-wringing over the branding of Marley’s name went out the window long ago. Also penetrating the active/youth/jammin’ market are Bob’s son Ziggy’s Marley Organics food line, and son Rohan’s Marley’s Mellow Mood and Marley Coffee drink collections.

However, despite the mandate voiced by Israeli-raised Marley House consultant Orly Marley (Ziggy’s wife and manager) to “sue [copyright violators] without exception,” the active multimillion-dollar pirate trade in Marley-imaged T-shirts and accessories seems as uncontrollable as ever.

Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit

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