Generally, somewhat cheesy promotional merchandise for a band, record label, or other entity in the music business, usually distributed at concerts. May include t-shirts, stickers, promo CDs, posters, etc. Often free, but not necessarily; a t-shirt or record purchased at a concert might still be considered swag, especially if it is a design or release that is not readily available in the mass market. Many independent record labels throw in a handful of free swag when they ship out mail-order packages (stickers, sampler CDs, etc).
The chief difference between swag and regular merchandise is that its purpose is not to make a profit, but to promote the band/label, and reward its supporters by giving them something cool and unique.
Almost anything can be branded with a company’s name or logo and used for promotional purposes. Common items include t-shirts, caps, keychains, bumper stickers, pens, mugs or mouse pads. The largest product category for swaggy promotional products is wearable items, which make up more than 30% of the total.
Most promotional items are relatively small and inexpensive, but can range to higher-end items; for example celebrities at film festivals and award shows are often given expensive promotional items such as expensive perfumes, leather goods, and electronics items. Companies that provide expensive gifts for celebrity attendees often ask that the celebrities allow a photo to be taken of them with the gift item, which can be used by the company for promotional purposes. Other companies provide luxury gifts such as handbags or scarves to celebrity attendees in the hopes that the celebrities will wear these items in public, thus garnering publicity for the company’s brand name and product.