By: Mike Altier is the lead singer/guitarist of Ballroom Boxer
and Copywriter at marketing creative agency, Simple Truth
To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of merch(andise). Sure, a killer t-shirt is a fantastic walking advertisement. But the overhead, the merch girl/guy and the design are a pain. Unless you’re making t-shirts upwards of 1,000, the overhead will force you to sell your shirts at $15 and $20. I don’t even want to buy my own shirt at that price. That forced us to re-imagine the band t-shirt and its objectives.
Twenty/Thirty years ago (a little before my time), nabbing a sweet t-shirt at a Guns N’ Roses concert or the Monsters of Rock festival meant one thing – you were there. It was a badge of honor, it was proof – you were witness to this time, this place, this music.
HAM NOTE: While some bands do not have the time to actually print their own shirts one option is to make a unique design for every 50 t-shirts you invest in. If you happen to be touring July of 2014, make a shirt specific to the tour. Companies like Quality Logo Products located in Aurora, Illinois will take your unique design and print them on the amount of items you would consider a limited edition.
Now? You just walk into Target, go to Bustedtees.com or bid on ebay for a Jessie & the Rippers replica shirt or original Skid Row ‘Tour of ’91’ tee, complete with pit stains. The objective of ‘being there’ is obsolete and better suited for location based apps and sites like foursquare or facebook. Thus, we wanted to do something different. Something that achieved three objectives:
– Proof that you were at our show (and not Target)
– Cost close to nothing upfront while maximizing profit
– The free advertising, billboard/walking badge idea
While we’re in development on a mobile app that hits these objectives beautifully, we needed something now (app is 3 – 4 months away) since we’re currently on tour. Enter – the 30-minute band t-shirt.
First – the shirts. We went to our neighborhood Salvation Army (Goodwill or Village Discount Thrift will work as well) and attacked the racks. We picked up every plain or small graphic, white, orange or light blue t-shirt or tank top marked under $1 (it was a Monday when we went, so we received 50% on any shirt with a blue sticker tag).
Next, we hit up Blick art supplies and purchased customizable stencil sheets, an X-acto knife and cloth-friendly paints and markets. We also use 2 – 3 different fonts, so we designed our shirts first, printed the designs out and then transferred them to the customizable stencil sheets.
Since there’s plenty of time to kill before shows, we take our supplies and do the deed at the venue. If the shirt has writing or graphics on it, we try to integrate it with our own painted on words or graphics (i.e. Hawaii shirt was customized to read, ‘I got laid by the best band ever in’ Hawaii). If it doesn’t, we write ‘fan’ on the front. On the back, we paint one of two provocative tags – ‘Sex. Rock N’ Roll. Sex’ or, well, I guess you’ll just have to be there to witness the second.
In the end, each shirt costs about $1 and we sell them for $5 – 7. The fans dig them because they are all-different and sometimes include the show, date, etc. We like them because we turn the same profit as if we would’ve fronted the money and overpriced them. The first show we tried this at we sold out within 20 minutes of leaving the stage. Cheers.