Wednesday, February 24, 2010
How to merchandise your band the right way.
Question: Just a few questions about band merchandise:
1. Recently I've noticed a few new T-Shirt designs on the website which correspond to classic albums from the Earache catalogue: Massacre's From Beyond, Morbid Angel's Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and Decapitated's Winds of Creation. I was wondering whether you were planning to release any more classic T-Shirt designs? I was thinking Nocturnus' The Key, early Morbid Angel albums or even a Cadaver shirt.
2. On the Bolt Thrower website it says that Bolt Thrower Merchandise is only sold at gigs. Since they were signed to Earache and are a pretty popular band (for a death metal band at least) I was wondering why you have not had any Bolt Thrower shirts printed like you have for other classic bands?
3. If a label re - releases a band's album (which was originally released on another label) do they automatically gain the rights to the artwork and are therefore allowed to print merchandise with that artwork on it or do they have to acquire the rights to the artowrk separately?
4. What advice would you give to smaller bands or labels who want to get merchandise printed?
5. Most metal merchandise is black. However, in some photos of old school death metal bands band members can be seen wearing white shirts. What do you think of white (and other non-black) shirts and what effects the decision when you decide what colour shirt to get a design printed on? From:
Answer: Nowadays every professional band takes their merchandise very seriously. When fans can download the music for free, and most of them do, then that leaves the merch as the only thing the band can make an actual income from. Bands often finance whole Euro or US tours just on the income made by selling their shirts at the gigs, so its crucial a lot of thought goes into what fans want, and are willing to pay for, because thats how you survive on the road nowadays.
Earache has released over the years a real who's who of some of the most legendary acts in extreme metal, and along the way we acquired a whole range of merchandising rights (its been written into our record contracts since day 1). In the 90's, merch was considered more as a promotional thing by bands, especially if they were'nt gigging much. It was a chore to manufacture, print adverts or flyers to sell them (this was pre-internet, remember) and then pick and pack the goods and ensure safe arrival to the fan. So Earache gladly did this as a service for most of our bands, back in the day. Recently we decided to re-activate a lot of old bands designs, and as you say, Massacre and Decapitated were released this week, and hopefully kids will appreciate them. Earache currently merchandises over 75 band shirts, from all eras of the label.
In Earache's case the reason certain classic, old bands do not have a shirt with us is because at some stage in the 90's , rights for shirts were negotiated back into the hands of the artist, or manager of the band, usually in return for extending their recording deal.
Bolt Thrower have 4 albums out on Earache but the actual merchandising rights to the artwork used on those albums are unobtainable, to say the least. Realm of Chaos original is owned and copyright by Games Workshop, a billion dollar fantasy wargaming company who do not allow any merch rights under any circumstances. 4th crusade is an old classic painting, who's right is owned by a museum, For Victory is a famous photograph of soldiers during the Falklands War of the 80s', owned by the original snapper. Only Warmaster artwork is fully owned by Earache as it was commissioned by us, with local artist Pete Knifton .Pete is a famous ex-games Workshop artist, and he now runs a second-hand retro clothing store, located a stones throw from our office actually. Bolt Thrower themselves run a tight ship with their band affairs, and don't allow outsiders to interfere much, hence they do all their merch themselves. Its a proper DIY mentality which works for them, so more power to them I say.
Best advice to new bands I'd say is- get creative and befriend as many artists as you can and get them to design you eye-catching merch. One shirt is not enough, fans nowadays expect a wide choice so a whole range of merch - if you can afford the set up costs- marks you down as a serious player. Y'know the record for most peices of merch I have ever seen at a show was Misery Signals/ Your Demise/ The Number 12 Looks like You at Rock City.Nottingham 29th September 2009. 36 peices of merch were displayed and onsale by a 3 band bill. This was an exceptional number, I doubt it can ever be beaten.
In the early days bands often forget that the simple white band logo on black shirt looks classic, and often sells the most. The most iconic metal shirts of all time are 1) Misfits Skull 2) Ramones 3) Motorhead Skull- all 3 are simple basic white on black, so remember this and try to design your own "classic" one color job.Entombed did exactly that with their album 'Uprising' and I'm pretty sure it's best seller. Its cheaper to produce and most often, all fans want to wear to show their support of your band is wear a simple but eye-catching band logo T-shirt.
It goes without saying that you must display your merch on a webstore type page with a shopping cart system. Many bands use bigcartel who offer an easy solution for newbies to sell shirts.Sites like zazzle.com take away all the hassle completely - if you upload the design, they will do the printing, packing and sending of the shirt for you,but the price for this service is sky high to the fan.
We find nowadays that fan's sizes are getting larger- between 5% and 10% of our webstore customers now choose the size 3XL. We added the extra-extra-large sizes to our offering as an experiment, and fans responded by buying in large numbers. Its fair to say there are some really huge guys out there,who are into Death Metal. At the other end of the scale, girls shirts are a must also. Most metal bands forget that potentially 50% of the fanbase is female, and they need a shirt too. Girl's sized shirts are so rare for decent metal bands, that if any band takes the trouble to supply one at shows, I guarantee you they will all sell out.
Metal fans hate to be considered fashionable but there are definate fashions and trends in what fans buy. Currently the craze for hats with print under the peak and retro 80's era white shirts with bright coloured prints are all the rage. Our band Municipal Waste have a lot to do with this, they single-handedly invented this current style a few years ago and now sell huge amounts at shows.