Dear bands: your t-shirts suck.
There’s one thing that 90% of bands cut costs on that ultimately kills their merchandise sales: shirt material. How often have you picked up a t-shirt at a merch booth with a REALLY awesome design, only to find that it feels like you’re wearing a piece of cardboard? Shirts that are scratchy or don’t fit well are shirts that get worn less often, and eventually make their way to the local donation box. If you want to increase fan loyalty and sell more shirts, you should very strongly consider skipping the bargain-basement Gildan shirts and moving up to a higher-quality blank shirt.
But dear bands, I was once like you: my mind used to go directly to the price tag when I was creating my shirts. That all changed one hot – and I mean HOT – summer day.
Many years ago my band was playing an outdoor festival called “Warriors of Metal”. It was the middle of summer, and the sun was absolutely beating down on all of us, PUNISHING all of the metalheads clad in black fabric and long hair. I was checking out the merch booth where all the bands (my band included) had laid out our wares. Most people were selling shirts for $10 or perhaps $15…However, there was another band on the bill – Vindicator – whose shirts were selling for $25 or $30!
Now, this may seem like a normal price for a shirt from a big headliner act, but Vindicator was on about the same “fame level” as the rest of us. The guitarist (who I knew personally) was standing at the booth, so I asked: “WHY are you selling these shirts at SUCH a high price?”
“Feel it,” he said. “Touch the shirt.”
I reached out and rubbed the fabric between my fingers, and it was like touching a shirt made by the GODS. It was soft, OH so soft…and extremely thin, yet strong. It made my band’s shirt (as well as the shirt I was currently wearing) feel like it was made out of fiberglass and thumbtacks. Dear reader, I nearly disrobed at that very moment! …but then he spoke once more:
“All these poor guys out here, wearing heavy, scratchy, bottom of the barrel shirts…in this heat they’ll sweat right through their shirts in a matter of minutes. This shirt is made of an incredibly high-end, breathable material. I wear these shirts at all the outdoor fests, and I stay cool and dry while everyone else suffers. Yeah, it’s $25. The shirt is expensive because the material is NOT cheap. However, I guarantee that this is the first shirt in your closet that you’ll reach for in the morning because it feels SO damn good to wear.”
And you know what? He was right. Frankly I didn’t even LIKE the design. Still don’t. But on the holy name of Dio himself, he was right. I wear that shirt CONSTANTLY, even 10+ years later.
Remember, when someone is wearing your band’s shirt they’re acting like a walking billboard for your brand. You want to make shirts that scream “pick me!” from your closet. From that moment onward, my band would only print on 100% ring-spun cotton shirts from brands like Bella-Canvas, Next Level, or higher-end Anvil shirts. Yes – the shirts were more expensive, but our fans constantly talk about how they can no longer stand to wear ANY other band’s shirts because they’re so spoiled by our quality. Fans will purchase our shirts even if they don’t like the design because of how soft our material is. They wear more of our shirts more often, and that’s good for business.
Most bands are not rolling in dough, so you might be wondering: “Ty, how can we afford to use higher end shirts when we’re barely scraping by?” Sure, each shirt might only be a few dollars more than a low-end Gildan, but multiply that over hundreds of shirts and the upfront price tag becomes unbearable.
The solution is simple: we print our own shirts.
We’ve been screen printing our own shirt designs for the better part of ten years now, and I would’ve been doing it for longer if I knew how insanely simple it was. You can print professional-looking designs on SUPER high-end shirts with just a few pieces of wood and curtain fabric from a goodwill.
It REALLY is THAT easy, and ANYONE can do it.
If you want to learn the entire process from someone who’s been printing on-the-cheap for 10+ years, consider checking out my course: The DIY band! We’ve got two modules – one that walks through everything you’d need to know to make your own effective merch on the cheap, and one that teaches you how to book your own tour and make your own road cases. The course on merch shows you the entire screen printing process front to back, and explains everything in an easy-to-understand format.
Stop giving your fans crappy shirts! Treat them to some luxury AND save your bottom line by checking out my course today!