We have talked about merchandise in our Masters of Content series. If you read the posts and felt defeated, then mope no more! We were on Hypebot the other day and learned about Merchluv, which is where “artists inspire artists.” Sounds like utopia, doesn’t it? This is an interesting model – crowd-sourced merchandise. Imagine the possibilities.
Here’s a summary of how the service works where band meets arts-and-crafts and then get married and/or do business (however you want to see it):
Musicians just upload their logos, photos, etc. Then designers buy a license for 99¢ to make an original merch sample and post their creation on Mechluv. If it sells, the designer ships directly to the fan and band gets 20% of the sale. Bands can also negotiate to purchase higher quantities of an item to sell directly to their fans.
Instantly, my life has been changed. The momentum for this blog build a little more. It is packaging like you see in the video below that fortifies my belief that artists need to make collectable goods. It only took 15 seconds for me to find my wallet and make a pre-sale purchase. I am a fan of Jake One and I dig some Freeway stuff, but if not for the creative shelf-worthy packaging, I would have passed or waited for a friend to send me a CD rip of Stimulus Package.
Holy Collectable CD, Batman!
Now none of this would not be happening if not for forward-thinking independent labels like Rhymesayers Entertainment were not on the job. This particular packaging was designed by Brent Rollins, who has been deemed by Jeff Chang to be the best graphic designer in the hip hop space for the past decade. Rhymesayers fans may remember the unique packaging for Atmosphere’s last albumWhen Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. Mind you, both Atmosphere and Freeway have seen success on a career level, so they can afford to put that kind of money into their projects. It is probably going to be a stretch to see a lot of the smaller acts having packaging as lavish as Stimulus Package, but that does not mean you should be lazy on your physical goods you plan to sell.
All right, here is where I draw my line in the sand. I am no longer interested in buying any physical product that does not have any sort of creative effort put into it. I do not care how nice the artist is or how much they need it. I want a personal touch to your CD, t-shirt, flash drive, coffee mug, etc. Otherwise, any requests for my hard-earned money for physical objects will be ignored. Now I will probably still buy your album digitally if it is terrific, but more than likely that is going to be a slower income stream for you. Therefore, if you want get the most immediate bang-for-your-buck from a music buyer like me, then you must have merchandise that is worth the space it takes up on my shelf.
There is a reason I celebrate the Masters of Content, because the exalted supply their fans with goods they are actually happy to have/see.
When giving examples of music acts that have cool swag to buy, there is always the criticism of “those guys can afford to do that. Little guys like [us] cannot.” Here is the deal, folks. You are supposed be creative, so BE CREATIVE/RESOURCEFUL! You could easily come up with cheaply-made customized materials that would be worth more to someone than a regular, cold piece of plastic pressed up with a single sheet insert. I am even going to go one step further with this and give a free suggestion. Being green is in, so recycling is really cool right now. Consider your possibilities.
If roll with this ideology, then there is still plenty of room to create distinct items. CDs do not have to be placed in a jewel case. T-shirts do not need to carry your band’s logo on it. Posters can be handmade; heck, so can CDs and t-shirts.
Know of any clever merchandise concepts that you have seen to share with curious artists?