Let the designers do the designing…and no one else!
So you don’t want to pay a designer because you think you can do it? Nothing too hard about it, right? Just sketch a cool thing that would possibly look awesome on a tee and print it with your band name. That’s it! No need to pay anyone for such a simple job. Right? Very wrong! There are just so many things that you do not know about design, no matter how artistically inclined you are. If you wanna find out just how inept you are, go ahead and design your tee. But trust me, you will fail miserably. You will just be wasting your time instead of using it for something more useful (like writing clear instruction to a designer on what kind of shirt you want). If you really want to save some money on the design, just choose a designer that would not charge you that much (i.e. friends or fresh grads who are looking for ways to beef up their portfolio).
The size of your logo should be proportional to your popularity.
If you’re not as famous as the Ramones or Arcade Fire, then you have no bizniz stamping a huge logo of your name because it would mean nothing to people. I repeat: NOTHING. They have no idea what/who you are so the band name as the main attraction will not work.
The design should sell itself.
The better thing to do is design a tee that looks awesome even without your band name on it. It should be a tee they’d really want to show off.
Know who you will be selling it to. Before you even come up with a concept, you have to be sure who your target market is. Do you think they’re the type of crowd who thinks pink is cool or are they the type of crowd who only wears black? What other bands do they like, what kind of shows do you think they like. What’s their lifestyle? What are the things that they love and the things that they hate? This will guide you and your designer in coming up with designs.
Make your fans design your tees. If you want more options for your t-shirt design yet you have no budget to come up with more than one design, why don’t you ask your followers to design for you? Let them design a tee for you and the ones with the most votes will get printed. Of course, you have to give a reward/simple token to the winning designers.
Make tees for the ladies. This is very basic but some bands do forget it. Buy ladies tees because some girls still do want to look feminine even if they’re the types who bang their heads in concerts.
And for the kids. Parents always want to bring home stuff for their kids especially if they feel guilty for having such a good time at your concert. Make sure you print some for the kids! Do not buy hundreds of tees for kids, though, unless they’re your target market.
Never use cheap materials. You want to gain more profit from your t-shirt sales. We all want that. However, do not buy shirts that are so cheap that it would make your fans hate you. It took you much talent and hard work to get every single fan, do not let your cheapness ruin your music career. Be content with “just enough” profit as long as you’re making your fans happy and thus more loyal to you. You do not want to lose many fans just because you want to earn a few hundred more dollars. Totally not worth it!
A few pieces at a time. Again, unless you’re a hot shot, do not make hundreds right away. You have to test if your fans are the type that buy shirts, you have to test if your marketing efforts are working, you have to find out which designs sell more. You don’t want to have stacks of shirts in your basement. That’s just too sad.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.