So when people ask me about the future of the music industry, something that probably happens more than it should, I often talk about the streamlining of the business.How approaches are being stripped down, brought back to the basics and made more efficient. These are the things that facilitate growth and which encourage people to be able to be greater in 2018. While right now there are a lot of issues we need to confront, like the fact that streamlining makes it easier for shitty bands to muddy the waters and make your life harder, I also want to talk about one of the great hopes for the future that I’m a huge fan of, merch on demand. While yes, I do own a merch on demand company, Dropout Merch, I’m not really trying to suck my own dick here, it’s just that this is something I have thought a lot about and want to share with you guys.
So what is merch on demand? It’s essentially dropshipping. That is to say, we don’t actually hold any stock at Dropout Merch. We just have a store front and order forms so when someone buys from us we can send it to them direct and make it, on demand. There is nothing more to it. We just keep a shit ton of screens in our factory and have them nicely sorted so the people who want to get merch done end up getting merch done when they pay for it and bands don’t need to worry about only selling seven shirts and having dozens left over in their basement making them feel bad. I’ve been there. I know how much it sucks and I don’t blame you. You need to find a way around it and fulfillment is that way. If you can’t embrace it, then you are simply going to end up being behind the times. While it may not seem that way now, give it five years. This is simply how the news goes and where we are headed next as a culture, and it’s going to fuck up a lot of warehouses in a big way.
Of course, now you must be wondering how much this costs it sounds too good to be true right? Well as luck would have it most of the good fulfillment places are totally free and just take 50-75% of the sales price. Some spots might have rates on a sliding scale depending on units you move or a small setup fee, all of which makes total sense I think depending on different workflows. From what I understand it is probably wisest to shop around and determine what the best fit is for you. I think there are a lot of really cool ideas in this space, like for example fundraisers that offer to giveaway shirts, but only print them if you meet your goal. There are also companies that will literally let you set up your design and run them on fulfillment where you organize the entire backend. These are all really cool tools that are basically predicated on how much time you are willing to put into this whole thing, because if you can hustle it, you can really blow up.
There are admittedly a few great reasons not to do merch on demand, though I think with the dropping cost of these types of service they might go away relatively soon. That all being said – if you are a band who own your own screen printing machine and run stuff on the cheap then that’s always a good reason to do it on your own. The same can be said if you have a great relationship with a screen printer. The other reason not to is if you are packing your merch mail outs with goodies like hand written letters, CD’s patches and all that shit. While with Dropout Merch we are trying to include some of that stuff I think it is a tall order to ask any fulfillment company to do that for you, so it’s just something to keep in mind as you are going forward and attempting to lock in and develop your brand. It’s kind of cool to me that DIY ethics, no matter what the day and age still have a place and a way to disrupt some of the biggest trends.
This all being said, the real advantage of fulfillment, especially over the long term and especially with digital printers is that a good fulfillment company can get you any type of merch at any time in any place. That is to say, and I know this is crazy, but with printing technology you can send one good design into the manufacturer and your fans can order anything from underwear to a hoodie with the design in any color. So there’s huge potential here and a market that is clearly very hungry for this. There’s very soon going to be all sorts of unique possibilities for merch when you order online. If you want a Jane’s Addiction shirt that is pink with purple print with a design from 1998 you will be able to get it and you will be able to get it easily. That sounds pretty fucking cool to me and should sound cool to you too.
This is the dawn of a new age of merch customization. Soon there are going to be all sorts of weird collectors items floating around and bands are going to be experimenting with more designs than ever before while fans are putting together unique and distinct combinations, some of which will probably blow up independent of the band doing anything. So just think about that. Think about the craziness that we are about to embark upon and realize that it is all free or simply requires a small startup fee. This is going to change a lot of things in the industry and turn a lot of heads, you can either be ready for the storm or get swept along for the ride. In the end it’s up to you.