Records were huge, but significant money was made on merch too. In some case, merch might even come with the record. Indie labels spring up everwhere, and they’d take chances that the large entities wouldnt. As the decade ended, technology changed, and the ability to get music for free, namely through electronic distribution, caused record sales to crash and burn. Sadly, along with the records, so went the merch bundles. Before too long, indie labels either went bankrupt, or merged with larger firms.
The year, 1930…
If one looks at wax cylinder records, and the transition to gramophone records, to radio, is it not that different than that from albums to CD’s to mp3’s on the internet?
Merch was different though, in fact sheet music and piano roll sales were for many years greater money makers than the actual record.
Years back, I used to take my horn to this really old sax guru. He had been with Tommy Dorsey back way back when… and the tour stories of that era make many of todays starving artists appear to live like kings. The economic factors of a big band made such a real feast or famine deal, and famine for the side men, even with a big name artist from time to time was a whole lot more common than one might expect.
There was a glory period for big name acts and record royalties back in the day, and of course more recently. Between such time slots, other revenue streams had to predominate.
Have things really changed all that much?
Martin Atkins stated “There is no Reason You Cannot Do This” in reference to on demand posters and tshirts. He was not referring to on-demand like in cafe press, but more so, actually screen printing while on tour. As a fellow who consulted on massive screen printing operations such as used for tshirts sold in dept stores, I can think of tons of reasons why not to even think of screen printing on tour. By the same token… why not rethink the norms, and with some planning, give it a shot. It has the potential to really boost promotion, and also maximize revenue through merch sales.
Reasons why not to do so
- its messy and can be a bear to clean up
- screens are easily damaged
- multicolor printing requires precise registration and equipment
- transporting ink across state lines can be a challenge
- do you want hazmat in your bus or van
- flash dryers require 240V
- conveyor ovens are huge, many require 480V 3 phase
- quality may suffer without process control
- finished good racks are huge
- raw materials + finished goods take up valuable space
- labor is always a concern
And while the above are very legit reasons why not to do so… I have to remember that a band doesnt need to produce a multiple color glow in the dark tshirt with puff or high density rubber ink at high volume, nor do they need to do design change overs in 10 minutes. Low volume tshirts are a different animal than high volume shirts with specialty inks, and most of the other issues can be worked around.
Whats super cool, is lots of folks are already doing this, and there is a wealth on info online, albeit nothing beats experience. Some great forums to get rolling are http://www.gigposters.com/forums/ and http://www.t-shirtforums.com/
I also found this cool link on building a four color press… its no high speed robotic job, but for making a few hundred prints, it sure looks like it could do a great job.
Beyond the labor and overhead savings, on demand also provides for a high degree of customization, and specialty merch, far beyond tshirts.