Music merchandising has always been a very important part of the overall branding strategy for musicians – both independent and major label artists. With the instability in record sells, musicians are depending on merchandise even more to engage their fans and drive in additional revenue.
Creative Allies is an merchandising company that has a network of over 25,000 plus professional designers who have worked with some of the biggest brands in music and entertainment.
The Asheville, NC based company has recently released a new platform called BandArt, which allows bands and brands to host design contest via their Facebook pages and leverage their network of talented designers. Here is an interview I had a few weeks ago with Creative Allies’ CEO Sean O’Connell, about their new product launch and their goal to change the way merchandise is designed and sold.
What is Creative Allies?
We are a community of 25,000 plus experienced graphic designers and we are pretty well-known for producing high quality graphics and merchandise for rock stars. We have worked with The Shins, M.I.A., Black Keys and LMFAO.
With the launch of BandArt App for Facebook, bands will be able to host their own design contests to engage their fan base and generate great artwork. BandArt allows bands and brands to easily set-up, market and manage a design contest via a custom Facebook application, social sharing tools and a dashboard.
What prompted you guys to create BandArt?
Really, it was out of demand. We have had thousands of bands contact us to get access to our network. For a while we had this platinum service – where we were primarily working with major artists, movie companies, record labels and music festivals. So, we really wanted to perfect what we do so we could create a self-serve platform which is what BandArt is. It’s not just running the design contests, our goal is to change the way merchandise is sold.
Merchandise for any band is expensive. When you use BandArt and pick a winner – you own that winning design. You can sell it on your website and on tour. You can do whatever you want with that, you don’t owe anyone anything else. Also, you can choose additional designs from your contest and you can decide to sell them. When you sell them, you are selling them through a Creative Allies storefront where you have no inventory cost and we offer really cool products. Over time we are gonna provide a lot of distribution opportunities to bands as well. Also, because your fans get to vote instead of merchandise being forced on them – you can also use real data to decide what you want to sell!
How have the changes in music industry affected the merchandising business?
The bands are relying on merchandise even more than before. You see a lot of bands doing bundling where they would throw in a limited edition t-shirt with the purchase of their album. A lot of bands are starting to sell directly to their fans now, where in the past a lot of the sells were made online or through a 3rd party – which was mainly the stuff that was left over from the tour.
For 35 years, music merchandising was primarily selling on tour and whatever you sold to your fans was what you had left over. Now the process works where bands are looking for unique products and they are spending more time and effort because they know they can really make money off of it. At the end of the day we have every record label coming to us because it engages your fan base, it helps you to get your product designed by great designers, it helps you finds new fans and its very viral.
How much does your service cost?
The way it works anyone can use our product. If they want to run a design contest on their Facebook page it’s free. What they offer a prize is really up to them. If they want to offer backstage passes it’s up to them, but it’s pretty obvious there is more incentive for a cash prize. If a band offers a cash prize we pay 100% of the money to the winning designer. If a band wants us to market their contest to our 25,000 plus designers, we charge a flat $80 fee. We require a minimum of a $200 cash prize for our designers.
What is the most important piece of merchandise for bands to have?
T-shirts are still the most popular type of merchandise however if you have offer limited edition products like iPhone cases that will work great as well.