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Music and merch. Bands over-think design. Fans want big loud logos.

If you think fans will buy obscure, under-branded and highly unique items, think again…

I just read another great interview from Rick Goetz (Musician Coaching).  This interview was with John Mathiason from Cinder Block.  Cinder Block handles merch for artists like Kid Rock, the Dixie Chicks, the Pixies and many others. 

It’s probably safe to say that John knows what he’s talking about when he claims fans prefer big logos.  Here’s a quote:

I discovered something early on in terms of how product development works, and it was really interesting. Bands would over-think designs and what they wanted to present to their fan base, and it would always be something cool and indie and something somebody in the band would wear. The problem was, nobody would ever buy it. It looked cool, and it would be something somebody in the band would wear, but the fans weren’t interested in it. They wanted something that had a big giant logo on it and is some sort of statement about, “I’m a member of this club.”  If you’re walking in with some t-shirt that doesn’t say the band’s name on it and is hidden someplace, you’re not really expressing that. What always ends up selling is a band’s logo.

The entire post is informative and worthwhile reading for any artist.

Reader Comments (18)

D'ya reckon the same rule applies to bands who aren't, y'know, Kid Rock?

March 29 | Unregistered Commenterfelix

Why not? Modest Mouse for example. Seems like the advice applies here also.

March 29 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

How so? Here's the t=shirts in Modest Mouse's store. Many of them look pretty obscure and under-branded to me. Some of them don't have the band's name on them at all and many of them have the name partially hidden or really small.

I imagine this works pretty well for Modest Mouse, given their aesthetic. I don't think it would work too well for Kid Rock.

March 29 | Unregistered Commenterfelix

D'ya reckon the same rule applies to bands who aren't, y'know, Kid Rock?

Absolutely. Your fans shouldn't have to explain your merch, just like you shouldn't have to explain why a joke is funny.

When I did t-shirts, my biggest seller was a simple logo and tagline. Later I tried experimenting with cutesy designs that de-emphasized my name and logo, and didn't sell a single one.

Somewhere in a closet I still have a 1987 Husker Du Warehouse tour shirt and a 1989 Rush Hold Your Fire tour shirt. Both are similar: just the album art. The reason I hang onto these shirts is because they're totems; they prove I was there.

March 29 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

And the best selling Modest Mouse shirt is (drum roll please).. And the ones that don't sell are (more drums please)...

Felix - "many of them look obscure and under-branded"? Are we looking at the same page? 50%++ of the shirts scream Modest Mouse across the front.

March 29 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Perhaps we have a different definition of "under-branded". And "many".

For a band like Modest Mouse (who aren't exactly obscure and underground), many of these shirts are look pretty left field to me.

Perhaps some quantification is in order. What do YOU consider to be a "big logo"?

March 29 | Unregistered Commenterfelix

I think bands just like what they like. I don't think it's "overthinking". If anyone's overthinking, it's the graphic designer or branding firm they hire (if they can even afford one).

This came at the perfect time for me, thanks! I'm thinking about what merch to order. It's almost as if you gave me permission to broadcast myself! I was afraid of coming off as vain if I said... her's a t-shirt with my name in huge print all over the front! But hey- join the club!

March 29 | Unregistered CommenterDanika Holmes

@ Felix. Those Modest Mouse logos look big to me :)

I am just going to take the advice from the guy that sells a ton of shirts. Big logos sell more than small, obscure logos.


March 29 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Most people likely prefer artistic/subtle/clever/etc when buying a shirt for the DESIGN.

But they buy an ARTIST'S shirt to let people know they are a COOL (a fan), so makes sense they would want bold in order to broadcast most effectively (possibly even subconsciously).

Good info - hadn't thought about it before - thanks, Bruce!

March 29 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

Awesome interview and great timing, thank you Bruce.

March 30 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Coming from a user interface angle here, people just don't look at big logo's. Read and been a part of a few eye tracking studies in my computing times and this is what happens.

I'm yet to test any physical product and evaluate the proceedings so don't know where to sit on this one.

March 30 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

Coming from a user interface angle here, people just don't look at big logo's

Yeah, but a t-shirt is not a web page on 15" LCD monitor. The context is different, the environment is different, and the signalling is completely different.

March 30 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Good stuff. Thanks Bruce!

March 30 | Unregistered CommenterScott James

Awesome post. The clients who order bigger size stickers from us tend to be selling them as opposed to giving them away for promo but I never realized there was psychology to it about tribal identity type stuff. The point of a tshirt from an actually good band may have more to do with meme combat in high school halls than the music.


March 31 | Unregistered CommenterSrini

I agree with Bruce's post. Fans don't necessarily want an 8 color picture of the band, a bunch of other graphics, etc. A nice logo with the band's name will suffice for many. Maybe have 2-3 versions of it and vary it every few months so you might get repeat customers, but keep it simple.

I equate it to college t-shirts. Most college sports fans don't want a bunch of logo's with pictures and other designs. They basically want...........the school name and that's it ! Maybe in a different color, or a different type style, but nothing that special.

April 1 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Brent

Interesting, and very true. Our biggest sellers bear this out perfectly. And they're often from very small acts who don't have a massive fan base, but do have a great design that people want to wear. For example:

April 19 | Unregistered CommenterNeil Cocker

It's all about supply and demand cause you're talking about a very competitive market

June 22 | Unregistered Commentermp3 players

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