6 Tips On How To Make A Good Band T-Shirt

Bad band t-shirts (or ‘t-shits’ if you will) are both a hindrance to your career and an insult to your fans.

Strong words? Let me care to explain:

A hindrance to your career = Do it well and you can earn a fair whack of cash. Therefore by not doing it well you’re not earning said cash and are therefore hindering your career. Simple.

An insult to your fans = Do you think they have bad taste? Just because they like your music doesn’t mean they’re going to like your poorly designed logo on a cheap quality t-shirt.

When I was one of those ‘yoofs’ you hear about so much on the news these days I owned a shed load of band t-shirts. Pretty much buying one at every gig I went to come to think of it (some official and some knock off from outside) and looking back I bought some bloody rubbish ones just for the sake of buying them. Only one of them has survived long enough to still be part of my collection now in the form of a rather fetching ‘Pink Grease’ t-shirt (who remembers them then?).

I still buy band t-shirts now of course, but only if they’re nice.

That was a short sentence worth reading again.

I still buy band t-shirts now of course, but only if they’re nice.

Righto then, “so how do I make a nice band t-shirt?” I hear you ask. Well here are my top 6 tips on what makes a good band t-shirt.

1) Get someone who knows what they’re doing

Chances are you’re not a graphic designer; so don’t pretend to be one. Because what you think looks good probably doesn’t and that’s the harsh reality of the situation. It’s easy to dismiss paying someone to create a logo & a couple of t-shirt designs as potentially frivolous spending where the money could be used somewhere else, but this is wrong as the better the design > the more likely you are to flog some gear and make some money.

If you’re really short on cash then find a student graphic designer who is willing to make some designs for you as part of their coursework. Just be sure to remunerate them if you do go ahead with one of their designs and sell them for a profit. Fair is fair.

2) It should look like a ‘t-shirt’ and not a ‘band t-shirt’

If you’re reading this I’m guessing you’re not the biggest band in the world therefore the vast majority of people who walk past someone wearing your t-shirt aren’t going to know what ‘Generic Indie Band From Widnes’ is/are/means.

You should be making a t-shirt for the sake of something that looks good. Not just your name whacked on something making your fans look like fleshy advertising boards.

There is one t-shirt I own in particular by the lovely Scottish lads Copy Haho which gets more compliments and questions than any other t-shirt I have. Looky here:

That's not me by the way. My tattoo is somewhere far more intimate.

The majority of people who are unaware of their music are surprised when they hear that Copy Haho is actually a band and more often than not they think it’s a fashion brand due to the simple awesomeness of the shirt. If you can create a design that fools people into thinking that then you’re on to a winner.

3) Subtlety isn’t a bad thing

To reiterate; your fans aren’t advertising space – you don’t need to have your band name plastered in MAHOOSIVE letters front and centre of the shirt. I’m not saying don’t do it of course, but only if it works with the design. Check out this design from Kowalski (another one of my favourite t-shirts)

This also isn't me; my skin is far more tanned due to my Yorkshire upbringing

That doesn’t even have their name on there! And I, personally, don’t think that’s a bad thing whatsoever. At the end of the day I bought it so they earned some cash and it looks rather brilliant so when I get asked about it I end up talking about them. Win.

4) Mix it up for the laydees

Pretty self-explanatory yet it’s astonishing the amount of artists that just make small, medium and large shirts without thinking about doing something different for their female fans. Here is where pop punkers Kids In Glass Houses get massive kudos, check out their simply amazing selection of t-shirts here.

KIGH are a band I often use as an example of someone who does merchandising brilliantly. Fantastic designs that cater for all the entire spectrum of their fans – go look and be impressed.

5) When advertising them, make sure you have a model

When I say ‘model’ I’m not talking about Kate Moss, just simply a fellow human being so your fans can see how the t-shirt ‘hangs’.

If you send me to one of those sites like café press which just whacks a JPEG of your logo onto a JPEG of a plain t-shirt then we’re going to fall out and I’m NEVER going to by one of your t-shirts.

There is nothing wrong with using a made-to-order system as it’s a legit way of keeping costs down, just, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, at least buy one yourself first and then take pictures of that for your punters to see what they’re actually forking out for.

6) Speculate to accumulate

I was chatting to one of our artists recently and they learned about this the hard way: they bought a couple of hundred t-shirts when they landed a high profile national tour support and to keep costs low bought crap quality t-shirts thinking the kiddies wouldn’t mind.

The kiddies did mind. And they’ve got boxes of them left…

Next time round they spent a lot more money on better quality t-shirts and made less profit per sale, but sold out within a few shows.

So there you go! Other bands who I own a t-shirt of because I think they look ace include: Frightened Rabbit, Melodica, Melody & Me, Hot Club de Paris, Bombay Bicycle ClubPink Grease.

If you liked the Hot Club de Paris t-shirts on the above link then check out their graphic design company www.intheroomprintco.com. They’ve done designs for Wichita Records, Lost Art, Fear & Records etc. They know what they’re doing basically.

What I’m listening to this week: Foo Fighters, The Tallest Man On Earth and By The Rivers

Stay tuned

sP – follow me on Twitter

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~ by Sentric on April 14, 2011.

5 Responses to “6 Tips On How To Make A Good Band T-Shirt”

  1. Great article thanks, couldn’t believe the pink grease reference! my band girl spit has just finished our forst uk tour with the dwarves… someone in sheffield hailed us as “the best live band ive seen since pink grease” my previous band played with them too when i was 17, strange how these things keep coming up! thanks for the advice anyway, you pretty much enforced what i already thought… going to start sketching tonight

  2. Great article! I should model the shirt for my guys then..lol

  3. You have great tips here…you’re so generous to share them in details. May I just add that besides the shirt design, shirt tags are important too. Specifically, they carry your brand name. Thus, they have to be crafted with careful thought. They hold the key to your brand’s widespread recognition.

  4. Good article. The example shirts are horrible though. I would never buy those, but maybe that’s just a matter of taste.

  5. You have some really good tips here. I think making different styles of tees for women is also good. A loose one for men and more fitted for women. Tiny children ones are good for the more alternative parents too. I love seeing children walk around in a Led Zepplin or ACDC shirt.

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