Music to Your Ears—Five Genres Waiting for Your Decorated Merch
hen decorator Howard Potter got a call to rush screen print T-shirts for R&B star, David Correy, he jumped at the chance. “Our local radio station was putting on summer concerts, so they needed T-shirts with David’s album cover on it within 72 hours for the event,” says Potter, CEO of Utica, NY-based A&P Master Images.
That was more than 10 years ago, and the rest is history, as they say. Potter has been producing Correy’s merch ever since that local concert. “We’ve done so many T-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, hats, letterman jackets, leggings, boy shorts, hand towels and drawstring bags,” Potter says. “We’ve produced decals, patches, posters, can koozies, lip balm, red cups and even condoms.”
“My merch is urban crossover style, so it’s the oversize tees and hoodies I wear and how I wear them. I’m a chameleon and change up my style, so it’s unpredictable. That’s how I style my merch, so my fans know to expect anything.” - David Correy, R&B artist and head of Urban Rock Records
Correy is unique as a musical artist because he started his own label, Urban Rock Records, in 2010 so he could have total control over his brand and his music. “It’s an unorthodox approach, but it’s gotten me globally known,” he says. “I wanted ‘David Correy’ to be a lifestyle and a brand. During the pandemic, more artists started looking to my independent model as more desirable."
His music is a reflection of his upbringing, cultures and sounds, including being adopted. “It’s R&B, with a soul infusion,” says Correy, whose new “ONE THIRTY SEVEN” project is now available. “There’s a rawness to it. I take you along in my direction, so you have a cross-blend of experience.
There’s another way Correy’s uncommon: He personally manages, produces and fulfills his own merch designs in-house, so they mirror his brand, exactly. “We have a look book of every design we’ve ever done, and Howard has all of our designs as well,” Correy says. “It’s a true partnership working with Howard because he manages my expectations, shows me where we can go and where we can’t.” A&P has done screen printing, embroidery, tackle twill, sublimation and sublimated tackle twill designs for Correy’s apparel and hard goods.
“My merch is urban crossover style, so it’s the oversize tees and hoodies I wear and how I wear them,” Correy says. “I’m a chameleon and change up my style, so it’s unpredictable. That’s how I style my merch, so my fans know to expect anything”
Getting In Your Music Merch Groove
The music industry has always been a huge business especially when it comes to merchandise. Many of us remember going to our first concert and seeing all the band T-shirts, hats and other merch available for sale.
With the current level of diversity in the music field, there’s a genre of music to fit everyone’s mood and merchandise for every style. Adding music merch to your repertoire is a great way to increase sales and repeat customers.
There are three aspects of musical merchandise you must know and understand: your audience, the styles for each music genre that will sell, and what’s hot. Knowing these important pieces of information will help you run through your inventory quickly.
Last year, the top music genres by music album consumption in the United States were Hip-Hop/Rap, Techno, R&B, Punk and Country. That spans a wide variety of musical tastes. Start with what you know and then branch out by learning more about the other top music genres.
“From what we see in our shop, many trends are consistent for most artists. For example: artwork using their portraits with halftones or lyrics from the songs on mid-grade fabrics. We’ll put those images on different T-shirt styles, hoodies, hats, tote bags, and decals, and make a good margin on each piece. We even create kits including different products. - Howard Potter, CEO of A&P Master Images
Let’s take a look at the top five music genres, some of the top artists in each space, and what merchandise is hot for that market right now.
Hip-Hop & Rap
Perhaps one of the most trend-setting and stylish genres of music today is hip-hop and rap. Although many people think of the two as one and the same, aficionados will tell you that ‘hip-hop has been more broadly defined to cover the lifestyle and culture of the music, while rap is the musical style itself. You can see the diversity in the acts from singers such as Beyonce and Bruno Mars to trend-setting rappers like Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye West, L’il Wayne, and Snoop Dog.
What to Offer: For decorators who want to cater to hip-hop culture, you’ll definitely want to stock unisex T-shirts (oversized and fitted) as well as women’s crop tops, hoodies, upscaled polos, and joggers. You should also consider offering bundles of hoodies and joggers that complement each other as a way of offering options to your clientele.
Techno has completely changed the traditional paradigm of the music industry by turning DJs into celebrity artists. Techno, also called EDM (Electronic Dance Music) or “club” music, is the background music that plays continuously in many nightclubs around the world.
The DJs who work there may take other genres of music, such as hip hop or rock, and remix them into an electronic beat. While DJs such as Marshmello and Deadmau5 have helped define the genre, musical groups such as Kraftwerk and Daft Punk have helped move the music into more mainstream avenues.
What to Offer: Techno apparel is marked by the kind of gear you’d see Gen-Zers and Millennials wearing to a nightclub. Be sure to stock lots of hoodies and unisex T-shirts as well as flat-billed hats and beanies if you hope to attract fans of this musical style to your shop.
R&B doesn’t stand for Rag & Bone as Vogue’s runway may lead you to believe. A quick Google search does reveal that R&B, although 4th in music album sales in the U.S. in 2020, is synonymous with the ’90s.
So, it’s no surprise the apparel reflects that throwback style. Rhythm and Blues can encompass a variety of acts, from contemporary artists such as T-Pain, Alicia Keys, and Janelle Monae to classic artists such as Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, and Marvin Gaye. With the ’90s emphasis being especially important, customers may also be fans of musicians like Xscape, En Vogue, TLC and Jodeci.
What to Offer: For this musical style, it’s best to keep things simple. Printed T-shirts are a safe bet, especially if you can jazz them up with bold colors and large fonts that capture the excitement of the 1990s R&B scene. Streetwear-style clothing, including hoodies, is also a good choice.
For those of us who think of punk from the early days, you can never go wrong with classics like the Ramones, The Police, The Clash, or The Sex Pistols. Classic punk never goes out of style.
But, new punk bands like Swedish punk rock trio The Randells and Manchester-based The Oozes take notes from the beginning of punk to create their looks. While The Oozes has a very distinct look (using primarily red as their color), The Randells have cleverly made every album cover terrifically decorated for T-shirts for their fans.
Another hot new group that just signed to Epitaph Records is The Linda Lindas. Their performance of an original song at the LA Public Library has already earned them almost 1 million views on YouTube.
What to Offer: When you think of punk rock fashion, think of skater clothes including T-shirts, flannel shirts, and hoodies. With decorated apparel, it’s best to keep things simple. Focus on black or otherwise dark-colored t-shirts with a minimal print. White t-shirts with a simple design and sleeveless tanks will also sell well to your punk rock fans.
Gone are the days of the “lonesome cowboy” singing in smoke-filled honky tonks or the pickin’ and grinnin’ hillbillies in country music. Today’s country stars not only wear designer clothes on the red carpet, but some even have their own clothing lines.
Sticking with the non-crossover country artists, we can see that Carrie Underwood and Kacey Musgraves both have “glammed up” their wardrobes over the years. While we see that Blake Shelton and Thomas Rhett both enjoy a wide variety in their clothing choices. Everything from “hanging out on the farm” chic to “dressed to the nines” tuxes at award shows and then all in-between for these guys and gals.
What to Offer: Country music doesn’t appear to be the tapped market you might think it is. With rabid fan bases and loyalty beyond other music genres, if you’re not already creating decorated T’s and products for top country stars you really should.
Stick to darker, muted fall colors. These are the colors most of the top country artists are wearing and will pair well with the logos of most country talent. It’s a good idea to keep plenty of unisex T-shirts with both masculine and feminine cuts and colors. It’s also not a bad idea to stock up on shorts and hats as well.
Think Beyond Just the Fans
If a particular genre of music is making big waves in your area, approach the band members about wearing special merch. Bands are always looking to promote their music. Band members aren’t always on stage, but they do always need clothes.
Create a satin members-only style jacket with the band’s logo on the back. Create special, limited edition tees, hats and hoodies just for the band. Guaranteed, the they will appreciate the help in creating decorated apparel and selling merchandise while promoting their music. Especially, since it’s really the main driver of income for a large majority of them.
Tap Into a New Market Via Music
Almost everyone has a musical style that they identify with, and this goes hand-in-hand with the clothing styles popularized by those genres. If you can find what music genres are popular in your area, then you can tap into these potential customers with decorated t-shirts and other merchandise that will appeal to fans. You can even partner up with up-and-coming musicians who might need a graphic artist to design their next band shirt. Developing a partnership with a band early in their career, could really help your business grow along with them. And, as artists are starting to take more control of their own merch now, you could end up being in it for the long haul.