Designing for big bands, awesome right?

Working with big bandsGreetings all. I’m Oliver and while I’m a stranger to readers, I’m no stranger to Go Media and design. I’ve been at this for quite awhile. I’ve worked on slews of projects ranging from the tiniest business to the biggest bands. I’d like to share some insights about working with those big bands.

One of the perks of working on a project for a big band is that you can show off to all of your friends and attempt to look like a big shot because you did something for (insert big radio band here). There’s also the potential of random people everywhere buying something that you designed. Another is that sometimes there are decent sized budgets involved, but that’s really few and far between. Do not be surprised if you find yourself being disappointed at the process of working on these projects. In most cases, you are dealing with managers and merchandising companies who own the rights to whatever gets produced. The band may not even be involved in the approval process. I remember working on a shirt for a big metal band that my band happened to be playing with the following week. The design was good and was approved. At the show, I was talking to the singer about the design and he had no idea what I was talking about. He was really confused and just said that other people handle that stuff. Man, did I feel stupid after that one.

So that was a bit of a bummer, but there was still the potential of seeing the shirt at the mall. To my dismay, that didn’t happen either even though the shirt was approved. If you’ve noticed, I’ve used the word “potential” twice now. This is because with a lot of these projects there is no guarantee that your work will be printed or even paid for. It can be a real drag when you bust your ass and get really stoked about a design only to hear that one person didn’t like it, and it was shot down. Then you see some awful piece of work online or in a store that some how got approved over yours. It’s also not uncommon for a band to have a specific direction that will turn you into a grunt, slapping logos garbage together with random design doodads to create a smorgasbord of garbage that you aren’t proud of, but it’s for (insert big radio band here), so you debate whether to put it in your portfolio or not. I’d say leave it out, but that’s for a different article.

I’ve thrown some punches at big band work, but it’s definitely not all bad. Working with those merch companies can give you opportunities that you might not get otherwise. For example, there would have been no way for us to work on Nirvana shirts if it weren’t for a merch company. When working on projects like these, even if there is a specific direction, don’t be afraid to let loose with your own concept because the client might actually like it. There are also plenty of projects where we’ve been able to freak out and do whatever we want, and obviously those have been some of the most enjoyable. Sometimes forcing your will and opinion on a client won’t be such an obstacle if you’ve built a good relationship with your client, but again, I’ll go into that in another article.

Personally, I have a hard time deciding whether I like working with big bands or small bands better. The big bands sometimes pay better, but the work might not be as good. The small bands are usually the opposite: an opportunity for great work, but the budget stinks. At this point, I’m going to say I prefer the small bands, because those can be real opportunities to do something for a band that you actually like. I’d rather help out a smaller band that I really enjoy than see some redneck drooling on his Toby Keith shirt that I designed.

About the Author, Oliver Barrett

I'm a designer, art director, illustrator, bowling captain, bass player, shortshop, strategist, and much much more. Follow me on Twitter and check out my Flickr

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