T-Shirt Design FAQ: Do I Get Paid for Every Shirt Sold?

November 6, 2016

As a freelance graphic designer specializing in t-shirt design, I like to take on a lot of band merch projects.

This has given me the awesome opportunity to work with bands like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Gavin DeGraw, Memphis May Fire, and so much more.

When friends and family see the type of work that I'm doing, they tend of have a few questions – and always the same questions. So I wanted to make this video and blog post to answer those questions for you!

Do I get a free t-shirt?

Unfortunately no, I don't get a free t-shirt. However, I do get money, which is way better because I'm able to pay my bills.

Do I get paid for every t-shirt sold?

It might seem unfortunate that no, I don't get paid for every t-shirt sold. But it makes complete sense, because the nature of the music merch industry is very fast paced. It would be ridiculous to set up legal forms and royalty deals around each new design, which don't always have a long lifespan.

A lot of the work I get comes in one week, gets approved, and is sent out to get printed for tour. Then in most cases, when the tours ends and the merch is sold out, it's gone forever. Which is good, because this keeps the bands coming back to me for more designs.

Also, it's important to mention, as the freelance graphic designer creating this merch for the bands, I'm a very small cog in the machine. There are many others in which need paid in the process (e.g. the band, the venue, band crew, management, merch company, me, and more that I've probably missed.)

Royalty deals work better in cases where you're designing for clothing brands, where you want to build a longer, close relationship with the business. For now, I have no interest in legally binding myself to any particular company, so I always charge a flat cost per project.

Do I get to chat with the bands?

Nah... It's not like I'm taking calls with Brendon Urie or shooting emails back and forth with Gavin DeGraw.

I work with the band's management and merch companies.

However, what is cool is that my designs do at times make their way in front of the artist's eyes. For example, I did some tank tops for Train, and they made their way to the lead singer, Patrick. He responded that he absolutely loved them, which ultimately led to them getting approved.

Then there was one instance where Pete Wentz (of Fall Out Boy) shared one of my designs on his SnapChat story. Asking fans which design they liked. That design was approved and live on their merch store!

It's awesome that my work gets seen by the artist, but I ultimately do it for the fans. The people that are buying and appreciating these designs and what they stand for. Every time a fan goes to put on the shirt I designed, they may relive that night at the concert, share a message with the world, or just express themselves. That's why I love the work that I get to do.

Do I get let in on any industry (band) secrets?

Actually, I do! Since I'm designing a lot of merch for releases, I get to know things before they're public. For example, album names, album artwork, photography, etc. There was even a time where they sent me the album before it was even announced, so I could get a feel for the vibe.

Have another question?

I hope you found this video and blog post fun. If you have any other questions about me or what I do, please feel free to leave a comment below. I'd be happy to chat or even make another video on this.

See my latest work and more on Instagram @BrentGalloway