My daughter recently turned me on to TeeFury a website that sells original, limited edition t-shirts with a very clever marketing gimmick. It’s worth looking at here because good art and clever marketing are our bread and butter.
The concept of TeeFury is very simple. Artists submit t-shirt designs which they produce and sell at a reasonable price with a 10% payout to the artists. The clever twist is that each shirt is only available for 24 hours and then is never offered again. The limited edition of the shirts and the dedicated marketing for that 24 hours means that every design gets a chance to sink or swim on its merits in a mercilessly short period of time. It’s good experience for the artist and with the relatively low price fans come back again and again, buying shirts as a sort of vote on the designs they like.
Some of the shirts have done very well, selling over 2000 units in a single day. Successful artists then come back and submit new designs, doing what they can to repeat their success, and in some cases doing very well. Several artists have made over $20,000 with multiple shirts even though their share is only $1 per shirt. Obviously this also means that the clever folks who came up with the idea are making even more money, but they do take on all the risk and overhead.
Of course, the frustrating aspect of this for fans is that they never know what shirts are going to get picked and shirts they missed are unavailable after the fact unless the artist prints some for sale later. For the artist the question is whether you want to be at the mercy of the TeeFury staff as far as when or if your shirt gets picked to be featured. It’s kind of a gamble whether it’s worth waiting and hoping for the higher sales TeeFury’s model will produce or the hard self-marketing work and smaller sales over a longer period of time from Etsy or Cafe Press or one of the more traditional alternatives.