Music & Merch Series: In Conversation With | Musician Nick Greaves
Please tell us a little about you and what you do. What’s your background in the music industry?
My name is Nick Greaves, and I’m a musician and editor from Toronto. I play in the bands Wildlife, and The Most Serene Republic. I spent my formative years touring around the world playing guitar with my band The Most Serene Republic. Opening for bands like Broken Social Scene, Metric, and The Strokes. I currently play guitar (and sometimes bass) in the band Wildlife. We’ve just released our first single “Wasted” from our upcoming album, which is coming out this fall.
Besides love for the band, what qualities make a band t-shirt great? Can be anything from style, fit and feel, to artwork, to the memories and experience of when you got it.
For me a great band shirt is all based on design. Colour, fit and feel are always important, but the design will always be a first for me. I go to a ton of shows and my first stop is always to check out the merch tables. A lot of the time shirts are hung on gridwall so you have to make a call based on design. I will do a quick scan of the options and if something really pops out I’ll grab it.
With traditional music publishing in flux, merch has become a source of serious income for many bands. How does band merch affect your livelihood as a musician?
Band merch is a huge source of income for any band, especially at the beginning of your career. Merch sales often means being able to fill your gas tank to get to the next show. As your fan base grows and the shows get bigger, your shows can guarantee a certain percentage of merch profit will go towards transportation, food and hotels on the road.
How involved are you in the merch designing / planning process?
When it comes to anything brand/design related, I’ve always been very hands on. I often work with artists directly through the entire creative process, starting with the initial design concept, and then help pick out colour and brand of shirt.
What do your fans usually go crazy for, your most successful piece?
In The Most Serene Republic we had one t-shirt which was a light blue American Apparel 50/50 tee with yellow telephone wires and the band name. It sold like crazy so we had to re-order that tee for every tour for about 3 years. We also always had a classic black tee with white print, those were always surefire sell at the merch table.
In addition to the classic t-shirt, we’ve helped artists create some pretty unique goods—tote bags, pins, matchbooks, stickers, custom knitwear, etc. What’s the most unique marketing or merch idea you’ve ever executed for a band or event?
I think one of the coolest items I ever saw on the merch table was a digital download card that once used could be planted. The card was completely compostable with some sunflower seeds in the card. I also really loved the Weird Al Vinyl Box set that came out a couple years ago, which had all of his albums stored in an accordion.
Do you often change up the design or style of the merch with each album/tour or do you stick to a classic design?
Often times we will have a couple merch items that are album related, but we’ll also have designs that are completely unrelated. That way if we have an item that is selling well, we can keep it in stock even after that touring cycle.
At RS we’re becoming increasingly concerned with sustainability. What steps has your band / company taken to address the global need for less stuff? (overestimating, limited runs etc)
We’ve made sure to do more limited runs on tee’s and vinyl, and make sure we only restock before bigger tours. This way we can also only re-order what we know is selling at our merch table.
What is the best thing about being in a band?
For me, it's going out on stage and performing. You often spend a couple years working on a new album in the studio, so finally having the chance to play those songs live and see how they are connecting with your fans is the best part.
How do you connect with your fans?
Social media is the best way for us to reach our audience as we have fans all over the world. We make sure we post content daily so that we are staying engaged with our fans. We will share teasers from the new album, post polls, and let them know when shows are coming up. At our shows we’ll make sure to head over to our merch table after we play to chat with our fans. Doing this normally means higher merch sales as well.
You’ve probably been to thousands of concerts. Do you have a favourite band tee?
I think most of my wardrobe over the years have been band tee’s, my own included, but I’d say that favourite right now is a Bruno Mars tee from his 24K Magic World Tour. It’s a classic photo on the front, tour dates on the back.
Stay tuned for more from our Music & Merch series, where we talk to industry professionals about the dynamic between music and merchandise.
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