I can’t imagine being an artist. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world as far as I’m concerned. People don’t want to pay what art is worth and it forces most artists to live their lives working jobs they hate so that they have just enough money to survive while they hustle their art on the side. They have to find an audience for their work and to do that they have to find a place to peddle their wares and to do that they have to spend some of that hard-earned money on that place to peddle. It’s a long ay to the top if you want to rock and roll. But suddenly, there’s another way for artists to find a audience. Presenting, Redbubble.
A few months back I decided to buy my own birthday presents. Basically, I wanted some new shirts and I decided that I would choose the shirts myself because I wanted something unique and funky and my wife doesn’t really know what Stranger Things is so I decided that I would buy them myself. I had found this shirt company online called Redbubble. I didn’t know much about them except that they had these really interesting shirt designs and given how unoriginal most clothing design can be, I was quite surprised. And then I figured out why. Artists.
You see, Redbubble don’t design shirts. They PRINT shirts. Artists create these incredible designs and Redbubble makes them tangible products. They charge a base amount, which allows Redbubble to make a profit and then the artists themselves decide how much they want to charge on top of that initial margin. It’s an incredibly simple system and it really values the artists themselves, which is something that has been lacking between companies and artists for far too long.
Ok, so maybe this post isn’t really about artists. Maybe this post is really about how companies can change the way they do things and the incredible successes that can be found in those changes. You see, most companies follow these stupendously boring and lackluster business models. Start with the thing people are more or less used to, do the things to it that people are used to and then output a stupid boring product that no one really wants. This is not just something that internet clothing companies do. Everyone does this. Creative agencies, newspapers, insurance companies, doctors; pretty much every company. But then SOME companies go ahead and say, fuck it! Let’s do something totally different.
And that’s where Redbubble comes in. To hell with everything that is supposed to happen, what if you put the power in the hands of creative individuals throughout the world? What if you counted on your fans to help drive your entire marketing process?
My point in all of this is not that artists don’t get enough credit for the work that they do (which they don’t) or that it’s hard to find a good t-shirt (which it is) but rather that the companies that really succeed are the companies that either got there first or didn’t get there first but got there in a VERY different way. So the real point in all of this is not to buy a different shirt or to work at a weird company where every Tuesday is Hawaiian shirt day and there’s no chairs because it’s best to work standing in small fishbowls filled with Jell-o because it’s perfectly normal and comfortable but rather that people and companies need to start using their noggins for something other than banging them up against the wall when they have a problems.
So if you’re going to do something, go big or go home.