Local music fans know Scotty Roller as the guitarist and vocalist of the Saddle Tramps and Them Sonsabitches, and the owner of Scotty Roller Designs, a company that does graphic designs for concert posters and other merchandise. Roller recently co-authored, with Bill West, the book Your Band Name Here: The Musician’s Guide to Merch. At 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, at Bizarre Guitar, 2677 Oddie Blvd., Roller will teach an hour-long $10 seminar on merchandise for musicians, followed immediately by a book signing. For more information, visitwww.scottyroller.com.
What inspired the book?
I kept getting phone calls on a weekly basis from local bands and other bands I knew from touring and everything, asking me questions about merch and T-shirts … it got to the point where I was like, OK, now all my time is being monopolized by this, which is fine, that’s a great thing. It evolved into sit-down consultations. Then I just figured there’s enough people who are asking the same questions that there’s got to be a book out there about this and maybe I can refer them to that. Well, I went digging—there are no books. There are some books that touch on it briefly, but not enough to really give anybody any concrete foundation to make solid choices for merch. So after digging and digging, I realized I need to be the guy to write this. So I took a year, and I wrote the book. I researched the stuff I didn’t know. I got the history in there. I made it in a format that a musician would be comfortable reading through.
So simple words and short paragraphs?
[Laughs] Yeah, and lots of pictures.
Why were these bands calling you?
I think the reason they would call me is because locally with the Saddle Tramps, we always had merch. … And on the road, it would always be the same thing. Even some headliner bands that we would play with would only have CDs and that would be it. Or they wouldn’t even have anything. And we always made it a point to have shirts out, CDs out, whatever we could possibly pull together, we would have it out. And we made more money in merch over the years than in guarantees. Or close to one-for-one. I think a lot of bands see that stuff, and they’re perceptive enough to realize OK, these guys are making money. How are they making money? And then they dig into and say, oh, it’s in merch. …
What are some common mistakes you’ve seen bands make?
The number-one mistake I’ve seen is they make merch for themselves and not merch that their fans want. If a band is making what their fans want they’re going to sell more. At any time, a band can make hats and shirts that they like. That was a hard lesson to learn. Case in point, we fought tooth and nail not having T-shirts with any sort of skull on it. We were just sick to death of seeing it. We just took this total hard stance that we don’t want a shirt with a skull on it. And then, after being so reluctant, we noticed our fans were wearing nothing but shirts with skulls on it. We need to do this. We did it, and they sold hand over fist. … The fans want certain things. And if they don’t get it, then they’re not going to buy it. It’s the number-one supply-and-demand rule: give the people want they want.
One of the functions of merch is that it’s a promotional tool.
It is advertising for your band. Ultimately, that’s what it is. It’s a moving billboard. … The fans get a souvenir that attaches to their experience with a good time, and then they have something cool to wear. So, are panties a good idea for band merch? Well, yeah. As a main source of band merch? No. It’s kitsch, so if you have all your other bases covered first, then doing stuff like that, great. … A lot of times, bands lose sight of what they are, and that’s a band. Music should be the number-one place to put your focus and your effort and your energy. A lot of times it goes the other way, and we need buttons and stickers and all this stuff. Well, yeah, but if you don’t have any music then none of that stuff is going to do you any favors.