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Grassroots website puts the soul back into merchandising

Artists, designers and fans can now come together to share in a collaborative business process by creating and selling merchandise.

Soulblendr.com is a website building a new social marketplace. It forms a commerce platform where musicians and talent of any kind can instantly engage with fans and independent designers by making band-branded merchandise on demand.

“It creates a closed environment, where you can create custom (merchandise) with bands that you love,” Soulblendr Founder and Chief Music Officer Charley Hoefer told The Lantern.

Soulblendr hopes to create a market that ties independent designers and bands more closely to consumers in a grassroots effort to design and sell products.

“It is no risk to either party,” said Sasha Jordan, a Soulblendr designer from Los Angeles. “It is a nice combination of supply and demand.”

Jordan had a vintage 1964 Schwinn bicycle that she wanted to “deck out.” She said she was not happy with its original bell, so she decided to design her own.

Soulblendr found Jordan on a website called etsy.com that allows her to sell custom jewelry and bike accessories. They asked her to join Soulblendr and create bike bells for Iration, a band that was already a part of their website.

“I just had a gut feeling to put Sasha with the band Iration,” Hoefer said. “Iration is a hip reggae band from Santa Barbara, Calif. that promotes their fans to not drink and drive. The band encourages people to ride their bikes to concerts, so it was only smart to put the two together. To have the band’s fans be able to buy bike bells that have their logo on, it is just really cool.”

Jordan said Soulblendr was a natural fit for her.

“It (Soulblendr) gets you out there to different places and gets you shown to a whole new audience, that you would usually never have,” Jordan said. “Soulblendr works really well with my product.”

The website has a blend of social tools and shared community features that helps everyone to succeed with a do-it-yourself merchandise strategy.      

“We are passionate about creativity and people being successful as artists, independent designers and business people,” Hoefer said.

The website has products that range from hand-made to higher volume custom designs.

The website just came about earlier this year and has more than 24 bands and 44 designers.

“The site is really cool for bands, because you wouldn’t have to put up any money for merch,” said Kelly Kefauver, a saxophonist in The Lost Revival, a local Columbus band.

Usually, for example, when bands get T-shirts, stickers or CDs made, they have to buy them first and resell them to fans, and hope they get a fraction of their money back. That means bands can get embroidered skullcaps, or custom iPhone cases, or limited edition posters available to sell, and if no one buys them, it doesn’t matter, Kefauver said.

“Really the only drawback is the price of merch,” she said. “The fan has to pay for the materials, the labor, the band royalty and the legal. The bands also don’t possess the merch, so they can’t sell it at shows or give it away to gushing fans that already paid their cover.”

Kefauver said the amount of merchandise fans buy is dependent on a few factors.

“How many of those items designers and bands will actually be able to sell will definitely be based on the passion of the fans and the looseness of their pocketbooks,” Kefauver said.

Still, Kefauver said Soulblendr has its benefits.

“Basically, it’s a great idea for creating uncommon merch, and it’s nice that it takes the pressure off bands to design, create, buy and promote items,” Kefauver said.

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