Releasing an album is part of a bigger business process that includes merchandising. The most typical item is a tee shirt that has the name of the artist and/or album on it, which is usually sold at gigs. I was happy to follow through on this part of the job. I already had contact with a local company, Friendly Arctic Printing, who were already making tee shirts for The WannaBeatles.
After recording my album in May 2016, I thought it would be out by July. Boy, was I wrong.
Wrestling with details about mixes, song order and liner notes, I felt helpless as the schedule stretched on through the summer and fall. My publicist Chuck Whiting told me in September that it was already too late to release it before the end of the year.
All of the delays were God’s way of giving me time to participate in a fuller creative process. The 20 songs we had recorded were reconfigured as two separate albums with ten songs each. The four panel design was increased to six panels, to accommodate the additional text. The tee shirt design got a fresh boost from an unexpected source.
As a beautiful sign of the procreative nature of the experience, the CD release party on February 17, 2017 occurred almost exactly 9 months after the album had been recorded. All that time, as the “baby” was gestating, the delays that brought me frustration became opportunities to enrich and expand the process, planting more seeds for future growth.
The bear is the best example.
In September 2016, with the album on my mind, I attended a family wedding in Georgia. My brother Walter Cumming, whose son was getting married, had drawn a special cartoon to celebrate the occasion. That was my first encounter with thr bear.
I’ve been a fan of Walter’s artwork most of my life. There’s more to that story on the “Bear Cartoon” page of my website (http://www.bryancumming.com/the-bear-cartoon.html).
This particular bear was wearing red high top sneakers and playing a trumpet, clearly having a good time. That was enough to convince me he could be the perfect image to represent the phrase “Come Out Swinging.”
The more I thought about it, the more appealing it was. I believed that my own attraction to Walter’s cartoon would translate into other people being drawn by its energy, humor, and skill. Maybe I’m naive, but that anticipation of other people’s enjoyment of the artwork led naturally into the belief that “they will want to buy it.”
I talked to Walter about it, and we wrote up an agreement where he would own the artwork, granting me a non-exclusive license to use it, and I would pay him $1 for each shirt sold. I drew some colorful letters and added the phrase “Come Out Swinging” to the bear and made tee shirts.
And then made some more, this time with black jersey sleeves. They look great!
So far, Walter has earned $25 from sales of the tee shirts, from a few friends and fans and sales at a couple of gigs. Of course, it’s still early in the game.
But there's more to this bear tee shirt.
Another thing about the bear is PAMOS (Put A Musician On Stage.) This is an idea that came to me in January, as I thought about how to pay musicians a living wage. What if there were a fund created for that purpose? How could people be motivated to contribute to that fund? Why not a share of tee shirt sales?
it goes without saying that musicians are typically underpaid. In an industry town like Nashville, where getting onstage for free is considered a career opportunity, the economic reality is skewed even more toward low pay. But many restaurants and bars that offer music are also struggling to keep their expenses down, so it’s difficult to find a way that makes both sides happy.
A Win-Win Situation
If I, as a band leader, make a commitment to pay my musicians a living wage, and offer a way for people to contribute to a fund that serves that purpose, bypassing the need to negotiate with club owners and restaurants, then it’s not about taking from anyone to give to someone else. It’s about being creative with resources, so that everyone benefits.
The price of a shirt is $20. Every sale automatically contributes $1 to the artist, and another $1 to PAMOS. It’s a business model designed to benefit creative people, and to build a creative community.
In other words, you’re not just buying a tee shirt. You’re also supporting an artist, and supporting PAMOS, the fund that pays musicians a living wage. More details about how PAMOS works are available at http://www.bryancumming.com/pamos.html
The growth of the fund will be celebrated as musicians get hired to play along with the band.
Being a horn player
As a horn player, I’m especially sensitive to the role that horn players have - side men who can play along with just about any song, any key, any tempo, and stay out of the way, or get up front and be an exciting soloist. Because I’ve played horn around Nashville for almost three decades, I’ve met a lot of other horn players. And any of them would be a great addition to my band.
Now, because I’m committed to paying them a living wage, I’m engaging this new business idea, PAMOS, which is connected to the bear tee shirt.
As a way to help publicize the idea, I recorded a series of videos featuring horn players, wearing the bear tee shirt, playing the “Come Out Swinging” horn line with me. They’ve been posted on Facebook.
Here's a link to the one we did with Randy Leago (on alto sax) at Alison's Record Shop in West Meade: https://www.facebook.com/BryanCummingMusic/videos/1628808077426269/
But the true purpose of those talented players joining me in wearing the bear shirt and playing the song has yet to be fully revealed. It’s an idea that may come to fruition as a three-piece horn section playing at the back room of World Music Nashville next year. Or some other gig at some other place.
The idea can also be used by other band leaders in any musical style. It's got great potential.
I have high hopes. There’s lots of good music to make, and plenty of musicians who’re more than willing to participate.
So be on the lookout for that bear. When you see him, remember that there are lots of creative people getting blessed when you buy and wear that shirt.
Blogging Bryan 18 April 2017