My Losing Battle Against The Daily Tee Shirt Sites
I’ve been going back and forth about whether to continue to do pop culture parodies to sell as prints and t-shirts, and I think I have reached the end of my rope. First, let me say that I like riffing on pop culture. It reminds me of the kind of stuff I loved about Mad Magazine when I was a kid. I always try to make sure to take a satirical approach and make sure my designs are obvious parodies and not just a knock-off of someone else’s intellectual property.
On the other hand, I love doing my own creations, and I could never find a way to make these two loves fit under the same umbrella. My recent experience with Tee Fury has made me realize that it’s probably time to put aside the pop culture stuff indefinitely. The daily tee-shirt market is a tough nut to crack, and I have found that even when you think you have cracked it, you may want to think again.
I’ve submitted dozens of pop culture designs to various daily tee companies, Often times they are rejected, which can be expected. On occasion, one of my designs will go to print, like an Avatar-themed design recently printed by Shirt Punch. But I was super stoked to have a couple of my designs accepted at Tee Fury, the largest of the daily tee companies. However, I found having your designs accepted by Tee Fury and having them printed are two entirely different things.
My first design that was accepted at Tee Fury, “How to Kill Monsters,” required a number of changes before I was told it would go to print. They felt the design looked more like a poster than a tee, which is fair enough. I made a number of revisions until they felt the design was more appropriate for a tee shirt. That design sat on the schedule for a couple months before the ultimately decided they were going to print it as an add-on poster that you could only purchase if you ordered which ever daily tee they were offering. Unfortunately, posters don’t sell nearly as well as shirts, and I think I earned a whopping 60 bucks for all my hard work.
The second of my designs Tee Fury accepted was “It’s a Trap,” which again required a number of changes before it resembled less like a poster and more like a tee shirt. That design sat on Tee Fury’s schedule for four months before it was canceled. Their reason: “The meme ran out of steam.” I guess that can happen after four months in limbo.
To be fair, it is entirely possible that my experiences are not the norm. Maybe I just had a run of bad luck. I know that a lot of artists do very well with daily tee designs, however it seems to be the same handful of artists who are getting printed, and there doesn’t seem to be much interest in bringing in new blood. It is unfortunate because it feels like the industry is becoming rote. I used to order tees all the time, but lately nothing appeals to me because I feel like I’ve seen it all before. How many more cartoon characters peeking out of printed tee pockets or mock cereal boxes do we need before enough is eventually enough?
Maybe I’m bitter but it’s extremely frustrating. I have a long list of parodies and gags that I was looking forward to turning into tee shirt designs, a few of which are near completion. Unfortunately, the amount of work that goes into the designs versus the possibility that the design will get accepted and actually printed seems to be better spent working on my own original characters and designs. Something for which it looks like I have just made more time.
If you are interested in any of my pop culture tees, you can find most of them on my Red Bubble store. Get ’em while they’re up! I have a mind to say, “To hell with it!” and get rid of that line of tee shirts altogether.
The good news is that you should start seeing more of my original prints, comics, novelties, etc. in the days to come. However, if you would rather purchase a tee shirt featuring an Akira mash-up with some popular movie or tv character walking towards a vehicle, I can steer you to some daily tee shirt sites.