17: An Open Letter to Bands From a Screen Printer


This is a friendly invitation for every young kid who just got his or her first guitar. It is a message to every band playing a house show tonight. This is a respectful FYI to the road veterans of our music community.

This is an open letter to all bands from a simple screen printer.

First I want to start off by saying that I have been screen printing for the better part of the last decade. I have printed in Milford, Rochester, Waterford, Clarkston and Royal Oak. I have seen a healthy dose of local churches, motorcycle clubs, cupcake shops, you name it.

Although I am no longer in the print game (for reasons unrelated to the content of this blog), I felt obligated to stand up for the little guy for a minute.

Recently at BledFest, I ran into someone who shall remain nameless. For the sake of this blog staying easily understood, we will call him Bob. He was a friend of mine from school, and I heard from another screen printer friend that Bob recently had some shirts printed for a band he works with.

So I naturally started talking to him about his experience with my screen printer friend. His first response was, “we will never go back.”

I asked Bob what exactly the problem was. He said his shirts took “almost two weeks.” So I looked over the shirts (they were printed flawlessly), and I asked Bob how many he ordered. Apparently, it was around 100.

You can quote me on this: a little under two weeks is a very reasonable time to wait for 100 shirts with a design printed on the front and back. To a screen printer, 100 shirts with a design on the front and back is essentially 200 shirts, because each shirt needs to be printed twice.

The whole situation was pretty offensive, to hear Bob just go off on one of my friends over some childish reaction to a very normal wait time.

This is my plea to all bands: find a good screen printer (I can give you names if you need), and work with him/her/them, not against.

Unless something magical happened to your band recently, your merch sales are at least 50 percent of your income. Why bite the hand that feeds you? I am by no means saying to do whatever the printer says. We do not need some screen printing dictator on our hands who only allows us to wear Gildan Dry-Blends or something.

Think of your screen printer like your barber. You need him/her/them every once in a while, but when you are in need, you trust the barber to get your hair lookin’ nice. You also respect the barber, because he/she/they could easily shave you bald. Your printer can easily just not print at all, and you would have zero merch for tour.

Your printer will show your band respect the same way he/she/they shows every paying customer respect.

I have printed shirts for more bands than I can count, and an overwhelming majority of them have been awesome people to work with. This is directed more towards those minority bands who make it such a hassle on the printers to get stuff done.

To get my point across a little more concisely, I made a list of things that will help your relationship with your printer.

  1. Treat your printer like a friend. The relationship is not a one time business transaction. It is a recurring partnership.

  2. Have your artwork ready in vector format. If it is not ready upon placing the order, you are only adding unnecessary time. If it is not in vector format, you are only adding to your bill, because now the printer has to spend time converting whatever format you sent.

  3. Order ahead of time. Do not wait until last minute. Screen printers can go from being dead to having 20 massive orders in less than an hour. Place your order with plenty of time.

  4. Be ready to place a deposit. Most screen printers want 20-50 percent of the order’s total bill placed as a deposit before he/she/they will even start the order. Have as much money as possible ready and up front.

  5. Do not rush your printer only to wait a week to pick up the shirts after completion. This is a good way to potentially ruin a business relationship.

  6. Be very specific, and make sure your printer knows (and makes note of) the date you need the shirts by. Just so everyone is on the same page. Your printer will tell you if it is possible, and it will be if you follow step 3.

  7. We are not car salesmen. We are not out to rip you off, I assure you. Never go into a business relationship with a negative attitude. If it makes you feel better, shop around until you find a printer who makes you feel valued.

  8. Lastly, just be a decent person. Everyone knows how it feels to be treated like crap by a customer.


Us screen-printers.

P.S. I was being serious about giving out contacts for good screen printers. Feel free to email me at zach@urbangeographer.com

Zach Micklea

| Art Director and Online Content Editor at Urban Geographer | Host of The Oakland Underground on 88.3 FM WXOU | Manager for Prima Vera |