Booker Addison is the man behind the T-shirt blog T-shirt Groove. He's the first person to be interviewed for "5 Questions With..." and he came up with some pretty interesting answers, so here goes...
Question 1. What motivated you to start T-shirt Groove?
I'm fascinated by Internet marketing. It's my day job. I decided I wanted to learn about affiliate marketing, content marketing, and search engine marketing. What better way than start a blog with a goal to make some money? So, I went looking for a topic. I settled on funny t shirts because I like comedy and humor, and researching all the pop culture references enabled me to numb my mind with entertainment and ignore my family using the "I'm working" excuse.
What has been interesting is moving from straight blogging about shirts with affiliate commissions to actually engaging with indie shops and designers, doing interviews, writing reviews, and making a connection. Turns out that stuff is kind of fun...like these questions for instance. Honestly, I still work it for a commission all the time, but actually interacting with people is pretty good stuff too, plus Google seems to be putting a lot more emphasis in the social signals.
Question 2. Are you involved in the T-shirt industry in other ways?
I am not. Just a blogger. I have visions of starting my own shop on occasion, but then I think of the work it would take to get something off the ground, and I go back to finding the best beer shirts on the Internet. I have much respect for the designers and shop keepers that are out there doing it. Making it work. It's no small task and takes some balls.
Question 3. You post on a very regular basis. You must see a lot of T-shirts by a lot of designers. Is there a "type" or style of shirt/design that especially appeals to you?
Inevitably, when I'm looking at shirts I want to wear I go for the subtly absurd (if that makes any sense). In person, I'm not one to actively pursue conversations, so I don't really want a shirt that is designed to invoke a reaction with lewd and crude humor, brash opinions, or even strong political statements. I'd much rather have a monkey smoking a cigarette.
I just realized that what I just typed makes me a poor prospect for your wares. Yikes. You really put it out there which I admire a lot, but I'm too much of a wuss to wear politically charged stuff. I really love that it's out there and people are seeing those messages that are triggering thoughts, and perhaps even breaking through the haze of dogma and partisan knee jerk reactions.
You know what other types of designs I'm really attracted to...Day of the Dead stuff. I cannot get enough skulls and skeletons for some reason, and there are about 72 trillion designs like that out there. I might need to go to therapy more often to figure that out.
Question 4. Do you have any do's/don'ts advice for T-shirt designers and sellers?
Don't be a t-shirt mill pumping out the same old That's What She Said shit or jokes your 4-year-old niece dropped on you last Easter (unless she's Maria Bamford-funny) . If you have a passion, put that on a shirt. If you have wicked artistic skills, put them on shirts. I think tight niche shirt sites can do really well too, like Ban T-Shirts for instance. At first, as you're looking at the potential market, going broad seems like a great idea because the pool of potential customers is so much bigger, but so is the competition. If you go niche, you can really own it, put passion behind it, and build up a strong following of true fans that are going to scoop up everything you put out there, and love you for it.
Question 5. What are your thoughts on the big players in this industry? I'm talking about sites like Cafe Press and Threadless.
I used to hate it that Cafe Press ranked ahead of me in the search engines for all kinds of different shirts. That's not as true any more. I think Zazzle gets better rankings these days. Anyway, I think Cafe Press is fine for what it is, but I never actively go there to find shirts to feature.
Threadless seems pretty damn awesome to me. It's a brilliant way to build a community, get a fantastic variety of designs, and rule the shirt universe. I'm not sure, but weren't they one of the first to champion the "submit a design...vote on designs...print the winners" model. If so, what smart marketing. Of course, I get a little leery of the joint ventures with The Gap, or Sesame Street or whatever, but as long as they don't have an IPO or some soul sucking event like that, I think they'll be alright.