February 10, 2017 - No Comments!

Work in progress

Work in progress

Followers on Twitter and Instagram will know that I designed a handful of T-shirts last year. Mainly because I didn't stop banging on it about it! Sorry!

Well, I definitely won’t be retiring soon (or probably ever for that matter) but I did manage to sell around 150 T-shirts via Cotton Bureau and Mercht. That earned me around £3 per T-shirt. Not bad, but there is certainly room for improvement.

Both Cotton Bureau and Mercht make it relatively easy to get your designs onto T-shirts and into the hands of customers. You submit a design and they pretty much do the rest. They deal with print, fulfilment and customer services. Obviously, the success of your campaign still depends upon the amount of effort you put into your own marketing (hence those Tweets and Instagram posts I mentioned earlier). Also, they take the lion’s share of the profit, which is totally understandable given that they want to stay in business.

This does mean that the rewards don’t necessarily add up. A conservative estimate of effort per campaign would be around 10 hours including the design and marketing. With sales of 150 units at £3 per unit across 3 successful campaigns, that equates to:

(150 x £3)/30 hours = £15 per hour

That’s double the UK minimum wage but it doesn't take into account the cost of running my business.

I could increase profits by cutting out the middle man and printing T-shirts myself but I'm convinced my wife would divorce me if she came home to find the kitchen converted into a print workshop and stock hanging throughout the house. A more realistic and achievable approach would be to outsource the printing but handle fulfilment and customer services in-house.

So that's my current plan. The first design will be the one at the top of this post (or something close to it). I intend to print this as a limited edition T-shirt and Riso print. I hope to set up pre-orders in the near future and keep the prices between £15-£20 plus shipping.

If you'd like to be kept in the loop, you can subscribe to my newsletter or drop me an email at print@jamesstiff.com.

February 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Best Albums of 2016

You probably don‘t need me to tell you that 2016 totally SUCKED!

On a positive note, it was a pretty good year for albums. Here are some of my favourites.


Blank Tape
worriedaboutsatan



I think I first discovered worriedaboutsatan through Mary Anne Hobbs’ brilliant 6 Music Recommends show. The Manchester (now Yorkshire) duo’s brooding, ambient, jungle excursion “The Woods” really captured my attention. The soundtrack to the thought-provoking Adam Curtis “HyperNormalisation” featured solo appearances from the band’s Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller (with Miller acting as music supervisor for the project). It also provided a teaser of new material from Blank Tape which the band launched via an awe-inspiring live show at The Castle Hotel in Manchester.


full blossom of the evening
r beny



As a fledgling producer of electronic music, I’ve spent many an hour, scouring YouTube for inspiring tutorials and performance videos. You have to take the rough with the smooth but it makes it all worthwhile when you discover an artist like Austin Cairns, aka r beny. I was particularly struck by his ability to conjure such beautiful sounds from fairly cheap gear (not to mention the much less cheap modular systems he uses). His album full blossom of the evening is overflowing with lush, droney, ambient gems. It was recorded in San Jose, California but is equally at home in sunny Manchester.


Compilation
#savefabric



London’s iconic club fabric had its licence revoked by Islignton Council following the tragic deaths of two club-goers. As London music venues fall victim to gentrification at an alarming pace, this news was met with significant protest from DJs, musicians and venue-goers. This massive 111 track compilation was released by fabric Records and Houndstooth in order to raise funds to appeal the club’s closure. Thankfully, a deal was struck with Islington Council (with the backing of Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan) to reopen the club in November.

The compilation features a who’s who of amazing artists including µ‑ZiqAkkordClarkColdcutKuedoLakker and Vex’d.


Heaven is for Quitters
FaltyDL



Perhaps Drew Lustman’s most personal album to date, it is, therefore, fitting that he released it on his own label Blueberry Records. The man himself puts it better than I could:

“Heaven is for Quitters is at its core, about dealing with yourself, both the good and the bad. I share this album with the hope that it can be used by others as I have; a guide, a blanket, a reassurance that the path I have chosen is the right one. It is my job to share my experience and there is a lot of work to be done here on Earth, the thought of going to Heaven too early is paralyzing. I venture to think you'll agree.”


System
Datach'i



Having taken ten years off from releasing solo records in order to focus on commercial sound design, Joseph Fraioli returns with an enviable Eurorack modular synth system on Venetian Snares’ Timesig label. According to label boss Aaron Funk, “There were so many great tracks, it was nearly impossible to compile this album.” .

It was therefore quite a relief to discover that pre-orders came with a 19 track bonus disc!


DRUGS
Lorn & Dolor



Lorn & Dolor are a match made in heaven. That is, if heaven were pitch black and filled with sharp metallic objects. Apparently, having already released four parts in the series, they had “enough material to make a new ’DRUGS’ part every week for eternity”. Instead, they decided to call it quits and leave us with parts five and six. Boo!


Hollowed
Ital Tek



Dubstep, post-dubstep, footwork, Alan Myson has mastered them all. Hollowed somehow manages to sound like classic Ital Tek whilst simultaneously defying categorisation. If anything, it sounds like a soundtrack to an imagined dystopian sci-fi movie.


Struggle & Emerge
Lakker



Strictly speaking, this is a maxi-EP not and album but my house, my rules.

The RE:VIVE Initiative invited the Irish duo Lakker to delve into the archives of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision and explore the theme of, “The Dutch and their water”.

The “making of” documentary is well worth a watch too.


Touched 3
touched



Martin Boulton (aka Min-Y-Llan) is the man behind the mammoth Touched compilations, released in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. And I mean mammoth! We're talking over four hundred tracks on this one alone, all for just 15 quid. Touched 3 features tracks from 808 State, Adamski, Amon Tobin, Bibio, Future Sound of London and literally hundreds more. I encourage you to go and buy it twice.


Traditional Synthesizer Music
Venetian Snares



Much like labelmate Datach’i’s System, this album is composed and performed live on an absolute beast of a modular synth. Modular what? Just imagine dropping your life savings into a bottomless pit, but with blinking lights and a mess of patch cables.


Skilled Mechanics
Tricky



I've been a big fan of Tricky since first hearing him on Massive Attack’s Blue Lines. His debut solo album Maxinquaye is a classic and he’s somehow managed to remain relevant and uncompromising, even after more than two decades in the business.


Gun City
Dolor



Dolor fuses pitch-shifted RnB vocals with melancholy synths and stuttering beats. Gun City feels like it was made in the rain, under neon light, whilst chasing down replicants.

November 16, 2016 - No Comments!

Hexagon Sun Returns to Cotton Bureau

Hexagon Sun

Just in time for the holiday season, Cotton Bureau are to reprint some of their favourite T-shirts from the archives. I’m honoured that they selected “Hexagon Sun” design.

If you missed out last time, now is your chance!

September 19, 2016 - No Comments!

ROYGBIV Limited Edition T-shirts

ROYGBIV

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain

That’s really unfortunate for Richard Of York but great news for you if you’re inclined to forget the sequence of colours in a rainbow.

Maybe Richard should console himself with my latest limited edition, screen-printed T-shirt. It’s available for pre-order the next 14 days from Pittsburgh’s finest purveyors of T-shirts, Cotton Bureau.

Pre-order yours now!

May 21, 2016 - No Comments!

Make Some Noise T-shirts

Make Some Noise

Ever found yourself at a loose end with a spare roll of duct tape? That was exactly my predicament recently so I thought I’d have a bash at some lo-fi “tape-ography”.

Sorry about the pun!

Twenty six letters and ten numbers later, I needed a suitable slogan to test the typeface. I settled on an old favourite, “Make Some Noise”. It seemed like the polar opposite of an instruction you might expect to receive if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself restrained with duct tape. This tickled me.

If you are a duct tape aficionado, head on over to Cotton Bureau and bag yourself a limited edition T-shirt. For those who suffer decision paralysis, you only have until 8pm EDT on 2 June 2016.

Order now from Cotton Bureau.