For most of us, collecting records amounts to a trip to our local independent music shop or digging around at a record fair in the hope of stumbling across something a bit different. Frank Gossner, however, isn’t like most of us.
In 2005, inspired after discovering a rare afrobeat LP in a Philadelphia record store, Frank upped sticks and moved to West Africa where he began to dig — literally — for African Funk records. Along the way he wrote about his experiences on his blog, Voodoo Funk, capturing not just the music he found but the stories of the people and places behind it.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Frank to talk more about his musical background, reissuing records, and why he decided to set up a Dizzyjam store.
Tell us a little about your musical background up to this point.
I started DJing in 1994 in Berlin where I developed the Vampyros Lesbos Party, an event that was based around Jess Franco’s sexploitation movies from the late 60s to early 70s. Back then I played a lot of French Yeh-Yeh records and Hammond heavy library funk. These events also featured a custom made, chrome plated go-go cage and various video and slide projections featuring my vast collection of naughty movies, lobby cards and movie posters.
In 1996 I moved to NYC with my records and go-go cage where the Vampyros Lesbos Party became a weekly nightlife classic, before moving back to Berlin to start the Soul Explosion parties, where I played out all of the Deep Funk 45s I had bought during my stint in NYC and on various digging trips to the South of the USA. In 2005 I moved to West Africa for three years where I constantly moved around, buying loads and loads of Afro Funk records.
Where did your interest in African vinyl come from?
After playing out Deep Funk 45s for five years I needed some fresh material to dig into and Afro Funk and Nigerian Disco seemed like a logical progression.
What is it about this genre of music that you’re drawn to?
It feels good to listen to it and it makes people dance.
And how does it feel to see people enjoying these records, knowing they might never have heard them otherwise?
To be honest, when I play these records at a party I just enjoy myself along with everybody else. I don’t see myself as some sort of messiah who brings unheard tunes to people who don’t know them. It’s just records that contain other people’s music, how should I take any credit for this… I just enjoy sharing this feeling of pleasure with the crowd.
You said the Pax Nicholas LP was one of the first African records you found and that it still feels special. Are there any others that hold particular meaning for you?
The first record by Marijata, titled “This is Marijata“, holds maybe even more of this feeling for me, particularly because of the truly timeless lyrics and of course also because of the musical impact.
You’ve been in some pretty dangerous situations. Did you ever reach a point where you started to question whether the risk was worth it?
I was never that concerned about my own safety but I had strong moments of doubt when, for example, my friend Ken who is from Ghana traveled to Northern Nigeria for me and narrowly escaped a bombing in Kaduna some years back. He had just left the hotel for a bus ride to Kano when only about one or two hours after his departure the hotel, where he had spent the last couple of days, was blown up by Boko Haram.
Are you still collecting — is there anything in particular you’re hoping to find?
I’m still getting in new stuff but I don’t hunt for specific records. Pretty much everything I know about I already have so I’m basically looking for the unknown stuff.
Does your label have any reissues in the pipeline?
I’m going to put out two more 45s, one by Emma Baloka and another one by Joe Brown & his Black Men and that will be it. I might continue playing the occasional club gig on an on-and-off basis but other than that I’m either going to retire or start doing something totally different with my life, I haven’t yet figured out which.
With such a great collection to draw from, how do you choose which ones to reissue?
There are two major factors: the record has to be consistent enough and not just offer one or two great tracks and then, of course, I need to be able to find the artist(s) to make a licensing deal.
What made you choose Dizzyjam to start selling merchandise?
They asked me one day and I thought, why not give it a try? What appealed to me most was the ease at which this could be done and I was surprised at how well it took off and the sheer number of shirts that sold.
How do you come up with the different designs for your merchandise?
The original designs are mostly lifted from various record covers. I did all the artwork myself.
Aside from your blog, have you thought about documenting your collection in some way?
Not really. I’m not a musicologist nor do I see myself as running an archive. In fact I’m in the process of retiring from the DJ game. Next year I’ll be 50… to me this seems to be the right point to call it quits and find a new focus for my life. I’m already in the process of selling my collection. I’m keeping a copy of each of the records that I enjoy playing out the most and might continue DJing for another year or so but eventually everything will have to go.
Finally, can you recommend some albums for us to listen to?
There are single cuts from some of my releases on Soundcloud at
and on Youtube at
Check out the Voodoo Funk Dizzyjam store here.
Photos from voodoofunk.blogspot.co.uk
So, you’re in a band, you’ve written a few songs and they’re sounding pretty good. You’ve even chosen a name you all agree on. Now comes the time to let people know who you are and what you do and, for that, you’ll need a brand. Doodled some ideas on the back of a receipt but you’re not really feeling the inspiration flowing? Then this article is for you.
Before you get started, bear in mind that creating a logo or artwork shouldn’t be a quick job. Think about how you want to represent your band and whether what you’ve created fits with your style. After all, this will end up adorning most of your merch. An instantly recognisable logo or a clever piece of eye-catching artwork can help you stand out from the crowd and, as these examples show, if you hit it big it could even become more well-known than your music.
The album artwork
Joy Division — Unknown Pleasures
Starting with an obvious one, Peter Saville’s iconic cover for the post-punk band‘s 1979 debut album is one of the best-known pieces of band artwork ever. Created from an image guitarist Bernard Sumner took from The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Astronomy, it is both instantly recognisable and a masterclass in simplicity. It’s still as popular today as it was on release and can be found on t-shirts, mugs and, well, everything really. In fact, people love it so much they even get it tattooed on their bodies. When it comes to creating your artwork, remember — sometimes simple is best.
Arturo Vega’s famous logo for the Ramones shows that putting careful consideration into how a band is represented can pay off. The black and white design plays on the American presidential crest to reflect the band’s all-American persona, and while the symbolism may have been diluted over the years the band’s influence definitely hasn’t. Some might argue that the logo is over commercialised (you can pick up a cheap Ramones t-shirt pretty much anywhere) but if anything, it’s testament to its staying power. When it comes down to it, it’ll always be cool.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood
If you’re looking to support a cause you feel strongly about, have a statement you want to be heard, or lyrics that you’re really proud of, think about letting your words do the talking. Slogan t-shirts can rally people together and make a strong statement, as Frankie Goes to Hollywood proved back in the 80s. The band was already causing controversy thanks to the release of the suggestive ‘Relax’ and the politically-charged ‘Two Tribes’; adding a clever t-shirt marketing campaign stirred things up even more. Their black and white ‘Frankie Say Relax’ slogan t-shirts tapped into the culture of the time so successfully that they’ve been associated with the band ever since.
If controversy isn’t your thing then you can always go for a more lighthearted approach. For a great example, look no further than Newport’s finest, Goldie Lookin’ Chain, who use their merch to share a little love for their local area. With song names like ‘Newport State of Mind’ and ‘Drop it Like it’s Splott’ they’re quite possibly South Wales’s proudest citizens, and that’s exactly why their fans love them. It makes perfect sense that their Dizzyjam store is full of merch with these names front and centre.
British Sea Power
Great name, great music, even greater merchandise. BSP’s dedication to all things outdoors is shown clearly through their consistently inventive and fun merchandise. In addition to quirky gifts like branded travel mints and boxes of fudge, their clothing and mugs fit perfectly with the band’s love of the countryside and nature. Their latest t-shirt, for example, features names of must-visit coastal places in the UK.
Blur – Coffee & TV
Ladyhawke – Wild Things
Blur’s brilliant ‘Coffee & TV’ was understandably one of their biggest songs, but one of the other reasons people loved it was for its video featuring Milky, the oh-so-cute milk carton that heads out in search of a missing Graham Coxon. In a smart move, Blur gave the fans what they wanted — the chance to own their own Milky carton which, not surprisingly, sold out instantly on release.
While you might not be able to stretch to custom products, there are still ways to tie your creative ideas together. The cover art for Ladyhawke’s new album ‘Wild Things’ features her wearing a t-shirt with the album’s name on it. It’s not just a clever way to show the title, you can also buy the same t-shirt from her store. When it comes to planning for your merch, think about how you could tie it in with your artwork or live shows. Do you wear a certain t-shirt for live gigs or have a thing for trucker caps? Put them in your store!
Ok, so these bands have also written some of the biggest songs of their generation which may have helped give their profile a boost but we’re sure your music has the potential to do the same. What these examples show is that with a little imagination, the designs you create can be a powerful tool in helping you on your way.
Get your sizing right, and you’ll earn hundreds of dollars more.
There are two main ways in which a band, DJ or solo performer can generate and manage sales of merchandise:
On-demand, where items are printed-to-order and sent directly to your fans when they order them (this is what we specialise in, here at Dizzyjam). This is a completely risk-free process, but isn’t always great if you want to sell merch from a stall, while you’re on the road.
In bulk, where you usually take the financial risk of getting multiple shirts printed in advance, and are then responsible for sale and distribution, sometimes with the help of a third party. And it’s here where you can really earn the big bucks, if you’re clever, as the profit margins can be much better.
But time and again we’ve seen people waste effort, time and money by ordering the wrong sizes, colours, or types of merch, and been left with hundreds, even thousands of dollars’ worth of merch sat in a box, not earning money. We’ve seen plenty of people even lose money on merchandise! BUT. You can easily make £10 gross profit per t-shirt when printing in bulk, so selling just an extra 10 t-shirts = £200. Running out of Mediums early could easily account for 10 potential lost sales.
Sizing is probably the area where artists get it most wrong. They make crude judgments about what sizes they should order (“I dunno, 20 of each!?”), and inevitably end up with a bunch that they just can’t shift. So, here’s the basic distribution of the main sizes of mens/unisex t-shirts that you should have as your baseline.
Need a design made to print on a shirt or a mug? Or maybe you’ve got a design, but you need it edited for a special event? How about removing the background so it’s transparent when we print it? Design is pretty important when it comes to your merch. But it’s also pretty tough to get right. Here’s some tips to help you out. Of course, the best way to do it is to hire a professional graphic designer, but they don’t always come cheap, so here’s a few alternatives:
This neat logo design service lets you type the name of your company, and automatically generates a selection of suitable logos. You can buy the logo in print quality for about $30.
For $5, you can ask someone to create you a design. Given the price, you don’t get much more than an image in your inbox. But if you don’t have graphics software, this site is great for edits and quick fixes to existing designs.
Designers compete to work on your design brief. You can set the budget, so you always know what you’re spending. Typically it can work out much cheaper than a bespoke designer.
This is a free way to create great graphics, slides, and logos, all using existing templates. And it’s so easy even a chimp could do it. Some of the nicer options do cost, but even if you go crazy on them, you’re likely to come away with a great design for well under $10.
So between these options, you’ll be good to go with some pretty saucy looking logos for your merch.
We’re delighted to announce our partnership with the Digital Business Academy, an online destination created by Tech City UK in partnership with leading educational institutions, businesses and organisations, to give you the business skills you need to succeed in a digital world. Digital Business Academy academy brings together world-class business experts from UCL, Cambridge Judge Business School and Founder Centric in a series of eight online courses covering topics from sizing up your idea to developing digital products, running online marketing campaigns to raising money for your business. The courses are free and accessible to anyone in the UK. It allows you to learn at your own time, from your own place, online.
When you finish the courses, you’ll be able to apply for exclusive rewards and opportunities to help you get ahead in digital business. Whether you dream of being your own boss or want to get hired by a digital business, you’ll have access to rewards such as startup loans, free co-working space, paid internships and more.
Hello there! My name is Michael. I’m a bass-playing designer over at Defy Designs, and I also work for Burning Red. I’m writing a guest post for the fine folks over here at Dizzyjam, and I’ve decided the best thing to talk about is the importance of quality design in the music industry.
What gives me the right to talk about this? Well, I started to train as a graphic designer in 2002, I’ve got a BA and MA in design, I’ve spent 8 years in a few bands that have seen some road miles, I work for an amazing design agency and I’ve been part of the Spillers Records ‘family’ since I was about 15. Oh, and I’ve got more band t-shirts than I know what to do with. Seriously, a few years ago I decided to wear one shirt a day until I ran out. I started on the 1st January and gave up in March because I got bored, even though I still had plenty more to spare.
It’s strange to think in the age of mp3s and streaming services, it’s possible that the least profitable part of the music industry is the ACTUAL music (I’d just like to say that I’m a staunch supporter of physical music and independent music shops). My band are almost finished recording our album, we’ve spent approaching £1500 and if we, just another local band, want to stand any chance of making a return on that, then we need to get creative…
Vinyl is in a massive state of revival (and tapes have a niche going, for some reason that I don’t fully understand), and while one fan is only going to buy one copy of the album/EP/single, there is no reason why that same fan won’t buy more than one t-shirt or a tote bag or a hat or stickers or a hoodie from the same band. I bought 4 shirts and a hoodie from Cardiff’s Shaped by Fate (before they split up), why? – Awesome artwork.
Shaped by Fate were/are an excellent example of a band producing high quality shirts, mostly because of their guitarist Richey Beckett’s insane skills with pens and pencils (he is a supremely talented illustrator). Each time they had a new shirt design produced, I found myself at their shows leaving the contents of my wallet at their merch table. So – let’s say you are in a band and you are thinking about getting some shirts made up, perhaps you are thinking about setting up an online shop…where should you start?
ARTWORK! ARTWORK! ARTWORK!
We all know someone who knows how to use Photoshop, who can “knock something up for you”. I don’t care if it’s your brother, friend, someone you were in school with or your father’s brother’s sister’s cousin’s former room mate (Spaceballs…anyone?) be wary. The wisdom is simple:
“Free work is cheap.”
If you don’t have quality artwork, expect to sell your merch only to your friends and your family. They will buy things to support you and that’s about it. If you want to sell merch to strangers, you know people who are discovering your band and or fans of your music, then it will make it one hell of a lot easier if it looks amazing and is produced to a high standard. How do you go about this? If you are a local band, do some research. That can be anything from asking other bands you play with who designed their stuff or getting onto the old googlebox and seeing what comes back.
If you are a more established band, the above still counts and there are some incredible shirt design communities out there (mintees.com for example) as well. The important thing is get on your computer, get looking, find someone, get awesome work done, shift merch and make money that can pay for more recording, offset touring costs, more merch…
I’ll finish this on two questions: If you have cheap looking merch, with little more than a small band logo on it, do think you will be able to sell that for a premium price that might keep the band in positive equity? Or… Is it worth paying a designer to make you a quality artwork that will be easier to sell in great volume at a higher price? If you don’t believe me, here is a thought.
As an example of a touring band who really think about their merch, Suicide Silence take on somewhere between 30 – 40 t-shirt designs (and that is just t-shirts) on tour with them. They have so much merch that they need a separate trailer! If you have that level of variety, there is pretty much something for everyone, and they might even buy 2 or 3 – because the designs have been thought out and appeal specifically to their fans.
Dizzyjam was set up by a couple of guys with a long history of promoting events and running small festivals, so supporting them is something that’s really close to our hearts. And obviously one of the ways we can do this is by providing sponsored t-shirts for stewards and volunteers to wear at the event. So we’ve come up with this brilliant new scheme:
We’ll provide as many volunteer/steward t-shirts as you like at a massively discounted price, meaning you get the shirts at the lowest possible price on the market. We’ll make no money from this deal, but it means we can support you, and hopefully we can work together for each other’s benefit in the following way:
We’ll give you a referral link to share with the bands that play at your event, and the fans that attend it. For every new user that signs up to Dizzyjam using that link, we’ll refund you a pound. This means if you share the link via Twitter, FB, newsletters etc, you could easily get all your money back, meaning your volunteer shirts would have been completely free. We’ll send you a monthly update on how many have signed up, and transfer the total cash to you at the end of the campaign.
So, you get a FANTASTIC deal on your stewards shirts, even if nobody signs up, but you also get a real chance to earn all your money back for almost no effort.
Just check out those bloody gorgeous shirts we did for Huw Stephen’s amazing Swn Festival. We’ve been helping them with their team’s shirts for 4 years now, and we love working with them!
We’ll also help you maximise this opportunity by giving you free advice and support on the colours, design, and (if you need it) the sizes you’ll need.
If you’d like to sign up, or more info, just email us here. If you can, include a rough idea of how many shirts you want, and an attachment or link to your design.
Example price – 100 top quality white t-shirts with a one colour design = £260 inc VAT & delivery (we can do even better deals if you are happy to use lower quality shirts).
Today we rolled out two new great bits of functionality that will help you sell even more merch.
Number 1 – Set your own prices.
Just log in and head to Your Shop page. From here you have two options – if you want to just edit the price of one product, click on Edit Merch, then click Edit under the product you wish to change. At the bottom of that page you’ll see all information you need to change the price, and therefore the amount of money you earn. We’ve set a baseline price for each product, which covers our production costs, staff, overheads, tax, payment processing, and all that other gubbins. Every penny over this goes to you.
We’ve left the default prices at a level which means you will receive 25% of the retail price of anything sold, which we’ve found works well. But this is your opportunity to try different price structures if you like. Or even provide limited time special offers, for example. But remember, set your price too high, and you may well put off your customers.
Number 2 – Re-order your products.
This is one of our most asked-for feature requests, and we’re delighted to be able provide it. Just head to your Edit Merch page, and you’ll be able to drag and drop the products around. You’ll notice that any changes here aren’t just reflected at your shop page (http://YOURSHOP.dizzyjam.com) but also in any embedded shops you may have.
And while we’re on the subject, did you see our last newsletter? We’ve recently discovered that people who use the embed codes to sell their merch directly from their own sites sell TWICE as much, as those that sell via their shop on Dizzyjam. Get embedding!
Here at Dizzyjam, we want to give you as much help as possible to promote your music and merch. It’s important for musicians, venues and promoters to have an online presence – especially if you’re selling your music and merch online. Some of our highest sellers regularly tweet links to their Dizzyjam shops, or post about their stuff on Facebook. These sites are excellent for connecting with your existing fans, attracting new ones and forming connections with influential people in the music industry. Social media is also great for running competitions and several of our users give away their merch in prize draws on Facebook and Twitter.
We know that navigating the world of social media can seem daunting, so we’ve put together some guides to Facebook and Twitter to get you started. Click any one of the links below to download the PDF files, from what to share on Facebook to how to get started on Twitter.
Music merchandising and e-commerce platform Dizzyjam is pleased to announce that their API is ready to use, enabling other online services to provide their users with the option to create and sell merch from within their site.
Dizzyjam is a print on demand service, offering a no hassle merchandising service exclusively to those in the music industry. They offer a direct-to-fan merch option which is risk free and costs nothing, requiring no financial investment and no stock control, and leaving no leftovers. With a process which is completely free, from setting up a shop to collecting profits, users need only upload an image to get started and within minutes they can be offering a range of merch with an array of colour and design options.
With the Dizzyjam API, other music services can give their users the option to display, add and edit products and stores, make purchases and check out – all from within their site. Dizzyjam already offers embeddable shops for users’ own websites, as well as a Facebook app for displaying products on Facebook fan pages. And now the API provides the chance for users to sell their merch on demand alongside other services, on a wider scale.
This could mean big things for Dizzyjam, as artists will now be able to fully integrate their Dizzyjam shops with other platforms, including their fanpages and social media pages, making it easier for all their media and online tools to be accessed by their fans in one place. Fans might now read an artists bio, download a new track, look at their photo gallery and buy merch on demand all from one site.
Using the Dizzyjam API will not only mean a great, fully integrated service to offer users, but will also importantly provide an extra revenue stream for platforms who use it.
For more information about the technical details of the API, see the API documentation at http://www.dizzyjam.com/apidoc/