A new organisation, MerchFriends, has been set up to support and celebrate the work of garment printers and other suppliers in the music merchandise sector.

Formed in the US by Hello Merch co-founder Sam Means, it aims to have membership drawn from all kinds of companies in the music merchandise sector, from screen printers to fulfilment houses, around the globe.

It aims to provide a forum for business owners and staff to “learn and discuss best practices, source goods, share success stories and address challenges, fostering community communication through recurring webinars and live events”.

MerchFriends’ first major initiative will be to launch Band Shirt Day (BSD), which will take place around the world on September 16, 2022, as a new annual celebration dedicated to band T-shirts, described as “an iconic merch staple since the 1950s”.

Band Shirt Day will offer artists, labels, garment decorators and merchandisers a day to proclaim their love of band shirts while raising funds for charities of their choosing. Further details about events are due to be announced soon.

Early partners in MerchFriends include Rough Trade, Bandsintown, Night Owls, Easy Partners, Hamster Labs, Awesome Merch, Ambient Inks, Sound Merch, Second City Prints, Hello Merch, Hello Screen Printing, and Wastoids.

MerchFriends was set up to address the issues facing the independent music merchandise industry which has been particularly badly hit over the past two years because of Covid restrictions. Ongoing challenges identified by MerchFriends include capacity constraints leading to production and timeline delays.

Sam, who has run Hello Merch in Phoenix, Arizona, for 14 years with Anita Means, said: “Over the last couple of years, I’ve had conversations with so many peers about how we can all genuinely help each other out and this project was born out of those talks.

“MerchFriends will serve as a support network for independent creators, embracing the DIY spirit but also honouring that we can do it ourselves together if we share the things we’ve learned along the way.”

Christopher Moon, senior account manager at merchandise printer Ambient Inks in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, added: “The music industry can be a lonely and isolated place. We’re excited to be part of building community, transparency and the opportunity to learn and grow with our fellow merch friends.”

Quinn Murphy, owner of screen printing shop Hamster Labs in Phoenix, Arizona, said: “It’s exciting to see a community of like-minded individuals come together to share stories, ideas, successes, and failures.”

Bob Curtin of entertainment merchandise company SCP, formerly Second City Prints, in Chicago, added: “We have an opportunity to collaborate across the merch landscape, to set merch standards and build a better experience for clients and artists.”