Dizzyjam.com and Bitvibe offer contrasting models for web-powered music merch stores. Dizzyjam.com is similar to CafePress with more limited options while Bitvibe is an even newer breed of merch store similar to Soulblendr which was previously profiled at Hypebot. Both provide platforms that feature band merch without requiring as much in-house work as creating and fulfilling merch requests on one's own.
Above Thumbnail: Skull Old English Hoodie for Panal S.A. de C.V.
Dizzyjam.com offers print on demand music merch, currently tshirts and hoodies, with an approach much like CafePress or Zazzle. Basically you upload your logo or artwork and Dizzyjam.com takes it from there. Fans pick the item and size, including color, and if you've uploaded single color artwork, they can choose color options for that as well.
Stores are free, you get 25% of the sale price and you can also buy in bulk for merch to sell at shows. Whichever POD provider you use, this is probably the easiest way to offer merch, particularly if your resources are limited. However, when using such a service, I'd suggest ordering something and checking out the quality.
Left: Collectible Artist Painted Mini Piano for Gregg Rolie Band
Bitvibe, based in Austin, takes an approach similar to Soulblendr in that it offers a platform to allow designers to create merch for bands to approve and fans to buy. They actually appear open to working with brands other than musicians but currently only offer an Angry Birds-themed hand painted guitar.
Bitvibe currently has an open call for designers with final designs to be approved by bands and their fans. You'll have to contact them under the "Sell" tab for pricing and revenue information.
In an interesting twist, they're also developing options for fans to sell collectibles and vintage items though that still seems to be in the works. However, bands can also sell CDs so there appears to be a lot of flexibility built into Bitvibe.
Obviously you'd need to be either big enough or have folks that care enough to actually get designers to create merch for Bitvibe but the platform is designed to emphasize unique objects at a potentially high price point. With a company like Dizzyjam.com it's much easier to get started but one ends up with a less unique item at a lower price point. However, both represent web-enabled options that open up the merch game beyond outsourcing everything or doing it all yourself.
Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith maintains his freelance writing hub at Flux Research and blogs at All World Dance and This Business of Blogging. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.