(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) —
Cinder Block, Inc., an independent merchandising and licensing company serving the music industry, grossed $25 million in 2004, a year that also saw the launch of Cinder Block Ticketing and honors as Impressions magazine’s Top-Volume Screen Printer. In fact, this best year yet was just the latest in a series of very good years for Cinder Block.
The privately held, Oakland, CA based company has enjoyed continuous growth since it was inaugurated in 1989 on a Berkeley sidewalk card table, where co-founder and president Jeffery Bischoff hawked manually printed T-shirts to students and tourists. In the past four years, Cinder Block has enjoyed an average annual increase in gross revenues of 40 percent.
“I know this sounds idealistic, but you get what you give in this life,” says Bischoff. “If you do good business, your business will do well. It’s when you start trying to figure out how to screw the other guy that businesses fail.”
Cinder Block currently boasts more than 300 clients, including Radiohead, Green Day, Pixies, The Darkness, Jet, Sigur Rós, The Mars Volta, Weezer, Lou Reed, R.E.M., The Killers, Andrew W.K., AFI, NOFX, Sparta, Alkaline Trio, Sugarcult, Goo Goo Dolls, Death Cab for Cutie, Flogging Molly, The Vines, CKY, The Smashing Pumpkins, Misfits, Bob Dylan, Phil Collins, Jefferson Airplane, The Go-Go’s, Thrice, Converge, Rise Against, The Stills and many more. They also service independent record companies like Epitaph Records, magazines like Alternative Press and corporate accounts such as Pixar, Peet’s Coffee, Amoeba Records, Sega and major Bay Area sports teams.
Last year alone Cinder Block handled full-service tours for R.E.M., Green Day, Pixies, Phil Collins and – for the eighth consecutive year – the Vans Warped Tour, which garnered a remarkable 64 percent increase in merchandise sales from the previous year. For such tours, Cinder Block provides staffing, inventory control and transportation of goods, among other services, for artists on the road.
The company’s newest venture, Cinder Block Ticketing, was created in partnership with Baseline Ticketing to offer online ticket pre-sales, augmenting the variety of services and thus revenue streams the firm offers. (Baseline, formerly String Cheese Incident Ticketing, has extensive experience in online ticketing and is part of the group of companies operated by Boulder, Colo.- based management and booking agency Madison House, Inc.)
Cinder Block Ticketing’s initial outing was a ticket pre-sales program for Green Day’s “American Idiot” tour. The new division is also overseeing pre-sales for the upcoming Epitaph Tour 2005 and the Hurley International Presents Sub City Take Action! Tour. Providing ticket pre-sales for major and developing artists and festival/themed tours enables Cinder Block Ticketing to bolster the artist-fan bond by supplying an effective marketing tool for enhanced branding and artist development.
Former guitarist for the punk band Tilt, Bischoff brought a DIY ideology to the music-merch business and has built Cinder Block by uncompromisingly catering to the client. He started out making T-shirts for friends in bands like Green Day and Rancid while touring and recording with Tilt. In 1996, another banner year for Cinder Block, Bischoff bought the first of the company’s automatic presses, started a retail sales program that now extends to accounts worldwide and began to significantly boost the firm’s staff, which now numbers 120, reflecting a 20 percent personnel increase each of the past three years. Since the company launched its retail program, it has seen a 700 percent bump in retail sales, with retail accounting for 40 percent of gross revenues last year.
Tuned in to what fans really want, Cinder Block was among the first music-merch companies to offer an alternative to the Hanes Beefy-T, with a selection of sizes, styles and textures for males and females. It continues to broaden its product line, recently developing such items as messenger bags and screen-printed patch hoodies. “We’re constantly trying new things,” Bischoff attests. “It’s really important to us that we don’t become the dinosaurs – we want to remain the alternative to the dinosaurs.”
Cinder Block is a vertically integrated company; centralized in a 30,000-square-foot facility, its departments administer art design, production, e-commerce, retail sales and distribution, full tour service, and purchasing, in addition to numerous other functions. “This allows us to offer the fastest response times to customer demand and the highest level of quality control,” says Bischoff.
Plans are in the works for Cinder Block to move from its current headquarters into a 90,000-square-foot Oakland facility in spring of 2005, thus tripling its space. A Los Angeles satellite office will be opened in February.
Bischoff attributes Cinder Block’s burgeoning success to his no-frills, punk-informed business philosophy: “We value honesty and treat people fairly. We give them value for their money. You don’t rip people off. You make sure they can believe in you, no matter what that takes. There is always a way to serve the client.” –Bob Grossweiner and jane Cohen