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Ink Floyd On Being A B(r)and Advocate For Charlotte Music

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Photo courtesy of Ink Floyd.
An Ink Floyd employee prints a design on the printing press.

Since opening shop in 2006, Ink Floyd has become a visual center for the Charlotte music scene, designing and printing up thousands of posters, shirts and stickers for regional musicians and venues. But it’s more than just promoting audio through visuals. As Ink Floyd owner Dave Collier puts it, it’s about encouraging brand awareness (and support) for bands.

"More and more, people have less of an excuse to say there’s nothing going on. There is! You just have to look. We want to be part of the push behind having more stuff to do and more bands to go see."
– Dave Collier, owner of Ink Floyd

Interview Highlights:

On the origins of Ink Floyd:

The name [came from] me sitting with a napkin in Plaza Midwood, trying to come up with a name. That’s the brand story. But I’ve always been into music since I was a pre-teen. I didn’t plan on being a screen printer or owning a business way back when… I think I had a mid-life crisis or entrepreneurial spasm. I was working at one of the big banks… great team, a lot of fun… but I kind of wanted to start my own business. I was a skateboarder myself and had a little website called SkateCharlotte.com, but that eventually evolved into an actual brand. And part of promoting that brand was printing some t-shirts — an accessible way to get your name out there. So I had a little set-up in a shed and then branched out into a store in South End. And we’ve kept going up from there.

On how Ink Floyd works with musicians and venues:

I wish it were like Jack Black calling and being like, “Hey bro, what’s up? We’re coming! Can you make a poster for us?”

But it’s more like we reach out to the venue— or maybe we have a relationship with [the artist’s] label or something — and saying, “Can we make this [poster]?” Whereas with the more local bands, we have relationships with them and try to add value and make a poster for them.

On working with a range of artists over the years:

Because of the [God Save the Queen City] music festival we’ve done for several years, I think it’s in the hundreds. I would say almost all of the local venues and a lot of great local bands [have worked with us], and then 10 to 15 major big national bands as well. It’s a great diverse mix from all over the place.

We actually took a break this year because I think I just needed a year off. Because it’s so much work and so much stress, and — I say that in the same breath — it’s totally worth it. It’s a totally positive community thing.

We started that several years ago because Eric Leaf [an employee at Ink Floyd] is so good at curating and collecting these different bands and genres to come together. We want to support the local scene and give them an opportunity to play alongside really good up-and-coming regional acts. And then we try to allocate some budget to get a “national act” — a big draw.

It’s a lot of stress to plan, but it’s totally worth it. And the people who show up get to see a lot of really great bands that they would not have seen otherwise.

On seeing the Charlotte music scene evolve in recent years:

A lot of people are going to talk about how challenging it can be to promote music shows. But as far as the music scene’s evolution over the years, there’s more opportunity, there are more people [in Charlotte]. We all have to keep trying and keep pushing and doing it because we love to do it, and not sweating the outcome so much. We have to stay positive and continue to work hard.

Stay Connected:

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival (named one of the “best podcast conferences” by Buzzsprout) and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier, named “Best Podcast” by Charlotte Magazine and honored for excellence in arts and music podcasting by the local Edward R. Murrow Awards and The Webby Awards (called “The Internet’s Highest Honor” by The New York Times).