The market for 3D printing licensed products is only just starting to take off, with many large companies only considering the technology bit by bit. There are plenty of indicators, however, that this space is ready to become populated by brands large and small, as they convert their merchandise into 3D printable products: Turbo Squid partnered with Ford, Launzer.com launched 3D printable DC characters, and FabZat is working with Blizzard to 3D print characters from World of Warcraft.
One company that may be set to take the world of licensed 3D printed goods by storm is Source3, who not only have a track record of licensing and distributing digital content, but have a broad view of how 3D printing and merchandising will go hand in hand. This is clearly demonstrated in today’s announcement from the startup that they have partnered with CD Baby to develop custom, 3D printed merchandise for the independent music distributor’s 400,000+ artists.
CD Baby has established itself as a leading distributor of independent music, beginning with physical CDs and, then, offering music downloads, allowing those without connections to established record labels to manage their own music sales. I’ve personally known a number of musicians that have made their livings selling music on the site and their CDs at shows. CD Baby is looking to expand upon these revenue opportunities for artists by opening up another method for producing short runs of personalized merchandise. Tracy Maddux, CEO of CD Baby, explains, “We are always looking for innovative ways to help our artists engage their fans and generate more revenue. By working with Source3, we can explore unique customizable merchandise for our artist roster. That’s a dream for artists and fans alike.”
By using the Source3™ platform for licensing and distributing 3D content, artists will be able to manufacture merchandise on demand, without the same upfront investment as required for mass produced goods. Each 3D model can be customized before production, allowing artists to test out products, without maintaining an inventory of goods that may or may not be successful. Patrick Sullivan, Co-Founder and CEO of Source3, elaborates, “Source3’s mission is to deliver the promise of 3D printing to content owners at scale. Source3 provides artists with access to best-in-class digital merchandise designs as well as the leading and most cost-effective 3D printing manufacturers. We have always believed that independent artists would be early adopters of 3D technology and CD Baby was the obvious partner in reaching such artists.”
Much of what Source3 is working on, and with whom they are working, is under private beta, so what sort of merchandise will be produced is not yet being announced. Source3’s Scott Sellwood, involved in the deal, tells me that the partnership may involve a suite of products that can easily be personalized with a band name, a logo, or likeness for artists to sell at shows, online, or, say, as a reward for a Kickstarter project. Sellwood adds, “There is so much that 3D technology can do for emerging artists. This is only the first step…”
So far, the only work made public by Source3 has been a 3D printed Streetfighter V cover they’ve made for Capcom, using ZVerse’s LAYR software for converting 2D images to 3D models. In addition to the big name involved in that project and this one, early indicators of the company’s success are that members of the company previously invented RightsFlow, a music licensing platform eventually acquired by Google, and that they recently secured $4 million in funding. More importantly, however, I believe that this new deal indicates that Source3 is thinking far beyond the realm of gaming, comics, and movies, where many other companies seem to be focused. Working with CD Baby demonstrates that they’re thinking about music and their work with ZVerse is evidence of possible work in sports merchandising. In other words, they could be looking to tackle every field in which merchandise could play a role, which is just about every industry one can think of.