Ever have a crazy idea that you think might work? Mike Stricklin did. He had an idea for wall-mounted keychain holder that looked like a guitar head and used actual 1/4 inch jacks as keychains. After partnering up with Rock World Merchandise, a company founded by Atreyu’s Dan Jacobs and his brother Joe, the three started a successful Kickstarter campaign, and Pluginz was born. The company recently partnered with Marshall to have customized “Jack Rack” keychain holders based on some of their most popular designs, as well as having some other brands on board as well. The accessories are now available at Guitar Center, Musician’s Friend and via their web site. We spoke to Dan Jacobs about how the plan came together and how they wound up getting bands and brands on board.
So tell me about how Pluginz and the Jack Rack came about. Where did the idea come from?
About two years ago, we heard from a friend of a friend. We got a phone call saying, “Hey, this guy Mike, he’s got this idea. He is not really sure what to do with it and he could use some assistance. We know Rock World Merchandise and you do stuff for companies. Maybe you can help him out?” So he hit us up and showed us this idea and it was very primitive, very stripped down. We could see that the idea was cool but we were like “Let me see if we can help you get this thing going, get the cost down, get it to where it could be sold at a reasonable price.”
From there we just started developing it with Mike. It wasn’t supposed to be anything at first other than just helping him. He liked what we were doing and asked if we would be interested in partnering up and developing it into the most badass thing that we could, and we agreed. From there we agreed and got a Kickstarter going to get some funds for it. Our goal was to do $3,000 in a month and it ended up doing $11,000. From there we took it and developed it a little bit more. We took the wings off of it and made it look more streamlined a little bit. Then we put it on Reddit with the title “How to Hang Your Keys Like a Rock Star” and it went to number one in 24 hours and our company launched. We were getting hit up by people from all over the world which was pretty crazy and it’s been going on ever since.
How much did the original idea cost when he came to you with it?
It was like four times the cost of what we pay now to get it done. I mean it was almost paying what we sell it for now at retail. So it was really, really high. A lot of it was being done domestically and for the volume of what we are trying to do there is just no way to do that. We were trying to get it in a price range where you can sell it to companies like Marshall and even companies like Monster Energy Drink. A lot of companies who want to sell it at a much cheaper price.
When did the idea to actually market it to guitar companies come around?
It is something that we’ve, you know once it got going out of the gates we we’re like “Wow this would be pretty cool if a real amp company got on board,” not just these generic ones we were doing. The generic ones are cool for people who are not particularly interested in any particular brand, they just like the look of it. If you are a real fan of Marshall amplifiers we just got a licensing deal with them. They are coming out right here before Christmas actually. That was something that we were like aiming for, it was kind of like our biggest goal. We needed to get a company like Marshall on board. It would be like the Marshall fridge which is that cool thing that everyone just kinda has to have if you have a man cave or something.
I would imagine there’s nothing more iconic in the amplification world than Marshall.
Exactly, and they have very few lifestyle products actually. So to be a part of that is crazy. It is one stop on the website, its trippy, the photos that they took and the ads that they put together. They are doing all of this stuff for the company that we have a part in creating, its really interesting.
Obviously there is an Atreyu tie in too. Did being a musician help out with any of this?
Yeah, that is one of my biggest things that I bring to the table at the company, other than just ideas. As far as the designing of it and what not, because I am a musician myself and have been doing this for years, I have a lot of contacts and a lot of relationships within the music industry that help move things along quicker. If I was not in a band I wouldn’t be able to move through these things as quickly. It has made things a lot more efficient for us with the ability to get at companies like Marshall and Engl and Friedman and Monster.
Have there been many bands who have come on and done their own custom ones yet or is it still mostly just guitar companies that you are working with.
A little bit of everything strangely enough. We’ve done some bands, like we’ve done Dance Gavin Dance, we’ve done the band Warrant. We have Stitched Up Heart, we are making some samples right now for Sixx A. M. It’s all across the board. Aside from that we are making ones for like Monster Energy Drink, we just did one for this motorcycle store right down the street from us called Lifestyle Cycles which is one of the big shops in the area who sells tons and tons of motorcycle lifestyle and stuff. It is not just the fact that it’s an amp,but its how efficient they work. That quarter inch plug in that you use for a guitar, it’s got such a strong hold. So taking that and using it for other things you can even hang like BBQ utensils, put it in your kitchen and have tongs hanging from it.
Are they actual quarter inch jacks?
Yeah they are real, legit. If you wired them up and plugged them in you could use them. We wanted to make everything legit. Even from Pantone colors, you want to have something looks and feels like a mini little amp, ya know? It’s made out of plastic so it is a little bit more light eight, the look of it is like a little amp head.
How did you end up getting into Guitar Center and Musician’s Friend and are you planning on having it made pretty much available everywhere?
Yeah, actually the initial person who pretty much got my foot in the door at Guitar Center was actually a good friend of mine Joey Allen. He is the lead guitar player for the band Warrant and he has been a neighbor of mine and a golf buddy for years. When we started making these thing, he pulled us aside. He’s also one of the sales reps over at Pearl Drums, so he works at Guitar Center a lot and he basically gave us the contact, liaisoned us into the situation and let us kind of take it from there.
How long has the stuff been available for there?
A few months now, we have been in it a bit more recently. Especially now that we have the Marshall going, it’s opened a lot of doors and it is just everywhere. We have a bunch of distributors everywhere, all over the world who have just jumped on board now because we have Marshall.
Is it expensive for a band to basically have their own designed?
No, it just depends on quantity really. If you can order at least 200 of them, we basically normally sell them for about $17.50. You can sell them to a band normally pretty cheap. They can from there basically sell it for twice that price, three times the price depending on what size band you are. If you can order around 200 of them we can then make custom packaging, I mean the whole shebang like, the package would be completely designed around the bands logo. If it is anything below that, like if it’s a smaller quantity. we use our generic boxes but what we do is on the front of it we essentially make a sticker that basically looks like the printing of our boxes but has that custom design on it and we can just slap them on there. That way it’s still a custom box, its just not as custom if you were to order your own 200 plus.
Cool. So just tell me little about about Rock World Merchandise.
Rock World Merchandise is basically my brother and I. We launched off the back of my clothing line, Rokk Clothing. We were initially doing a clothing line called Rokk Clothing, kind of a heavy metal classic, concert looking t-shirt. Instead of it being a Van Halen shirt it was a rock shirt. Basically from there, about two years into it, we started coming up with the idea of making that kind of stuff for other companies. So we started with Monster Energy Drink. We said like hey can we make a Monster Energy Drink shirt that was in style for our clothing. We did that and they loved it and they started ordering way more of those off of us than we were selling our own stuff. So we thought “maybe we should do this more for other people, just make peoples stuff cool.” So we started hitting up everyone we knew and next thing you know we are printing for Kat Von D and Rockstar Energy Drink and Monster and and Cold Cock Whiskey, we printed a bunch of merchandise, that gets our foot in the door with such huge bands. So now we pretty much make anything, it can be t-shirts, it could be accessories like wristbands and coffee mugs and custom jackets and hats. Pretty much anything.