Clever merch can do marvels for a band, and we’re not talking just about super-cool T-shirts and well-designed album art. Think of your shop selection—online or IRL—as having the same possibilities of any other store. You’ve got the freedom to offer almost anything you want, and if you’re creative enough in your selection, your sales will surely get a boost. Those special items can help grow your fanbase, too.
Consider the avid band merch collector: A limited-run item can trigger that sense of exclusivity of scoring memorabilia few others have. (We aren’t making fun. We do it too.) When you’re peddling merch at shows, the interest of casual browsers is likely to be piqued if they spot an unexpected item disrupting the normal flow of T-shirts and records. And if what you’re selling is cool enough, you could even land a sale from someone who knows little to nothing of your music—and whether they end up a loyal follower or not, at least they contributed to your gas-and-food fund. You could even garner press for your amazingly creative branded goods.
We’re not suggesting you turn your table into a mini bazaar of trinkets and tchotchkes, but adding an item outside the standard tradition of shirts and music could give your shop the spunk it needs to stand out. Below is a list of potential pieces to ponder. Don’t forget, like with any merch-making endeavor, you should scour the internet or local shops for the best possible price before moving forward.
You already knew that personalized phone cases are a thing, but have you thought about branding them with your band’s logo or other emblematic artwork though? There are tons of websites that offer the service, and plenty with wholesale options to cut cost and increase your profit. You can choose a case style that fits most smartphones or mix and match on CustomLogoCases.com, where they’re priced at $11 each for 25, $9 for 50 or $5.97 for 100.
Nostalgia for the ’90s isn’t letting up anytime soon, and if you’re also riding high on that revival wave, why not integrate the quintessential glow-in-the-dark motif into your merch? Limited-edition vinyl is one place to start, but you could also try the phosphorescent look in your T-shirts, stickers, keychains, koozies, hats and whatever the heck else you want to sell.
Printed matter will never die, no matter how digital our daily lives become. Especially in the DIY world, zines remain a thriving creative outlet. Like with anyone, when bands and musicians craft them, subject matter varies—the content may be intimately personal, it could be political, or it can be totally jokey. You could release a zine themed any which way, but one subject we think is especially relevant is tour life: Photos, hand-written road tales, drawings, etc.–you can see it, right?
Step up your flair game! Buttons are still apropos on any merch table, but enamel and diecast pins are exceptionally popular now—and they’re not too difficult to manufacture, either. You can commission an artist, or you can create your own design using Photoshop (or something like it). When you order in bulk, you can keep the cost of each individual pin to just a few bucks.
Like lapel pins, patches have been around for basically forever, and are currently smack-dab in a popularity upswing. You’ll find loads of iron-on patch wholesalers at the ready online, but you can also make your own, and without ever touching an embroidery machine. Cut shapes from heavier, impermeable fabric, then get to work with acrylic or fabric paint (anything that’s waterproof when dry) and a stencil cut-out of your design. If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can sew on part of the badge, incorporate fabric pieces for accents and anything else you dream up. You can add an adhesive backing, which is available at most craft stores, or leave it as is, to be sewn or safety-pinned on.
Duh, right? Honestly, at this point in the world’s collective environmental consciousness, tote bags should be a staple item in any band’s store. As more cities work to join the likes of Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and Seattle in banning one-time-use plastic bags altogether, your tote bags become increasingly useful. Shipping within the U.S. included, a standard canvas bag printed with a one-color design costs about $6 if you order 25 or more with most wholesale suppliers.
Handmade goods of all kinds
Can you cross-stitch? Crochet? Do you make really cool and tiny terrariums? Jewelry? Are you an excellent painter? Your fans certainly want copies of your album at their disposal, plus T-shirts and anything else that’s branded, but they’ll also appreciate items with a more personal touch. Anything you’ve made with your very own hands is worth a spot on your merch table; whatever the creation may be, it’s offers another chance for your listeners to know you better.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music and culture writer based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She regularly contributes to Remezcla, and has written for Impose, Paste, Noisey and more. Follow her work, musings and party times via Twitter: @jhonijackson.