An unestablished band’s ability to sell merch often means the difference of whether a show or entire tour ends up being profitable or not. But like lots of other non-musical aspects of making and performing music seriously, merch is something that’s often neglected, even by the musicians who could benefit from selling it the most.
Today, we’re talking about three ways to help musicians sell more merch, but let’s first talk about why offering band-related stuff to your fans is important. The biggest and most obvious reason is that merch sales bring in extra revenue for your project. This can translate to more money earned on tours or additional funding from sales made through your website. In addition to extra cash, merchandising is also a chance to give fans opportunities to experience your project in non-musical ways. Merch solidifies your identity and fills a fan’s need for clothing, artwork, and other things at the same time.
1. Rethink the merch you’re offering
Shirts, stickers, pins––these are all great merch staples, but you shouldn’t stop there. Theoretically, you can sell just about anything as long as it’s legal. When bands take the time to create and offer interesting things to sell their fans, they earn more money and are seen as being more creative. It’s important to remember that what you sell doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. Especially helpful when raising money for an album, you can sell private performances, exclusive or bespoke songs, or even music lessons if you wanted to. Whether the things you sell are physical or not, it’s important that what you offer to your fans is creative.
2. Make your stuff visible and easy to purchase
Put yourself in the shoes of one of your fans. What are the things that makes it easy or hard to buy another band’s merch? Simple things like showing up to performances ready to take card payments and offering fans an easy way to buy merch online end up increasing an artist’s merch sales in a big way. Also high on your merch priority list should be creating an engaging physical merch space to sell your stuff through at shows.
3. Hire a visual artist
Save for the few freakishly talented musician-visual artists out there, most musicians aren’t equipped with the skills needed to create interesting visuals for merch. If you can afford it, hiring a talented local artist to help visually present your music through merch is a worthwhile investment. Sure, non-visual artist musicians can create their own ideas for shirts, stickers, and posters, but the difference from that and working with a proven artist is a bit like eating at a meal at a fancy restaurant and forking through a half-cooked frozen dinner. If you want to earn money through merch, you have to offer interesting, well executed stuff.
Many musicians groan at the thought of having to worry about merch, and for good reason. We all just want to focus on music and nothing else. Unfortunately, the harsh realities of working in today’s brutal music climate are forcing musicians to look for financial support in areas that aren’t directly related to recording and performing.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician, and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.