Merchandise: The Often Overlooked Way To Market Your Band
When I say merchandise, you think the usual stuff: t shirts, CDs, and posters being sold at a dingy club to teenagers and concert-goers alike.
But is this the best way to get your merch out there? Sometimes, yes. While touring, in-person sales are critical.
But while you’re in your home market? Probably not. Everyone’s already bought some of your merch. You’re selling to a saturated market.
The remedy? Start pushing your online sales a little bit more! This part is critical. The internet is where everything is these days. So sign up and get to it!
1. Start Selling Online
This is the easiest one to do, but it’s something I see a lot of bands aren’t doing. They leave their merch sitting in boxes around the house between shows.
Stop doing that!
Why don’t you push online sales? In most cases, online sales are more profitable than concert sales because you don’t have to drive anywhere.
Get a good looking merch mockup, and start selling!
ProTip: Have your designer make you a merch mockup with the design they give you. Their mockup will look 10x better than one you can make yourself, I can almost guarantee that.
Get the design loaded online, and start promoting it! (We’ll cover more promotion tips in just a second)
My personal favorite merch store is
2. Diversify Your Merch Portfolio
T shirts are a little overdone. There’s a lot more that you can work with for merch that’s a lot more memorable.
To this day I still remember the flip flops that one touring band had (they played my area 6 years ago, and I still clearly remember those flip flops). Why don’t you tap in on that?
Getting a merch idea that isn’t completely hammered out and overdone is great. I’ve seen a couple bands doing tie-dye t shirts. That’s cool, too! It’s a small variation that makes your shirts extremely memorable. They become almost novelty items that aren’t really meant to be worn.
Don’t just stop at flip flops though. USB sticks with your album loaded on to it, drink coozies, and key chains. They’re all great ideas.
Why? Because they’re not just one-use items.
T shirts are permanent, too, but those first three? They’re much cheaper! So much cheaper that almost anyone can buy them. So that kid that can’t afford a t shirt? Well maybe he can afford a drink coozie, at the very least!
Do you see what I’m saying?
Now, it’s not always easy to find people to print things like that in small quantities. Don’t worry, I’ve done the footwork for you. I stumbled across MerchHero a little while ago, and to date, they’ve been my favorite merch printer.
Why? Because they cater to bands, and they print on nearly anything you can think of! Including the USB sticks, flip flops, mesh shorts, and drink coozies that I mentioned earlier!
Don’t you just love it when someone else has already done the work for you? Me, too.
Getting different kinds of merch printed isn’t enough, though. There’s a lot more to it. That’s why you need to…
3. Power Up Your Promotion
Promotion is everything. I’ve seen great merch designs that don’t get sold just because no one knows about them.
Don’t make that mistake!
To help you out, I’m going to give you a couple more awesome tips. For starters:
- Do a competition or a giveaway. I’ve seen bands get over 1,000 shares on an image promoting a merch giveaway. That’s 1000 people that are seeing your merch, and all you’re paying for is the amount of the giveaway. That’s insanely good marketing!
- Pre Orders. These are a shameless reason to promote yourself. It’s awesome because you are giving them a deal on the preorder package, it’s promotion for your own band and for your merch, and because it’ll make a bigger fuss about your actual release. All three are great things.
- Do some merch swaps. Is there a touring band that you’re friendly with? Have you opened for them one or two times when they’ve come through your area? Next time they come through, do a merch swap with them and give them a free CD! Touring bands are exposed to a lot of local talent, so make yours stick out by doing this. Not only can you gain a friend, but a lot of times they’ll actually wear that shirt. I’ve done this personally and had bands signed to major labels wearing my band’s shirts out on the rest of their tour. They’re broke and on the road, they appreciate a free, not-smelly shirt!
These are just a few good tips. But be creative! There’s always more you can do.
4. Brand Your Band
This is a little bit harder to quantify, as branding yourself can be a little bit more of an art than a science.
Branding your band can be as simple as creating a mascot or character that you include as a gimmick in all your videos. It can be as complex and expensive as following a festival around the nation or organizing a huge charity event.
Either way, branding is more about how the public sees you.
Make sure that when you are branding yourself, that you figure out exactly what you’re shooting for, and then try to make as many of your band’s pursuits tie into that image and idea.
For example, one band that I was friends with years ago loved their alcohol. Much more so than any other band I’ve ever really come in contact with. To show this love for their liquor, they made a parody shirt of their favorite beer, and they released their CD in a brown paper bag that had their logo spray painted on to it. To support the release, they had a huge house show at the local party house.
The end result? The party is still talked about and they sold out of all their merch within one night. Several hundred items of merchandise completely sold in one night, including their payment from the venue.
This sort of branding is genius. Connecting with your fans and delivering something interesting like that is so powerful, that you can become legends in the local scene if you do it right.
Using this approach to your merch, think of ways that you can brand your band with your merch. Think about how your merch is going to tie into your band.
5. Stand Out
Your merch needs to stick out. Here’s a couple of the suggestions that I personally have:
- Make clever merch designs (Play off of current issues or jokes!)
- Use colorful designs (Have them contrast!)
- Have an on-running joke for people to connect with. (I’ve seen this used very well!)
- Print on high quality shirts. (People really appreciate when you print on a good quality shirt)
Now get out there and use this! There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to sell your merch consistently!