Merchandise can potentially be a huge revenue stream for independent bands and musicians. However, knowing what to make, how many to make, what company to use, what to sell for, and how to let your fans know you have merch without sounding like an advertisement can be difficult.

Check out this extremely detailed guide to merchandise from Music Think Tank to get a better idea of how to create a viable merchandise revenue stream for your band.

What you should order and who you should order from

  • Music – CD’s are generally the best option for most artists because fans like having something tangible that they can take home (as opposed to a digital download) and take up less room than vinyl. They also have higher profit margins. Companies that I recommend for replication: Cravedog and Discmakers.

  • T-Shirts – The basic tee usually is a solid product to go with. You can usually get a better price and a more comfy product if you choose a lighter shirt, such as a Gildan 5.3 or 5.6 oz. More on how to get better prices below. These are some decent companies.

  • Stickers – Stickers are cheap, easy to produce, and can be used for promotion or selling. I order all of mine through Stickerguy.

  • Buttons – These are another easy, cheap product that you can sell for $1 each. I recommend the quality, pricing, and service from Busy Beaver Buttons. Or, if you have some upfront money, invest in a button maker. Badge-a-Mint makes a good one.

  • Posters – These are a staple. Most companies should give you a 12×18 poster for the same price as 11×17. I recommend Printing Conexions (let them know that Simon Tam sent you).

How to get better pricing for band merchandise

  • Begin a Partnership – I worked with a local vendor to get exceptional pricing and price terms by committing to a long-term partnership. I agreed to always consider them first when pricing options out and to order a certain amount of business. In return, I get the best pricing around and also 45 day net terms – In other words, payment for the products aren’t due until 45 days after I pick them up. It’s perfect when I need start up cash and merch for a tour because I can pay when we get back. You can also pitch a potential sponsorship deal.
  • Order in bulk – Most of the time, you really start saving money on shirts when you order at least 48 of them at a time.With stickers, it’s 250. With buttons, it’s 100. If you want to balance price per item and minimum quantities, talk to a representative about what optimal quantities are.

  • Order less designs – If you reduce the number of different designs, you can order higher quantities of each product. This in turn drives down the price per unit. Variety is good but often gives you a much higher start up cost.

To read the full guide, visit Music Think Tank.

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