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creative band merch ideas your fans will love

Music merchandise is a great way to make money as a musician and express your personality as an artist, so it makes sense to have some creative band merch ideas that will make you stand out from the sea of band tees out there.

Of course, there are those standard band merch items every musician should sell – think T-shirts, hoodies, and CDs.

BUT, more than ever, musicians are branching out and releasing creative and custom merchandise items.

Why bother?

  1. Interesting and unique music merch can grab people’s attention and actually get them over to the merch booth. And a lot of times, that’s half the battle. (Of course, your merch table display plays a big role here too.)
  2. It also opens up opportunities to create some higher price points, giving fans with the financial means the chance to support you to their full potential. So you could have your standard band t-shirts, but also have a higher-priced bomber jacket with a big embroidered patch on the back. Or a poster, and a higher-priced autographed poster. You can’t complain that fans are only spending $10 at your merch booth if all you have available is $10 CDs, right?
  3. And finally, it gives you the opportunity to keep your band merch display fresh. If you have the same three shirt designs year after year, your fans will have no reason to visit the merch table again. But if you can keep that fresh with unique merch ideas, they’ll come back show after show to add to their collection.

Now that you know why creativity is important at the merch booth, let’s go through a few of the best selling band merch ideas out there. Once you book a gig, try incorporating just one unique merch item in your lineup to start and build up over time.

Limited Autographed Items

This can work well for artists in every stage of their career. Who doesn’t love the idea of having an autographed drumstick, album, or guitar pick to show off to their friends?

You can price this kind of merch higher than others due to the added value of the autograph, and limiting the number of items available at each show can get your fans to rush to your merch table in an attempt to get these items before they’re gone. What you’re doing here is using scarcity to get fans over to the merch booth.

Another way to use scarcity is to create short-run, exclusive items. So maybe you create a limited number of alternate-color t-shirts or release a limited number of enamel pins for each album you put out. These can become collector’s items and can be extremely valuable to fans.


Of course, you need to get in a venue before you can start selling merch. Download this free ebook to learn a simple strategy to book your first gig


Skateboards

This is a pretty niche idea, but I want to illustrate how you can create really cool, high-end band merch items by taking a look at the demographics and interests of your fans.

So a skateboard would be a great option for a punk, punk rock, or a pop-punk band because that genre is a huge part of the skate culture. It’s pretty easy to slap your logo or album art on the bottom of a skateboard, but, because you’re tapping into your fans core interests, it represents a lot of value.

If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at your fanbase and see what kind of trends you can see in interest and demographics. Your social media analytics can tell you a lot, but you should also make time to actually talk to them at gigs. Once you key in on some big, universal interests, try brainstorming merch items you can create to speak to those interests.

Phone Cases

Almost everyone these days has a smartphone, so by selling phone cases with your album art or logo on them you’re appealing to a pretty wide audience.

Cell phone cases are a profitable product in general, so these can be great items to add to your merch table. Most people these days either have an iPhone or Samsung phone, so having cases for these phones alone should work for most artists.

Lighters

If your show is during the nighttime and you have some lighter-in-the-air type songs, can generate some sales before the show for fans who’ve left theirs behind or run out of lighter fluid.

If you have great looking artwork or a nice logo, this is an item that can stimulate conversation when shared among friends.

Glow-in-the-dark merch

Another great band merch idea for gigs is glow-in-the-dark merch. Think t-shirts, key chains, or any of the items mentioned above! Pretty much anything you can make can also be made glow in the dark.

As an added bonus, glow-in-the-dark merch can really make your merch booth stand out in dark venues. Place you glow-in-the-dark merch strategically at table so they’re easy to see from far away and you’ll generate sales from fans as they’re making their way to the stage.

Want More Creative Band Merch Ideas?

Merch is something we talk a lot about in the New Artist Model music business program. Your merchandise approach can have a huge effect on your career. As you’ve seen, you can use merch to relate to your fans’ interests, to enable your biggest spenders, and even to provide really unique experiences that will help your fans step up the ladder towards superfans. Click here to find out what else you can learn in the New Artist Model music business program, or signup for free lessons here

sell more merchandise

Selling merchandise at a show is probably one of the biggest sources of revenue that an artist has left today. It’s clear to anyone in the music industry that selling music has taken such a dramatic dive in sales that it’s almost a necessity to search and reach out for other sources of income as an artist first, with record sales second. For larger artists, their brand seems to take over everything. They become this image/icon with corporate sponsorships making large portions of their income. For the rest of the world (not top 40 radio), playing shows and selling merchandise is probably their biggest asset. So, how can you increase your revenue and sell more merchandise at your shows?

1. Make it Personal

Your merchandise is a direct representation of you as an artist and your music. If you aren’t involved with picking out what pieces of merch you sell or what designs you put on them, you’ve already missed the first step. Like social media or any other hands-on interactive experience, your fans want to support you and they want to know every aspect of you as a person and an artist. So if you aren’t involved in, at very least, approval of what designs you’re selling to them and giving your personal input on, why would they want to purchase it and wear it? Your merchandise should be the best combination of what you as an artist enjoy stylistically and what your fan base tends to prefer. It’s a line that a lot of artists have trouble walking. You can’t control what demographic embraces your music, so without (and I hate this term) “selling out” or completely conforming to what sells to them, you have to find that happy medium. At the same time, you can’t be always have an “art over everything” attitude and expect to sell the maximum amount of merchandise you can. It’s the line of business vs. art and every musician has to walk it at some point.

2. Managing Inventory

Once you have put the time in and reflected on the designs you enjoy and believe your fan base will equally enjoy and support, it’s time to sell it to them. So you’ve got a big show coming up and you just refilled on your merch supply and you want to, obviously, sell the maximum amount possible. Well, another obvious step is sizing. Do you have all sizes available? Are you keeping tabs on past sales and seeing what sells the most? I can, without a doubt, guarantee that a band like Tool is going to sell way more M-XL shirts to their fan base, as opposed to Justin Bieber who sells a majority of XS-M-sized shirts. It seems obvious, but a lot of artists just order the same amount of every size because they don’t know (or don’t pay attention) and think that makes the most sense at the time, leaving them short on certain sizes and having a surplus on sizes they aren’t going to sell.

Another tactic you should be implying is seasonal wear. While you may be able to get away with selling tank tops in a hot sweaty club in the middle of January in Boston, there’s a lot less of a chance a fan is going to be into buying a hoodie in the middle of July in Miami. “Sweet! Now I have this hoodie I can’t wear for six months!” You’re also more likely to sell those hoodies in the previous Boston scenario and make more money than you would on tank tops.

3. Pricing

This leads me to my next point: Pricing. Are you keeping your eyes open to what other artist are selling their merch for? If you’re selling your new T-shirt for $25 and all the other bands are selling their T-shirts for $10 at the same show, who do you think is going to make the most money in the long run? People want the most bang for their buck. Not only will you sell less but some fans might be offended by your higher-than-average prices. Sure, you spent $500 for the design on your high-quality American Apparel shirt with five colors and designs on the front, back and sleeves, but that won’t matter in the moment when fans only have $25 left and like every artist that’s playing.

It’s smart to pay for merch that you can make a profit on while keeping it affordable at the same time. You aren’t playing arenas and people won’t pay $25-$50 for a T-shirt yet, no matter how nice it is. There are creative ways to design a piece of merch and keep it affordable with regards to the artist level you’re currently at.

4. Display Counts

“Hey guys, we have merchandise in the back. Please check it!” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that at shows. The simplest way to sell more merch at shows is to make people aware that it’s available. It’s so obvious, but some bands forget to mention it or think it’s too tacky to say on stage. It doesn’t come as needy, it’s part of the experience of going to a show and every artist should say it while they’re on stage, and every fan should expect to hear it. When they go back there—most likely between sets—make sure it is clean, organized and professional looking. Having something to hang certain items up, tape things neatly to the table so you don’t have to worry about a cluster-f*ck table while trying to sell. Make things simple and legible for fans like the names and prices of items. If there is a back-side design to an item, have it displayed and labeled so you don’t get asked 100 times to keep showing people.

Efficiency always increases sales. Another great selling tactic is the use of limited edition items or limited quantity. It may push a certain fan over the fence they are on about buying that item.

5. Sales Team

Lastly, and one of the most important aspects of selling merch whether it’s you, a friend, or someone you are paying, is to make sure they are outgoing, friendly and organized. Not everyone is suitable to deal with people. Add to the fact a lot of people may be drunk, sweaty and rude coming in mass numbers, and you have a pretty solid recipe for disaster if you’re not the type of person that can handle it. If you are paying someone, take the time to go back to the merch table and check on him or her, or get feedback from a random third party. They are representing YOU! If they come off as an ass, it will be associated with you. Also make them count in and count out items. I’ve seen more than a few merch people in my day steal from their artist or jack up prices on their items and pocket the extra because the artist wasn’t involved with the merch situation to know any better.

Hopefully these tips will help you out in maximizing your profitability at your shows. There’s no secret recipe for success in the merchandise world, but the more you are organized and involved in it as an artist, the more you will sell.

 

By: Grant Brandell
Service & Product Sales Manager for Symphonic Distribution
grant@symphonicdistribution.com

Symphonic Distribution is a distribution company located in Florida. They distribute music digitally to over 300 retail and streaming platforms, for thousands of record labels and artists worldwide and continue to develop new technologies in the form of in-house systems including mastering, marketing, licensing, publishing administration, web & graphic services, label/artist development and more. Their goal is to become the One Stop Shop for the Music Industry while maintaining a personalized approach with clients.

The live show and merchandise are becoming more important in the music industry. On top of that, there has been a surge in small indie musicians trying to make it on their own. Many think that merch is out of their budget, but with the right planning and strategy merch can become a profitable revenue stream for anyone.

This article, written by Robal Johnson of PUMP Merch, was originally posted on Hypebot. To read the full article, click here. 

1. Decide what to sell

Where to begin? Start small, be patient, and analyze your early merchandise investments. Get creative. Have an artist friend design your logo: pay them in drinks and guestlist spots. Be conscious of your audience: determine what apparel and accessories are trendy. Understand the demographic: ask how they consume and share music, which can easily be done via social networking. Acknowledge your environment: if its hot, tank tops and ballcaps are essential; if it’s cold, hoodies and beanies are a must. At first, focus on selling more for less: keep designs to 1-3 colors, buy the inexpensive option, and charge fans as little as possible. Remember, you can always upgrade later.

Don’t be afraid to be aggressive. You’re not bothering anybody at the show. I guarantee most of the people there will be excited to meet you and honored you came up to talk to them. They know you’re just doing your job and they actually want to talk to you. I have approached the bar in a small town in Mississippi and sold $10 T-Shirts. I have wandered a club in Nashville asking folks if they’d like to buy $5 CDs. Merch is a souvenir purchased to commemorate a notable experience. Every music fan enjoys the pride that comes with seeing an act “back in the day” and you need to offer them something to take home that night.

2. Convenience

Once you have decided on the right products to sell on tour, your next focus should be on convenience. If you do not accept credit cards while on the road, you are leaving countless dollars on the table. Just ask Laura Keating, Melissa Garcia, and Emily White of Whitesmith Entertainment and Readymade Records: “We have been taking credit card payments in some form or another since 2005 and it always doubles our sales at the merch table.” Now THAT should motivate the hell out of all of you.

Companies like Square and PayPal Here have made it extremely simple for you to accept all major credit cards as long as you have a smartphone or tablet. If you have not already, stop reading this right now and order one of the FREE card readers from either of those companies immediately. It will take you a few short minutes and the results are literally priceless. I can not stress the importance of this enough. In this day and age, you MUST accept credit cards. You will not only sell your merch to more people, you will sell even more items.

At this time Square is only offered in the United States, Canada, and Japan. PayPal Here is available in the US, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. For acts touring the United Kingdom and Europe, Team Whitesmith/Readymade suggests using iZettle for your credit card processing needs. iZettle is now live in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the UK, Germany, Spain, and Mexico.

3. Get organized!

Third on your to-do list while gearing up for tour should be organization and accounting for your merchandise while on the road. For decades this was done by either the merch guy or the tour manager in a looseleaf notebook with pencils and a whole lot of mistakes. Then came Microsoft Excel, which we ALL love to hate. But I have seen the future of tour merchandising and it comes to us via Orange County, California in an app called atVenu. These guys are changing the game and every single touring artist needs to take note.

I spoke with co-founder of atVenu, Ben Brannen, and he shared his story of what drove him and his partners to create the service. “While on the road, I experienced first hand the inefficiencies of existing methods by which we track and settle our touring merch. Too much money is lost due to inventory issues, poor nightly settlements, limited analysis, or one broken cell in an Excel sheet. atVenu solves these problems by empowering merch reps with a mobile app designed for their needs which syncs to the artist’s web-based account where merch company and management can login and easily access a robust suite of real time analytics and reports.”

This is a game-changer for many reasons, but most importantly it is something that will save artists time and money on the road. As a merch rep myself, I can attest to the great many headaches that go along with inventory, accounting, and restocking of products while a band is touring. It is all about organization and communication. With a system in place that knows when you’re getting low on the green v-necks in small and medium and your merch guy gets a notification, imagine how much money you’ll save on those rushed deliveries from halfway across the country that will hopefully make it to the venue on time. Envision how much easier it will be to do reorders for the next tour because you know exactly what you sold, when, and where.

My buddy Randy Nichols of Force Media Management, who represents The Almost and Bayside, among others, also works as Strategic Music Industry & Product Advisor with atVenu. He sums up the app perfectly, “A tool like atVenu shows me real time forecasting data for my tour so I can both improve my profit margins and be sure to maintain a healthy stock of my in demand items. This can easily mean the difference between 10 boxes of merch in the drummers garage at the end of the tour vs an extra $10,000 in profit.”