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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 merchandise options 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.


Want more creative ideas? Download this free ebook for more indie musician strategies: Hack the Music Business


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

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There’s more revenue streams out there for musicians than just album sales. Check out some of these alternative revenue streams.

Article by Mackenzie Carlin via Music Think Tank. Check out the full article here.

Offer VIP Packages for Concerts

Critics of social media may complain of young people wasting their lives behind computer screens, but the truth is, music fans still love attending live shows. You still can profit handsomely off of traditional concerts, but if you’re looking to amp up returns on your tour, consider throwing in VIP concert options. These could include special meet-and-greets before or after shows, or even private performances for your most dedicated fans. Many will gladly pay two, three, even four times the going rate for your concert if it means getting up close and personal.

Sell Merchandise at Live Shows

Music fans love showing off their favorites, be it through social media or old-fashioned band tees. The great thing about old school merchandise sales is that they can be incredibly profitable, particularly if you take on a multi-faceted approach including both online and in-person sales. Selling band merch is easier than ever, thanks to useful services such asIntuit QuickBooks, and the various on-the-fly payment systems that are available in the form of an app. Be sure to offer a wide array of products, so as to entice as many fans as possible to invest in the cause. These could include posters, clothing or vinyl records, which still retain a surprising level of popularity among music aficionados. A Music Think Tank post from last year suggests asking fans on Twitter and Facebook for merchandise suggestions, and then holding a poll to determine which options would garner the most interest.

Build a Dedicated Following With Social Media

The greater your social media following, the better chance you stand of benefiting from merch sales and VIP packages. Examples of musicians building dedicated fan bases through social media include Justin Bieber and Lily Allen serving as two of the most successful MySpace musicians. Today, the focus is on Facebook and Twitter, with several musicians also benefiting from the use of Soundcloud, a social network aimed directly at ‘sound creators.’ According to “Tech Crunch,” Soundcloud currently boasts over 250 million users, many of whom share their favorite bands and singers with their friends through the site’s popular social networking setup.

If you’re looking to make more money as a musician, check out the New Artist Model online courses.

You’ve no doubt heard that the live show is where the money lies in the music industry, especially for indie musicians. However, it’s not a magic cash funnel, and sometimes just playing won’t drive your fans to your merch table. Today indie musicians need to play the marketer, as uncomfortable as it may be. It will be difficult at first to ask your fans to buy, but it will come more naturally with practice.

This article was written by music business coach and social media strategist, Madalyn SklarHere’s 3 of the steps, to see all 5 check out the full article over at Cyber PR.

Step 1 – Greet Them At The Door

I have rarely seen artists do this but the few that do make quite an impression with fans. The best way to get ahead in this business is networking. There is no better place to network than at the door of your show. For many years I ran a monthly GoGirls showcase event in Houston, TX. I had the coolest job, not just booking and promoting it but running the door and merch table too. I met amazing people. But I wasn’t the talent on stage. I was just the girl charging cover or selling merchandise. The ticket holder is there to see you. It would be so unexpected for them to witness you greeting people at the door. It shows you are approachable and way cool. And in return you will see more sales. Cha-ching!

“Most fans have you on a pedestal. If you didn’t know this, better start believing it.”click to tweet

For those who already know it, don’t be a dick about it. Treat your fans with respect and love. Always.

Step 2 – Mention You Have Merch For Sale From The Stage

“The best way to make money at your show is by simply asking people to buy.” click to tweet

I know this one sounds like a no brainer but I hardly see bands telling their audience they have merch for sale. They always tell me they forget to announce it from the stage. Keep in mind that the majority of people at your show are not mind readers so it’s helpful to let them know that not only do you have merch for sale but you’ll be happy to sign a CD or poster for them. The next time you’re on stage, mention you have a merch table with lots of fabulous stuff. The best way to ensure you don’t forget this is to incorporate it right into your set list. It’s super easy to do. When making your set list, pick two spots and mark it as “Merch Reminder” that way you will not forget once you hit the stage.

Step 3 – Bundle Your Merchandise

Fans like things simple. So why not make it easy for them to give you a $20 bill or swipe on your Square (for credit/debit cards) by bundling two things together. I’ve seen bands put together simple bundles that make the deal look too good to pass up. You can offer 2 CDs and a sticker for one low price or maybe a CD and a t-shirt combo. You can easily increase your earnings just by playing it smart with bundling. Get creative and have fun with it.

Try these steps out at your next live show and let us know how it went!

 

Join the revolution and supercharge your merch! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list and get access to free sample lessons.

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.”

 

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.

Ale Delgado wrote this great recap of our CMJ panel on merchandise last week.  Thanks Ale!  Here is most of it.  Visit her site for more:

Considering that I’m always looking for the next big thing, I knew I had to go to CMJ’s “Modern Merch: Beyond the Tour T-Shirt” panel. See, merch is a $2.2 billion business and one of the biggest ways an artist can make money. But while most merch is sold at shows, most people at shows don’t buy merch. Tricky, huh?

The basic premise of the panel was that opportunity comes when you marry a point of passion (e.g., a song stream or live show) with a call to action (e.g., a merch sale)– and yes, they had some tips to help you take advantage of any opportunities that come your way.

Moderator: Dave Kusek, co-founder of MerchLuv and co-author of The Future of Music.

Panelists: Zach Bair, founder of RockHouse Live Media Productions and the original CEO of DiscLive Network, which records, masters, and burns concert CDs to be made available to fans right after the show;  Mary Sparr of screen-printed gig poster pros Print Mafia and culture blog Young Mary’s Record; and Alexandra Starlight, funky and spunky indie starlette whose Kickstarter campaign resulted in 205% funding and a rainbow glitter 7″ EP.

 

1.Think of merch as an extension of your brand

As always, the first thing to do is consider your brand as an artist. Once you develop a consistent aesthetic, you can open the door to more innovative merch because fans will recognize it as one of your pieces. For example, Starlight created a one-of-a-kind rainbow glitter vinyl record for her self-titled EP. A record like that had never been pressed before and each one was hand-glittered, so each fan received a unique copy. If you’ve ever peeked at Starlight’s website (or rainbow-dyed hair), you know that a rainbow glitter album fits perfectly with her brand– and it’s damn memorable.

Furthermore, if you think of merch as your brand being integrated into someone’s lifestyle, it opens up even more creative possibilities. For instance, The Hold Steady created branded foam fingers. Y’know, the ones you wave around like crazy when you’re cheering on your favorite team. What do foam fingers have to do with music? Not much, but they’re fun, different, and priced for the college-aged fan. And judging by the fact that they’re sold out, they’re a big hit with fans.

2. Cater to your spectrum of fans

Take another look at The Hold Steady’s foam finger. It’s $10 reduced to $5. Easy sale for a teenager or college student who might have a lot of spending money but is willing to pay for something cool to show off to their friends. Making sure that you have different tiers of merch for different fans is key to building sales. You should have something at your merch table for the fan who just wants to snatch a free download card and for the fan who wants to buy everything. That also means bundling items together (CD, t-shirt, button combo) for a quick sale.

3. Be show-specific

If possible, create show-specific merch. It can be as simple as individual gig posters for each city in which you tour or something a little more involved. Sparr brought up the tickets that Mumford & Sons created for their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Tour. Each ticket was a commemorative passport that contained a download code for a compilation of songs recorded at each Stopover. Then it got better. Fans could get their passports stamped at the merch tables at each Stopover, personalizing their passports to their experience. Then it got even better. People were wandering around each Stopover with unique stamps, essentially turning the passports into a Pokemon game. (Gotta stamp ‘em all!) Talk about fan engagement.

Next, update your Facebook and Twitter on the day of the show and let your fans know what merch you’re going to be offering, especially if you have something that will only be available at that show. The more people can prepare (or at least consider the possibility of picking up your record), the more likely they’re going to buy something.

 

4. Work your merch like a pop-up shop

Think about every grumpy salesperson you’ve had to deal with. They don’t greet you, they don’t look you in the eye, they don’t care if their store is a mess, they don’t want to help you find anything, or (even worse) they’re way too pushy… Okay, now be exactly the opposite.

Your merch table is your pop-up shop. Have your items propped up nicely so that fans who are moving past your table can see what you have to offer. Greet them as they walk up to your table; don’t badger them, but put on a friendly face like you would if they were customers coming into your brick-and-mortar store. Also make sure that you’re being as meticulous as you would be if you were running a store: keep track of your inventory and double-check any email addresses written down on your mailing list. Remember that the experience doesn’t end when your show does; fans will remember what you were like behind the table.

5. Extend the experience

Well, actually, the experience doesn’t have to stop when your fans walk out of your venue either. There are a lot of ways you can extend your show experience, from the simple to the elaborate. Here are a few ideas from the Panelists:

  • Make sure there’s someone taking pictures of your show, including grabbing a few shots of the crowd. Then post it on Facebook and encourage your fans to tag themselves.
  • Have your fans post pictures of your show to Instagram with a hashtag of your choosing, and then sending them aPostagram thanking them for coming to the show or giving them a discount for your store.
  • Use DiscLive to record, mix, and master a live recording of your show. By the time you’re ready to sell some merch, they’ll have CDs ready to go. DiscLive also allows for preorders, meaning that a) you can bundle tickets and CDs and b) you’ll have an estimate of what you’ll sell at your show.
  • Use MerchLuv to bundle streaming songs with merch items to cater to those new fans who hadn’t heard of you before your show, but want to check you out afterwards. Remember, opportunity lies where passion meets action.

Read more here including a Happy Halloween Bonus Tip!

For artists struggling to make a living in the digital age, a strong merch strategy can be the difference between living life as a starving artist and making a comfortable living.

Yet compared to the recording, publishing and ticketing businesses—which have felt the full effect of technology and the Internet— the merch business today is mostly stuck in the analog 70s. If we are looking to make money in the music industry of the future, why focus our energies on debating the intricacies of Spotify payments or whether licensing terms stifle innovation. Instead let’s examine an area ripe for disruption and revenue expansion.

A Highly Fragmented Environment

Indeed merch seems to be a highly fragmented business ripe for consolidation and transformation. To illustrate, let’s look at some research conducted by a company I work with— Merchluv. We looked at the August 2012 Big Champagne charts and came up with a list of  100 top artists and analyzed their merch availability:

– The 100 artists on the list used 44 different merch vendors (how’s THAT for fragmentation?).

– 75% of artists sold merchandise on their website, Facebook page or through an official supplier.  A surprising 25% of the top selling artists in August did not sell any merch AT ALL.

– 18 artists were “self” merchandisers, meaning they used Topspin, Paypal, Amazon, or a 3rd party services or ran their own commerce site/shopping cart.

– The remaining 57 artists were served by 26 different merch suppliers.

That means to sell merch for the top 100 artists in August you need to make nearly 44 deals with merch suppliers. Clearly a consolidation of merch vendors could help to rationalize the market. Where is the Amazon of music merchandising?

Merch is an Insulated Service

The merch business is largely disconnected from the real heat in the music market today, namely the explosion in digital music services. For example: 45 BILLION songs are streamed or viewed every month, yet there is NO MERCH being sold against this engagement. And that number is just going to BLOW UP to hundreds of billions of streams per month in the next few years.

Imagine if streaming services allowed fans to browse and buy an artist’s merchandise from the same page where they  are streaming their album or buying their tickets? There is a complete disconnect between where most music is discovered today, and the $2.2 billion in annual merch revenue.  The vast majority of merch is sold at the venerable merch table at any given concert. Why not make the effort to expand that experience into the digital realm? An alignment of merch distribution with the direction that the overall music market is headed would serve artists and merch companies extremely well, and potentially unlock a flood of new revenue.

Merch is Analog

Most artists sell 85% or more of their merch directly at live shows at the merch table. As effective as they are, merch tables can stand to be improved on in the digital age.  For example:

– Fans have to know where the merch booth is.

– Why stand in line when you can order from your seat?

– What if the merch guys don’t have your size or color preference at the table?

– When you buy merch at a show you have to hold it and take it home. Do you want it delivered instead?

– What if you want a bundle of something physical and something digital.  Is this easy to buy?

– How about something personalized for you, or something bigger than you can carry home?

There hasn’t been much innovation at the merch table at all, except for perhaps using Square readers to process credit cards. I wonder if the major merch vendors of today are going to be blindsided by technology and the changing habits of music consumers in much the same way that the record labels were hit.  Merch is extremely difficult to digitize.  But the sales of merch are not.

Tons of artists have web stores attached to their web sites and Facebook pages.  Companies like Reverbnation and Bandcamp can help independent artists manage their merch on their web stores and spread the merch offer out via social media to numerous outlets.  There are many businesses such as Bandmerch and Cinderblock, JSR and Bubbleup addressing this niche, providing fulfillment, webstores, warehousing and shipping services.

But the problem with this approach is that fans need to navigate to an artist’s web site and find the merch for sale and be ready to buy.  Today only 15% of merch is sold online.  New companies like Merchluv, which I am an investor in are about to blaze new trails in digital merchandising. The reason to do this? Grow overall revenue.

The large merchandising companies are very aware of the opportunities of snaring a hot band and bringing their merch to market effectively.  The holy grail of this is the long-term sales possible from mega-popular bands over time.  Anyone want to guess how many Dark Side of the Moon T-shirts have been sold?  Companies like Old Glory have been licensing artist merchandise for decades.

Now we can argue whether there will ever be another blockbuster band like Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones or Metallica – but if there is going to be significant revenue in the music market of the future, merchandise is going to be a huge contributor.  Merchandise might possibly become the single largest revenue generator for artists of the future. You have to think big here and broader to see what I am talking about.

When artists today are being pulled in various directions to run their businesses, create, act, teach, write and express themselves and interact with their audience, what could be better for supporting a career than a good merch strategy?  Think about the merchandising empires built by Jimmy Buffett, Jay-Z, Puffy, 50 Cent, the Grateful Dead.  The merch is the tail wagging the dog and it has made these artists a fortune.

For musicians in the digital age, revenue needs to come from something than other the recording itself.  To some extent this has always been true, but never more so than today.

Creative Explosion

My friend Todd Siegel and partner in Merchluv tells me that these days creating innovative merch and finding things that resonate with your audience is easier than ever, and many clever artists are using fan sourcing and crowd sourcing options like Talent House and Creative Allies to design merch with their fans.  Once you have a design, you can use sites like Zazzle to test ideas for new products without investing in inventory up front.
Bands like Insane Clown Possee (ICP) have created a cult-like brand through the use of iconic imagery and building a strong following by involving their fans.  The Misfits have sold more merch than music because of that iconic skull that people buy because the merch itself is cool and fashonable.

And talk about branding, take a look at what Deadmau5 is doing with the goofy mouse head. This guy has merch everywhere and may just overtake Mickey Mouse in brand awareness across teenagers.  Even if you have never heard him perform, you know who he is.

Beats by Dr. Dre is another example of merch that has gone over the top and transcended the music entirely to become a lifestyle product that in some respects is becoming a big part of the music industry.  This in only a matter of a few years.

The brainchild of artist/producer Dr. Dre and Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine, Beats is bringing high-quality audio to fans through their headphones, sound systems, and now the recently acquired MOG digital music service. Dre has taken a brand established as a recording artist and is in the process of turning it into the music industry of the future, through a grand merchandising strategy.

Conclusion

In the face of declining recorded music sales, many of us are looking hard at the opportunities for generating money in music today. Most of the investment from VCs, Angel investors or Private Equity in music has been in streaming music, discovery, ticketing, crowd funding and artist services. Businesses like Pandora, Spotify, Beats, Ticketfly, Soundcloud, Songkick and Indiegogo all have received significant investments in recent years.

There are two ways that bands have always made money. One is by performing and the other is by selling merchandise. Both are tried and true methods, difficult to download or duplicate, and solid and reliable opportunities.

Why have hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital been poured into online music services in the face of severely declining recorded revenue, when one of the most profitable parts of the music business—namely merch—been largely ignored by investors? Wouldn’t it make more sense try to increase sales of an already healthy and expanding market segment, ripe for disruption?