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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

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.”