5 Tips To Help Your Band Sell More Merch

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

 

With the music industry reeling over increasingly poor record sales, artists are having to rely on ways other than selling their music to earn money more now than ever before. Band merchandise is proving to be a reliable revenue stream for everyone from established artists to up-and-comers hitting the road for the first time.

But while there’s some serious money to be made by selling merch, it’s not as easy as putting your band’s name on some stuff and waiting for the money to roll in. To help your band get the most out of selling merch, we’ve assembled these five ideas to help:

Create a visually compelling merch booth at your shows.

If your band hopes to sell lots of merch at shows, your fans should know exactly where the merch booth is from the second they walk into the venue. These days, the whole “merch booth in an old luggage bag” thing is a bit played out, but there’s lots of other ways to create a highly visual merch area at your shows.

If you’ve got a crafty design-oriented person in your band, give them a budget and vision for how to present your merch at shows. It’s well worth investing some band money into creating a unique merch space. Setting up an area with your own distinct lighting is a great way to get as many eyes on your merch as possible. For example, though it’s not very original, using Christmas lights to highlight your band’s merch area is a cheap way to get folks to notice all the stuff you have for sale at your shows.

And this sounds obvious, but it’s important to note here that your merch area and all the items in it should match the character of your band’s music. Christmas lights would work well for an indie outfit, but they’re not really a great fit for Insane Clown Posse.

Put your merch for sale on as many online platforms as possible.

A classic merch-mistake many bands make is to fork over a ton of money for shirts, stickers and pins only to sell them at shows and not anywhere online. Making your band’s merchandise available for purchase on your website as well as platforms like Bandcamp, Big Cartel and Shopify will give the masses as many opportunities to buy your stuff as possible.

How many of us have had the experience of bringing extra cash to a show to buy a band’s merch only to accidentally use the money drink a whole bunch of booze instead? Going to a show and drinking can be expensive, and your fans might not be prepared to fork over even more money on your stuff, even if they like your music and want what you have to sell. Yes, these platforms will take a significant slice of the money you earn from merch sales, but it’s absolutely worth it to make everything you have for sale available to sell on online platforms.

Once your merch is available for sale online, let your fans know and don’t be afraid to give discounts every now and then to inspire people to buy your stuff.

Redefine what you can and can’t sell to your fanbase.

Theoretically, anything your band sells can be considered merch, but don’t go wild and start trying to sell your bassist’s pubes just yet. A lot of bands could benefit from broadening their idea of what sorts of things they could sell to their fans, and strictly sticking to selling shirts, albums and stickers might be a missed opportunity for yours.

Depending on the unique identity of your band, being cheeky, goofy or just plain twee in the things you have for sale at your merch table might be a good way to earn your band some cash and get people talking about you at the same time. This Buzzfeed article profiles some obscure merch from bands you’ve probably heard of, but getting creative in what you offer to sell your fans can benefit you no matter how big your band is.

Make sure someone is there man the merch booth at your shows.

This is a really obvious tip, but it has to be said. If you’re able to, have a designated person at shows to sell your band’s merch to make sure you don’t miss any sale opportunities. Often, the most stressful time for a band also happens to be when they’re most likely to sell merch––right after they finish a set. Unless you’re headlining, bands are expected to remove their shit from the stage as soon as humanly possible after a set. By the time your band’s equipment is off stage and you’ve had a moment to catch your breath and head back to your merch booth, that urgency fans feel to come pick up your merch is often long gone. With a person there to sell your stuff at all times, you won’t miss valuable opportunities to make sales.

Having someone man your merch area on tour might be challenging, but earning as much money on the road as possible is essential for serious bands trying to build a presence nationally. Bringing a friend along to help or getting a fan or two into your shows for free in exchange for their merch-slinging services on tours will help your band make the most out of its merch situation on the road.

Use a payment platform that accepts credit cards.

Unless you’re a band that sells merch exclusively from a deli in Queens, you should give your fans a way to pay with credit and debit cards at shows. Our society is growing increasingly reliant on cards as a way to pay for things, and only accepting cash from fans will inevitably cost you sales and some serious money over time.

Companies like Square and PayPal have make getting paid with credit cards easy, but they aren’t free. But the small fees associated with accepting credit card payments quickly become worth it when you begin to see how much more merch you can sell when you take plastic.

10 Fundamentals For Getting Along in Today’s Music Business

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Bobby Owsinski and originally appeared on his excellent music industry blog, Music 3.0.]

 

So much has changed in the music industry over the last few years that affect an artist’s ability to be successful. Some of it is brand new and a result of the technology we use, while some of it is good common sense that’s been used over and over during the past decades of the business. Here are 10 business fundamentals taken from my Music 4.1 Internet Music Guidebook (in no particular order) that an artist, musician, producer or songwriter needs to grasp in order to get along in today’s music environment.

• It’s all about scale. It’s not the sales, it’s the number of YouTube or Facebook views or streams that you have. A hit that sells only 50,000 combined units (album and single) may have 500 million YouTube views. Once upon a time, a sales number like that would’ve been deemed a failure, today, it’s a success. Views don’t equal sales, and vice-versa.

• The scale is not the same. In the past, 1 million of anything was considered a large number and meant you were a success. Today anything with that number hardly gets a mention, as it takes at least 10 million streams or views to get a label or manager’s attention. 50 million is only a minor hit, while a major hit is in the hundreds of millions.

• There will be fewer digital distributors in the future. It’s an expensive business to get into and maintain, so in the near future there will be a shakeout that will leave far fewer digital competitors. Don’t be shocked when you wake up one day to find a few gone. (Ed. Note: We’re not going anywhere!)

• It’s all about what you can do for other people. Promoters, agents, and club owners are dying to book you if they know you’ll make them money. Record labels (especially the majors) are dying to sign you if you have have an audience they can sell to. Managers will want to sign you if you have a line around the block waiting to see you. If you can’t do any of the above, your chances of success decrease substantially.

• Money often comes late. It may not seem like it, but success is slow. You grow your audience one fan at a time. The longer it takes, the more likely you’ll have a long career. An overnight sensation usually means you’ll also be forgotten overnight. This is one thing that hasn’t changed much through the years.

• Major labels want radio hits. They want an easy sell, so unless you create music that can get on radio immediately, a major label won’t be interested. This is what they do and they do it well, so if that’s your goal, you must give them what they want.

• You must create on a regular basis. Fans have a very short attention span and need to be fed with new material constantly in order to stay at the forefront of their minds. What should you create? Anything and everything, from new original tunes to cover tunes, to electric versions to acoustic versions, to remixes to outtakes, to behind the scenes videos to lyric videos, and more. You may create it all at once, but release it on a consistent basis so you always have some fresh content available.

• YouTube and Facebook are the new radio. Nurture your following there and release on a consistent basis (see above). It’s where the people you want to reach are discovering new music.

• Growing your audience organically is best. Don’t expect your friends and family to spread the word, as they don’t count. If you can’t find an audience on your own merits, there’s something wrong with your music or your presentation. Find the problem, fix it, and try it again. The trick is finding that audience.

• First and foremost, it all starts with the song. If you can’t write a great song that appeals to even a small audience, none of the other things matter much.

I’m sure you’ll agree that the music business is both exciting and invigorating in it’s current form. It’s not dying and it’s not wilting, unlike what you’ll hear and read from the old school naysayers. It is constantly evolving and progressing, and those who don’t progress with it will fall behind. That said, these 10 fundamentals will help anyone navigate the road to success.

3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Quit Your Day Job Just Yet

[Editors Note:  This article was written by Hugh McIntyre. Hugh writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.]

 

The vast majority of people creating music also need to find another way to pay the bills, at least at first. Making a living from any form of art, be it acting, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, etc., is incredibly difficult, and as the economy stands at the moment, only a certain number of people can be supported. There are plenty of ways to work your way into the biz as a musician, but doing so at the right time, when you’re prepared and truly ready, is an important part of ensuring this is correct for you.

There could be millions of people who want to do nothing but write, record, and tour all day long, and that means quitting the “day job,” which may or may not actually take place during the day. That sounds wonderful, but before you give your two weeks, keep these warnings in mind.

You Haven’t Saved Enough

No matter how hard you try, chances are you’re never going to have a huge nest egg sitting in a bank account somewhere collecting interest, even though we all wish we had one. Even those who are incredibly careful with their money have a difficult time making their savings grow substantially, so don’t feel too bad.

When you’re on your own as a working musician, the money doesn’t come to you in the same way it did when you had a “regular” job. Paychecks aren’t guaranteed, and sometimes you’ll wind up going long periods without earning a dime. You need to have as much cash on hand as possible, budget carefully, be diligent about your savings, and think like a business owner.

You’ll be planning for tours months in advance and spending a lot out of pocket for things like studio time and video shoots, but you also can’t run out of dinero before you actually start making any of it back.

Having said all this, don’t get too insane when it comes to saving money. As I said, it’s hard for everybody, and there’s a good chance that you may have overestimated how thrifty you’d be able to force yourself to be, and that whatever amount you set down in stone as a minimum that must be met in order to leave the working world behind might have been too optimistic.

Be smart and think many times over before you make the leap and quit your job, but don’t wait forever. If you hold off for the day when you have everything perfectly aligned and money to burn, you will likely be disappointed at how long you’ll be waiting.

The Hours

Many musicians complain at length about the hours they need to work between their regular jobs, whether that’s a 9-to-5 or a part-time gig doing anything other than creating music and building their careers in the field they desire to succeed in. It’s a completely fair gripe, and I don’t blame any artist for being less than thrilled about spending copious amounts of time away from what they love doing just to be able to pay the bills. That’s not how things should be, but of course we all know better.

Having said that, it needs to be said that just because you give up the position you took just to afford to live and eat, that doesn’t mean the hours are going to lessen and free time will suddenly become abundant. In fact, many working musicians will tell you that they put in truly insane hours just to make it all work.

Any artist knows it takes a very long time to craft something worthy of sending out into the world—whether that be a song, a painting, a film, a story or any other format—but many working towards doing music full-time don’t realize how much else goes into the career.

Musicians that support themselves based solely on their art only spend some of their time actually crafting tunes. Hour upon hour upon grueling hour can be devoted to a myriad of other tasks that need to be done and done well if the money is going to continue to flow in the right direction. Booking, accounting, all things social, merchandise creating, correspondence with fans and keeping in touch with members of the team (a manager, those in charge of syncs and licenses, lawyers, etc.) is necessary and time-consuming.

Don’t start thinking that just because you’re not reporting to a different boss you’ll have all the time in the world!

Structure

Being entrepreneurial sounds sexy and it’s made to seem glamorous by startup founders and those that brag about how they travel the world while still making ends meet, but at the end of the day, it requires an incredible amount of self-discipline and motivation, and the sad fact is that many people either don’t understand that, or they don’t have what it takes to run their own careers successfully.

The image of the rockstar that sleeps all day and parties all night may sound like a lot of fun, but it couldn’t be farther from what is actually required to survive. Before you can go out on your own and make a go at being your own boss, you need to both understand and respect how important structure is in your everyday life.

Waking up early to make it into a job may suck more mornings than not, but the musicians doing the best stick to the same type of schedule. They have a routine and they stick to it as much as is possible, and many indie acts at the top of their game will tell you that they have dedicated work spaces, hours set aside for this task or that, and enviable organizational skills. That may not be the portrait often painted of a rocker, rapper or pop star, but it’s the truth for many of those who have the career you wish you could.

TuneCore Artists Close In On Earning One Billion Dollars In Revenue

When TuneCore launched in 2006, our mission was simple and clear: to help independent artists sell their music online, without sacrificing sales revenue or giving up their rights. At that time, there was only a fraction of the digital platforms by which artists can have their music streamed, downloaded and discovered in 2017. iTunes ruled, Amazon was cracking into the market, and artists that created music outside of the label system needed a way to get it distributed.

Since then, TuneCore has gone on to grow as a company exponentially in terms of what we offer artists in the way of features and services – and independent artists have acquired more and more power when it comes to controlling and advancing their careers. Services like Music Publishing Administration, Fan Reviews, Professional Mastering, YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection and others have made TuneCore a staple in the indie community across all genres.

All the while, whether they continued grinding it out DIY-style, got signed to a label, or achieved mainstream success, TuneCore Artists carried on receiving 100% of their sales revenue using our platform.

Today, we’re excited to announce that TuneCore is approaching the $1 BILLION mark of revenue earned by artists from their download sales and streams!

That’s one billion as in the number one, and NINE zeros after it. These are McDonald’s-esque numbers, people. Dr. Evil-from-Austin-Powers-ransom-request numbers, even. No matter the non-music-related monetary figure reference: we think it’s a pretty big deal.

Collectively, that money helped artists do things like:

  • Eat
  • Pay rent
  • Record more projects
  • Create and sell merch
  • Sign up for Publishing Administration
  • Build PR and radio campaign plans
  • Afford new equipment and gear
  • Go on tour

Maybe you’re reading this as a TuneCore Artist who just joined or hasn’t seen tons of money from their release since distributing and you’re thinking, “Wait, what? Me?” Yes, you. As you hustle and write and record and tour to build a fanbase, and focus on earning more revenue from your music, the money you’ve earned so far – whether you’re still working on that first dollar, or you’ve out the other side as a superstar – contributes to a major figure that would have baffled music industry pundits over ten years ago.

Your contribution to this major milestone, no matter what the size, plays an undeniable role in the further expansion of independent music and supports the idea that artists can do it their way and still get paid.

To celebrate, for a limited time you can join the Tunecore Artists already in the ‘Billion Dollar Club’ by distributing a FREE SINGLE using the promo code BILLION at check out (offer expires 7/2/17).

Distribute your free single today!

As we count down to the big earning moment, join us for the journey by following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram where you can get in on the fun. And be sure to follow our official TuneCore Spotify playlist!

How to Figure Out If Prospective Band Members Are Worth Your Time

By Mason Hoberg

 

The hardest part of trying to figure out who would be a good band member is that it’s hard to know a person until you’re around them for a while. A person fine in small doses may be a nightmare once you start to depend on them. Likewise, a person who rubs you the wrong way when you first meet them may end up becoming one of your best friends.

An article can’t give you the ability to judge a person at a glance. Some people are like tornadoes: they upend your life without warning, and after they’re gone you’re left scratching your head and trying to pick up the pieces. That’s just life.

Though, if you take the time to read this article, you can reduce the likelihood that this will happen to you. And really, aren’t the five minutes you’ll spend reading this article worth it if you can reduce the odds of someone ruining your band?

Spend Time with Them Before They’re In Your Band

A lot of people rush into joining a band, and because of this they don’t really know their bandmates until they’ve been around them for a while. That’s fine before you start gigging, but don’t trust them with any responsibilities until you have an idea of who they are.

Listen to their stories. Do they always make it sound like they’re the victim? Or does it seem like they’re always screwing someone over, even if in their story the person sounds like they deserve it? These are red flags.

Learn to Identify an Addict

Many musicians struggle with addiction. If anything, musicians are more likely to be addicts than the average person. While every addict may have a story, and usually a pretty sad one, you shouldn’t entrust an addict with a lot of responsibilities. No matter how good of a person they are, trusting an addict can very easily lead to heartache.

The most easily identifiable signs of an addict are physical. You obviously can’t pick them up by their crotch and teeth and examine them like at a show dog, but you’d be surprised what you can see in a person if you take the time to really look at them.

Lastly, make a note of their friends. A person’s friends are a reflection of that person, so if all of their friends seem a bit off it’s possible that they may be too. Should you meet any of their friends, discretely check for any signs of addiction.

Trust Your Gut

You ever get a bad feeling about someone, but you just can’t figure out why? That’s your subconscious alerting you to something about that person. While no one’s intuition is fool-proof, the fact that something rubs you the wrong way about someone is generally a good reason to be wary of them.

The hard part about this is knowing how to act on it. Generally, the best course of action here is to trust but verify. Give them the opportunity to earn your trust, but don’t entrust them with anything until you’ve gotten to know them as a person.

A Tiger Rarely Changes Its Stripes

I’m a big believer in the idea that if people want to change, they can. However, most people have a hard time acting against their nature. If they’re a liar and/or a thief, you don’t want them in your life.

If you hear stories about how a prospective band mate has previously treated the people in his/her life, be sure to take this into consideration before you bring them into your band. This actually leads us into our next topic.

Don’t Trust Every Story You Hear (Good or Bad)

While the rumors surrounding a person can be a good indication of who they are, at the same time it’s important to consider where these stories are coming from. For example, there are people who are going to be jealous of an up-and-coming musician in your local music scene. And while I wish musicians didn’t treat each other this way, there are musicians who will start rumors about each other out of jealousy.

And while it’s a cliché, rumors do spread like wildfire. Be sure to really think about who’s telling you a story about a person before you believe them. What do they stand to gain from telling you a negative story about a person? Never discount a story about a person, but don’t blindly trust anyone either.

In Conclusion

Learning to judge a person is a key part of succeeding in the music industry. The way members of your band act in public will have an effect on your reputation, so make sure that they reflect well on you as a person.

And don’t be afraid to get rid of someone who’s a drain on your life. Life’s too short to spend time with people who make your life worse, and everyone (well, almost everyone) deserves a good life if they’re willing to work towards it.

What you’d think of this article? Anything you’d like to add? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!

How To Build Your Online Music Brand in 24 Hours

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Paul Loeb. Paul has been at the intersection of music and tech for 20 years. He is founder and CEO of DropTrack, a music promotion platform for independent artists. His goal has always been to give musicians like himself the tools to stand out from the rest, get heard, and make deals.]

 

Whether you’re pursuing music full- or part-time, you’ve likely been asked by family, friends, or perfect strangers about how you plan to make it in the music industry. Annoying, sure, but it’s a fair question. It’s a tough industry to crack and success takes much more than musical talent. Unlike in the past, however, making it big as a musician isn’t just about who you know. The good news is, with a bit of marketing, you can start to set yourself apart from the musicians who simply continue to hope the right person happens to walk into a near-empty bar for a listen. Here are a few quick tips for building your music brand so you can stand out amongst the competition.

It Starts With a Conversation

If you’re a member of a band, it’s important to start the branding process with all members present. If you’re a one man or woman show, you can get started immediately. You’ve probably already talked or thought about how you define your music, but for branding purposes, let’s focus on what makes your story different or unique.

There are thousands of hopeful “indie rock artists,” but are you in a band with your siblings? Did you learn to play the saxophone from your grandpa? Even if you’re convinced there’s nothing special about your background, there’s an interesting story behind any true passion. If you’re still unsure of how best to tell your story, look to the musicians who inspire you. Odds are, they’re paying marketers big bucks to help with this process, but reading a few of their stories can help provide a template to follow. Teasing that story out is the first step to successfully branding yourself.

Tell Your Story Concisely & Authentically

Now that you’ve done the hard work in getting to the root of what makes your music brand unique, it’s important to create a few variations of that story. You’ll need your quick, 30-second elevator pitch as well as a more detailed version for things like your website, talking to press, etc. The more concisely and consistently you can tell your own story, the catchier it becomes. Also be sure that you’re telling an authentic story and building a connection between you and the listeners.

Think about the musicians you love: there are likely certain stories—the love story behind the lyrics of your favorite song or the random way in which the guitarist met the drummer—that stick with you because of how well, and how consistently, they’re told. Which part of your story would you want to stick with a music blogger? With your biggest fans? It may seem redundant because these narratives are surely in your head, but getting them onto your website or into an email is critical in transferring how you see your music brand to how others understand you.

Be Consistent Across Channels

Now that you know your story and can tell it effectively, you’ll want to make sure it’s updated across all your channels, from your website to various social media platforms. You’ll want to make sure that a music blogger who checks out your Facebook page has the same experience there as (s)he does on your website, Twitter, and Instagram. Your messaging and the visuals that support it should all reflect the story you want to tell.

Create a List of Influencers

Once you’ve gained direction with the story you want to tell, it will be easier to find bloggers and publications who might be interested in your vision. You can use free, online tools like Buzzsumo to quickly search for relevant influencers. Broaden your reach by thinking about your story from a couple of different angles. If you’re a New Orleans-based funk band, look for bloggers who cover other funk bands, but also look to local New Orleans publications who might be interested in the local, hometown aspect of your story. You should cater your message to these two types of writers differently, but send promos easily and track which aspect of your story might be having a greater impact.

Make a List of Resources You Need

Ok, so it might be hard to do a total rebrand in 24 hours. But, now that you know the brand image you want to portray, have updated media to the extent you can, and made a list of the people with whom you want to connect, it’s time to jot down where you can go the extra mile in completing the branding process. Maybe your visual aesthetic isn’t telling your story as effectively as it could be. Scheduling a photoshoot or reaching out to a designer about a new logo are proactive steps you can take today toward a complete, successful online branding.

Now that you’ve put some serious effort into building your brand, it’s time to make sure you’re getting in front of the right people. Music bloggers and industry influencers will be more likely to give you a listen when you present yourself in a unique, consistent manner. (Remember, your demo isn’t enough, but your new branding will help you get the email open or link click-through.) There’s also no time like a rebrand to ramp up your marketing emails and connect with your fanbase with an email marketing campaign through Droptrack. You’ve done the work; now, go get your brand in front of the right people.