[Editors Note: By Bob Jacobson, President & CEO of Mixonic, Inc. – an online company that makes it easy for artists and brands to manufacture custom digital media and branded promotional products. TuneCore MerchLink is powered by Mixonic.]
It’s getting cooler outside, leaves are changing colors and the smell of turkey is almost in the air. It’s merch buying season – when your fans want to buy your band gear for themselves and as holiday gifts for friends and family. It’s also the time to stock up for selling at next year’s gigs. As you get ready to design and order your merch, here are a few pointers.
- Tee Time. T-shirts are still the best-selling band merch, as they are affordable, practical, available in many style choices and a great canvas for your artwork. Classic fabric colors still rule – black, white and grey tees remain really popular for bands, with natural earth tones and muted colored heathers gaining popularity in the past few years. Short sleeve crew neck shirts are the primary cut for guys, but if you want something just for ladies, tanks and v-necks top the list. For the budget constrained, 100% cotton or 50/50 cotton/poly blends in well known, household brands (Hanes, Gildan and Anvil) are the economical favorites. If you can afford more stylish fabrics and brands, tri-blends from Bella+Canvas and Next Level are really popular – and for good reason, as they offer great touch, great fit and great looks. Your fans will love the style and you’ll be able to charge more for these shirts. Whatever your shirt choice, strongly consider using a graphic designer to ensure great artwork on your retail shirts. Even if your fans love you, they’ll be more inclined to buy (and wear) your tees if the design rocks.
- Warm Up Gear. Consider cold weather merch, particularly if you’re touring and selling in the Northeast or Midwest during the winter months. Hoodies are highly practical, fashionable and a premium item for your biggest fans who are willing to open their wallets. In fact, maybe everyone at your gig will buy a hoodie on those cold winter nights. Hoodies come in a number of weights, some great for wearing throughout the year, even in warmer climates. Another option is to stock up on beanies. They’ll look great embroidered with your band name or logo design. Beanies are a useful, high quality merch item most fans can afford. If you’re playing in outdoor venues, beanies are a great merch table item.
- Christmas in July? Err, maybe not. Let’s face it…Santa Claus on your tee shirts likely won’t be your fan’s fashion pick in the middle of summer. Consider designs that will make your fans want to put on your gear all year round. Don’t risk your merch making its way to the bottom of their dresser drawer. Unless you’ve got a large fan base and budget for many SKUs, avoid seasonal designs on tees.
- Order Early (by mid November)! Avoid out of stock items and weather related shipping delays, plus leave yourself cushion for artwork issues so that you have as much time to sell your branded gear as possible. If you’re planning to sell for the holidays, you’ll want your inventory in hand right after Thanksgiving. That means ordering in the first half of November. Remember, it will usually take 2-3 weeks for your custom merch items to arrive.
- Holiday Mix. It’s your music, your art, your style, your message. But, it’s your fans who’ll be wearing the hoodies, tee shirts, hats, beanies and other items you want to sell, so make sure you’ve got flavors to support different sizes and tastes. You’ll want sizes from small to extra large. If you’ll be selling a lot, make sure to order some XXL sizes for your biggest fans. And, consider different color fabrics – don’t assume just because you like black tees that everyone else does.
- Amp Up Your Selling. Your merch won’t sell on its own, even to fans who love you. You need to let your customers know you’ve got merch. Tweet them and send them messages and pictures through Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and your website. For selling at venues, make sure to conveniently place your merch table and take time to display your merch with flair so your fans see it and want to buy it.
Your fans want to show their love for your music and band. If you design great gear that’s stylish and practical with the right mix of colors and products, merch is a great and fun way to make money for your band.