Merch Tips From the TuneCore Artist Community

January 22, 2015

A lot of artists find excuses to ignore the concept of selling merch. Maybe you don’t play live too often yet, or you just distributed your first single or album. Or maybe you’re playing regularly but you just don’t see merch as a necessity. Because after all, how could it really be that big of a piece of the puzzle, right?

Well, while you’re overlooking the values of a well-stocked merch table at your shows or even a small selection of items on your website, artists just like you are turning their fans into walking brand ambassadors for their music. Shirts, hats, posters, stickers, buttons, drink coozies – the list goes on. And if bands like the Misfits and KISS have taught us anything, it’s that you can slap your brand on just that: ANYTHING! Can’t you remember showing off your first band t-shirt or hanging that awesome artist poster in your room?

What’s even better about merch aside from just making extra dough is the unlimited amount of creativity you can put into it! Not feeling creative? That’s fine too – you can use merch to help sell your music, too: by pairing a t-shirt or poster with a copy of your album at a lower ‘bundle’ price, a new fan might feel as though they’re getting more value out of that purchase!

We asked the experts within the TuneCore Community to share their thoughts on the values of merch. Artists of varying genres and career levels weighed in with some awesome words of wisdom…

“We recommend putting together packages that encourage customers to buy more product by giving them a volume discount, for example: 1 CD = $13 and 1 T-shirt = $15 but when bought together as a package your customer will pay $25 – this “up sell” technique is important because it will help put more of your branded product in your customers hands. Also make sure not to overcharge your fans, they will respond by NOT buying your product. Make your merch reasonably priced and a good value. ”
– Calling Glory

“Limited edition and novelty items are a great way to engage fans. Having a varied selection of merchandise at all times allows fans to express themselves and support you in any style they wish.”
– Ennui Breathes Malice

“At shows, your performance will have a lot to do with the merch you sell. If you work hard to engage the audience, they’ll be more likely to follow you to the merch booth. And DO go to the merch booth after a show – that’s part of your job as a performer. If you don’t want to be too overt about the merch booth onstage, tell the audience you’ll be there after the show to meet and greet, and say thanks in person!
Your merch booth is your storefront. Make sure it is visible, portable, and as attractive as possible. Carrying extension cords and lights to illuminate your products is an easy way to attract more customers, and have everything organized so that customers don’t have to wait long for you to find the right size/color/type of product they want.”
 Swift Olliver

“I like to have a little contest at some point in my show and the winner gets a piece of my merch.
For our upcoming tour, we are planning on having fans at the show post the answer to our trivia question (either about the venue, or about a cover song we are playing) on our Facebook fan page. This will help get them to our page (bonus!) and the winner of gets a T-shirt and CD. So we have a reason to show everyone our great merch, without coming across as sales-y.”
– Scott Shea

“Not everyone has cash in hand when walking past the merch stand, so something I’ve started doing which works great is using a modern card terminal. They’re now a lot more easily and cheaply available, such as the type PayPal offers.”
– Mi’das

“If you don’t have money to invest in merchandise, put up the design on a mock for pre-order, and use that money to place your order with the printer!”
– Mark Rosas

“Of course you have to have the standard offerings: CDs, posters, T-shirts, but it’s also good to think creatively and have a couple ‘stand-out’ items that no one has ever seen before, (or sees less often).  It also helps if these items are on the less-expensive side: lighters, shot glasses, etc…be creative, your fans will thank you later!”
– Ships Have Sailed

“What’s most important is trying different things. We’ve had shirt designs that we thought would sell like hot cakes, and they’d do poorly. The opposite was just as true. Try to anticipate sales by thinking not in terms of what you would buy, but what the people coming to the show would buy.”
– Fifth On The Floor

“All our merchandise ideas came from us, we sketched designs according to the demand of audiences, We use Adobe Photoshop to create album covers or ideas for logos.
Creativity will be lost, if we don’t dare to innovate.”
– ToBeCeen

“After live shows, merch often supersedes music sales as the second largest revenue stream. Don’t be afraid to invest in a bulk-buy on your T-shirts, hoodies, etc. in order to secure a greater discount per unit; any money that helps you make music for a living is worth getting.”
– Sùilean Dubha

Don’t forget that with TuneCore, you don’t just get top notch digital distribution & music publishing administration – we offer our artists great deals via MerchLink! This month, you can save 10% on orders of customized Beanie hats. Just use the promo code BEANIE to your order, and stay tuned for more monthly exclusives from MerchLink!

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