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.

How Exactly Do People Make Money on YouTube?

[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.]

 

By now, everybody involved in music (and the internet, really) must be aware that there is money to be made on YouTube…but how is that done? How can somebody actually see their bank account inflate (if only by a little bit) based on content they give away for free?

It’s all about the ads! Throwing advertisements onto your upload might not make you rich, but it can earn you some much-needed cash, so here’s a primer on what you need to know and how you can get started when it comes to advertising on the free-for-all that is YouTube.

Make Sure You’re Actually Displaying Ads!

I have heard a number of musicians admit that while the idea of collecting even a few dollars from their YouTube videos is appealing, they don’t even know how to get started. Creating monetary connections with a multibillion dollar company and becoming something of an advertiser can be somewhat daunting, but don’t let it scare you off from inserting ads into your content!

Unless you’ve specifically gone through the process of actually adding advertisements onto your clips, it is highly unlikely that you’re already making money off of them, which means you’re missing out.

The first step is to join YouTube’s “Partner Program,” which essentially means you’re worth advertising with. Don’t be nervous if you’re not accruing millions of plays per video—every video is worth monetising, especially to YouTube. This step should take all of about three minutes.

The next necessary step is creating what Google has termed an “AdSense” account, which is where the money comes in. AdSense has become one of the biggest and most important advertising platforms on the internet over the years, and YouTube knows how to make it work as well as its parent company. This requires you to have some financial info on hand, and it can take a few moments, especially if you don’t have everything necessary right in front of you. Again, it’s not hard, but you’ll need to be approved before you can move forward.

From there, you’ll decide what videos to monetize. I’d suggest at this point in your career throwing ads onto everything you upload, but if you have a piece of content that is truly special and that you feel will be hurt by a something like a car commercial playing before or a banner appearing at the bottom of the screen, feel free to opt out. This is your art and your career, after all.

Different Kinds Of Ads

Okay, so you’ve decided that you can handle a bit of advertising with your music if it will help pad your bank account. Is that all you need to know? Not even close. There is still plenty to learn about advertising, ads, making money, and what will keep people coming back…but I can’t fit everything into a single post.

You may not have realized it while watching videos on YouTube, but the company actually has half a dozen different kinds of ads that can earn you money, depending on the situation. They will all make you different amounts, and you should consider carefully which ones would be most appropriate for which uploads. Here’s a quick rundown looking at what is what (using the company’s terms, because that’s what you’ll want to become familiar with):

Display Ads

These are the visuals that don’t actually cover your video in any way, but which are posted to the right of the screen, which is common for any website these days. Even if you’re not a fan of interrupting your art in any way, you can surely support this, right?

Overlay Ads

These are the banner ads that pop up at the bottom of the video screen that you’ve probably seen a million times. They’re not nearly as intrusive as some other forms, but that also means they won’t net you quite as much money per click.

Skippable Video Ads

This might be the best option for you as a musician when it comes to inserting ads to your videos. These video advertisements play for a few seconds, and then the user has the option to move on or keep watching the sponsored message. This puts the power in the hands of your fans, but it also means you could earn a few dollars if all works out.

Non-Skippable Video Ads

Brands will pay good money for ads that cannot be ignored before the music plays, but that also intrudes on the listening/watching experience. Are your fans willing to stick around through a 30-second ad to see your latest music video? You need to ask yourself this before selecting this option.

Bumper Ads

These are also a potentially perfect option, as they bring in more cash from advertisers because they are video ads that can’t be skipped, but they are only a few seconds long, so most people won’t mind sitting through them. At just six seconds long, these aren’t likely to annoy many, and it’s difficult to imagine hordes of fans moving on from your content because of these short promotional moments.

Sponsored Cards

These aren’t quite as common, but they can actually be helpful in some small way. Sponsored cards aren’t random ads—they typically offer items for sale that a user may have just seen in your video, or which relate in some way. That’s a nice tie-in, and it doesn’t feel quite as corporate.

It’s Not Just Your Videos That Make Money

This article was primarily focused on covering or introducing your music videos with ads, but the above options aren’t the only ways to make money on the world’s largest video hosting site. You should also be monetizing your music, which either already is, or will at some point in the future be used in other people’s clips. You never know when a fan will make a lyric video or post a cover, and while you have the power to take those down, it makes so much more sense to simply throw an ad onto those and collect the cash.

There are a number of services that can track where your music is being used and help you earn from those clips, including TuneCore’s YouTube Sound Recording revenue collection service, which utilizes YouTube’s own ContentID platform.

Music Sampling: Breaking Down the Basics

[Editors NoteThis is a guest blog written by Justin M. Jacobson, Esq. Justin is an entertainment and media attorney in New York City. He also runs Label 55 and teaches music business at the Institute of Audio Research.]

With advancing technology and the development of new digital musical techniques, it has become even easier for an artist to “sample” and integrate another’s finished recording or sound bite into a new, altered and derivate work created by a new artist.

In today’s evolving marketplace, commercial DJs such as Girl Talk and many of today’s top hip hop, dance and pop music producers are all mixing and weaving together different “samples” (a portion of another’s recording) into their new “music.”  With this practice becoming even more prevalent, a proper understanding of what sampling is and how to obtain proper clearance to legally utilize the sample becomes an essential factor in a song’s potential profitability as well as marketability.

“Sampling” is best described as reusing a specific portion of another’s sound recording. The amount used varies; from as little as merely integrating another’s unique drum combinations or guitar rift into a song, to utilizing the entire chorus or a complete verse from a song.  This action, in simplest terms, can be viewed as merely “copying” and “pasting” a portion of another’s existing sound recording into your new work.

Unlicensed instances of this practice can subject a creator to potential liability for copyright infringement; however, there are ways to avoid potential liability and obtain proper permission to utilize a “sample” of another’s work.

In order to properly and legally “sample” another musician’s work in an artist’s track, the sampling artist must obtain a “sample clearance” from the appropriate owner(s) of the original recording.  Since there are two copyrights in every song — the sound recording (typically administered by a record label, e.g., Interscope Records) and the underlying musical composition (typically administered by a publishing company, e.g., Sony/ATV) — a party must obtain permission from both copyright owners and enter into a licensing agreement with each owner in order to legitimately utilize a “sample.”

There may be situations where a use is determined to be “de minimis” and too small to require licensing; but, that is a complicated situation which requires serious analysis.

Generally, in order to ascertain who the proper owners of each respective copyright are, you can start by accessing and searching through the U.S. performing rights society databases (i.e. ASCAP or BMI).  These databases generally list all the relevant writers, producers and appropriate publisher information for a particular track.  Typically, there is also direct contact information listed in the database; and if not, it is advisable to look for a department that handles “licensing” or “sample” and/or “clearance” at the specific company as those are the individuals who generally handle third-party licensing of the finished recordings.

Once you determine the appropriate licensor contacts, an individual should request a “sampling” license.  This licensee request should generally include:

  • How long the sample is (minutes? seconds?),
  • What part of the song you are planning to use the sample (i.e., the whole chorus, a drum loop, etc.),
  • How you are planning to use the sample (solely replacing a chorus, distorted in the background, continuously looped, etc.), the number of units you plan to create or distribute,
  • What types of media you will use (CD, ringtones, streaming, etc.).

Some licensors may also require you to provide an actual copy of the new recording for the licensors to listen to prior to granting any license.

A typical sample license may include an up-front license fee as well as a royalty on each recording sold and/or may include an actual ownership interest in the new recording for the original artist, especially when a substantial portion of the original track is utilized or when the artist is extremely well-known.

Sometimes deals are made on a “flat-fee” buy-out basis.  There are a variety of factors that may determine a licensing fee, including the success of the original song, the success and notoriety of the original artist, the success and notoriety of the sampling artist, the length of the sample, how it will be distributed and how the sample will be used in the new recording.

Generally, the more famous the original track is and the longer the sample used is, the larger the license fee may be. Thus, each artist’s bargaining power comes into play because the alternative (not licensing the “sample”) could end up in litigation with more significant costs, especially if the sampled song ends up being a commercial success.  Sometimes, they will even request an ownership interest in publishing on the new composition.

Alternatively, since a copyright infringement claim is based on substantial similarity and access, an artist can attempt to independently create a desired recording and utilize this new recording for its own track.  Since the artist is not technically “sampling” the exact existing sound recording, the subsequent similar track might not subject the sampling artist to any liability for copyright infringement of the sound recording.

The policy behind this is that if an individual creates his own recording, even if it sounds identical to the untrained ear, there will still inherently be enough variation that this subsequent recording should not be considered an infringement. Thus, the sampling artist would then only need to obtain permission from the publisher who owns the underlying musical composition.  There, no permission from the record label who owns the sound recording would be needed.

However, there is always potential for a lawsuit, as a long-time British colleague once said, “where there’s a hit, there’s a writ (lawsuit).”


This article is not intended as legal advice, as an attorney specializing in the field should be consulted.

6 Tips For Selling Your CDs at Gigs

By Dwight Brown

Selling CDs at gigs can be a cash cow.

You’ve got a wide profit margin because the cost of CD Duplication is minimal compared to the price fans will pay for them. And, selling CDs gets your music out there to fans who will recommend your music.

Tempt audiences at your performances, keep these 6 tips in mind, and you’ll sell CDs and make money:  

  1. Pricing. Charge $10 for an album and $5 for a single and most fans won’t think twice about buying one or more CDs. Selling two CDs for a bargain price is irresistible. Keep prices at $5 increments, and you won’t have to mess with small change. 
  2. Giveaways. Consider rolling the price of a CD into the admission charge. It’s like you’re giving them away, but you’re not. Or hand out a few as door prizes—and watch the rest of the audience have CD envy. 
  3. Special CDs.  Selling CDs that are live recordings, impromptu sessions or feature songs that are not on an official release makes fans feel like they’re buying something special. These “quasi-bootleg” CDs become collectors’ items. 
  4. Concession stands. Mark the title, price clearly and keep CDs at eye level. If you’re selling more than one CD, put them in groups. Concession stand helpers who are personable and/or attractive entice fans to buy more. 
  5. Easy payments:  Take cash, checks and credit cards, which are easy to process thanks to smart phone/tablet mobile apps and dongles (hardware that offers a secure connection). 
  6. Strong shows = strong sales. Connect with you your fans on stage, win them over with a memorable performance and they’ll want a CD to take home that recreates that cool experience. It’s that easy.

Selling CDs at gigs can help you finance your next recording session or tour. If CDs aren’t your thing, USB flash drives work too. You can get started with TuneCore’s CD Duplication service.

TuneCore Partners With TapInfluence: Helping Artists Connect With Brands

TuneCore is excited to announce a partnership with influencer marketing leader, TapInfluence, to give brand and agency marketers unprecedented access to the TuneCore Artist community for sponsored digital campaigns. The partnership will offer TuneCore Artists another channel to monetize their talents.

TapInfluence is an influencer marketing platform used by the world’s best brands to identify and collaborate with artists and content creators for sponsored campaigns. Marketers search TapInfluence’s marketplace for enthusiasts and influencers who help them reach targeted audiences across social platforms.

To simplify the process of sourcing relationships and executing campaigns, the partnership between TapInfluence and TuneCore will welcome independent artists, (a valuable and often overlooked segment), to the negotiation table. Further, it levels the playing field so independent artists can now participate in the same revenue streams that formally only represented artists were able to enjoy.

Historically, brand relationships were largely reserved for artists signed to major record labels and represented by highly connected managers, talent agents, and marketing agencies. Matching an artist to a brand was often an inefficient process; there was no clear avenue for a brand to approach an artist with an offer, or for artists to avail themselves to a desired brand. Independent artists make compelling brand partners because they are more flexible and collaborative and allow room for innovation. In general, they are also less expensive to work with and consumers find indie artists more reliable, and their voices more authentic. The coming together of TapInfluence and TuneCore will alleviate a lot of the current barriers to bringing brands and independent artists together.

Marketers are turning to music influencers to help them connect with consumers on their level. Through TapInfluence, TuneCore artists can create a variety of sponsored content such as images, photographs, testimonials and music for videos on YouTube, Instagram and Vine, in a voice that is authentic and natural to them. They also help brands create buzz by sharing events, product launches, and social media campaigns to their fans through their own social channels. Musicians are powerful influencers for brands and agencies because they are creative, reach millions of consumer fans on social media, and are more relatable than high-profile celebrities.

TuneCore, part of Believe Digital, represents more than 30% of all music uploaded to iTunes and their artists have earned over $541 million from over 15.2 billion downloads and streams. The partnership enables TuneCore to offer brand opportunities to its member base of 200,000 independent artists, giving them additional revenue streams.

“TuneCore’s mission is to help independent artists take charge of their careers and increase their opportunities to earn revenue,” says Scott Ackerman, TuneCore’s CEO. “We are proud to be blazing a trail with TapInfluence that opens the world of brand sponsorships to our artists and puts them in front the best brands in the world looking for innovative, authentic voices trusted by consumers,” says Ackerman.

TuneCore & MSCLVR Offer New Way to Make More Money

When you distribute your singles, EPs, and albums, iTunes is usually on the top of the destinations list right? And it should be – with a huge market share for downloads, iTunes is an international powerhouse in terms of giving fans access to your music.

Once your music is live in iTunes, chances are you’re ready to start promoting and marketing the new release with links to buy it. Whether it’s friends, family, or a dedicated fan base, the iTunes Music Store is a great place to send them. Now, wouldn’t it be cool if you could in fact earn more money when people purchase your tunes via the link you promoted? Good news – you can!

MSCLVR (think ‘music lover‘) is a platform used for easy-to-build links to your music in the iTunes Store. Once you register and create a FREE account, find your album or song (searchable by artist, song or album title), and click “Get Link”, you’re ready to start sharing! Simply copy your newly generated link and past it anywhere you want: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, emails, texts, YouTube, etc.

Now when people click and shop for your music with the link you provided, you earn up to a 10% net revenue commission for each download sale tracked back to your MSCLVR account! Pretty sweet, right? MSCLVR tracks download sales commissions from your links WORLDWIDE, and you can follow your sales performance on your own personal MSCLVR dashboard. When sales are made, your money is deposited directly in your MSCLVR account.

“But how is the commission from a MSCLVR Link different from the money I make from regular iTunes download sales?”
iTunes pays you (the artist) the revenue from the sale of your music, minus their platform fees. That sales revenue is deposited in your TuneCore account. iTunes also pays out a percentage of their platform fees to “Affiliates” that drive traffic to their store. By using a MSCLVR link, and driving traffic to their store, you (the artist) are now also an Affiliate. So you are getting a commission above the net sale. You’re, in effect, getting paid twice for the same sale. Your commission is deposited into your MSCLVR account.

Got more questions about MSCLVR Links? Cool! Visit our Knowledge Base here for more info.

Ready to start building your own MSCLVR Links? Get after it here!