4 Merch Items You’re Not Offering At Your Show (That You Should)

[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]

 

Making money as a musician has always been tough, but it’s harder than ever these days, so you need to put in the extra effort to sell what you can, when you can. Since physical record sales are down, most artists tour more often to make up for the lack of people owning albums. Ticket sales and guarantees are great, but most acts can also make a few extra bucks selling merch, especially if they have a growing fan base and some awesome offerings.

There are plenty of items that will obviously be featured in your “store,” such as t-shirts and albums (both in CD and vinyl form, if you can make it work), but don’t stop there! There are many other things you should be selling, and below are a handful of products you might never have even considered, but which should be a part of your moving pop-up shop (otherwise known as the rather unglamorous merch table).

1. Download Cards

Selling music has taken a backseat to streaming, and it has become incredibly difficult to convince people to hand over their hard-earned cash for a copy of your tunes…especially when they can access them on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming platforms. Having said that, after seeing a stellar live showing, some fans want nothing more than to own the music they just heard, and you should move quickly to make sure you capture those customers, and that you have something that works for every kind of listener.

Download cards come with a specific, unique code, and once listeners get online, they can go to a specific website and download your music.

You can have download cards made for your singles, your albums, and any other collection you’ve released. The prices for these products vary from just over $100 to well over $250 for 1,000, depending on which company you go for (a quick Google search turns up many different options), and while you’d think you could just suggest to someone that they go on iTunes when they get home…chances are by then, they’ll have moved on. Sure, it will cost you a few bucks upfront, but it’s better to be prepared and to sell when the selling is good than to lose out on all those potential customers.

2. Special CDs

Your shows will be perhaps the best opportunity to sell your new album, but that doesn’t mean you should expect to move tons of product while trekking across the country. In addition to offering your latest record (which you’re probably touring to promote) and your older material, why not have a CD pressed that can only be purchased at your shows?

Once you have a sizable enough fan base (it doesn’t need to be huge, but this idea probably won’t work if you’re only playing to people who are discovering you for the first time), you can entertain the idea of having a special CD made specifically to sell while on tour. This disc can be filled with many different kinds of music, and what will work for you depends on what kind of artist you are and what your fans are most interested in. I wouldn’t suggest creating a full album of completely original material to sell exclusively at your concerts, because the time and effort that will go into that might be too much to expend for a small return.

Instead, use your tour as an opportunity to sell your most ardent fans an acoustic EP, a remix collection, or perhaps even a live album, which could mimic what they just fell in love with on stage. Make sure you not only tell people in the audience that the record will only be purchasable at your merch table, but let them know before the concert as well. That might convince a few people to also turn up and see the show!

3. Buttons and Stickers

Buttons and stickers are typically the cheapest items sold at merch tables, and they don’t bring in much cash. They’re not costly to make, but you also can’t get away with pricing them very high, so don’t start thinking that you’re going to pad your wallet by offering stickers…but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still sell them!

Offering these small-ticket items allows you to have something on your merch table that everyone can afford, and that can be very important to your younger or less financially well-off fans. Not everyone has the money to buy your album or a t-shirt, but providing an option that allows your supporters to feel like they are a part of your success, if even a tiny part, is a great way to keep them invested in you and your career.

Also, once they own these items, they’ll either wear them or place them somewhere that others will see, and that’s not just advertising—it’s advertising someone else paid for! Sure, selling pins to young fans wont turn you into a superstar, but it also doesn’t hurt to have something people can attach to their clothing that others might ask about. Keep this in mind as you create your designs as well.

4. Pens

Selling people your music is great, but selling people an item they will use or wear for weeks or months that features your logo or name is even better, at least in some regards. You’d love to sell them t-shirts or hoodies, but not everybody is looking to spend that much money, and while pins and stickers (which we just discussed above) are great options, they won’t appeal to everyone.

It might sound silly, but pens that feature your band’s name or logo are a small, cheap item that is actually functional, and that might be enough to convince those difficult shoppers to go home with something from your merch table. Keep the price low and make sure those who don’t seem enthused by everything else being offered see them and you might be able to make a sale. Again, it won’t net you much cash, but once you’ve sold something to them, they’ll remember you, and they’ll see your name every time they use that pen, which could subconsciously turn them into bigger fans and keep you top of mind. If all goes well, they’ll stream your tunes more often, and maybe even come see you the next time you’re in town.

Pens are, of course, not the only product you can have customized relatively cheaply, but I wanted to put the idea out there with something that would be very easy to have made. Don’t go overboard, but if you can insert yourself into a fan’s every day in any way, it could wind up being a big win for you.


Hugh McIntyre writes about music and the music industry and regularly contributes to Forbes, Sonicbids, and more.

5 Reasons Venues Aren’t Writing You Back

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

 

It can be a hugely frustrating experience to reach out to a venue in hopes of booking a show only to hear nothing back. When you’ve spent months or even years creating music, it can be annoying or even downright disheartening when a venue won’t communicate with you and give you a chance to play. But like with everything, there’s two sides to every story, and there might be some perfectly good reasons why music venues aren’t giving you the time of day. Here’s a list of five possible reasons that venues aren’t replying to your emails:

1. You don’t have enough experience

If you’re new at making music, you might have a misinformed notion that the music industry is different than other industries in the fact that it’s not centered around money, but you’d be very wrong. Venues might not be getting back to you because you don’t have enough experience playing music. And if you’re new and inexperienced, the chances of you bringing people to your show, or more importantly, money through the door, are slim, and venues usually aren’t willing to take that risk. Like all of us, venues have bills to pay, and they can’t afford to bring bands in with no following and experience.

So, how do you get venues to give you a shot if you have no prior show experience? Build up your experience performing any way you can. Hit up local open mics, house shows and try to get your foot in the door with the smaller venues you want to play. And when you’ve built up some relevant experience, highlight that the next time you write venues.

2. Your communication skills are bad

You might not think that being able to write emails that are clear and grammatically correct is that important of a skill to have as a musician, but it’s absolutely something that could mean the difference between a venue booking you or not. Venues and show promoters get dozens of emails every day that are riddled with spelling errors and nonsensical sentences, and trust me, they hate it.

It’s even common for venues to get emails from bands who forget to add links to their music or even their band name. How can a venue book you if they don’t know your band’s name? If you put yourself in the shoes of a booking agent, you’ll see the need for emails to be written thoroughly and with things like your band’s name, the show dates you’re interested in, a link to stream your music and some relevant information about your band included.

3. Your music sounds bad

You songs might be awesome, but venues probably won’t give you a chance if they’re recorded poorly. Remember, venues get inundated with hundreds of requests from bands every week who want to play their stage. If your band’s music can’t compete with all the other music the venue’s booking agent listens to, why would they let you play?

If the recorded music you have posted online consists of demos you recorded on Garage Band, it’s time to invest some money and professionally record just one of your songs and share that with venues instead. You’ll be shocked at the difference this will make when it comes to booking shows.

4. The venues you’re trying to play are too big

If your band routinely draws 50 or less people to shows, landing a spot on a bill at a 2,300-capacity venue is going to be to difficult or even downright impossible. Again, from the venue’s perspective, why would they take the time to respond to your email if it’s clear you’re too small of a band to work with?

Instead of taking it personally, keep building your performance experience and work toward packing the shows at the smaller venues you work with. It never hurts to ask, but big venues can’t afford to lose money on a small band, even if they like their music. When you’ve built up your following, larger venues would probably love to have you. But until then, work towards selling out those smaller clubs.

5. Your band is unprofessional

If your band has earned a bad reputation in your scene, venues will be hesitant to work with you. Things like repeatedly showing up late to shows, talking through other band’s sets or not promoting your shows will earn your band some detractors, and their poor opinion about you will spread through your scene and venues will act accordingly.

If you’re new to music, the people working at venues might seem unrelatable, but they’re just like you and me in the way that they want to work with people who are kind, respectful and reliable. If your band has conducted yourselves in an unprofessional way, it could be the reason venues aren’t getting back to you.

Early Music Marketing Tips For Indie Artists

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers.]

 

You’ve probably heard all the standard things on how to promote your band. This may include ideas like ‘play more live shows’, ‘go on tour’, ‘post on social media’, ‘invite all your friends on Facebook’, ‘have a release show’, ‘get covered on blogs’, or ‘get radio airplay’. Some may even tell you to buy ‘likes’ or streams, (which I never advise).

Rather than tell you all the ideas you’ve heard ad nauseum, we’re going to move outside the proverbial box into areas that aren’t as obvious. Below are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Regularly Engage on Social Media with People You Admire

This is social media with a spin. You probably know by now to post your single release or upcoming show. But what if you don’t see any engagement with your following outside of a like or two from the same few fans?

If you’ve hit a plateau where you aren’t moving beyond your existing fan base, you should start looking at how you can begin expanding your following through less traditional means. How much are you engaging with the people you admire? This can be as simple as a local venue or band, or as big as your favorite blog, writer or national record label.

By posting insightful and supportive comments you have the opportunity to engage others who are interested in hearing what you’re about.  Engagement is a two-way street and if you are simply posting about your band without engaging with anyone else, you’ll only make it so far. By engaging with people you admire, you’ll have an opportunity to build a relationship with someone who wouldn’t normally be accessible to you.

2. Create a Spotify Playlist

A lot of bands come to us because they are interested in having us pitch curators for inclusion Spotify playlists. Curators are often looking at your social media engagement, band accomplishments, and how engaged you are on the Spotify platform.

If you’re lacking in any of these department, you can start by creating your own playlist to include your song as well as other bands you admire. The added benefit is that it gives you an opportunity to engage with those bands as mentioned above while showing your support for them.

3. Go to Live Shows in Your Market

The common advice is simply to ‘play more live shows.’ What if you’re struggling to be booked in the first place or you simply don’t have a following for a booker to consider you? In addition to playing live shows you should also look at how you can support the shows in the market.

This gives you the chance to get to know the booker person-to-person and also network with other bands while showing your support. If you want to be considered for shows, you need to look at how you can build the relationships to be asked when the opportunities come up.

4. Stay in Contact Once You’ve Built Relationships

Once you’ve begun building these relationships, the worst thing you can do is to let them go. You shouldn’t just build the relationship until you get what you want, whether it’s getting your song on a Spotify playlist, getting booked for a show, or being covered by a blog.

A great relationship isn’t built when you only come around when you want something. Create a schedule for yourself to stay in touch if you struggle with staying on top of relationships.

You may have noticed all four tips were based on community, giving back and networking. You may see success without one of these elements, but the chances of establishing ‘staying power’ are slim. If you really want to move forward and reach a larger audience, employ all four and see where it takes you.


Janelle Rogers is the founder of  Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.

Top 5 Things To Know About Stagecraft & Performance

[Editors Note: This article was written by Tessie Barnett and originally appeared on the GigSalad Blog.]

In a world where making music, sharing music, and collaborating with other artists is becoming the norm, fans are expecting much more from a band than their musical talent. It’s one thing to form a solid, personalized setlist, but connecting with your fans is another feat entirely.

You need to stay ahead of the trends and keep your fanbase growing. In order to do that, you have to perfect your live shows. Here, we’ve gathered 5 important steps to help you practice, prepare, and improve your stagecraft and performance.

1. Know The Music Inside And Out

Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Before a live performance, your music should be practiced to the point that you no longer consciously think of individual notes or chords. Many artists like to practice with a “handicap” to stimulate other parts of the brain. If you’re a guitarist, try playing the set blindfolded. If you’re a drummer, wear wrist weights. Get your bandmates to really listen to each other without relying on visual cues by playing songs in the dark. If you feel like regular practices aren’t enough to accomplish your desired skill level, try using a training tool to record your band practice.

One thing you’ll want to make sure you and your band agree on is rehearsal etiquette. As Jeff Black from Vandala Magazine said, “Its not just HOW MUCH time you put in, but the QUALITY of time you contribute.” Show up on time, be ready to play, and leave distractions at home. Try to avoid getting sucked into a black hole of snack breaks, video game breaks, phone breaks, etc. Make sure to use your time wisely and get what you deserve out of it.​

​After playing becomes as natural as breathing in and out, you’ll want to practice exactly how you would perform. Arrange the band the way you’d play onstage—face a wall as if it’s the audience, put some mirrors up, and arrange speakers to face your “crowd.” Play the setlist you’ve created as if it’s your live show. Once you’re comfortable with this mock performance, bring in a few buddies to get their feedback. Good friends will likely be brutally honest, so keep their intentions in mind when they’re giving you criticism.

Rehearsals aren’t for playing perfectly. They’re for learning, experimenting, evolving, and preparing to share your music with your fans.

2. Relax Onstage

Don’t take yourself too seriously before hitting the stage. Focus more having a good time with your audience rather than trying to impress a crowd. Some artists use relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga stretches, and breathing exercises to curb their pre-show jitters.

We also recommend ​using a little humor to help relieve tension. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter increases your intake of oxygen, releases endorphins in the brain, and aids in muscle relaxation. Not only does it have physical benefits, but humor also keeps you from taking things too seriously—a relief from toxically overanalyzing a situation. Listen to your favorite standup comedian, watch compilations of people falling, play tricks on your band members, whatever it takes to make you giggle. Laughter really is the best medicine!

3. Fake It ‘Till You Make It​

It can be easy to imagine the worst if you feel doubtful or stressed about an upcoming gig. DON’T. Push these thoughts aside and visualize a smooth and flawlessly executed performance. This is best done when relaxed—before you fall asleep or first thing in the morning. You’ll want to make this a daily visualization exercise starting at least one month before you’re expected to perform. Thinking of positive performance scenarios helps you get mentally prepared.

A person’s behavior, movement, and emotions are all directly correlated. When you feel confident and excited, your posture is better and you’re more alert. A good way to push yourself into this mindset is to pose with confident body language and allow the associated feelings to follow—or fake it ’till you make it. According to social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, “power posing” can actually affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain. Practice using this power-inducing body language during rehearsals, and before long, your self-assurance will be authentic and present in your performances.

4. Keep Your Focus On The Crowd

​Most successful artists realize that their music, especially in live performances, is not simply a way to showcase their talent. Yes, it’s a form of self-expression, but it’s also an offering to your audience, and if you seek a career in this industry, you have to connect with your fans.

Start your set with an attention grabber—an energetic and recognizable song. With an upbeat, celebrated cover, you can easily encourage your audience to dance, clap, shout, and sing. Continue that momentum throughout your set. When your fans walk away feeling awed and exhausted, your show will be imprinted in their memory.

5. Stay Creative

It takes an enormous amount of creativity and style to craft music that’s unique to you and your sound. Mastering the skill of songwriting helps you establish your place in an industry saturated with other artists. However, fans want to see your creative efforts beyond the song lyrics. The experience is what they’re after. Imagine yourself as an indifferent listener in the audience. What would grab your attention? Use your creativity to take your performance to the next level. It’s hard to forget a performer who envelopes their audience.

Clearly, with the advancement of sharing platforms, tools, and technology, fans are beginning to expect much more from the modern day musician. The artists who stand out are the ones who create an extraordinary experience for their audience. If you can practice your instrument until it feels like an extension of you and put your full, creative energy into every engagement opportunity, you’ll turn your fans into lifers.