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.

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.

5 Tips for Making Merch Work For You

By Stephen Babcock

1. If you’re gigging, you need to sell merch (merchandise)

If you plan on playing shows, you need merch. Anyone who has ever been to a concert or show knows that the best acts always have some kind of merch (T-shirts, posters, caps, etc.) to sell to fans. Whether it’s the local garage band playing their hometown, or Fleetwood Mac performing at Madison Square Garden, all great acts have merch.

Successful artists want their fans to remember their shows, well after the roadies have packed up and their concerts are over. They want their fans to have a great experience, a vibe they can enjoy and share with others. Selling them merch encourages fans to share their enthusiasm and it gives them something tangible to show off to friends and family. It also allows them to feel a deeper connection to their favorite artists and their music.

If you plan on taking music seriously, make merch a priority.

2. Know your brand and make a logo

You, your music or your band needs to have a brand.

Part of being a musician in today’s competitive music industry is being business savvy. Businesses from McDonalds to Coca Cola have a brand that is key to promoting their product to their market. By knowing your fan base and customers, you can sell your merch more efficiently. Add to that mix a logo or recurring image that is connected to your music, and you will make a major impact with merch. AC/DC, Kiss and The Ramones’ branding comes to mind. They have common, visually striking and memorable images on everything, from T-shirts to pinball machines. By using an image and/or logo that is common and uniform throughout your merch, fans can spread the look and feel of your music without saying a word.

A picture (image or logo) says a thousand words…your merch can too.

3. Start small and work up in size

This is why it’s important to start off small with merch items.

Just because some artists have big-ticket items, doesn’t mean you need to start off huge. If you are on a budget, I recommend starting off with posters or club cards. They’re a great way to get something in fans’ hands that they can take home. Posters and club cards can be placed anywhere too, which makes them great tools for free advertising. As a new band, nothing is more inspiring than seeing posters or flyers you made hung around the town your playing in, or plastered on the walls of your venue.

Like anything in life, you have to walk before you can run. So start small and build up to items like T-shirts, tote bags or specialty hats.

4. Know how to sell your merch

Once you create your merch, it’s important to make sure you package it to fans correctly.

Everything from the stand your merch is sold on, to the types of merch offered, should be bundled in a unique way, by you the artist. If your band’s name is “The Sailboats,” your merch packaging should somehow be involved with that theme. You could sell T-shirt’s bundled in a sailor’s knot or sell your merch at your stand storing your items in tiny boats. This allows fans to feel connected to the theme and has a great wow factor too.

Everyone has bought T-shirts before, but by making it new and fresh, you give your fans a chance to embrace your “brand” (as stated in bullet 2).

5. Stay involved

You’ve gotten your customized merchandise, you have a gig, and it’s time to sell your stuff. Now what? As a young artist, it’s important that before or after the show, you socialize with your fans.

If you meet and greet your fans, they are likely to buy something for you to sign (be prepared, always carry a Sharpie!). I’ve seen merch sales rise dramatically when artists say hello to their supporters after a show. So put on a great performance, but afterwards, shake their hands, take a picture and sign CDs or T-shirts. Also, taking photos with fans gives them a chance to be photographed with your gear, which is free advertising. Put a smile on their faces, and they‘ll post those photos on social media, even more free advertising.

Successful artists do this constantly because they know the value of a “fan-to-artist connection.”

Sharing and selling merch lets your fans stay connected to you and you to them. When they’re happy with the merch you created, you’ll know your merch is working for you.

[Editors Note: Are you looking for a new source for your fan merch? Open a TuneCore MerchLink account and have access to thousands of item. You can save 10% on one order placed by November 30, 2014.]

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Born and raised in New Hartford, New York and now residing in New York City Stephen Babcock began playing guitar at the age of 15 after hearing John Mayer’s “Room For Squares.” Since then, he has continued to craft his skills as a singer-songwriter, recording and performing a catalog of original music, including two EPs and one full-length LP.  After releasing Dreams, Schemes, and Childhood Memories in May 2011 and Lost in July 2013, Stephen went on a touring frenzy. He stormed up and down the east coast of the US as well as the United Kingdom, hitting coffee shops, small theaters, and numerous singer-songwriter festivals. With dates ranging from Athens, GA to London UK, his sound grew and explored new heights while on the road.

Stephen’s new EP, Wishful Thinking, was written and recorded upon returning home from touring and was released in May 2014. The EP weaves southern charm with full band grooves to create Stephen’s most layered and complete sound to date. Drawing comparisons to artists like Brett Dennen and Matt Nathanson, Stephen’s robust performance and life experience come together to achieve a live show unparalleled in today’s pop music landscape.

Check out his music here:

Bandcamp: www.stephenbabcock.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/stephenbabcockmusic
Twitter: @StephenBMusic
Instagram: @StephenBMusic

Double Your Income… No Really

By Ari Herstand

(Editor’s note: The post below is from TuneCore Artist Ari Herstand, and it was posted originally on  Ari’s Take.  Herstand’s music has been featured on One Tree Hill and various MTV shows, he’s opened for artists including Ben Folds, Cake, and Ron Pope, and his music has charted on iTunes singer/songwriter charts.)

When you’re on tour, merch is your #1 income generator. This can’t be stressed enough. Believe it. Bands stress over their guarantees and door splits and turnouts. If you want to survive financially with your music you must understand the importance of merch sales and approach it as such. I’ve played shows where 10 people showed up, but they had such an amazing time and I stressed the merch to them that all 10 people bought something averaging about $15. That’s $150 in merch sales. That’s good for any night.

The Display
Have an impressive merch display. This means it needs to be big, attractive, professional and well lit. For all intents and purposes you are traveling sales people. So make your displays as such. If your display consists of CDs tossed in the corner of the room with no light then you aren’t going to sell anything. Bands bitch that their fans don’t buy merch. That’s bull. Every fan buys merch. If you sell it right they’ll buy.

The Pitch
Musicians are traditionally horrible business people and that’s why managers exist. Most musicians hate the business and hate having to “sell” to their fans. The most charismatic front person who can capture every single person in the room while performing can be the most introverted, bland, unimpressive and embarrassing salesman when having to talk about the merch.

You have to get over this. Getting your merch pitch down and comfortable is almost as important as getting your live performance down.

Make combo options, ie “Each CD is $10 but if you want to buy both you can for $15” and then not only announce this but emphasize it. I spend about 45 seconds every show to explain what I have for sale. You may say this is a vibe killer and kills the flow, but on the contrary you can make it a part of your show. My stage banter is a big part of my show so I incorporate it into my banter and turn it into a joke. I title the combo that is $25 for all 3 of my albums, my “Midwest Combo” because I say “I’m born and raised in the Midwest and we love bargains there so I like to pass along the Midwest bargain wherever I go.” People come up to me after the show excited and with a smile on their face and ask for the “Midwest Bargain.”

I have a credit card swiper and I talk about that too – and stress it – because ever since I got a swiper (for my iPhone) my merch sales have about doubled. They hold out their credit card and say while smiling “show me this cool credit card thing… you know what throw in a poster too.” It’s so easy to just keep adding on items with your credit card.

If you haven’t picked up on the subtle hints: GET A CREDIT CARD SWIPER. Right now Square is the best option. It works on an iPhone, Droid or iPad and the device is free and the only fees are to the credit card companies at around 2.7% (these numbers and your best option may be slightly different by the time you’re reading this, but it doesn’t change the fact that you need to accept credit).

Putting up a sign with the credit card logos is also good just in case they don’t hear you say it on stage.

Depending on how attentive your audience is you may need to stress the merch a few times during a show.

The Merch Seller
You see tweets and Facebook posts from touring bands all the time asking for merch sellers for tonight’s show in exchange for free admission. Bringing a merch person on the road with you is best, but expensive, and you probably won’t be able to afford that for awhile. Not having someone sell your merch, though, is not an option unless you play very short sets and are certain people will stay the entire show and you can run over and man the table yourself after you finish playing. But most likely, not everyone will stay the entire time – especially if there are multiple bands on the bill or you’re playing a late night, 4 hour bar gig.

Bands think that if they didn’t sell any merch it was because people didn’t want to buy it. But what if they REALLY wanted to buy something but they had to leave at 11 because they have to wake up at 6 and you didn’t take the stage until 10:30 (when you advertised 9) and you are playing a 90 minute set. They glance at the table on the way out, but no one is there to sell them something so they leave.
+Musicians Are Lazy (The Day Of)
+Time To Advertise Your Show (coming soon)

You will double your sales by having someone at your merch table during your set.

If you push your merch from the stage, take credit (and push it from the stage) and have a merch seller at your table during your set, you will absolutely increase your yearly income. Doubling your sales by taking credit and doubling them again by having a seller at the table during your set can take your yearly income from $10,000 to $40,000. And now you’re a full time musician.

Your pitch for them to buy your stuff starts with a kickass performance and ends with you standing by their side after the show with a sharpie out ready to sign your CD (or Tshirt, poster, etc).

Organize Your Merch
I once toured with a band who put a lot of money into creating a lot of merch. The merch guy they appointed in the band was incredibly lazy and irresponsible (don’t appoint someone irresponsible to manage your merch). They played after me, so after I finished my set I hung out by the merch table during their set. People came over to me wanting to buy the other band’s T-shirt, however all of their shirts were tossed with no rhyme or reason into about 3 bins. I put in good effort sifting through hundreds of shirts attempting to find the correct design in the right size, but eventually with a line piling up I had to give up and apologize that they either didn’t have the size or I just couldn’t find it. I told them to come back when the band finished and they could spend more time searching. Sometimes they’d ask if I had their size in one of my designs. 8 seconds later I pulled out their size swiped their card and just made $20 for being organized.
+Allocating the Duties
+The Opener

How I keep my shirts organized is I roll them up and use painters tape or masking tape (painters is better so it comes off easier) and write on the tape the size. I place them in a long clear bin from Target with the sizes ranging from S-2XL left to right. No sifting or guessing. I put Women’s shirts in one bin and Unisex shirts in another. I label the Women’s shirts WS for Women’s Small and the unisex just S.

Sell Quality
Merch is an incredible money maker and should be looked to as such, but it’s also a promotional tool. You want to sell fans shirts that they’ll actually wear with your band name displayed on them to promote you to their friends. It’s a conversation starter. I’ve gotten tweets from people saying they met new friends from wearing an Ari Herstand T – and actually someone got a 1st date out of it once! True story.
+How I Made $13,544 In a Month (on Kickstarter)

Order brands that are comfortable and hip. You’re not just selling a design you’re selling a feel and the vibe. If people get your shirt and after one wash it gets deformed and becomes uncomfortable to wear they’ll associate your band that way: uncomfortable and low quality. I always order shirts that cost a couple bucks more because it’s an investment. Big fans know that I offer quality and when I come out with a new design they’ll pony up another $20 to get it even though they already have one of my old shirts. If a fan buys your shirt and they don’t have a good experience with it they won’t buy another.
+Image Isn’t Just About Your Look (managing your brand) (coming soon)

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