Launching your own merchandising line is the perfect opportunity to spread your creativity and push your musical project further. Diversifying income has become an essential step for most independent professional artists. When considering the high level of competition, mild streaming revenues, and the difficulties to get your music heard, broadening what you have to offer has become even more essential. Here lies the magic of merch: it’s a dynamic way to bond with your audience, optimize your exposure and increase income!
Merch is an investment of your time, money and energy. Adopting proper management, display and distribution practices is necessary to ensure a return on investment and the fair appreciation of your creations.
1. What kind of merchandising objects should I tap into?
To kick things off, we recommend making a selection of products. This will allow for a trial and error process to observe reactions and learn from mistakes for the next go. There are so many options to choose from when it comes to creating items. To help select the products that fit you best, you can start with a market analysis. To create a merchandising line that suits your audience well, evaluating its style and demographic traits is an essential step.
Define your goals! Are you aiming for the quick exposure of your name and style?
In that case, prefer merch that’s easy to distribute at a reasonable price: posters, calendars, keychains… Stickers, as popular as always, are a great little creative surface to diffuse visual reminders. They’re most often given out or sold for a low price. To expand your brand, look into t-shirts, hoodies, and hat options, as well as the timeless tote bags.
If you feel inspired, think about an object that could represent you or your music best, with which you fans can connect. If it can have a regular use, it’s even better!
The conceptualization stage is a perfect time to converse with your fans! Using social media to directly ask them what they would like to have shows a willingness to be in tune with their wishes. It also announces your merch line in an interactive way.
2. Merch design
Remember, neither usefulness or need are the drivers of merch purchases. The more often, it comes down to the physical appeal of an item and the will to support an artist. This calls for unique and captivating design. Merch is a visual extension of your image and artistic universe. It is therefore essential for it to be in line with your branding, logo, album covers and sonic identity. The album cover remains the core of your offering, with all other items deriving from and prompting it.
Are you building your career with a DIY approach? Are you part of a collective? Tapping into visual artists from your community can lead to an original design which in turns supports a fellow artist.
To foster special connections with your audience, don’t forget to consider limited editions, or posters and t-shirts to commemorate certain shows or tours.
3. Creation of your merchandising
Are the ideas and designs now in motion? It’s time to take the time to contact several suppliers and e-store options in order to gage which offers are most compatible with your goals. Clothing-wise, don’t forget quality checks and client reviews.
Customer satisfaction continues long after the sale: your merch items are part of your body of work. Their quality, sustainability and originality reflect your brand.
For a straightforward and effective first attempt, an e-store and print-on-demand combo is the most flexible option. It will allow seeing which items, styles and colors are the most in demand, adapting your merch if need be.
On the other hand, printing per order requires an estimate of sales, not an easy feat without available data, but still do-able if your first order is a modest one! This option might be the most interesting financially, as certain suppliers offer price breaks for bulk orders.
Online – Your e-shop must include a comprehensive description of each product, well-lit photos, and a visible contact email. Certain tools, like the Spotify Merchbar, or Bandcamp’s merch sale options – which will take 10% – allow for a wider distribution.
Offline – Diversify selling points – showcases, concerts, and wherever your network allows you to go. Merch purchases are often a spontaneous way to conclude the positive experience of a good live show, highlighted by an attractive design. As a first step, ask for details on the available venue and space, in order to figure out where and how to position your kiosk, and if a percentage of sales will be asked of you.
The merch table’s accessibility and the selling process’s level of effortlessness are determining factors when it comes to sales. The booth has to be visually appealing, well-lit, perhaps set up with a sheet in your colors, the products emphasized with care. All payment methods should be accepted (see below for solutions) and a presence at the booth all night long can really help!
💡 Small tip: even if you have someone hired to be at the merch table all night, don’t hesitate to show up at the merch table at the end lof your show, maybe propose to sign some posters and CDs/vinyls. It’ll for sure increase your sales and become an unforgettable moment for your fans
Online – Capitalize on social media’s snowball effect; inventive and participative promo efforts will help spread the image, especially important if your merch is only sold online. If you send out a newsletter, think of a promo or discount code, as well as contests and packages to encourage album sales.
Offline – Being present at the merch booth before or after the show is a great way to connect with your audience, interacting and facilitating sales. It’ll also become an unforgettable moment for your fans. During a show, don’t forget to announce the booth’s presence at the entrance or while on stage. Having a merch stock allows great flexibility and options for perks and special offers, promos, and thanking loyal followers. Marketing possibilities are vast, and in your hands!
💡 Tip: while at the merch table, you can even propose to sign posters, vinyls or CDs that people decide to buy. Another great way to connect with your fans
🔎 Focus on useful tools to sell your merchandising at shows
In order to increase your merch sales at shows, you should have a look at:
- Terrible Merch, a UK-based company which helps you both create unique merch objects, manage your stocks so you never have too many objects to carry, and offer to sell them directly at your show through an easy-to-use app.
👉 Check out their website
- SumUp and other card reader companies. For a low fixed price, no contract and a few fees at each payment, you can buy a card reader that will allow you to offer your fans to pay you through credit card
👉 Check out their website
At the end of the day, a selection of aesthetic and affordable products, in line with your artistic identity, can contribute not only to your revenues but the diffusion of your music. A well-executed and promoted merch line adds to your project’s profitability and develops your brand. Execution and distribution can be relatively easy – especially for first attempts – or more ambitious depending on your resources. It’s time to have a go at it!