Many indie artists have no idea how integral band merch is to forming a viable career. Not only is it a great tool for advertising your music but if correctly executed, it can really increase your income.
what merchandise would you like the band to make? Anything from shirts, posters to life sized cardboard cutouts, tweet back with ideas
— M.A.D (@Officialmadband) May 18, 2013
However, all of this hinges on creating good merchandise, that’s easy to sell and form a profit from. A lot of artists struggle when coming up with band merch ideas. So, we created this guide to help point them in the right direction.
In the first half, we’ll discuss things to consider when selling merchandise. Then, we’ll dive into some of the most popular band merch ideas you can sell.
6. Ideas for Selling Band Merch
1. Develop a Brand
You want to sell merch that will turn a profit and that your fans will actually wear. So, it’s a good idea to start thinking of your band as a brand.
It’s not enough to simply slap your band’s name on a shirt and call it a day. The most popular artists out there have created logos and imagery that define their sound and represent the culture that surrounds their music.
Think of artists like The Rolling Stones, Kiss or Deadmau5. Their brands are indistinguishable and each represents that style of music in its own unique way.
If you can come out with a solid brand such as this for your music, your target audience will be able to fully identify with the merchandise you create.
Because of this, it’s worth the investment to hire a skilled graphic designer to work alongside you in developing all of your branding.
2. Think About Profit Margins
Although it’s a great idea to have merch that people can wear to advertise your band, that’s only half of its purpose. The other reason is to actually make a profit and increase your income at live shows.
With the low payout of streaming royalties, it’s more difficult than ever to make an income from music. So, a lot of bands have turned to merch sales as a way to make up for this.
However, in order to turn a profit, you have to be savvy about what you sell. Consider the profit margins on possible items and which items have a better return on investment.
3. Start Small
If your band is coming up with merch ideas for the first time, don’t be overly ambitious. In the early stages of your career, smaller items such as buttons, posters and stickers are a much better choice than things like T-Shirts.
There are a couple of reasons to go this route. First, you’re probably still figuring out what the brand of your music looks like and it’s much easier to try stuff out and see what sticks with cheaper items.
The second reason once again comes back to the profit margins. A lot of the smaller merch items actually turn a better profit.
You may be surprised to learn that things like buttons, while sold for much less than T-shirts, have one of the biggest profit margins on the merch table.
4. Don’t Over Purchase
When setting out to purchase custom merch, it’s easy to get tempted into buying large quantities for a lower cost. However, if you can’t sell everything you purchase, you could actually end up losing money.
Almost every indie artist has made this mistake in the past and have a big box of unsold T-Shirts in their basement because of it.
To avoid a similar fate with your own band merch, purchasing smaller quantities is usually the most beneficial plan of action. Once you have an idea of how many of each item you can sell, you’ll be able to make educated purchases of large quantities.
5. Offer Something Unique
One of the best ways to sell merch and give fans a reason to be invested in what you’re selling is to come up with something memorable that many bands don’t sell.
We can’t really tell you what to do for this section because it should be something represents you. However, this article has some great examples of unique merch ideas that other bands have sold.
It can take a lot of brainstorming to come up with an item that people will remember. However, once you do, it can have an extremely positive effect on your sales
6. Collect Emails
Although not a merch item, this is still something you should offer at your band’s merch table. Having emails of invested fans is a powerful marketing tool. So, it’s a great idea to offer an email sign up list at your band’s merch table.
When someone purchases an item, encourage them to leave an email. Better yet, offer a very small item like a sticker for free, in exchange for leaving an email.
It may seem like a minuscule addition compared to everything else. However, it can make a big difference when it comes time to let fans know about upcoming news and event.
Top 9 Band Merch Ideas
Stickers are the most affordable piece of band merch and it’s a good idea to get some made, if only for promotional purposes.
For a small investment, you could get a couple hundred made up. Given their affordability, this is the only piece of band merchandise I would recommend getting a large quantity of.
Think of it as more of an advertising expense, as this is not the type of merch you would sell. Instead, you’re best to give them away at your table in exchange for email sign-ups, throw them in with other purchases or just hand a bunch out to fans and ask them to stick it somewhere other people will see.
By paying for stickers, you’re essentially just paying for easy advertising and letting your fans take care of most of the work.
2. CDs of Your Music
Your physical music is in many ways, the most important item on your merchandise table.
People who enjoy your live show will likely want to hear your music again and despite the rise in streaming services, there are still a number of people who prefer to own CDs.
However, before you can even make CDs, you have to record your music. If you want your music to be worth listening to, it’s important that you get high-quality recordings made, which can stand up to everything else out there.
This is where Sundown Sessions Studio comes in! Our online recording studio offers commercial-grade recordings at an extremely affordable rate. Head to our pricing and packages page to learn more about the services we offer and how it can give you an edge on other indie artists.
If you don’t have enough music for a full-length album, consider recording and releasing an EP.
3. Vinyl and Tape
CDs aren’t the only way to sell your music at a merch table. Recent years have seen a revival in some of the ways that people used to consume music.
There are certain fans who will pay extra to own music in an analogue format, such as cassette tapes or vinyl.
These formats are much more expensive to get printed than CDs and you probably won’t sell as many. So, we recommend starting off with a small run, even just ten or twenty, until you better understand their demand.
I always recommend bands start with buttons when looking for merch ideas to sell. They’re extremely affordable to get made and you’re more likely to have people interested in these before anything else at your table.
Buttons are a nice low-risk, cheap purchase for people who want to support you but aren’t super fans of your music. Yet, the super fans will also be just as likely to purchase your buttons and wear them proudly.
As mentioned in the last section of this article, the profit margins on buttons can be really big. So, despite being small, they can be a lucrative addition to your merch table.
If you have any sort of visuals for your band, it can be a smart idea to make up some posters for them.
You can go to almost any print shop to get these made up quickly and for quite cheap. Invest in some high-quality stock to make sure they’re durable and have a nice finish to them.
Like buttons, you’ll find that the profit margins are quite large, yet you might not sell as many posters as other items. So, start by getting a small number made up, then as you understand their demand, buy larger quantities.
The T-Shirt is definitely the most popular band merch idea out there. However, so many bands usually take the wrong approach when getting them made.
As previously mentioned, when it comes to clothing items, you want to create something that people will want to wear. There are a few things to consider in this regard.
First, make sure the design is appealing. Hire a graphic designer who can come up with a cool look for your T-Shirts. Having imagery that can stand on its own, independent of the music will increase sales.
In addition to this, it should be eye-catching. This will encourage people to ask the person wearing the shirt what the story is behind it.
Finally, clothing items should also be comfortable to wear. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get tempted into buying cheap shirts that are poorly made.
My advice is to only sell shirts that you would willingly wear, regardless of their ties to your music. Investing in high-quality cloth, clean printing and a comfortable cut will ensure that buyers keep wearing it and advertising your music, long after they see you perform.
Patches are a little cooler and more unique than buttons, so fans may feel slightly more inclined to buy them.
However, they can cost more to get produced and be a little more involved when it comes to designing them. So, just make sure you price them accordingly, accounting for both their cost and uniqueness.
The process of adding a patch to a piece of clothing is also much more involved. So, of the people who purchase them, there’s an even smaller number who will put in the effort to actually wear it.
Because of this, wait to add patches to your merch table until you have some more important items like buttons and T-Shirts.
8. Guitar Picks
Guitar picks are a great merch idea for bands, for a couple of reasons.
First, they’re relatively inexpensive to make. So, they can be sold cheaply at your table or even handed out as promotional items.
On top of this, they’re a merchandise item that’s actually practical. Any guitar players in the audience can justify the purchase as something they might use down the road.
You can also use them yourself in your live sets. If you’re the type to throw your pick into the audience after the show, there’s some added value to the fans that get them, given that they’re branded for your music.
Finally, even if someone isn’t a guitar player, they’ll probably want to buy some branded picks for the novelty. They make a very unique souvenir for the fans who want to remember seeing you perform.
If you want the picks to be something that will actually be used, consider what thickness you get made. A lot of custom picks tend to come far too thick to actually be of use and every guitar player has their own preference in these matters.
If you’re a guitar player, get picks that are the type you like to use. Alternatively, if you want to go the extra mile, get a few in different gauges to offer at your merch table.
9. QR Codes
Okay, so these aren’t necessarily something you would sell or give away to your fans but in the digital era it’s a good idea to add them to your merch table.
QR codes are barcodes that your fans can scan with their camera to be taken to specific places online.
You can use a QR code generator to create them. Then, print them off and find a nice way to display them at your table, like in a picture frame.
Spotify also has its own unique type of QR code, which is themed to look like a waveform. Users can scan them in the Spotify app to be taken to specific music or artist profiles. Head to Spotify Codes to create one for your music.
Conclusion: The Best Ideas For Selling Band Merch.
Having custom band merchandise for sale is important for increasing the revenue you make from your music.
However, there are a few important ideas to remember if you want your band merch sales to be as effective as possible.
Most importantly, you need to form a viable brand around your music and invest in graphics that people will actually want to purchase.
Approaching merchandise sales with a business mindset means you have to think about things like the profit margins on each item. Items such as buttons, posters, guitar picks and patches usually have the biggest profit margins.
Things like CDs, vinyl, cassette tapes and T-shirts are equally important. However, you don’t want to purchase more than you can sell. So, start with small quantities at first and grow from there.
In addition to merchandise, some other good ideas to have at your merch table include collecting emails and having QR codes that link to your band’s online presence.
Finally, try to come up with some unique items that no other band offers. If your merchandise is authentic to you and your music, fans will be all the more likely to purchase it.
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