A merchandise stand is a time-honoured tradition at any gig. We’re all familiar with the rickety temporary table, cloth thrown over, illuminated by a bedside lamp, lurking in the corner of the room. Usually manned by a partner of the band – an essential component of the tour diary, and a valued member of any band’s entourage. Yet, the look of the thing is pretty much the only attitude that’s stayed the same about your merchandise table. Back in the 70s, it was considered critically uncool – but fast forward forty years, and merchandise that sells can be the difference between make or break in to the bank when you’re on tour.
It’s an intricate and in-depth art, that can often make you feel incredibly overwhelmed. It’s also important you get it right; so that your fans will feel part of your community – even when they’re not plugged into your music. So, we here at Zimrii thought we’d shine more than a bedside light to illuminate the situation; and bring you our guide to the mechanics of merchandise that sells.
So, who are your fans anyway?
First things first, you have to figure out what your audience will ask for. If you want merchandise that sells, this will be heavily linked to the type of music your band plays. If you’re a goth band, then you’re unlikely to sell many white tops. Indie bands are more likely to sell T-shirts over CDs, where electro band fans favour hoodies and physical formats. If your band tends to write songs about history, or politics, make sure you echo this in your design. If you’re a country band, your fans are less likely to purchase shirts with references to alcohol, or hard drugs. Well, you get the idea.
If you find you struggle to picture this, it might help you to create a fictional person based on the fans you’ve seen at your shows. Why does this person like your band? What makes them come to see you over and over again? Why do they always buy your merchandise? When you slot yourself into the mindset of this fan, you will start to understand their motivation, what you can offer them from your merch stand, and how to make merchandise that sells.
Spend money to make money
In the past, professional-grade merchandise was inconceivable for small bands. Due to machinery costs being sky-high; many DIY bands turned to screen printing in order to supply T-shirts. Thankfully, this is something that has been revolutionized by trusty technology; and, in part by merch trailblazer’s Awesome Merch. Thanks to their grass-roots, holistic attitude to merchandise production you’re now able to order short runs of pretty much any merchandise you could ever want (and a whole lot more that you didn’t know you did).
With merchandise, it’s always a spend money to make money scenario. With Awesome Merch, you’re able to order smaller runs of T-shirts (the smallest is 10), but this will still cost you around £100. Thing is, you’ve got to spend money to make money. Most of your fans will pay between twelve and fifteen pounds for a shirt, so that’s a profit of £5 per shirt. Times ten, that’s £50 you’ve made for the band. Times twenty, that’s £100. Your profit will increase exponentially, incredibly, but you need to shell out to begin with. It’s also a good idea to set up a seperate band bank account and re-invest the money you make back into your band. This also means you can take card payments, as there are many small business bank accounts that will offer you a card reader at a low price.
Variety is the spice of life
Now you’re ready to invest; you’ve found your target audience, and you know what you’re going to sell first – here comes the most important bit: the design. If you’re lucky enough to have a talented graphic designer in the band, call on their skills. If not, it will be worth you finding an artist to hire. Remember to keep it on brand; and make sure you create designs that catch the eye across the room – otherwise the point of your potential free advert space is lost.
Once you’ve established a little capital, it’s time to have fun with reinvestment in your band. Here’s where you can really unleash your creativity. Got a song about fire? Put the lyrics on a lighter. Radioactivity? Glow in the dark T-shirts. Are you a DIY, punk band? Consider releasing your album on tape. Older audience? Everyone needs a T-Towel. Younger audience? Branded USB sticks. Make sure to jump in on any in-jokes between you and your audiences, memes or catchphrases that arise. If you’ve got the cash, create special T-shirts for one show only. If your items are limited edition, you’ll find long-term fans return to grab these exclusives. After all, when you sell merch – you’re not just touting merchandise that sells, you’re selling access to your community.
Ready? Why not post a link to your merchandise? Then join Zimrii, the innovative music platform that allows you total control of your music business. Using BlockChain technology to register your Copyright and lock-down your ownership, Zimrii uses Smart Contracts and integrated crowdfunding features to help you connect with your audience and earn direct to artist – cutting away the outdated middleperson. It’s the twenty-first century music revolution!
Also published on Medium.