If your band has started to gain a following, but you haven’t yet signed up to a major label, then you’re classed as an independent artist. While it can mean a lot of creative freedom, it can be a struggle to make enough cash to live on, or at least fund things such as studio time while your band is still in its fledgling years. That’s why many independent musicians have started to see the value of creating merchandise to sell at gigs or online. Merchandise has come a long way in recent years, with people wanting to buy much more than just the band t-shirt, and this can be a valuable source of income while your band tries to make it to the top. Here are some tips for creating the right band merchandise.
Digital vs. physical music
In the past few years, the way we listen to music has changed rapidly. Firstly, CD sales were overtaken by digital downloads, and recently, revenue from streaming music has surpassed digital and physical music sales for the first time in Australia. This has meant that any type of physical music sold is now seen more as merchandise, and bands are looking for ways to cash in on that. For example, you might want to look for t-shirt printing in Australia and have different versions of your band’s t-shirt made for various parts of a tour and perhaps bundle it up with some collectible vinyl? Personalise it. Remember, anything that’s signed is also seen as collectible, especially if your band is becoming more visible.
Creating ‘versions’ of merchandise
One of the best ways to increase merchandise sales is to create different versions that your fans will enjoy collecting. Anything that feels exclusive, such as t-shirt that can only be brought at the gig rather than online, has collectible potential. Nowadays it’s easy to get t-shirts printed for different cities, which your die-hard fans will love to collect.
Gone are the days when band t-shirts, caps or hoodies were just a simple band logo, and maybe some tour dates. There’s now a focus on creating merchandise that’s a little cheekier and fun, adding a topical touch and using memes that your audience will enjoy. Because printing merchandise can be turned around so quickly, you can keep up to date with trends and what people are talking about. Just be careful not to infringe on copyrights.
To make sure people don’t just stop at one thing, try to upsell your other merchandise. This could be by:
Bundling things together – for example, selling tour posters with CDs
Selling signed versions of merchandise
Selling pre-order bundles, so fans can buy the CD plus the latest t-shirt
Ensure your merchandise range flows – a distinctive design will help you sell more than music
Sell your own merchandise online and at gigs
Once you sign to a label, it’s worth keeping hold of your own online store. Not only does this make you money, it also means you have more control over what’s sold, and can communicate directly with the fans. This gives you the opportunity to push pre-orders when you release a new CD or vinyl, and offer promotions that’ll bring people to your online shop.
It’s also worth spending time on your own merchandise stall, engaging with fans. When you’re an independent artist, every fan is important, and it’ll draw people to the stall. It also means you can autograph merchandise, offering another incentive for people to buy.
Don’t over-do your merchandise range
There are loads of fun options for merchandise, from USB sticks to Yo-Yos, mugs to mouse mats, and key rings to badges. However, it’s important to consider:
What your fans want to buy
What’s ‘on-brand’ for you and your band
Whether your merchandise is fun or just cheesy
It’s important not to simply put your bands logo on every single personalised item and hope for sales. It needs to be relevant to your band. If you make rock music, for example, then a bottle opener might be a cool idea for merchandise, while personalised mugs might not work as well. It’s important to have a merchandise plan that revolves around new releases or tours, times when fans are most likely to want your merch.
Go for quality
Nobody wants to buy a band t-shirt that fades and gets ruined in the wash, so quality is important. As an independent artist, your relationship with your fans is important, and low-quality merchandise can give a bad impression. Make sure anything you’re selling online is photographed and presented well. Taking pictures of merchandise on your smartphone will make your online shop look cheap and amateur.
Offer something for all budgets
Not all your fans will have hundreds of dollars to buy your awesome vinyl bundles, so make sure there’s something for every budget. At the lowest end, stickers and posters are always popular, while those with a bit more cash will enjoy spending it on novelty items such as puzzles. Plan how many to sell accordingly. Only a few die-hard fans will be buying your most expensive bundles.
Know your genre
As a musician, you’ll probably go to a lot of gigs in your genre, so keep an eye on what’s going on at the merch stand. T-shirts are often the biggest seller at rock gigs, but if you’re in more of a dance genre, then hoodies or laptop stickers are often more popular options. By knowing more about the sort of things similar fans like, you can plan accordingly.
Some independent artists are reluctant to brand themselves or sell merchandise, but it’s essential in the modern music industry. Since it’s getting harder to sell physical music, merchandise fills a gap in the market and means you can make extra money to pay for tours, studio time, and other expenses.