One of the biggest and most reliable income streams for bands is selling merchandise. Not only that, it’s the perfect promotional tool because other people are donning your designs and doing the unbiased marketing on your behalf wherever they go. With the sales from the actual music experiencing a decline since the glory days, merch has still been a solid way to monetize your music because everyone needs clothes and it cant be downloaded.
Short sleeve t-shirts, Hoodies and jumpers, Stickers and magnets
Long sleeve t-shirts, Baseball tees
Caps and beanies, Shorts, Singlets
Bottle openers, Stubby holders, G strings and panties
Patches, Baby bibs, Pillow cases, Tea Towels
Canvas bags, tote bags
New band first gigs – Tshirt only, with stickers for free. This at least gives you something to sell at your shows and you will find that people absolutely want to support up and coming bands. If you gig regularly this money can add up pretty quickly and will be a great help when paying for your first recording.
Upcoming bands with an album and small fanbase – Now you can start branching out a bit, perhaps a second shirt design or a hoodie is something you could consider. Perhaps the sales money can go towards getting a new website, online distro, or maybe even some touring.
Established bands that tour – The merch desk will become your best friend. Not only does it help pay the bills for your tour, but its a great indication of how well your show was received and the more merch you sell the more confident you can be that your band is on to a good thing.
Merch that I did recently with a pre-order campaign – Tshirts, hoodies and pullovers, flags, patches, and canvas bags. The idea here is that if people are going to pre order the CD, you want to encourage the upsell by giving them good deals if they buy a shirt to, or better yet a package with the lot. Furthermore, if people are eager to grab a shirt design, chances are they might get a CD while theyre ordering when they may not otherwise bother and stick to spotify.
Find an existing design – There are people everywhere trying to sell of cool artwork. A simple search of ‘band shirt artwork’ will lead you to a whole heap of options.
Create a custom design – You could find a talented creative friend, or go to somewhere like Deviant Art, Design Crowd or Fiverr where people are keen to help you out for a few bucks. Ideally you will have an idea in mind to give them a concept to work with
Do it yourself – If you’ve already got a band logo or a slogan, this makes for a very easy and cheap way of organising a merch design that you can do directly with the company of your choosing.
Artwork ideas – Like I said simple logos and stuff are good. But you could also go with your album cover artwork, lyrical theme, band member picture design, or anything really that looks cool. We do however need to bear in mind how realistic it is to print your design on a shirt, we’ll get to that soon.
Ask other bands – See what musicians in your scene are doing and ask them who they recommend
Search in Google, band shirt printing, scroll through and you will find some decent deals. Make sure you read the reviews and get some communication happening with them.
Turnaround time – Providing your design is finalised, it should only take a few weeks for everything to be ready. You will need to provide them the quantity you want of each item, and the sizes.
My experience tells me that the biggest selling sizes are medium and large. So let’s say you’re ordering 50 shirts, i would straight away start by allocating half of that to those 2 sizes, so that leaves you with 25 so work outwards from there, 10 for small and extra large, 5 girlies and 5 2XL. Pay attention to your sales over time because you will gauge a good idea of what your fans buy.
Another thing is to ask companies what brand of shirts they use. Generally they are happy to send you a test garment so you can see the quality. Take notice of what brands your favourite shirts are and hunt them down.
I do think that the key is finding a good balance between cost saving and good looking. If you get a cheap design, perhaps no one will buy it, if you get an amazing design people will buy it but you won’t make profit. Either way, here are a few ideas..
Less colours in your prints. You’d be surprised just how many colours some designs have. Keep it to 2 or 3 if you can. Your artist could even make some colours transparent, so instead of printing the black parts the black will just show through the shirt colour. Better yet, a one colour logo..
One side print only, sleeves are expensive unless you buy bulk. People dont always need a back print, you can get by without it and it will drop your outlay of spend drastically.
Supply your own garments – Yep, if you can be bothered you can track down your preferred material and then provide them to the printers to whack the design on. It will save you money and customisable, if you can be bothered.
Wanna know what it costs to print this stuff? Listen to the episode where I give you specific info on what I spent with my own band.
Merch Desk at gigs – Don’t waste this, it is seriously the best way to make an income for your band. Have a price list printed out, and better yet, have some pre-made boards that you set up at home with your shirts pinned to them with prices and whatnot on them. Then you can rock up to the gig and stick them up in the merch area ready to go and looking pro. Mingle with people at the merch desk, bring a nice pen to sign stuff for them if they want, take photos, be grateful and upsell wherever you can by offering them cool deals.
If you can do packages, they work really good. If you can do a CD and a Tshirt for a $5 saving, people will totally buy it.
Online Webstore – Get one on your official website, or use something like Big Cartel for free that we spoke of in episode 15. Bandcamp is also a ripper for selling band stuff online. Gotta factor in some major postage that we’ll get into in a secong.
Postage sucks, Just like baggage costs on airlines, this is the ultimate bane of existence for musicians trying to make a few bucks. If you’re selling merch online, don’t underestimate the cost of postage, seriously. Fellow Australians will know first hand if you ever buy things from overseas, sometimes it costs more in postage than the actual bloody stuff your buying!
So don’t hesitate to put realistic postage prices on your webstore. The last thing you want is to lose money on your sale because of postage.
CDs and small stuff it ok and can get around the world for a few bucks, but shirts and hoodies are outta control
A few tips, get an electronic scale and figure how much each of your merch items weighs. Within Australia, a pre paid satchel bag is the way to go, for orders under 500g it costs $8.50, and thats just for regular post, more if you need registered tracking, and double if youre posting overseas. For up to 3kg, it’s $13.80 domestic, about $5 more for tracking, and about $40 for overseas.
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