10 Cool Band Merch Ideas To Sell at Gigs & Online
March 29, 2017
Merch is king. In our years in the industry, we’ve seen countless tiny bands play a gig for less money than it took to fill their van with petrol. And then absolutely kill it on the merch table, taking 10 times more cash than their fee. If you do it right, merch can massively increase the available cash in your band as a business.
But before we start on our list of merch ideas, here’s some tips we can offer that you may not have considered:
- Understand your margins. Do whatever it takes to understand how much money you need to charge for each item in order to make a reasonable profit. Download a profit and loss template spreadsheet and fill it in (it’s surprisingly good fun. Honest). Have you factored in the cost of your time to organise and sell it? It’s absolutely fine to break-even, or even make a loss, on a product if there is a good reason behind it that you’ve thought through. But there’s nothing worse than not doing your sums and realising you’ve worked hard for no reason at all.
- Think about your audience. What do they want? What products best suit them? We know from our stats at Dizzyjam that goth bands sell way more black t-shirts than trance artists. We know that American audiences order more XXLs than Japan.
- If you’re lucky enough to be touring or selling internationally, educate yourself on sales taxes, and the implications. Crossing the Swiss border in your van, for example? They can check you for stock and cash, then charge you accordingly. Same if you’re sending stuff there….
- If selling merch at a gig, make sure it looks good and people know where they can get it. Mention it from the stage (but don’t overdo it - people hate being heavily sold to!). Consider buying a display board to show off your merch behind the table, and write your prices in clear large lettering visible from across the other side of the merch table. Make it easy for your fans.
Image by Larissa Green
10 Band Merch Ideas Your Fans Will Love
1. T-shirts. The grandaddy of merch. Highly visible, easy to get hold of, and the thing that everyone wants to wear. You can go down two main routes:
- Bulk screenprinted: This is where you buy up-front, and deal with all the sales and fulfillment yourself. You can get decent quality t-shirts printed for less than £3 each if you you are smart, so there’s good money to be made. But don’t be fooled - it can be hard work shifting all your stock if you don’t judge the size distribution etc correctly. Chat to our friends at RampTshirts.com for help (Psst - We've negotiated a 5% discount for you - use code DITTOSPRING17).
- On-demand digital printing: This is a completely risk-free way of selling t-shirts. You create a preview of your product online, and then when someone buys it, it’s digitally printed and dispatched directly to them, with you receiving a cut of the profits. There are countless print-on-demand platforms that will help you do this for free, but only one that truly specialises in the music industry. And yeah, it’s us - Dizzyjam ;-)
2. The next thing you need to have on sale is music. ALWAYS have your music available for sale. For CDs, think about cardboard sleeves instead of plastic cases to save space while touring or posting. If you’re selling physical formats, consider adding a download code to sell your music online or at least a link to where they can stream it. People love a memento from a great gig but a download code works even if they don’t have a record / CD player.
3 - Soundcloud user? Check out these great mugs that you can order with your SoundCloud track visualised and wrapped around it at SoundWaveMug.com. They’ll go down a treat with the audiophile fans!
Your track on a mug? Why not!
4. Autographed anything. If you can sign it, you should. It personalises your products for your fans, and gives them something that will (hopefully!) become massively collectable in years to come.
5. Get crafty! Crafting is all the rage these days, so there’s nothing to stop you heading down to your local arts and crafts store and stocking up. Buy some good quality white t-shirts, some fabric inks, some sequins, and go to town. Or even just a simple adornment of the existing screenprinted t-shirts or hoodies that you’ve bought.
Save money making DIY band merch
6. Make merch for them while they wait! Do you have any special skills? Is your drummer a good caricaturist? Is your bassist an origami god?
7. What would your fans want. Iron Maiden brewed beer. Wavves produced grinders. Deadmau5 manufactured cat headphones (yeah, headphones for cats). Alice Cooper sold branded eyeliner. Daft Punk released “Get Lucky” condoms. Think about something that is unique to you, or a track/album of yours. Not just good merch. Good PR, too.
Sell something personal to you and your fans
8. Marshmallows. Yeah, you heard us. Marshmallows. Check out Boomf.com for some out-of-the-box thinking. To be honest, you can get pretty much anything printed on these days. Keyrings, marshmallows, plates, calendars, towels. But think about your audience first and foremost. A beach towel isn’t going to suit a sun-fearing goth fan….
9. Private performance? The big artists have been charging mega-bucks for this kind of thing for years, so why shouldn’t you? J-Lo, Beyonce, and Mariah all charge well in excess of $1m for a one-hour private performance. You may have to set your sights a little lower than that, but your biggest fans would love the opportunity to get an acoustic serenade in your dressing room or, even better, in their home!
Give your biggest fans a one-of-a-kind experience
10. Think about the life of your merch beyond the point of sale. Will other people see it? Will it get talked about by the new owner? Will it spark conversation? Sometimes it’s worth thinking about selling stuff at cost, or even a loss, if you know that it will help spread the word about you. So consider something cheap like guitar picks or wristbands. If ordered in the right quantities they can be bought for as little as 10p each. So you can definitely afford to sell them for that little, or even give them away, and you’ll no doubt get people talking about you!
Just remember - your goal with all of these is one or more of the below (but hopefully all):
- Make your fans happy
- Earn cash
- Be talked about
You can always contact Dizzyjam.com any time to say hello, or to get our advice. Just drop us a line on email@example.com, or say hello via our site.
- An Introduction to Music Royalties in the UK
- Is It Worth Playing Open Mic Nights?
- 10 Must-Have Apps for Musicians and Bands
- How to Make Beats: The Basics
- How to reach more fans with your Facebook band page
- How to Record Drums on a Budget
- Making a Music Video: How to Commission a Director
- A Beginners Guide To Mixing & Mastering Music