Providing your audience with a unique and memorable show is essential to your music career. It builds your fan base and connects them with the art that you’ve poured your heart into. But after the show ends and people return home to their everyday routine, what will remind them of that compelling experience? Your merchandise will. Before and and after the show, the merch table is where your fans reciprocate your energy and passion - by buying a T-shirt, poster, album, or stickers - providing you with the money and encouragement to sustain your career. This is an underrated revenue stream for many musicians; when you invest time and money into quality merchandise, you show how much you believe in yourself as a brand. Here are some tips on how to successfully sell your merch.
- Make your table as simple and accessible as possible. Your merch table should be easily seen, so make sure it is big enough for your merch and well lit. Having a list of what you are selling along with prices will save your voice from answering the same question repeatedly, and make transactions that much smoother. You are essentially running a store, so make sure it’s organized and neat. Make it look like a place where you’d want to shop. Also provide people with the option to pay with cash or card. With the creation of apps like PayPal, Square, Intuit, and others it is easier than ever to have options when taking money.
- Offer multiple products. We as consumers like having options. You could offer any of the following: CD’s, vinyls, sweatshirts, posters, stickers, download cards, cassettes, hats, or tank tops just to name a few. That being said, make sure to highlight one or two items so people know what to look at first. You could push the album that you’re on tour for, or the frisbee with your album cover that almost no other band has attempted. (That’s right, I’m looking at you Alabama Shakes!)
Along those lines, make sure that you have high quality products. You must invest money into your brand and try to maintain the highest standard possible if you want to make products that people will take home.
- Be there before and after the show, and invite fans to hang out. This may make for a long night, but being available in person to chat with fans helps build that support group you need and makes it easy to push products you want to sell. According to Jake Palumbo, “Support can be contagious. People see others in front of them pulling out money, getting their CD signed, snapping pictures, etc, and they don’t want to be left out and will often buy on impulse.”
- Have someone at your table while you play. Some audience members may leave early or want to avoid the line. Don’t miss an opportunity to sell! This also prevents products from being stolen.
- Keep track of your sales. You want to see which items sold and in what quantity so you’ll know what to bring next time, what to reorder if supply is running low, and how to divvy up the money. If you’re on a label that lets you take CDs/vinyl out on the road without upfront payment, you’ll also need to know how much you owe them.
- Take their cash, even if it’s not enough. If people paid to see you, cut them a deal. Obviously you can’t do this with everyone, but especially if your career is just starting it is nice to offer a fan the opportunity to own your merch. You never know, they could become one of your biggest fans and that “loss” could result in their friends becoming friends if they share that experience with others.
- Have fans who already own your T-shirts come to the show wearing them. According to Tah Phrum Dah Bush, “The more people, especially women, wearing your merch at shows, the more people will buy your merch. They will feel a need to belong.”
Merchandise sales is a fun way to grow your music career, and to show off your creativity outside of your music. All of these points are important, but making sure that you provide high quality products is one of the key points I would like to highlight because it reflects how valuable you think you are. You are your biggest advocate, show the world that you are awesome and have something worthwhile to share!