Have you ever thought that maybe there is a skill and/or strategy to making a profit from your band merch? Beyond the undeniable cool factor of having your band’s imagery on a shirt and seeing someone wear it, there is a lot more to pulling off a good merch range on tour. That being said, selling merch on tour is one of the best ways to make back that hard earned money you spent on gas expenses to get you to your next venue.
Through years of working with bands and artists we’ve been able to gain some solid insight on what an effective merch range looks like, feels like and of course… sells like. We’ve basically done the research for you!
You’re unique. Stay true to that:
For the most part artists in music influence mainstream culture. Ever notice how every time Ye changes his style everyone else slowly gets on board? It’s your job as an artist to have a vision and deliver it as accurately as possible to your audience. It’s up to you to choose what you think is cool and suiting for your band and stand behind it. This could mean anything from wacky shirt colours, large prints, extremely small prints, not having your band name on the shirt, ONLY having your band name on the shirt, the list could go on forever but the point is that if you have a vision. Try to stay true to it.
Know your audience:
While keeping your vision at the forefront, think of how that can fit into what your crowd would like. It’s very possible to execute your specific style while still giving your fans something they would actually want to buy. If your crowd is into limited edition items, maybe consider items like screen printed posters or limited edition vinyl but with your unique design style. The point is to maintain what you think is right for the band’s brand while making it an easy decision for a fan to buy your stuff.
Budgeting & Profit Margin:
Try to remove yourself from the mudpile of “breaking even” and turn your band into a viable vehicle for potential income to keep the train of rock moving forward.
Just like a business you are looking for a return on investment (R.O.I.) and that should be the one of the top priorities of your merch order. Make sure while bringing your vision to life that you aren’t breaking the bank while doing it. Think ahead or talk to your printer to help you come up with ways to refine each item to be as cost effective as possible.
It will most likely become abundantly clear what your fans like through their buying behaviour. You will learn quickly if your vision resonates with your fans by how much you sell or unfortunately, don’t sell. Do yourself the favour and document your merch sales. At the end of a show or tour you can decipher which items are worth a reprint and which items need a tweak to the vision.
Here are some tips to help you be as profitable as possible with your merch game:
Make sure you price your merch within the general market price. Take a look around and see what other bands are selling in your scene and match it.
Don’t be afraid to charge what it’s worth. Show goers and fans are keen to help support artists they like and you shouldn’t feel bad about asking a reasonable price for your goods.
Do the math before you order. If it doesn’t leave a decent profit margin for the band, adjust some things to land in your favour.
Less colours in your design = less $$$ per item.
Less print locations on your shirt = less $$$ per item. Meaning, a front printed T shirt is less money than a front and back printed T shirt.
Consider lower priced garments. These days almost all of the blank manufacturers have a high quality garment selection at all different price ranges. Look to your printer for recommendations based on the style type you are after.
Get more of the same design. If you only have 1 gig this weekend but have 25 more shows on the calendar, it makes more sense to buy in bulk because the cost per shirt decreases when you order more stuff.
Ask your printer for advice! They almost always have their finger on the pulse of current trends, innovative ideas to reduce costs and more.