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Merchandise Corner

September 22, 2011

Merchandise is the corner stone of any successful independent band. Whether playing locally, regionally or heavily touring the money generated from sales of merchandise is what will get you to the next venue, help pay for recording costs and much more. There are a few things to consider to make the most out of your merchandise.

1. Know How Much You Can Sell.
If you are a new or entry level band without many shows or plans to tour start small maybe a run of 25. However if you are playing 1+ show a month to 50+ people you should invest in at least two different designs and likely order in runs of 50.

2. Know Your Audience.
Do your fans want bright coloured shirts or your typical black tee with white print? Would they rather 3/4 length tees, or maybe v-necks? Likewise what design(s) are you putting on your merch? Branding with album/tour art is preferred to keep a consistent brand and image but if you have a variety of shirts you can always have a variety of styles!

3. Variety Is Key.
The days of having one t-shirt and one CD at your mercy table are long gone. The more merch you can have at the table the better your product will sell. It is also good to have a variety of priced items $2-5, $10, $15-$20 and $25+. Another thing to keep in mind if you can’t afford a lot of shirts you can always get half the order with white ink on black t-shirts and the other half on with black ink on white (or another colour) t-shirts. So even though you only have one design you have it in two (or more) different colours. True variety is preferred though. If you can have 3+ unique designs you are well on your way to being able to sell more and generate more of your revenue from live performances.

4. Don’t Be Scared To Get Creative.
T-Shirts, tank-tops, hats and hoods are all great but thinking out the typical items will help you stand out more. I have seen or helped create flasks, baby clothes, ashtrays, metal cd tins, skateboards, shot glasses, sunglasses and much more. Sometimes these are a greater financial investment but they will not only make your band stand out but also get people talking!

5. Presentation Is Important.
If your product is laid across a table in a dim corner of the bar you will likely be overlooked and look less approachable. Try and pick a good location in the venue with high traffic (near the doors or bathrooms and if possible always within view of the stage!) It is also good to make sure you have the following:

– 2 (low watt) lights/lamps
– Shirt display rack or hangers to display tees
– Something for free (stickers, buttons, hand-outs for upcoming shows, etc.)
– Merch price sheet (print one in colour and laminate it, trust me! Make it themed with album/tour art for a better branding experience)
– Someone friendly that will talk to people and sell your product! (Cannot stress how much difference it will make to have a real merch person than someone just watching your table!)

6. Stay Organized.
Use large plastic containers for merch storage or duffle bags. Sort and tag all shirts with sizes (elastics work better than tape) These last few items are vital and should be in every merch box like a survival kit:

– Pre-printed merch sheets
– A variety of pens and sharpies
– Clear and Duct tape
– Extension cord/power bar
– Money box/sack
– Blank stickers or pre-printed stickers for prices
– Blank paper

Remember it’s not spending, it’s investing. Start small and continually build your merchandise as your band grows. After the initial investment to get your first merch order keep investing all the money back into merchandise whenever possible and build. Overtime you will soon notice your merchandise sales are paying you more than the venue door deal or small guarantee. As your band continues to grow, continue to expand with your brand!

-Josh

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