Band merch is an essential aspect of getting your name out there. When you first start out on your rockstar career, it’s likely that you’ll be playing fairly low down on the bill. At this point, marketing yourself is everything if you want to get ahead of the game.
While it does help, there’s more to getting your name out there than putting on a good show and selling a few CDs. Merchandising is the king of marketing for any new band, a way of getting your logo across the shirts, caps, phone cases and drinking glasses of your legions of fans. But how should you go about merchandising? And how do you sell band merch?
What kind of band merch works?
T-shirts, stickers, patches, posters: these are the obvious routes to go down when looking to create band merch. Whether you’re a pop superstar in the making with fans who can’t wait to rock your logo on the back of their new iPhone or a trve kvlt metalhead with fans who are itching to do the same with a patch on their battle vest, the classic merch works.
Nowadays, you can slap your logo onto just about anything, meaning that you can directly cater to the tastes of your fans. Think about your fanbase and what they tend to be like, your merch should reflect that. Former clients of Kore Studios, British Sea Power, produce a line of beautiful mugs as merchandise while glam legends (and unabashed sellouts) KISS sell everything from beer pong tables to waffle irons to coffins. Some bands even produce their own consumables like Behemoth’s coffee, Iron Maiden’s incredibly successful Trooper ale and Bastille’s hot sauce.
While brewing your own beer may not be a particularly cost-effective idea right now, it definitely goes to show that the possibilities are endless. You really can merchandise almost anything and, if your fans are willing to pay for it, it’ll work. Tea towels, shot glasses, shorts – think outside the box and you could go far with your merch, you just need to get some made.
How to make band merch
Nobody is going to want to buy and wear your merch if, simply put, it doesn’t look cool. That means that great designs are often the key to great merch sales. Step one, then, is coming up with a design that represents your band and will also sell.
For the design step, you can either hire a professional or do it yourself. While DIY designs of logos and artwork is always cheaper, if you just don’t have the artistic expertise required, it’s not worth it. Hiring a freelancer may sound like a lot of unnecessary expenditure, but designers can be relatively cheap. Plus, once you have a great design, it will definitely be worth the initial cost in the long run. You could even reach out to fans. Whether that’s an Instagram competition or just some general art submissions in return for a free gig or some merch – after all, the fans know exactly what they want.
With a great design on paper that your fans are guaranteed to love, now it’s time to actually make the merch. Search the web or ask other bands in your scene for suppliers who can screen print and ship the merch directly to you. At first, it’s probably best that you stick with only one or two designs to keep costs low – you can start expanding when you know your merch is profitable. Once you’ve found a supplier, it’s up to you to decide how you want to put your order through. Larger orders will likely be cheaper per item, but you’ll have more merch to sell. The key is to determine a realistic figure of how many pieces you’ll be able to sell based on the size of your fanbase and the usual turnout at your shows.
How to sell band merch
With the power of the internet at your disposal, it’s so much easier to sell your merch than ever before. In the past, bands had no way of getting their name out there other than through bringing all of their merchandise to their shows, lining up along a table after their set and trying their best to flog it to attendees of the event. Now things have changed.
Selling band merch physically
The traditional method of selling your merch at shows might be longstanding, but that doesn’t mean that it’s become redundant. That face-to-face relationship with your fans really shouldn’t be underestimated and it’s a great way to actually sell your merchandise.
Once you’ve got a real fanbase, it might be worth considering selling show-exclusives. The chance to pick up a limited edition poster, t-shirt or patch that they can only get their hands on at a show is a great way to help fill a venue. Shows are also a perfect opportunity for you to sell tour t-shirts, your supporters will love having the date they saw you on their back, especially if they can hold onto it for years to come and play into the ‘I knew them before they were cool’ mentality.
Selling band merch digitally
Physical sales are only half the battle in getting your merch flying off shelves, in the 21st century the internet is where it’s at. Websites like Redbubble, Cafepress and even musician-focused sites like Spreadshirt make selling your merch online a dream.
Rather than buying in bulk, these sites allow your merch to be produced as and when orders come in, with those companies shipping out the merch on their own. Of course, this makes the price per item a little more expensive, but it takes away almost all of the stress that you might be feeling in regards to picking, packaging and shipping.
Aside from these sites, if you have already ordered a bulk order of your merchandise, you can sell it even when you’re not on tour. Simply add the option to buy items anywhere you’re present online. From your website to your Facebook to your Bandcamp, most online platforms will now allow you to sell from them too. The easier you make it for your fans to pick up their favourite t-shirt or beanie, the more of them you’ll sell.
You won’t sell any merch if you don’t have a great album to earn you some fans. Why not book a session at Kore Studios? You can work closely with veteran producer George Apsion to create a truly brilliant record.