Band merchandise - the Do's & Don'ts
Blog by Louise Dodgson under Artist Managers, Creative & Branding
Chris Driscoll is the founder of Blinky Media, a promotional and merchandise printing company. Chris started out in music promotion aged 15 after being challenged by a college mate to organise a gig (despite having never attended one before!). Since then he has not looked back with nearly 200 shows under his belt at venues across the UK. Several years later this lead to the creation of Blinky Media, a one-stop shop offering advice and printing for all areas of the music business, and working with countless bands, venues, clothing companies and the likes of Live Nation and Universal Music Group.
Why is merchandise so important?
It seems an obvious question but why is merchandise so important for your band or label? Most crucially merch is your lifeline to help raise funds for you band, but is also your opportunity to turn your fans into walking, talking - and in many cases moshing - adverts for your band, helping promote your band anywhere and everywhere they go. Having a good range of merchandise not only generates you income but raises your profile as a band and can help get you new fans!
Where do I start with merch?
The real key to getting started with merchandise is to look at how much budget you have to invest. You can get simple merchandise products from as little as £40-50 (Blinky Media do 100 demo CDs for £45), but you could also go for plenty of low budget options such as badges, stickers and posters. If you have a larger budget it is worth looking at what your fans would like - ask them and develop a small range. One band who have developed a proper range early on were called My Passion. It quickly developed into a recognised style and brand and they would regularly make £400+ in merch per show.
How do I get the best value?
With any type of printing there are lots of ways of producing different merchandise products. The standard ways will mean lower costs and better value, for example 1 colour white t-shirts are the cheapest possible combination costing roughly £164 in total for 50 t-shirts, while 49 1 colour coloured t-shirts would be £197.
It is worth speaking to printers when you are working on the designs for your merchandise - just to check your design would be suitable, is in the right format or how many colours/screens it would use.
Always speak to suppliers and ask their advice on how to get the best value in terms of colours, quantities, styles and designs. There can be a lot of options and it can be confusing sometimes or difficult to work out from their website alone.
Buy in bulk or establish a range?
When sorting out merchandise there are 2 real options available to you; buy one product in bulk and get yours costs right down to stock up for a few months, or establish a range. The option which will work best for you all depends on your fans. If you have a relatively large fanbase then you can get away with ordering 100+ of your next t-shirt design as you know you will get rid of them all. But if you’re just starting out and have between 20 and 40 die-hard fans then establishing a range is probably going to be the best option.
Creating a Range
The main reason for creating a range of merchandise is that if a fan is supportive enough to buy 1 item, chances are they will buy more if they can. When creating a range try to cover a relatively wide selection of price points from £1-2 upwards, then quite often if a fan buys one of the bigger ticket items like clothing, they will use up a few spare quid on the smaller items. And you’ve made a little more on merch! When they spend £20 or more you might consider giving them one of the lower value items just as a little thank you too!
Are CDs and EPs dying?
Downloads may be commonplace but many fans do still love a physical CD and there are increasing ways of pressing CDs at a low cost. At Blinky Media we’ve worked really hard to create a range of options for bands to get short to long run CDs finished to different specifications to suit any budget. Just remember every printed item has costs to get produced, for example CD inserts require a lot of folding and precise cutting and this drives the costs up. Card wallets can’t be printed when they are assembled so we have to get them printed, die cut, folded, glued and then sent to us…not cheap! The alternative is simple - get a printed insert, 1 fold and a good quality PVC insert. Combined it has the same print area as a card wallet, it is water resistant and much cheaper to produce.
Just remember the more CDs you produce, the lower your costs the more you can sell at a lower price, the more people listen to your music!
The Golden Rules of Merch:
• Know your budget
• Know what your fans want, show them designs and get them involved
• Know how to get the best value
• Make sure you have a range of prices and products
• Make sure your artwork is good quality and be sure to check about formats
band merchandise, music merchandise, band t-shirts, blinky media