The secrets to selling music merch

Blog by Louise Dodgson under Creative & Branding, Live

Merchandise is one of the largest grossing sectors of the music industry today, with an estimated $1 billion spent on music merchandise every year, of which the independent sector accounts for approximately $300 million. For many, merch is the area where they can expect the best returns.
Whereas music sales and downloads might bring in a consistent flow of cash, you’re likely to be making only small amounts of profit. Many bands are receiving less than £100 for playing a gig, but making up the shortfall by managing to consistently sell two dozen t-shirts or more and taking in £250 from their merch table. Fans are keen to have something physical to take away from the gig and to show everyone their taste in music. Merch is also an excellent marketing tool, spreading the word about your band and getting people talking.
If you’re thinking that you’d like to sell merch yourself, don’t go rushing into it. Think about what services you want to use and what your fans want. If you’re on a tight budget an online print-on-demand service, such as Dizzyjam, is the way to go. There’s no initial outlay and you won’t have to handle any stock, but keep in mind that profit margins may be smaller and you’ll have to get inventive to get fans to buy after a gig. If you can afford to buy in bulk (bulk printing will cost you around £250 for 50 decent shirts), you can sell online or at gigs, but it means having the space and the means of transport. Some sites such as Bandcamp have an integrated merch store, so you can sell your music and merch online side by side, but you will have to handle the stock and postage yourself, unless you find a service which offers storage and distribution.
If you choose to sell at gigs, place your merch table somewhere noticeable and keep it organised. Keep track of what sells and remember that there’s always the risk of having leftovers you can’t shift. You can find mobile apps to help you with stock control, as well as other tools (such as portable card readers) to help you track cash flow and sales. Your merch table is also a great place to get fans to sign up for your newsletter - if they’ve bought something, get them to leave their email address.
When you’ve chosen how you’re going to sell your merch, think about what you’re going to sell - which products you’ll have available and the designs you use. Don’t be afraid to ask your fans what they want and keep in mind whether they would wear or use what you’re selling. Small things like stickers and badges will sell well, because they don’t cost much (and they’re cheap to make too). You can get creative - hand-make items individually to make them extra special, sell mugs, bags and hats and maybe even brew your own beer! Dizzyjam’s in-house designer James was at an Enter Shikari gig just two nights ago, and still has a hangover from drinking the band’s own-brand beer!
For shirts, think about what will print well on fabric and don’t assume that just because something made an awesome album cover, it will make an awesome shirt. You’ll need a high quality image and it’s best to stick with clear, simple lines to ensure that your printed design looks as close as possible to the original image.
Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to promote your merch! If your fans don’t know it’s available, they won’t buy it. So talk about it, tweet it, put it in your newsletter.
Need any further advice, tips, or help, just drop us a line on [email protected].


music merchandise, band merchandise, selling merchandise, gig merchandise, dizzyjam, unsigned bands, unsigned artists


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