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So let's say you've created some amazing music and released it. What's your next step? Well one of the most important next steps is to create and sell merch.
First we'll talk about why it's so important, and second we'll discuss how you go about creating and selling merch. Here we go!
Fair question. Well, an important part of being an artist is building an identity. Industry people often say, "you need your own sound". While this is true, a more accurate perspective is that you need to build your own identity / brand.
Merch is an often overlooked but crucial aspect of an artist's overall brand building. While the music itself is certainly the most important part of an arist's identity, merch can play a significant role in promoting and solidifying that identity. The visuals allow your fans to have an image in their head as soon as they think about you and your music.
On top of all that, selling merch can be a great source of revenue for any artist. I've heard the saying that the music industry is like 'a river of pennies'. We all know hard it is to make money as a musician, but if you keep adding revenue streams, eventually they add up to a sustainable business model. So selling merch is definitely a revenue stream you want to add in.
It is important to come up with merchandise that suits your identity as a band or musician and something that you can be passionate about so it resonates with your followers and fans. Sometimes that can be a big daunting task and we are here to help get you started.
Above all, merchandise serves as a way for fans to show their support for you. T-shirts, hats, and other clothing items emblazoned with your logo or album artwork are worn by fans as a way to proclaim their love for you and your music everywhere they go. Make sure to start with your friends and family! There is nothing better than seeing your friends and family wearing your swag and showing support!
Other merch items such as posters, stickers, and other types of band-themed decor can be used to decorate a fan's room or personal space, so don't forget to include these items. And finally, doing limited runs or one-off items can also be a unique way to get people excited about you and your music.
In addition to providing fans with a way to express their fandom, merchandise can also serve as a way for artists to promote themselves. Artists often sell merchandise at live shows, giving fans a way to remember the show and the band long after it's over. You can also sell your online on platforms like Shopify, Bandcamp, and Big Cartel, or even directly on your Spotify or Instagram. We'll make a full post on this in the future.
Doing all this can help to generate buzz and interest in you, which can lead to more fans and more revenue. Word of mouth is always the best marketing tool you can have. Imagine the great conversations you can start with cool merch after a fan sees you put on a great show!
Ok we've gone over the why, let's start diving into the how an artist successfully integrates merch into their strategy, starting specifically with how to make the product.
We're going to start this section assuming that you have your own design work done, such as logos, t-shirts, album covers, etc. We will do a post soon on how to tackle those items, but for now let's move forward assuming that's done!
Let's start by doing some research on your merch needs. You'll want to figure out what exactly your budget is, what types of merch you want to start with, and what will have the most impact moving forward. A great place to start is t-shirts, but you'll quickly want to expand into items like stickers, pins, hoodies, hats, vinyl, etc.
A great way to research this is to ask 20 - 30 of your fans for their opinion on what merch they would like to see. Asking your fans directly is the best way as they will feel like they're a part of what you do. You can also post on your socials to see what kind of responses you get.
Finally, you'll need to consider what your budget is currently and what kind of return you'll see on the merch. If your budget is small to start, a great place to start is t-shirts. You'll quickly want to expand into items like stickers, pins, hoodies, hats, and more. Build a plan that allows you to get a few more items each time you do a merch run (reinvest your profits).
Next, you'll need to find a company that can deliver quality merchandise from top to bottom. From logistics to printing and delivery as well as payment terms. Some artists need a large merch order for a national tour while others may only need 10 pieces for a give away. If you can find a company that does design as well, then that's even better!
We have worked with many companies over the years and highly recommend Presstime Design and Screenprint. They have worked with everyone from local indie artists to international touring acts. From making great designs, printing on quality products and meeting your every need, Presstime understands there is no one size fits all in this business and they work hard to be considered a partner and resource to artists. They want to work together in tandem to come up with the best solutions possible for artist tours and shows.
The best part is Velveteen you can get exclusive pricing! Simply mention Velveteen when working with them and you'll get access to better rates.
Now that you have your merch made up, how do you sell it? Well today there are a wide variety of ways to sell your merch, so let's go over some of the main ways.
This should be fairly obvious, so we're not gonna spend much time on this point.
Get yourself a collapsible table, some nice decor, a table cloth, and a rack to hang items up. Set this up at your show and start selling! Simple!
Quite a few platforms now allow you to create shops right on your page. Here's a list of some places we think you should be putting your merch up:
We're of the mindset that you should make it as easy as possible for your merch to be purchased. So we suggest putting your merch on all these platforms, whether you focus on directing traffic there or not.
The great thing is your fans are likely to end up on any one of these platforms anyways, whether it's to listen to your music or consume your content. They won't have to click any additional links to find your merch, which makes purchasing much easier.
Now this topic could be a whole course on its own, so we won't go into detail. But if you get to the point where you have a wide array of merch items and are selling a lot online, you may want to consider a full blown online store. Here are a few options that we think are worth looking into:
If your website was created on a platform like Squarespace or Wix, you can often create a store right in your website. Having said that, Shopify and Big Cartel are highly focussed products for ecommerce, so they tend to have more advanced features and flexibility.
This decision is a bit outside the scope of what Velveteen does, so we highly recommend you do your research to find what's best for you and your needs.
Print on demand is very similar to the concept of drop shipping. You take orders on your store, then send the information to the print on demand shop, they make the shirt and ship it direct to your customer. Pretty cool.
What are the advantages to this?
Well you don't have to hold inventory. There are two benefits: 1) you don't have to find space to store your unsold merch 2) You don't have to pay for your merch until you make the money first.
And the disadvantages?
Well as you can imagine, these services are going to come with higher costs and lower margins for you. Sometimes this can make a merch item unprofitable, which is not a good thing.
If you want to go down the rabbit hole and see if this is right for you, here are three options that we would recommend:
If you don't want to set up any online stores for yourself, there is the option to sell on existing marketplaces. The best ones to look at are:
The downside to these platforms is that it can feel a bit impersonal for the buyer, and you have less control and ability to capture information, such as email addresses for email campaigns.
In summary, merchandise plays a vital role in the success of an artist. If done right, it provides fans with a way to express their love for the band and the band with a way to promote themselves, but it also generates crucial revenue for the band.
Whether you're a band just starting out or one that's been around for a while, making sure you have a well-designed and well-stocked merchandise line is a must.
Thanks for reading!
Velveteen offers full service release campaigns for most types of artists. We help build a release strategy based on your goals as an artist and help you execute them in the most effective manner possible.
We aim to help artists build a long term fanbase, increase their streams and visibility, and set an upward career trajectory towards sustainability.