Music Business

Merch Ideas For Artists & Bands: How To Come Up With Band Merch Ideas

Photograph of the blog post author, Pete Briley

Pete Briley

1.6.2021

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Band merch has always been a key part of any band’s offering and over the past decade. Since revenues from recorded music have dwindled, the humble merch stand has become very important. It is a way for bands to build on the income they generate from live performances and through their website. And as more artists realise the potential significance of a great piece of merch, the range of products that bands can retail has expanded tenfold. Good band merch ideas are crucial in order to maximise your sales and help you thrive within the music industry

band merchandise bundle

In this article, we’ll look at some cool merch ideas for bands and also look at how to come up with your own band merch ideas.

Our Top 10 Band Merch Ideas

Without further ado, here are 10 of our favourite ideas for artist and band merch, prepare to be inspired!

1. Cassettes

strike eagle cassette band merch

Yes, cassettes are back in vogue and they are just as cool as ever! In fact, cassettes are one of the most booming formats for new music. Sales of cassettes doubled during 2020 with 157,000 sold in the UK. That’s the most since 2003 when Now 57 was the top-selling cassette. 

Lady Gaga led the charge in 2020 with her album Chromatica, but for emerging and DIY artists this format can be really powerful. It’s cheap to produce but still a cool physical product.

Especially if you get a cool colourway such as the model pictured here, and you can (as UK synth wave artist Strike Eagle did) sell it in conjunction with a digital download so fans get the best of both worlds – a physical product and a digital file

2. Vinyl

tom misch what kinda music vinyl

Vinyl is the holy grail of band merchandise – it’s cool, it sounds and looks great and it has a relatively high retail price that most fans are willing to pay.

Unfortunately, it does have quite a high-cost basis. Generally, production runs need to be 500 and the price gets more competitive as the volume increases, so it makes sense to get as many as you can, but that can be expensive. 

To help with this, you can look at options such as crowdfunding or pre-orders. Or perhaps shorter, limited edition runs of 7” inch vinyl as Melbourne-based Raphael & the Sexy Boys did.

3. T-Shirts

grateful dead band t shirt tie dye

Perhaps the most obvious example of the best band merch ideas is the classic band tee. This is the most common of the custom merch ideas for bands and fans generally look for a great T-shirt before anything else. People love a good band t-shirt, even if they don’t listen to the band!

Most bands do a black T-shirt with a classic logo and this works really well. However, you can get a bit creative here with shirt designs – don’t be afraid to try out a new color palette and designs for graphic tees. Your cost will generally be based on the kind of print you get (direct to garment or a screen print) and how many colours you need. 

If you can get down to one or two colours as a screen print, you can have some really high quality T-Shirts that don’t cost too much. It goes without saying that higher quality tees will last a long time. 

There are also companies such as Spreadshirt that allow you to upload your own designs or have design templates already there. Additionally, they let you have your own merch store where your customers can buy your designs printed on a T-shirt. They manage all the shipping and stock which makes your life a great deal easier. 

This is great if you don’t want to have any financial outlay but be aware this is the least profitable way to sell t-shirts and it obviously doesn’t help you sell additional merch at a gig

4. Coffee Beans

stables coffee band merch

As artists spend more time looking for unique band merch ideas, some really interesting offerings come up. In our opinion, one of the best, cute merch ideas we’ve seen from a band is London-based indie-folk duo, Stables. They started roasting and selling their own coffee! 

The duo branded it pretty well in that the colours they used for the coffee labels had the same kind of palette as their album art and website. Also, they came up with clever music-related names for the coffee: “Studi-Oh So Tasty”, “Roast on the Road” and “The Back Stage Belter”.

5. Baseball Caps

Outlaw Orchestra hat band merchandise

Baseball caps are really popular, especially in the rock and country worlds. Hats remain one of the best band merch ideas and a staple of the fashions of those scenes. The Outlaw Orchestra pictured above offered a range of colours.

Additionally, they had a lot of promo shots that included members of the group wearing the caps.

There are a few different styles of baseball cap. But, the classic trucker is usually a pretty good place to start and it gives you a nice bit of space where you can include your band logo. Also, you can have a wide range of colours for the mesh and the peak.

Like T-Shirts, there are a few different ways to do caps. You can have a direct-to-garment printed logo (which can look a little cheap so be careful with this option!) or you can look at embroidered options.

One DIY option that can work really well, if you don’t mind a little manual work, is that you can buy plain trucker caps.

Typically, these are much cheaper than customised ones. You can also order embroidered patches and either iron (if they’re glue-backed) or stitch them to your caps.

The added bonus of this approach is that you save money on the caps but you also get to order patches. This is another of the good merch ideas artists can have and it brings us to number 6 on this list…

6. Patches

band patches merch ideas

Patches are always cool – they allow fans to customise their own clothes whilst repping their favourite artists. So, if you are brainstorming merch design ideas, patches can be really useful. Firstly, they are cheap to make and cheap to sell. So from a fan’s perspective, it’s a small expenditure for band merch and pretty much everyone has some kind of use for a patch. 

Where vinyl and cassettes will generally only sell to people who have the ability to actually play music on those formats, everyone has a jacket or backpack or something where a patch could sit.

Patches are also really good for bundles. Bands can offer fans an exclusive bundle that includes Vinyl/CD + a Patch. The offer becomes more compelling and allows you to make a bigger sale because the perceived value is higher. 

7. Skateboards

metallica lovenskate skateboard collaboration

A relatively new concept in band merch are skateboards. You don’t see them very often for up-and-coming bands but there have been some pretty cool examples from established bands.

Not least the example pictured which is a collaboration between Metallica and British skateboard manufacturer Lovenskate. 

8 . Tote Bags

sex pistols tote bag merchandise

Who doesn’t love a good tote bag? Again, tote bags are pretty cheap to produce and useful for most people.

Not to mention that because they are low cost they can also be a good add-on to a T-Shirt/CD/Vinyl purchase at a gig.

This also gives a fan a way to carry all their brand new awesome merch items!

9. Stickers & Pin Badges

band pins and buttons merchandise

One of the passive benefits of band merch is that your fans end up walking around their daily lives wearing your logo. Hopefully, they start conversations with their friends and family about this awesome new band that they have discovered!

So stickers and pin badges can be a really great option because a sticker on a diary or a guitar case or a pin badge on a favourite jacket gets worn – and therefore seen – a lot. 

Pin badges and stickers are probably the cheapest merch a band can make and so it is very easy to make these items available to your fans. However, here we’d offer a word of advice:

Because of the low cost of these items, a lot of fans might not want to pay for them. There’s a growing trend for companies to send stickers and pin badges as freebies alongside the purchase of a hero product (think about how every Apple for more than a decade has included two cool apple logo stickers). 

So, when it comes to badges and stickers, rather than making them purchasable products on your store, keep them back as rewards for specific actions you want your fans to take; if they buy a vinyl or T-Shirt, throw a sticker in the envelope or if they sign up to your mailing list at a gig, give them a pin badge as a thank you. 

The cost here to a band is very low but the benefits of a fan feeling like they’ve got something for free is very valuable.

10. Artwork 

Ronnie Wood Rolling stones band artwork

If you are a creative person who has a bit of a flair for art, another good option for merchandise is exclusive artworks. A high-level example is Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones who has made a fortune outside of the band by selling his paintings and artworks.

However, on a smaller scale, bands like Stables have also made some really cool custom prints of their lyrics. 

These are great products for fans to hang around their homes and it is something that is a bit more unique than a simple band T-Shirt.

Now You Have 10 Cool Merch Design Ideas!

Van halen mask band merchandise

Merch is an integral part of a band’s income and so getting it right is really important. There are some nice ideas here but there are tons of other artist merch ideas left unmentioned. Bands offer everything from mugs to condoms to socks to keychains to teddy bears; some of these products are more successful than others! Even face masks could be a great idea for band merch.

The key thing to remember when you are thinking about merch and brainstorming merch design ideas is that you try to get products that are in line with your brand. Therefore, these will be desirable to your audience. 

For example, a punk band selling off patches is far more on-brand than if they were to sell teddy bears. As with your music, your album art and your promo photos, your merchandise is an extension of your brand. So the key to good merch that actually sells to your audience is keeping it in line with what you are about as an artist – have fun with it!

Music Gateway offers an excellent Showcase service. This is a place where you can get discovered by fans and music reps. On this page, you will be able to use your shoutouts to promote anything you like with the click of a button. This means you can plug your merch to anyone who stumbles across your page.

Additionally, you can list your upcoming gigs and fans can even buy tickets. All you need to do is create your artist or band page for free. Sign up today!

If you enjoyed this post why not check out another article on our blog! Here is an article on How To Make Your Own Merch to get you started.

Are You An Artist Or In A Band?

Showcase yourself and get discovered by fans and music reps through your very own artist site. Collaborate globally with other musicians, songwriters producers, and more. Finally, ace your format by using our WAV to MP3 converter and Large File Transfer tool. Try all of this out for yourself by joining Music Gateway. Get your 14-day free trial, no strings attached.

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