Making Money Through Merchandise, Part 3: The Extras
For this article series I’ve been looking at ways for independent and unsigned musicians to boost their earnings through making and selling merchandise. I’ve previously expressed the opinion that it is worth starting out by making your own merchandise, saving you a lot of money and boosting your profits from each item sold. Having already examined making and selling t-shirts and music, Part 3 will focus on other ways to make the rest of your merch table interesting, unique, and profitable.
Alongside the standard CDs and T-shirts that litter merch tables, it is always worth looking into having stickers and badges to give out. You can get these made for pretty cheap at merchandise sites on the internet, and despite their disposable nature they are definitely items I would recommend getting made professionally. This comes mostly from a painful experience attempting to make stickers with my bass player using a net he arranged on Microsoft Word and a sheet of white label stickers. Needless to say, it went horribly wrong and being DIY isn’t always the best way! Although it is difficult to actually make money individually selling stickers and badges, they can often prove a good makeweight in a potential deal. If a prospective customer asks how much your merch is (instead of reading the price signs, naturally), its always good to have an free extra to throw in to sweeten the deal. Plus, stickers and badges are mini billboards for your act, whether placed on other peoples guitars, in toilet cubicles (a noble tradition) or in ever more creative places (I once saw a band’s sticker on the light bulb of a lamppost), it gets your name out there a little more every time. The cheapest options are small button badges and paper stickers, and you can usually get a hundred for around £20.
Price-wise Awesome Merchandise are highly recommended, their product is always excellent quality and ships out extremely quickly.
This table from a recent tour has several CDs, a limited cassette tape split, a bunch of stickers and badges, and some flyers and stickers from pals at Beat this! Drum Shop and Pornography For Cowards zine
Another approach several underground acts are taking is that of the distro. Distros arose from zine culture in the independent music scenes, and usually involve label owners running a stall with all their label releases available at one of their artists shows.
However, recently some artists I’ve gigged with have been collaborating to use each others merch tables to promote other artists music alongside their own with the understanding that other artists do the same for them. I shared a bill with anarchist hip-hop duo Drowning Dog and DJ Malatesta in Nottingham recently, and their table contained about 20 different albums as well as t-shirts promoting their collective. This approach made money from fans interested in exploring similar artists to them, as well as making their merch table look varied and interesting, creating a buzz that drew in potential buyers.
Finally, it is always worth thinking outside of the box. Recently UK acts MC Ipod and Burn Daylight have sold the physical versions of their new EP’s via a download code in a 20 page zine, detailing lyrics and photos from the record and in the case of MC Ipod, a diary about his recent UK tour. These approaches bring you and your fans closer, with them getting an insight into the motivation behind your music, and encouraging them to further invest their time in listening to you.
Other bands I’ve seen have sold anything from branded lighters to hand made bracelets, aiming for something a little unique. If you put thought and attention into your merchandise then will sit up and take notice – one of my colleagues at a Placebo show I recently worked merch at told me about a Beyonce show he worked where they were selling Beyonce-branded shoes as part of the merchandise range, for £70 a pop!
Part 4 still to come on musicgateway.com