Consider, for a moment, how much money your band makes at each show—from
merchandise sales alone.
Now consider whether that sum of money is satisfactory; whether merchandise sales cover the band's promotional budget, equipment budget, and studio recording time budget.
If it is the case that the band does not sell enough merchandise to offset the expenses well enough, then I'll show you some new ideas in this tutorial.
Think Like an Entrepreneur
You don't have to sell only band t-shirts or bumper stickers at your shows, or even from the band's website. Of course every band’s goal is to inspire fans to buy up beautifully and artistically designed—not to mention expensive—novelty items and garments with logos and pictures craftily printed on them.
The problem with being too dependent on wanting to make enough money from standard merchandise is that it may not generate the sales you need.
Most retailers in the mall offset their costs, and time it takes to sell higher priced items, by introducing low-cost items that can be marked-up at greater percentage. For example, restaurants such as McDonald's does this with soft drinks. Their profit comes more from serving beverages than from the burgers.
If your band is serious about bringing in substantial funds from merchandise sales, then it's time to think like an entrepreneur and offer retail items that easily resell at a four-hundred per cent, or more, markup.
The Problem With Selling T-Shirts
T-shirts are expensive to print because screen printers require a minimum number of shirts be printed in order to turn a profit. Due to the cost of t-shirts the profit margin is simply too small to make a decent margin.
Furthermore, not everyone likes t-shirts, including women who often prefer baby-doll cut shirts and tank tops as opposed to the standard crew neck t-shirt.
In this modern age, with our direct connection to foreign vendors, it is possible to buy inexpensive novelty items related to the music industry that can be resold at a much larger markup than t-shirts can.
Websites such as AliExpress, DHGate, 8Seasons and others allow you to make purchases that are protected by buyer guarantees.
Other Merchandise for Bands to Consider
The following ideas are for some less conventional novelties that are related to music. These can often be obtained from foreign vendors such as those mentioned above.
USB drives come in a variety of interesting shapes including guitar thumb drives, pianos, and skull designs.
Most of these can be purchased for around $3 and can easily be resold for $10, or more.
Both ladies and men love LED lighted jewelry and accessories and also buy these novelties for children.
You can purchase flashing earring studs, finger rings, and hair accessories as low as $0.50 and resell them like hotcakes for $5.00, or more, at night-time events.
Custom Temporary Tattoos
If you have a printer you can easily create custom temporary tattoos with your the logo.
All you need is the temporary tattoo paper and your artwork. Or you can also order custom tattoos from companies like tatly.com or straytats.com.
Music Lesson Vouchers
Sell voucher cards for music or vocals lessons with one of the band members.
Have the band members autograph an item, that the band has used, and sell it. The options are endless and are only limited by the band’s imagination and willingness to get rid of old items.
Ideas include old sheet music, lyrics scratched onto a napkin, broken drum sticks, broken drum heads or cymbals, a defunct guitar pedal or broken pick guards.
Buy a pack of lighters at a consumer wholesale store, like Costco or Sam's Club, and print inexpensive labels with the band logo and and stick them onto lighters to sell for $1.00.
Private Label Merchandise
Private label (PL) merchandise is any item that is manufactured by a 3rd party who labels the product with your band's custom logo.
Just about anything can potentially be purchased and labeled with your logo if you can find a manufacture for whatever you'd like to sell. You can find PL merchandise that will sell easily to your fan base in the form of cosmetics, perfumes & cologne, guitar strings & picks, and even private label beer and wine.
Purchasing private label merchandise will likely take an investment to get started. If you shop wisely and aren’t in a hurry then your band can likely find a manufacturer who will require a small minimum purchase of product to be labeled with your logo.
To get started search in your favorite browser the keywords private label and the product you'd like to resell.
Optimize Product Displays
If fans can't see the merchandise, it won't sell well. While some venues will provide a basic table, they rarely provide a nice selection of display options for your host of merchandise. Any retail sales professional will attest that having the proper display items will boost sales drastically.
To save money, bands can build their own displays or can purchase used displays at retailers both online and in local wholesale stores.
In some cases you may be required to purchase large quantities or hold a business license depending on the display retailer's policies. Consumer goods stores like Containers & More, Walmart and Joanns also offer some display options at a larger cost but with fewer restrictions on the purchaser.
Experiment with display options such as folding some t-shirts and hanging some. Try using shelving options. When you make a sale, record where the item was, and then over time tally up which display options tended to create a sale better than others and use that display option the most in the future.
Check that the merchandise is well lit. If the merchandise table is in a dark corner be prepared by bringing extra lighting to brighten the area. Carry a couple of strings of Christmas lights in your gig bag to add incredible ambiance and attract people to the merchandise table that otherwise might not have noticed.
Rent Table Space to a Vendor
If the band has extra space at the merchandise table then bring in a little more money by renting that space out.
Perhaps you know a fashion or jewelry designer that makes cool stuff that your fans would like. Rent out part of your merchandise table for a small fee, or allow the vendor to sell without rent, but require a small percentage of their sales.
I have seen this go over well especially at goth and punk shows where accessories like gauntlets, spiked chokers, body chains and jewelry sell like hotcakes.
Another Option: Royalty-Free Audio
One other option to consider is selling some of your unused samples and tracks, or dedicating time to creating new ones specifically to sell. Envato have a site called AudioJungle where you can do just that (and, over time, it can become a great additional income stream!)
In this tutorial, I've given you some techniques and ideas to generate cash through the sale of merchandise and gigs that your band plays.
Selling branded merchandise is an opportunity to increase revenue in order to finance the overheads of playing gigs and to bring in a decent living for the band.