She has spent over 18 years working with a wide range of independent musicians and music industry professionals all over the world. Follow her on Twitter at @MadalynSklar
You write great songs. You record killer albums. You put on the most kick ass show. Yet your merch sales fall flat. Over the years I have discovered…
“The best way to make money at your show is by simply asking people to buy.”
I have spent the last 18 years booking, promoting, producing or having something to do with thousands of shows all over the world. My fascination with the psychology of selling is beyond conventional. I have learned an incredible amount over the years and am happy to share what I’ve learned from running the door and merch table at these shows.
If you follow these 5 simple steps, you will make money at your next show.
Step 1 – Greet Them At The Door
I have rarely seen artists do this but the few that do make quite an impression with fans. The best way to get ahead in this business is networking. There is no better place to network than at the door of your show. For many years I ran a monthly GoGirls showcase event in Houston, TX. I had the coolest job, not just booking and promoting it but running the door and merch table too. I met amazing people. But I wasn’t the talent on stage. I was just the girl charging cover or selling merchandise. The ticket holder is there to see you. It would be so unexpected for them to witness you greeting people at the door. It shows you are approachable and way cool. And in return you will see more sales. Cha-ching!
“Most fans have you on a pedestal. If you didn’t know this, better start believing it.”
For those who already know it, don’t be a dick about it. Treat your fans with respect and love. Always.
Step 2 – Mention You Have Merch For Sale From The Stage
I know this one sounds like a no brainer but I hardly see bands telling their audience they have merch for sale. They always tell me they forget to announce it from the stage. Keep in mind that the majority of people at your show are not mind readers so it’s helpful to let them know that not only do you have merch for sale but you’ll be happy to sign a CD or poster for them. The next time you’re on stage, mention you have a merch table with lots of fabulous stuff. The best way to ensure you don’t forget this is to incorporate it right into your set list. It’s super easy to do. When making your set list, pick two spots and mark it as “Merch Reminder” that way you will not forget once you hit the stage.
Step 3 – Bundle Your Merchandise
Fans like things simple. So why not make it easy for them to give you a $20 bill or swipe on your Square (for credit/debit cards) by bundling two things together. I’ve seen bands put together simple bundles that make the deal look too good to pass up. You can offer 2 CDs and a sticker for one low price or maybe a CD and a t-shirt combo. You can easily increase your earnings just by playing it smart with bundling. Get creative and have fun with it.
Step 4 – Be At The Merch Table Immediately After Your Set
After your show, get yourself to your merch table immediately. Run to it if you have to because this is your optimal selling time. Don’t piddle around on stage. Don’t head out back to smoke weed. I see far too many artists not capitalizing on this immense opportunity to make money. And don’t think you’re too good to hang out with your fans. Get someone to pack your guitar and mic while you go talk to your admirers. This shows you care about them. Think of yourself as a salesperson because if you want to make money, you just inherited the title. Be approachable. Smile. And listen. You do this, I guarantee you will make a huge impression on everyone including the people who own/run/bartend/book the place. And, cha-ching!, you will make more money.
Step 5 – Walk Around And Ask For The Sale
Whenever I counsel an artist, I ask them to do this and then report back to me. It never fails that they make money with this plan. After your set, when you’re done talking to people at the merch table, get some CDs in one hand and your mailing list in the other and go walk around and talk to people. Don’t be timid. Many artists tell me they are super shy off stage. If you would like to earn more money, you need to get bold after your set and go talk to people. In all my years running the merch table at GoGirls shows, I was fascinated with watching people. You’ll be amazed to know that there are always people in the audience who never leave their seat, many times too shy to walk over to the merch table. But if you walk up to them, strike up conversation, and simply ask them if they would like to join your mailing list and buy a CD, most times the answer will be a resounding “Yes.” Try it because you have nothing to lose. The worse thing that will happen is they say no. It’s no big deal. Smile and move on to the next person.
If you have already implemented all five steps, my hat goes off to you. If not, give these a try and report back to me. I’d love to hear how it works out. Making money in the music business is always within your reach. Now go get some cha-ching!
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