Somewhere along the way as you steadily grow your band’s following, the question is bound to come up: Should we start selling merch?
There’s so much to consider, from what kind of band merch will sell best to actually creating an online store. This guide will get you started with all of the essentials, including how to choose merch items, where to order them, and how to sell your band merch online.
How to choose your merch
The first step is figuring out what you’re going to sell — not just items that you think are cool, but that your biggest fans are willing to spend money on. Your budget will also play a crucial role in determining what your inventory will look like.
Ask your fans
You can slap your band logo on just about anything these days, but don’t leave it up to chance. Be direct and ask your fans what they want! Put up a quick poll on your social media pages, in your email newsletter, or on your music website to get an idea of the kind of merch your fans would actually enjoy.
Research what other bands are selling
Do a bit of market research and see what other musicians have had success selling. Gather merch inspiration from bands that are similar to yours in terms of genre, brand identity, and number of followers.
Don’t break the bank
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how excited you or your fans are about a merch item if it requires an upfront investment that you simply can’t afford. Creative merch ideas are awesome (as we’ll get into below), but you need to be absolutely certain that they fit your budget. If the worst-case scenario happens and nothing sells, you should still have enough of a financial cushion left over to be able to take that loss.
Track your inventory
Be sure to keep a detailed inventory for any bulk orders you place. Buy too much, and you’ll end up with a closet full of leftover merch. Buy too little, and you’ll miss out on opportunities to monetize.
Finding the sweet spot is tricky — especially if you’ve never sold anything to your fans before — but we’d suggest that you err on the side of caution at first. Collecting pre-orders for another batch of merch because you sold out so quickly is a much better problem to have than losing money on unsold products.
Creative band merch ideas
Once you have a better idea of your budget and what your fans are interested in, the next step is to figure out a balance of custom and scalable merch that works best for you. This will give you some flexibility to offer items at different price points and accommodate a wider range of fans.
Scalable physical merch
Scalable physical merch refers to any tangible item that can be quickly and easily produced. Stickers, phone cases, and shot glasses are great offerings for fans who might be tight on cash but want to support you. Die-hard fans and audiophiles will likely seek out limited-edition vinyl or cassettes.
Wearables like T-shirts, hoodies, hats, sweatbands, and buttons are band merch staples, so it’s always a good idea to have something in that category available for purchase.
Custom physical merch
Handmade merch is more difficult and time-consuming to reproduce than scalable merch, but you can sell it at a much higher price point. Handwritten lyric sheets can be an incredibly meaningful item for true fans. You can also charge a premium price for any merch you’ve signed, such as albums or posters.
If you don’t have time to be personally involved in the merch creation process, consider collaborating with a visual artist you admire. Think of how special it would feel to receive something handcrafted that no one else in the world has. This kind of partnership also allows you to cross-promote your work to each other’s audiences, potentially bringing both of you some new fans.
Scalable digital merch
Scalable digital merch just might turn out to be your biggest moneymaker. There’s obviously going to be a small upfront investment in time and/or money, but since there’s no physical production or shipping costs involved, all of the revenue you earn in this category is pure profit.
Sell digital sheet music or guitar tabs for any fans who want to learn how to play your songs. Put together a nicely formatted ebook of your album lyrics, and perhaps include additional lyrics or poetry that no one has ever seen. If you have the resources, take your fans behind the scenes with a mini documentary or album companion that dives into the meaning, inspiration, and creative process of each song.
Custom digital merch
If your merch budget is tight but you have plenty of time on your hands, custom digital merch is a great fit for you. Similar to custom physical merch, you can charge a lot more for anything that’s personalized.
Consider offering custom ringtones, voicemail messages, or birthday videos — anything where you’re actually speaking the fan’s name and making the recording personal. If you have a deep well of music theory knowledge and love teaching, offer a limited number of online music lessons (either one-on-one or small group) via Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts.
Where to order your merch
So you’ve done some brainstorming and narrowed down exactly what you want to sell in your online merch store. But how do you actually fill those orders?
First, do some research based on the specific items you want to sell. Pay close attention to whether the company offers “print on demand” merch and handles fulfillment and shipping for you, or if you need to place your own bulk order.
If you’ve noticed other bands in your local scene selling similar items, poke around their merch stores and see which company they’re using, or just reach out to them directly and ask for a recommendation.
Print on demand
We recommend using Printful for print-on-demand merch and drop shipping. There are no minimums, there's no inventory to store, and they offer an incredible selection of items. Plus, Printful seamlessly integrates with Bandzoogle websites so you can sell your merch commission-free.
Ordering in bulk
In general, you can save money on bulk orders by limiting your designs and colors, and taking advantage of quantity price breaks (e.g., if you want 100 shirts but ordering 120 reduces the cost, it makes sense to order those extra 20 shirts). Be sure to check your design specs carefully and place your order well in advance — last-minute changes and rush orders will cost you big time.
For a DIY approach to merch, Canva’s label printing service is an excellent choice. You can save a significant amount of money by separately purchasing blank items (like water bottles, for example) and applying a professionally designed label to them yourself. Or if you have a unique merch idea (maybe you’re dying to have your band logo on a bottle of hot sauce?), printed labels can make it a reality.
How to sell band merch online
If you want total control over your online merch store, your best bet is to sell directly to fans through your own website. You control the design and branding, and you can set up a Store page to sell products to your fans, rotating merch as often you'd like.
Keep your merch store simple
When you’re selling band merch online, it’s really important that the page is clean, well-designed, and easy to navigate. If it’s too messy, your fans might click out of the page without buying anything.
You’ll ideally want to keep your merch selection pretty simple, so people can see everything you’re offering at a glance. But if you feel strongly about selling a wide variety of items, you can create separate tabs or sub-pages for each category to keep it organized.
Bandzoogle websites integrate with Stripe and EasyPost to make payment processing and shipping a breeze. Plus, every sale you make through your online store is commission-free — not only for merch, but also for tickets, crowdfunding campaigns, and fan subscriptions.
Describe your merch items
Be sure to include a brief, catchy description and at least one or two high-quality images for every item in your store. Provide a clear way for people to reach you as well, in case they have any questions or issues with their order. An email address, an embedded contact form, or a link to your “contact” page would all work.
Promote your products
Remember to use your website, blog, email list, and social media to promote your music and merch. Adding new items regularly, or swapping in special items, is a great reason to reach out and keep your fans engaged.
Getting your merch plans in order can take a bit of time, but it’s well worth the investment. Experiment with different offerings and analyze your sales — you might unlock a fantastic source of revenue that could make all the difference in your music career.
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