Branded band merch is an important part of the fan-artist relationship. It creates a connection, allowing someone to physically hold on to a reminder of a concert, or hear music in their head when they wear that band logo.
Selling band merch online has evolved into a lucrative income stream for many artists over the last few years. And this isn’t just big names - fans of indie artists have embraced the chance to support their favorite local acts by purchasing T-shirts, mugs, and more.
However, there is more to the art of selling band merch online than just placing a few items into your website store. Before starting to sell merch, you’ll want to set yourself up for success by making a plan and following through.
Here is how to sell band merch online successfully:
This first step in selling band merch online will be to decide what to sell. There are a few factors that should inform this decision. You’ll need to figure out your own personal brand and then do some research to figure out the kind of products to sell. Be sure to choose products that reflect your music, and that your fans would be willing to pay for.
Determine artist branding
Before you think about selling merch online, it’s important to figure out your artist brand. This will be a distinctive look that you hold onto throughout your career - though it may evolve. Your branding informs the colors and fonts you choose to distinguish your look, as well as what your band logo may look like. These elements all come into play when you develop your merch.
Research what to sell
Next, figure out what other bands similar in sound or genre to yours are selling. Chances are they’ve had some success selling certain items to a fanbase that is like yours, and you may as well use that insight. You might also consider a few creative merch options - as an artist, adding some quirky things could highlight your individuality and appeal to those fans that know you best.
Ask your fans
To round out your research, ask your fans what kind of merch they’d like to see. You may be surprised by demand for a product related to a previous album, or maybe your fans are happy to wear shirt styles you wouldn’t expect. Add a poll to your website, ask on social media, and note the results.
Make your list of merch ideas
Finally, make a list of all of these potential products. From that list, see which ones best reflect your brand and will most appeal to your fans. You can always add items later on; there is no harm in starting small and then choosing to sell more items, or switching stock as the seasons change.
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For any indie artist or band, budget is likely a factor in what kind of merch to sell. Figure out a balance of custom and scalable merch that works best for you. This will give you the flexibility to offer items at different price points and accommodate a wider range of fans.
Consider custom merch and scalable merch
When you’re looking at a budget, consider what you can realistically create at a price point that’s sustainable. Merch has been a good money maker for bands in recent years, and it’s worth putting thought into what kind of merch to sell. Consider how much time it would take to create and/or ship your items - be sure to choose merch products that are sustainable for your wallet and your time.
Scalable physical merch:
Scalable physical merch refers to any tangible item that can be quickly and easily produced. These are items that will meet the needs for fans who want to support you but may not have much of a budget to do so. Some examples of scalable physical merch include stickers, mugs, badges, and phone cases.
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. You can also include limited-edition vinyl or cassettes in this category to satisfy any die-hard fans or audiophiles.
Custom physical merch:
Custom merch is often handmade and special, appealing to fans who want something unique. These products are more difficult and time-consuming to produce than scalable merch, but you can sell them at a much higher price point.
If you want to try selling this kind of merch, handwritten lyric sheets can be a meaningful item for deep fans. You can also charge a premium price for any merch you’ve autographed, such as albums or posters.
Custom digital merch:
Similar to custom physical merch, you can charge a lot more for anything personalized. If you’re tech-friendly, consider 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 music theory knowledge and love teaching, offer a limited number of online music lessons (either one-on-one or small group) via Zoom, or Google Hangouts.
Scalable digital merch:
If you don’t have much time, but still want to try selling digital merch, scalable options may be your best bet. These could include recorded lessons or concerts, videos that take your fans behind the scenes, or sample packs, sheet music, and more.
Scalable digital merch requires some upfront investment of time (and sometimes money), but since there are no physical production or shipping costs involved, all of the revenue you earn in this category is pure profit once you’ve created the products.
Determine your timeline to sell merch
It’s great to have big ideas, but producing and selling massive amounts of merch may cause you to burn out quickly. Plus, rolling out different options slowly gives you reason to promote different products throughout the year.
Once you’ve decided on the products that best suit you as an artist, create a timeline for what you will sell and when. Start out with a few popular items that are easy to produce and at a mid-to low price range. Once you know what works, you can sell more or create other options using the same product line or logo.
You will also want to give yourself lots of time to make your custom merch. Indicate the timeline for creation and shipping on items that may be one-of-a kind or take a little longer to produce. If you plan to sell scalable physical merch, consider using a print-on-demand service like Printful. This way you won’t have upfront costs, and you can determine your profit margin, which is a consideration for your initial budget.
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to sell and what your upfront budget looks like, you’re ready to start ordering and adding merch to your website store. Check back to your list of merch items and highlight the ones you’d like to start with. Then you can either work with a local company to order products, or you can set up an account with Printful to create print-on-demand items for dropshipping.
If you’ll be creating custom pieces, or signing posters, allow yourself adequate processing time. If you’re having trouble deciding how much to produce upfront, you could run a pre-sale campaign to get an idea of initial numbers for different products, then fulfill those once the deadline to order has passed.
Order merch in bulk
If you are planning a tour, or sticking to limited variations, ordering in bulk can be a more lucrative option for your merch supply.
You can reduce spending 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 per unit, it makes sense to order those extra 20 shirts).
If you do order merch in bulk, be sure to check your design specs carefully and place your order well in advance - last-minute changes and rush orders can cost you a lot.
Print-on-demand merch options
Using a print-on-demand service is a great option for selling music merchandise. It eliminates the need to purchase and store inventory, the tools for creating items that appeal to a range of fans are seamless. This can be an excellent way to earn passive income, with shipping handled for you!
With a Bandzoogle website, Printful is integrated into your store. This allows you to quickly set up and sell products directly - and you can easily switch products as needed.
Overall, though, don’t rush this process; you should have a clear idea of how many items you can initially add to your store. The goal is to make your online store appealing to your fans, offering something for everyone without your website becoming cluttered.
Another stocking option is to track inventory, making limited edition items available only until they sell out. This is a good way to finish up selling a run of merch that you carry with you to live shows, for example.
Your best option to ensure you have total control over your online merch store is to sell directly to fans through your own music website. This way you control the design and branding, and you can manage a Store page as the official destination for fans to purchase your products. All sales are commission-free with a Bandzoogle website, so you make more money.
Create a seamless experience
Once you’ve created a website with an online store, you’ll be adding your physical and digital merch products. Take time to add visually compelling imagery for each product, and a brief, catchy description that articulates the product well. Your text should display in a clear, easy-to-read font that stands out from the page background color.
Consider a first-time buyer: your store itself must be easy to navigate and take in at a glance. Create multiple sections if you have a lot of products in different categories, or if you are also selling digital music online in the same store. Your best bet for success with merch is to start fairly small, with a mix of print-on-demand merch and a few interesting custom options, and expand the options as you see demand increase.
Once you have your band merch set up, visit your online merch store with fresh eyes, or ask a friend or bandmate to check it out and offer feedback. Are all the products clear and easy to read? Is there an easy way to contact you in case there’s a question or an issue? You will also want to make sure that the mobile checkout experience is seamless.
Go to the next level
Once you’ve been selling band merch online for a while, consider adding more variations to take your sales further. Setting up product bundles is a great way to entice fans to buy an assortment of things, and to offer value. Another great option is adding upsell options to your merch store. Be sure to review your offerings regularly, and change things up. Bundles can be swapped seasonally, and upsells work well when trying to clear out stock.
A well set up store will inspire confidence in your fans and nudge them to complete that purchase, so make sure there’s thought and care reflected here.
Just as you’d promote a new album, be sure to reach out to your fanbase to start making sales. Promoting merch may sound cheesy or make you feel sales-y, but fans really do love having a tangible way to support you. That often comes from buying something to hold in their hands.
Use your mailing list
Your mailing list is likely made up of interested fans, so give them a chance to support you first with merch releases. You can offer an exclusive discount to your mailing list subscribers as a reward, or even create a piece of merch designed specifically for them.
Promote on social media
Social media is a necessary way to reach music fans, and you may have friends and fans on different platforms. Marketing your merch on social media is a great way to promote your brand and music. You can create fun video shorts to show off new products, or go in-depth with a bundle pairing. People love visuals, and customized merch adds a deeper layer of personalization, making it easy to promote.
Ask fans to share their wearables on socials with a certain hashtag, then track and reply to posts. Remember, merch is a way to amplify that connection with your fans, so continue that relationship beyond the sale.
Use Landing Pages
Once you’re comfortable selling merch, or if you want to expand your music marketing options, try Landing pages to sell a featured item. This could be handy for a new product drop, creating a campaign around a specific merch item.
You’ll be able to track your campaign and review the data to see how well your strategy worked (which is handy if you’re putting some budget behind advertising your merchandise).
Adjust your merch offerings
After some of your merch has sold, look back at the numbers to see what’s working. Adjust as needed; if digital merch is picking up steam, add something new (like a fresh sample pack). Also consider creating more options to go along with bestsellers, like multiple colors of T-shirts, or leggings if sweatpants seem to be selling well. A new merch product always provides an opportunity to promote your music.
Selling merch, from custom items to scalable print-on-demand options for everyone, is a growing income stream for many musicians. You don’t have to do everything at once, but do consider adding merch to your band website - it’s a mutually beneficial way to make some profit while strengthening connections with your fans.
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