One of the biggest challenges facing up-and-coming musicians is money. How can you make enough cash to lose the day job and start creating music full-time? If you’ve got a following of loyal fans, it’s worth considering merchandise. It’s not a quick win but there’s an abundance of other benefits which can help you in the short-term. Here’s how to finance your creativity with music merchandise.
Benefits of Creating Music Merchandise
There are some seriously powerful benefits that come with your own brand of music merchandise. Here’s why you should get on the merch bandwagon…
It Extends Your Influence
When you’ve got people wearing your clothes, you look like the real deal. Truthfully, it takes a lot for someone to purchase and wear a t-shirt promoting an artist. They’re basically a walking advertisement for your music.
It Builds a Connection
People buy merch at gigs because it’s a shared experience they want to remember. By creating custom gear for a tour, you’re offering fans the opportunity to solidify their relationship with you and each other.
It Doesn’t Require Much Investment
You can spend as much or little money as you like on merchandise. It doesn’t require much investment. Ultimately, this comes down to the quality and creativity of what you’re selling. We’d recommend not going too cheap, it can look tacky. People won’t wear it if it doesn’t look good.
It’s a Platform for Your Creativity
Merchandise is a great platform for you to play around with. You can give fashion a try and see where it gets you. The more effort and creativity that goes into your merch, the more money you can charge for it.
It’s a Great Additional Revenue Stream
Realistically, you can’t rely on this as your main source of income. Having said that, it can top up download profits and ticket sales to help towards a full-time career in music.
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Advice and Guidance on Making Music Merchandise
Making and selling music merchandise can seem like a big step for an up-and-coming artist. If you’re unsure how best to go about this, we’ve got some advice for you.
Analyse Your Audience
There’s a big difference between making music people want to listen to and making music people want to endorse. Analyse your audience, are they dedicated enough to care about your merch? If you’re unsure, start with an on-demand style company. This means you won’t be burdened by boxes of stock you can’t shift.
Settle on an Image
Use your merchandise to solidify your image. What type of gear do you want to be associated with? Looking towards the styles, sub-culture and fashion tastes of your audience will help you settle on an image.
Guard Against Counterfeit Items
If you get big enough, there may be some companies selling counterfeit versions of your merchandise. Regularly check online marketplaces for this. Report them where possible.
Don’t Expect to Make Lots of Money Straight Away
The success of your merchandise will depend entirely on the size and dedication of your fanbase. It’s reasonable to assume you won’t make lots of money straight away. If you want to work full-time in music, use this as an additional (not sole) revenue stream.
Make It Professional
No matter how much people like your music, if your merchandise is poor they won’t buy it. Get professional designers involved to ensure your gear is actually desirable.
So much of making it in music is about building and maintaining relationships. Merchandise is no different. Do everything you can to create positive, lasting working relationships with designers, manufacturers, account managers and distribution teams.
Think Outside the Box
Try to be a bit creative when it comes to your merchandise. Think about the different items you can put your logo/design on. T-shirts are easy but they’re not your only option. Having said this, don’t go too adventurous until you can validate the demand from your fans.
Find Out What Fans Actually Want
Talk to your fans, ask them what they want. Ask whether they’d actually buy the items you’re planning to make. There’s no point making t-shirts if your following would prefer snapbacks or posters.
Promote, Promote, Promote
This is where you really need to put in the hard work. You need to do everything you can to promote your merchandise. Share it on social media repeatedly, include links to online stores in bios and YouTube descriptions. You can even snap yourself wearing your own gear. Why not perform in some at your next gig?
Where to Create Music Merchandise
Music merchandise comes in many different shapes and forms. From CDs to t-shirts, here are some of the best platforms to use to get the ball rolling.
Createspace is an Amazon owned company which will create and package professional CDs for you to sell on Amazon.com. They’ll take a cut from the sale of each unit. Create your own artwork and tunes, they’ll do the rest. This is a US company best suited for Stateside artists, though they do ship internationally.
Kunaki will create retail-ready CDs and DVDs for you to sell online. They can also cover distribution too if you require.
Merchify offer on-demand printing for clothing, bags and more. Simply create a product, advertise it on Shopify and once it’s sold, they’ll produce and ship it for you.
Bravado are more suited to larger acts but are certainly worth a look. They have a team of designers who can create your merch. They also have good relationships with bricks and mortar companies. They’ll get your merchandise in real stores, selling to fans on the high street.
DizzyJam lets you create a free online store, design merchandise and sell it without any stock or payment concerns. They’ll create your merch, ship it and then send you the profit.
Digital Stores (UK)
Digital Stores will create and manage an online store for you. This includes sourcing stock, warehousing, customer services and fulfilling orders. If you want to offer your fans the ultimate online store experience, this is certainly an option to consider.
Complete Directory for UK Band Merchandise
The Unsigned Guide offer a complete directory of UK merchandise companies. You can sort this by UK towns and cities so you can find the most relevant companies for you. This is hugely valuable if you’re struggling to pick a company to use.
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Where to Sell Your Music Merchandise
Some of the platforms mentioned above offer the opportunity to sell your merchandise too. If you’re getting your gear made elsewhere and need some inspiration on where to sell it, here’s our pick.
Creating your own store on Ebay and Amazon is a seriously easy way to sell your products. It’s simple, easy, doesn’t cost much and will give you complete control. If you’re not selling your merchandise here already, now’s the time to start.
Having a physical presence at a gig or festival is a great way to get your name out there. It also lets you communicate directly with fans. Nothing says dedication more than hitting the stage and taking to the merch store after to sell products yourself.
We’ve already spoken about the importance of using Bandcamp for promoting your music. The platform also offers the opportunity to sell physical merchandise and digital music.
There are plenty of sites out there which will help your create and manage an online e-commerce store. Companies like Music Glue allow your fans to buy music, merch, tickets and experiences with ease.
Promote Your Merchandise with a Music Video
One of the most effective ways to promote your music merchandise is via a music video. You don’t need a studio, skilled camera work or sleek editing skills to be able to master this. With Rotor, you can make stylish music or promotional videos without the need for specialist skills or wads of cash. All you need to do is pick your style, upload any bespoke shots you want included and upload your music – we’ll do the rest. Find out more about how Rotor works here.