Written by Diane Martin, Rock the Dream
Most musicians have a goal to play live shows and go on tour. If you’ve made it to this point, then you’re doing something right, but make sure you’re making the most of these opportunities. Music by itself generates very little income, even for big artists, so things like concert tickets and merchandise are crucial in being profitable as an artist. You should always be advertising your merch, but especially at shows.
These are things to check off for your merch booth from an experienced merch seller:
1. SET-UP: Set up your merch display where it’s highly visible and most convenient for fans to access, probably near the entrance/exit. Make sure the merch itself is visible, especially clothes, and have a set up that looks professional. There are affordable options on amazon for different sizes and kinds of displays. You can use fold up tables, but consider investing in tablecloths if they look cheap.
2. SIGNS & LIGHTING: Post signs that are big, clear, and to the point. List what forms of payment are accepted. In the darkness of a music venue, your merch booth should shine and glow. Have your signs light up, and/or use glow-sticks, string lights, etc. to stand out.
3. CASH & CARDS: Be ready with plenty of change for cash purchases, but make sure you can accept card payments as well. You will lose out on sales if you don’t. Accepting Apple Pay, Zelle, PayPal and even Venmo is a plus too.
4. WHAT TO SELL: Having a large inventory can be expensive and is unnecessary. For clothing, when there are more than 2 choices of artwork design, it often confuses the buyer, especially male buyers. For the average touring band/artist promote 2 designs in T-shirt and spaghetti strap women’s tops or boy beaters. Supply in black and one other color that is currently the hot fashion trend. Make sure you put thought into the design so people will want to buy for the look, even if not for you logo.
Add 1-2 other merch options, such as hats, CD’s, posters, wristbands, stickers, to offer different price ranges, so you maximize that last consumer dollar. Limit the choices, so you can better manage your inventory budget. Be creative here and think about what your fans would love.
5. CONNECT WITH FANS: Too many bands leave their booths abandoned during their sets. Have someone in charge of running it the entire night. You should also use it as a meet n’ greet spot to interact personally with your fans before and after each show. Not only will audience members be more likely to come to the booth and buy your merch, but they’ll also become more dedicated fans and attend more shows. Many diehard fans are met and made at the merch booth.
6. FAN LIST: Always encourage people to sign up for your Fan List. Make sure your signup sheet or link is visible, and let customers know when they make a purchase. You can even offer a discount or free download music card for signing up, which will definitely get more people. Ensure that your email list includes their name, city, state, email address and cell, so you can specifically contact them when advertising for events in their area.
7.ORGANIZATION: You or someone on your team must be a good record-keeper and track sales. You want to see which items sold and in what quantity, so you’ll know what to re-stock, the sizes that sell best in what areas, the pricing levels, and profitability.
A suggestion to help organize sales inventory while touring is to wrap your clothing merch with masking tape, marking the item and size. With each sale, tape this label into a small notebook with the pages dated. The best way to keep a count of the other, lower-priced items is by counting after each show, sorry not much help there.
8. NEW ITEMS: Sell something new on every tour. If you’ve been touring for a while and return to the same areas, make sure there are new options for fans that have your old merch. Plus, you’ll want to be advertising your newer releases.
9. BARGAINS/UPSELL: Everyone loves a discount, so consider doing sales such as “CDs are $12; any two CDs for $20,” or “Buy two t-shirts, get a free CD.” This will capitalize on the fans already interested in making a purchase.
And, consider making a sale even when a fan is short a few dollars. This strategy is debatable, but I think bands who are working to become full-time should have a “sliding-scale” mentality when it comes to merch. As long as you at least break even, If you make a new fan who helps spread your name, that “loss” of profit may have been well worth it.