When it comes to making merchandise I think that a lot of bands are making the same basic mistakes. I wanted to break down a few of these for you because merch is y’know – how most of these bands make money and we need to make sure they are getting taken care of.
First and foremost, you need to be making sure you’re getting cool designs, then you need to focus on making things that people actually buy. Finally – you’ve got to make the availability obvious and make it actually look attractive. I know none of these things seem complicated, but people don’t do them!
Making Cool Designs
Look – getting a design is worth the investment. Every single time. If you’re not making these investments you’re putting yourself at dramatic risk. If you just want to let the bassist's girlfriend do the design (Wait… bassists don’t have girlfriends, lets say it was the guitarist's girlfriend) then realize you’re not going to sell as many shirts as if you got a professional.
It’s so important to have designs that are good and showcase your aesthetic. If you can’t let people see that and understand what you’re about then you are really undervaluing what you could be doing. Shirt designs are a crucial part of your overall aesthetic. If you don’t let people into that then you are going to be losing an amazing branding opportunity.
Making Things People Actually Buy
I know I constantly push all sorts of creative merch ideas, but you need to be careful you are also pushing things that people actually buy. You’ve got to be sitting down and figuring out what the market wants, because at the end of the day it is the only deciding factor.
This means that if you don’t have an audience of hipsters or underground enthusiasts, don’t put out cassettes. If your audience is all older dudes then don’t print women's cut shirts or print too many smalls. You need to figure out what your people actually want to buy. DO this by looking at what the big bands in your genre sell.
Making It Obvious You Have Things For Sale
I know this seems like a real ‘DUH’ moment – but it’s insane to me how many bands don’t make it blatantly obvious that they have stuff up for sale. They complain about how they can’t make money but then they never talk about their merch or showcase it or present it well at the merch stand. This is stuff you need to be focusing on.
One of my favorite ways to work on this is to have an actual good photoshoot with the merch. Hire a model and have them take pictures showcasing the merchandise and making it clear that you do good work and you do it well. If people can see the merch presented in an attractive, logical way, then it will pay off.
Merch doesn’t need to be hard you just need to do it right. You need to focus on having quality designs, generate the types of products people are actually hungry for and then really guide people into the sale by posting about the merch and presenting it nicely. It’s really that easy.