This post was written by guest contributor brian botkiller.
We all know that the merch booth is very important to every band – any band, big or small, has a merch table. Think of it; there’s been a merch table at every show you’ve been to! It stands to reason, then, that you should have a strong merch presence both at shows, and on the internet. Let’s go over some ways you can achieve that.
What merch should you make?
The usual merch is always a good bet: shirts, stickers, buttons, and CDs – we’ll talk about places to make that stuff later on; but, don’t be afraid to step outside the box, or sometimes, in! I created a box set of my electronic music offerings I’ve made over the past ten years and began selling it recently; I included CDs, shirts, buttons, a live video DVD, pictures, and a USB stick with all my digital music; all of these things make for a fun package for your fans to get.
If you don’t have enough material for a package like this yet, don’t worry! You can always have fun making other pieces of merch; paint, create unique pieces that you will only sell at one or two shows, and advertise! If you knit, knit some cool wristbands for your band. Utilize the many skills of your band members to create unique merch that your fans will want because it’s limited edition! You can also really tap into each member’s skill set this way, and really use everyone’s skills to their fullest potential.
Fun things to make and sell include:
- Paintings/printed art from the band members
- USB sticks with mp3s, videos, and more on them – purchase inexpensive USB sticks at Newegg.com, fill them up, and sell them!
- Limited edition shirts – grab some fabric paint and make your own shirts with stencils and your artistic hand – these can be great for die-hard fans!
- Knitted/sewn goods by band members
- Download cards for digital music from our good friends, CD Baby: http://members.cdbaby.com/music-download-cards.aspx
Many of these options can be of low cost to you, and you can sell them to fans at a good price, get your band name out there, and create unique merch!
Making the merch – your options
You have many options for making your merch; you can find someone in your locality who creates stickers and shirts, and give them your business; most local screen printers will work with you to create designs for shirts and stickers, and print them for you at a low cost. ”Google” around to find local printers, or talk to other bands about where they made their merch and with whom.
You can also make merch online very easily using services such as merchsales.com, cafepress.com, and zazzle.com – all of these services allow you to make merch using online interfaces which are quick and easy to use, and require a minimal knowledge of design. If you have a logo, you can upload it, choose what you want it on (hats, buttons, even coffee cups), and then virtually create your merch on the site. When you direct people to buy from you, they actually buy from the website, which prints and mails it for you. You get a piece of the total sale after splitting it with one of these websites, and your fan is happy!
There are also many online screen printers who will create stickers and other merch for you. One of my favorite sticker companies is 123stickers.com – their turnaround is quite fast, and they offer a wide variety of stickers. Use stickers as quick give-aways to fans at shows; they’re worth selling if you can sell them, but they also make great quick hand outs.
The list of sites can go on and on for merch creation; just take your time finding the best rate and turnaround for you, and make sure you have a good design for anything you plan on making – remember, if it’s not eye-catching, people won’t want to wear it!
At the booth – how to stand out!
First off, make your merch table stand out. Just putting some CDs and shirts on a merch booth will make it blend into the background of a dark club very easily. Get some lights, preferably ones that aren’t just white light bulbs, and dress the booth up. Christmas lights are great, but anything that’s cool looking and not too obtrusive will help your cause. Consider other things that will draw people to the merch booth; in my band, Vertigo Venus, we’ve recently integrated a Super Nintendo system (easily acquired via ebay) and some games plus a small TV into our booth. Get some games that people want to play, and play with your fans! Offer up free CDs and other goods if they can best you at Street Fighter. Ask everyone who comes to play for their email address, and offer a free mp3 download if they give it to you. Your merch booth will get a lot more attention by doing things like this. Don’t be afraid to experiment. What about a makeshift photo booth at the merch table? Fans could get their photo with the band, and get some merch after! Have fun with it; the merch table should be fun!
And, most of all, have someone at the merch table at all times! This is important. Don’t leave it unattended; if you do, you can lose a sale, or worse, something could get stolen! Enlist a friend if possible, or if only the band can watch the table, split duties so as to give everyone some time to get around before your set.
How to sell that merch!
Keep a cashbox, of course; keep it locked, and in a safe place. Keep an inventory sheet of how much of each good you started the night with, and ended with. Track your sales and giveaways.
If you want to accept credit cards, and you have a smart phone, check out SquareUp: http://www.square.com – this awesome app will let you take credit cards anywhere, and they will even provide you with a card scanner that plugs into your phone! You’ll be taking more orders this way, so don’t miss out on sales by not taking credit cards!
[editor's note: also be sure to have a CD Baby swiper in case you're in a club that doesn't get cell reception-- of which there are many!]
To sell on the internet, you have some great options if you use Zazzle or another online site, because you get a virtual store which you can direct fans to. You can also consider building your own online merch store into your website if you use Hostbaby, using some of the great tools available to you. You can embed links to these online stores easily, and push traffic to them via your social networks and at shows.
These are just some basic ideas; I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’re selling merch and what you’re selling, so please comment! Best of luck to you out there – now, go sell some merch!