Musicians and Bands: 5 Tips for Selling More at the Merch Table

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Sell More Merch at ConcertsWe’ve all experienced it: You just played a killer show. The venue was packed. The crowd loved you. And yet . . . you only sold 2 CDs (and one of them was to your little sister, Sammy).

Getting your fans to the merch table can be tricky and also one of the last things you want to think about when you’re dealing with sound checks, set lists and late bass players.

But putting some time and thought into how you sell can pay off . . .literally.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Paxton)

1. Step up Your Presentation

How many times have you seen a band drag out a cardboard box at the end of their show and place it at the foot of the stage?

Then somebody mumbles something into the mic about CDs and walks away. If you want to sell merch, you need to SELL it. Present it in an attractive way and put your best salesman (or woman) at the helm.

Bring a tablecloth and maybe a suitcase you can display your albums in.

Decorate with items of interest. What will make people stop by and ask “what’s that?” or say “that’s cool!”?

Instead of writing your prices on a dirty cocktail napkin, get one of your artistic friends or bandmates to create a sign with style. What about calligraphy, a woodcut or a painting?

Bring tape, tacks, hangers and whatever else you need to display your T-shirts, posters, and other merch in a semi-orderly fashion, so fans can easily see what’s available.

Set up the merch before you play, and make sure it’s attended to during your performance.

Bring a light. Clubs are dark. Make sure your merch is visible.

2. Give Them Payment Options

Make sure to bring some one-dollar bills for change, and don’t charge 9.99 for anything unless you have a big bag of change.

Not everybody has cash on hand. Sign up for CD Baby’s Swiper program so you can take credit cards at your shows, or use one of those nifty iPhone apps that take credit cards.

Get one of those “Accepts Visa/Mastercard” table tents so people know they can pay how they like.

3. Sell More than Just CDs

Not everybody still listens to CDs. Sell download cards for the digitally inclined. Sell vinyl for the music collectors.

Sell T-shirts, mugs, stickers, DVDs.

Try to think of items that your audience will connect with.

4. Sell From the Stage

You’ve got the ears of your audience. Take advantage.

Describe what you’re selling on the mic.

Introduce the person who is selling your stuff. Tell the audience how nice and approachable they are.

Don’t wait until the end of the set to sell your wares; plant the seed after your first few songs. Remind them again at the end of your set.

5. Special Offers

Special offers are a great way to encourage sales and make your fans feel appreciated.

Offer your fans a discount for buying more than one CD.

Offer a special limited-edition T-Shirt or single.

Tell your audience that everyone who stops by the merch table gets something free like a sticker or . .  I don’t know, a pocket protector?

Try a raffle or a contest.

What are your experiences at the merch booth? What worked and what didn’t? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Some great tips there but I don’t agree with point 4.
    I appreciate it’s a business but people come to a gig to see you perform and not to get a sales pitch part way through the set. You’d have to make it very very brief indeed.
    Personally I would focus more on ensuring people know merchandise is available on the night and the costs in your promotion. You’ll be doing lots of posting ads for the gig through on line social media anyway so push it there. Then make sure your point of sale at the gig is noticeable.

  • Chris

    I think that pointing out the merch booth at a show can be done tastefully. I've seen it done many times. But not every marketing strategy should be employed by every musician. Just find the ones that work for you and go with them 🙂

    Chris B @ CD Baby

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  • On our first tour, my band, Midwest Skies, purchased our own small “tour table” to place our merch on. We then began the ritual of having people sign the table; from old fans and new fans to complete strangers and other bands. This accomplished several things:

    1. It gave us a location to sell, which was handy in small venues with no tables. Plus, the table was small and folded easily, making it simple to keep in the trailer.

    2. It was a great ice breaker. There’s no pressure in asking somebody to sign a table, and, to my recollection, we were never turned down!

    3. Once people approached the table, conversation was much easier and less awkward. We’d ask them about their taste in music, give them a wristband or free sticker, and see if they were interested in any CD’s or shirts.

    4. After the tour, the table makes a cool memento to look back at.

    Pretty simple idea that has probably been responsible for over half of our merch sales. We even bring the table to venues with merch tables, just so we can keep people coming back!

  • Cool idea!

  • CW

    Don’t like #4 either. Feels forced no matter how it’s done.

    • alt0182

      Some people are just “afraid to sell”. They feel bad or guilty asking hard-earned fans for their hard-earned money. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

      The easiest way is just to say “here’s one from the new CD, we have a few with us, just catch one of us during the break.”

  • Dust Rhinos

    We have found that making a small merch menu and placing it on every table helps our merch sales greatly. We list all of our CDs and a few songs off of each and the prices for all of our other merch such as t-shirts, stickers buttons and BBQ sauce (a cool thing to have but not great margins). There are lots of times that we have people coming to buy before we start playing.

  • wworshiper

    I give merchandise away (one of every thing I sale) during the concert/sermon. I usually do this right before I sing or preach. It is fun, and I get to share about each item in a nice way as I am giving them away. Sold $2000 one time that way. The people want to know what you have and a tiny bit of info about each item. It worked for me. I also have iphone app (square) on my phone to take credit/debit, as well as cash and check.

  • Stephen O'shea

    I saw a band earlier this summer selling sound activated light up t shirts which were a huge hit with the crowd since the t shirt actually lit up to the music. This could be a great idea for a band to get the attention of the crowd and promote your band. You should try looking up companies who make custom light up t shirts.

  • Tony Two Tone

    Some people seem to have a problem with number 4, but selling from the stage doesn't have to be a sales pitch. Or at least, doesn't have to seem like a sales pitch. I usually wait until the first break in our set (about 3 songs in) and just point out where the merch can be found. I've found that introducing everyone to the merch seller by name and maybe asking for a wave breaks the ice between the seller and potential customers quickly. I've also found that heading straight to the merch table from the stage (after moving equipment out of the way for the next band, obviously) is a great way of drawing attention to the area, as some people are still going to be watching you because the next band hasn't started yet.

    • cyrilpahinui

      My best technique is to say “I will be outside/front autographing if anyone wants to stop by and “walau”.. talk story. Fans want to connect and talk a little. Too many bands I go to see stay back stage during intermission or at the end of the show. I usually don’t buy anything if they are not around.

      If you are out front when they exit they will most likely stop by to shake hands. Have someone doing the actual selling who also mentions autographing and who has a zip knife to open the plastic. Works great for me and I am still selling plenty of my oldest productions to the new fans who I have made.