As soon as you start selling merch, you start turning your music into a business. You’re not just selling music anymore – you’re selling clothing, you’re selling a brand, you’re selling a lifestyle. Almost all major artists eventually turn themselves into a lifestyle brand at some point in their careers.
You may not be quite that far along in your career, but you’re probably thinking about acquiring some merch. Merch can add up to a lot of extra income over time. Even if it takes you a year to sell 75 shirts, if you’re making $15/shirt, that’s an added $1,125 to your bottom line. Nothing to sneeze at!
The problem is, merch is a big upfront investment. Shirts are going to run you at least $5/shirt, and that’s on the cheap side of things. Not everyone has hundreds of dollars lying around.
Merch gets even trickier when you purchase items that doesn’t sell. Recently, I bought about $750 worth of shirts, and they just fell flat. The color wasn’t flattering, the material was cheap-feeling, and they fit kind of funny. It was no surprise to me that I had trouble selling them.
However, lesson learned. I’ve since been rethinking my merch strategy by looking at bands and artists that seem to do merch really well. Here are a few things they seem to have in common.
Your Merch Should Be A High Quality Product
First and foremost, your merch should be something that people will actually use or wear.
Nobody will buy something that: a) looks cheap, b) feels cheap, or c) looks ugly or out of style.
Sure, sometimes people will just buy a shirt to support you, to give you a little extra cash. But the best merch are products that people would want to buy anyway if they were shopping at a store.
When it comes to selling merch, there are a few things that will turn people off right away. Try to avoid the following:
Too Much Self-Promotion
I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, but when I ordered my first ever batch of shirts, I put the Facebook logo, the Twitter logo, and our website URL right on the front of the shirt.
People still bought them, because they were being nice. But wow, they were ugly.
These day, nobody wants to walk around looking like a billboard. Your logo should be small or at least aesthetically pleasing.
Products That Don’t Fit Well And/Or Are Poorly Made
This ties into the first point, in the sense that nobody wants to wear unflattering or uncomfortable clothing.
It’s often tempting to go with the cheapest options for shirts (or other items), because the better quality shirts are very expensive. However, people can tell what a cheap shirt feels and looks like from a mile away.
They’re often heavy cotton shirts made by Gildan or similar. The fact is, they don’t look great and they don’t feel good either. If you can avoid buying these shirts, do so.
Try going with a brand like American Apparel. Their wholesale shirts are ethically made, they are lighter, they fit better, and they are always keeping up with current styles and fits.
You’ll pay more upfront, but here’s the thing: People are willing to pay more for a high quality product. Charge $25 for an American Apparel shirt. At least! People will pay it because they like your music and they like the shirt. Simple as that.
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