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Music Merch – A £3.5bn Industry (6 Tips To Up Your Merch Game)

No matter how well the tracks are produced, most modern musicians cannot pay their bills with audio alone. In the absence of live shows through the Coronavirus pandemic, it has become more certain than ever that growing musicians must diversify their income stream to sustain a living wage.

 

Putting your personal bias against the music industry aside (we all have one, it’s okay), music merch is a $3.5 billion industry of which every working musician should be taking advantage.

The Path to Money Making Music Merch

 

It’s not about the money, man. Yeah, we know. But, rent, food, and bills all cost money, so any way that you can help finance your life between payouts from music streaming platforms will help you enjoy it.

 

We’re not asking you to sell your soul — but music merchandise is one of the most underrated ways to earn an income, solidify fans, and expose your catalog to a whole new audience.

 

Think about some of the most “iconic” musicians of all time. Oftentimes, the images associated with some of the biggest global artists are not of the musicians themselves, or even an album cover, but a piece of merch.

 

Run DMC, Nirvana, Sublime, AC DC, Pink Floyd, the Ramones, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Joy Division, Slayer, Black Flag… do you understand where we are going with this? All of these artists have very iconic T-shirts, and while you are probably not a rock n’ roll legend, it is never too late to hit the printing press and sell some music merch.

 

Below, we will outline 6 tips to take the music industry by storm and transform your merch game into a well-oiled, money-making, marketing machine.

 

 

#1: Find Your Medium

 

With unlimited potential and boundless personalization, merch can be anything and everything, so long as people will want to buy it.

We recommend proceeding with caution. Although you may be sure that 50 t-shirts are going to sell in no time, it is pretty easy to drain your bank account and drown your living space with stockpiles of unsold merch.

You’ve chosen music as your medium to express ideas or make people dance, now it’s time to choose the right medium for your next piece of merchandise. While you are free to sell anything that won’t land you time in prison, here are a few of the most common (and profitable) music merch mediums to inspire your next product:

 

  • T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, and other clothing
  • Physical copies of albums as CDs, tapes, and vinyl
  • Stickers, patches, posters, keychains, magnets, and more.

 

#2: Collaborate with Visual Artists

 

 

While we are firm believers in pure artistic expression, many musicians who want to exercise too much control over a brand run the risk of alienating themselves from untapped potential. Many musicians are great visual artists, but that does not necessarily mean that they need to design every album cover, t-shirt, and sticker.

Take for instance the Velvet Underground & Nico, which is one of the most well-renowned albums of all time, and has inspired countless album and t-shirt sales for the better part of the last century. Would this album have been as successful if Lou Reed and the gang had not hired Andy Warhol to design the now-iconic “banana” artwork?

If you’ve sought out (or already know) a reputable artist with a growing catalog, your merch design will also likely land itself in their portfolio or at least a dinner party conversation. Nothing is more powerful than word of mouth, and collaborations are a great way to bring more people into the creative process to ultimately reach a wider audience.

 

 

#3: Use the Right Supplier

 

In today’s digital landscape, it has never been easier to find music merch suppliers both online and in your city. Although there are pros and cons of using a fully digital supplier, we highly encourage musicians to look locally for custom-good suppliers to exercise the most control over their product and help build a sustainable, artistic community.

When approaching suppliers, remember that you are in complete control of your merch supply, but manufacturing companies need to make money as well. Start slow with a new supplier to ensure product quality and work to develop a relationship that will benefit everyone involved.

And of course, no matter who you choose, don’t forget to send your invoice payment with a link to your Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc. Most print shops are always looking for new tunes to listen to during long and demanding studio hours.

#4: Be Your Own Biggest Fan

 

Although you probably don’t want to be seen as a walking advertisement for the music you produce, you kind of already are, right? Whether you are shy and introverted or ready and eager to discuss your thoughts and feelings on the best reverb tones, people are always going to ask you how the band is doing, what you are up to, and whether any new tracks are dropping soon.

Knowing this, you have to be your own biggest fan, and merch is a reflection of that. If you want to grow your audience, then you should have no shame in passively promoting your music. Wear the shirt, put the sticker on your car, and drink from the limited-edition signature band mug., it may just strike up the right conversation.

Who knows, maybe a fan in the crowd will ask you to throw the shirt off your back at the next show? Let’s hope that sweaty, worn-in top has your band’s name on it. Plus, any food stains will just add a bit of extra commemorative value, right?

 

 

 

#5: Social Media, Social Media, and Social Media

 

Are you on social media? What about the new social media? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tiktok, it just keeps going and going, doesn’t it? Whether you like it or not, social media is the best way to promote products and build an artistic community in this day and age.

If you are using paid marketing techniques or simply giving it your all organically each day, a large social media presence is a great way to sell merch to people who enjoy your content. Once sold, you may encourage fans to post their merch so that you can reshare their experience and keep the social cycle moving forward.

Too busy composing your next masterpiece to think about hashtags? It is always possible to hire someone to run your social media accounts. Although it may initially be tough to give up the reigns, it is easy to picture your social media accounts as a digital merch table. Someone has to stand there and sell t-shirts while you entertain the masses, after all.

 

#6: Promotions, Giveaways, and General Joy Spreading

 

Once you’ve got the merch, your music becomes more than just an auditory experience. It creates an identity, which helps form a community. That community, of course, is spearheaded by your brand’s identity which will take on a life of its own.

What better way to win over new fans than a music merch giveaway? Free gear is the best kind of gear, and no matter what you are giving away, the contest winner will most likely tote it with pride as a true prized champion. Plus, social media giveaways that involve liking, sharing, and commenting help expose your page to new friends that are yet to check out your music.

If you are not quite ready to hand over a free t-shirt, there are many other great promos that will attract the right people. For instance, many musicians hosting benefit concerts may be able to donate all or a portion of their merch sales to a charity or cause. Beyond this, brand association with any worthy organization is always going to be great PR.

 

Final Thoughts

 

If you needed a small push in the right direction to start selling music merchandise, we hope that this article has inspired you to go forth and begin the process. From the designing stages to the point of sale or seeing your t-shirts out in public, every part of the merch process is exciting and can be very profitable if done in the right way.

Overall, we advise you to proceed with caution, design merch that you would personally enjoy, and embrace all of the victories along the way.

Need help defining yourself as an artist before you design your merch? Feel free to check out our modern music branding strategies for tips and inspiration.

 

 

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