The rewards of creating music range from the deep satisfaction of writing a new song to the glowing pride of a successful performance. These feelings bolster our confidence, but do little to compensate for the financial investment often tied to making music. While selling your music via CDs and downloads is a good start, you should also consider investing in band merchandise to promote your band and cover the cost of instruments, rehearsal spaces, recording equipment and more.
In a Rolling Stone article (7/04), Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba spoke about the importance of merchandise: “Merch sales are what kept us going. Even now, we’re still not making our living from playing the shows. Merch is where we make our profit.” In that same story, John Mayer commented on merchandise sales and the current state of the recording industry: “You’re not making that much money off records anymore, so until people can figure out how to make a re-writable Hanes Beefy-T, merch is one of the last bastions of individuality, commerce and style that an artist has left.”
Echoing those sentiments, Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls told NPR (1/17/07): “We make almost no money off our recordings themselves.” To earn a steady income, NPR interviewer Chris Arnold noted that “The Dresden Dolls can take in more than $1,000 a night selling merchandise, which makes the ‘merch table’ a major source of income why they’re on the road.”
While generating money is the most obvious benefit of band merchandise, the valuable impressions made from exposure to potential fans is just as important. Arming your current fan base with a fashionable marketing tool will only help to promote your band and raise your profile. To this end, musicians should take great care in creating logos and images that accurately reflects their sound and image while appealing to consumers. For inspiration, turn to Threadless.com for a wide range of arresting designs. If you don’t have the skills to create the design, try cutting costs by recruiting a graphic arts student to handle the project for you.
Once the perfect design is approved, identify the medium that will give you the greatest return. A quick Google search found a wealth of companies dedicated to meeting the merchandise needs of independent artists. Here are just a few of the deals out there: 100 printed t shirts for $405 at WeNeedMerch.com,
500 1″ buttons for $100 at BusyBeaver.net, 250 5.5″ x 1.42″ stickers for $25 at StickerGuy.com and 100 posters for $175 at BandWear.com.
Selling your band merchandise can be done at live shows or online via your web site. Create links at social music sites like Echoboost.com to draw more traffic and use secure payment services, such as PayPal, to handle the monetary transactions. Email fan club members when new products become available and try offering special packages, bundling your CDs or downloads with t shirts, buttons and/or stickers to drive sales and spread the word about your music.