By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
Touring is an essential part of the revenue stream for many bands, and the merchandise they sell at gigs can keep them in gas money on their way to the next show, or add up to fairly large sums in the case of larger venues. However, it is no fun trying to run a pop-up store as you are also trying to load and unload gear, deal with soundchecks, drive across the country, and of course play the shows themselves.
There’s only so much room in the van. To help bands travel lighter and sell more merchandise (typically records, T-shirts, posters, and so on), Vicci Mobile Merchandise offers an iOS app that lets fans place orders from the show without standing in line, in order to receive the merch later, at home.
On one hand, for music fans, this takes a little bit away from the immediacy of having the object(s) in their hands right there and then — but on the other hand, they won’t have to lug it around for the rest of the night. And ultimately, it could help the band they are trying to support earn a bit more from their tour.
“The biggest hassle is long lines — you get to the front, and they are sold out of merchandise, or it’s just a hassle carrying it with you,” said Sean Huntington, CEO and cofounder of Vicci Mobile Merchandise. ”So with our platform, you buy it, and we drop-ship it to your home so you can get back to enjoying the concert.”
Bands can continue to offer an actual merch table if they want, or they can skip it altogether. To alert show-goers about the app, they can display banners, or run a video on the stage.
“We did Donny and Marie’s Christmas tour, and we had a video that played, [saying] ‘Get your merch at the booth or download the Vicci app and get it directly on your phone,’ and we had a great response,” said Huntington. “We’ve even had some great feedback from marathons and 10Ks that have a lot of merchandise, but they just can’t fulfill the capacity for all the fans that are there. And [dealing with merch in the traditional way is] a huge hassle for the artist — each night, they have to unload, count it in, count it out, and maintain that merchandise, and it’s just a huge process for them.”
Another advantage of using an app instead of lugging merchandise across the country, along with the amps, guitars, and all the rest: Bands don’t necessarily need to print a bunch of posters, make T-shirts, or get vinyl records produced until they know there’s a customer for each one.
For now there’s only an iOS version, so most bands will probably want to use this to lighten their load, rather than replacing their merch table with this app entirely, although an Android app is in the works.
So, what does it cost? Bands or anyone else with stuff to sell at events can offer items via the Vicci app without spending anything up front; after that, it works on a sliding scale. If the band or event organizer wants to run the app and fulfill orders on its own, Vicci gets 10 percent of the revenue for running the app; or, if Vicci handles the customer service, support, order fulfillment, on-demand printing, and creating images of the products, they get up to 40 percent. Either way there’s more room in the van, and one less thing to worry about on a tour.