While marketing merch may not be most musician's favorite part of the business, it remains a critical aspect. Here we review some tips on how to create promotional items that will market the band independently.
Guest post by Emma Miller
True fans love to have and collect items with an imprint of their favorite band. It’s a detail that says something about them. It may remind them of the fantastic weekend in 2013 spent at Pitchfork Music Festival, and the great Run the Jewels show or Leonard Cohen’s last performance in New Zealand that they attended.
However, marketing is perhaps the part of the business that musicians want to deal with the least. But, if you’re just setting your solo or band career off, you are the one who plays the role of the lead vocal, tour manager, and PR. You want to provide your fans with band T-shirts and other items? Then you’ll have to know how to create and promote them. By rolling out merchandise and promotional items, you can benefit from your sales and marketing. The 20-year-old guy who bought the shirt will start wearing it to his college classes, and get asked “Who are they?” by people who notice it. Your fans are the strongest members of your marketing team.
#1 Create a List of Items
What were your favorite merch items when you were an avid concert goer? What interesting merch items are there to offer anyway? Begin by researching and making a list of promotional and merchandise items. You can start with T-shirts, hoodies, skateboards, pins and patches, lighters, keychains, wallets, hats, stickers, shot glasses, and even pillowcases.
#2 Brand Promotional Items
Your logo, tagline, URL, font and color scheme should be on the bulk of your promo merchandise. Every item you put out there should have directions on how to find you online. It’s hard sometimes to print everything on a pen or a bracelet, due to the complexity and size of your visuals, but the clarity and visibility of your name, logo, and branding, will make it much easier for your fans to search for your music later (especially because people take photos with smartphones as a reminder). Take advantage of digital printing services to “stamp” your merchandise.
#3 Use Promotional Items to Expand your Fanbase
Don’t try to make profit from each one of your items, because even if it may cost you more, give some of your promotional material for free – at the right times and to the right people. They will give you more exposure, and more exposure leads further to profit. The catch is in the physical marketing (we already mentioned the guy with your T-shirt in college campus) that draws people to you and connects them to your music, live shows, and available promo merch items. Out of all the merchandise you create, give away about 20% for free as promo material.
#4 Interactive Items Mean Exclusivity
Selling interactive items such as T-shirts with a QR (quick response) code to download an exclusive song, remix, podcast, or interview (that’s not available anywhere else) can really mean a lot to your strongest supporting fans, but bring up interest in your products. Once someone scans the code tag that leads them to your band’s website, they get what you offer, but also stay around to browse your website.
#5 Releasing and Promoting Promo Materials and Merchandise
Your merchandise and promotional materials shouldn’t be available all at once, in one big store. Instead, roll them out over time. Expand the release of different items to make things always stay interesting and new for an extended period. When something is different and fresh, it’s more likely to draw new fans. Announce and release a fresh merch item every two weeks, because it will enable you to promote both new items and the existing, already available ones. Take pictures of people wearing or using different in different places, schedule, post, announce, and release.
#6 Give Fair Prices and Order in Bulk
Nobody wants to pay a fortune for promo merchandise and you can’t change it by justifying it in any way. You’ll make more sales if you set your price points with consideration of that fact. This is promotional marketing and the key is to promote your music and to be seen. When ordering the promo and merch items, order them in bulk. They will cost you less and you’ll see more of a profit than if you rush to create even the smallest orders.
#7 What Sells Best?
Always keep track of what’s selling and of the newest trends in promotional merchandise. See what other bands create and offer, see what’s available at the beginning of summer and fall, and enrich your merch and promo materials collection with those fresh elements. Keep up with the trends, because the promotional items are ever changing.
#8 Set Up and Online Store
Younger generations of people usually shop online using their smartphones and computers. Thus, besides selling your promotional merchandise on concert venues, consider setting up an online store so your fans can get their hands on the merch whenever they wish to. CDs, cassettes, wearables, signed posters, or handwritten lyric sheets can be of great value to your fans. In December 2016, it was reported that vinyl sales made more than downloads, so consider stocking up with vinyl copies of your LP. People seem to be turning back to collecting records, which makes vinyl a must-have band merch. Set up a simple online store that’s easy to navigate, add images and descriptions of the merch items, and present all the possible ways of ordering it.
You’ve invested so much talent, work, and money into creating your music, and you want it to be heard. Creating promotional materials and merchandise, and selling them to your fans, as well as giving some of it away is a great idea for drawing attention, making your fanbase larger, and making some profit for further projects. Create a plan, find out what kind of band merch would your fans like to have (you can do it by simply asking them directly on your band’s social media pages), find the best deal, buy in a bulk, and set the right price. There are super-fans out there who want to live in your band’s T-shirt. Don’t let them down.
Emma Miller is a Sydney based writer with a degree in marketing. Her interests are digital marketing, social media, start-ups, and the latest trends. She is also a contributor at Bizzmark blog.