6 Reasons Every Gigging Artist Should Be Selling Merch
For any band or artist planning on hitting the road for a tour, merch sales are a must. In addition to pulling in much needed revenue, merchandise is a great way to build your brand and strengthen your relationship with fans.
Guest post from BandsInTown
Why? Because if you don’t have merch you are leaving potential money on the table! Your show is a live advertisement for merch and as we well know streaming services are (probably) not going to pay the bills and more than ever fans don’t value parting with money for music – unless as this post points out its signed by you! –
The great news is fans will part with money to support you. Our friend Tony van Veen, CEO of DIY Media Group, which includes Disc Makers and Merchly, has been working with indie artists for over 20 years and he knows a thing or two about merch and he will help you to understand it’s part of part of the overall fan experience that you create for your tribe.
ARE YOU THE LAST OF THE MERCH HOLDOUTS?
It is truly astounding how often I attend a concert where the artist does not have a merch table. While I don’t have stats, I would guess that at two thirds of the concerts I attend not every band has merch available for sale. While many bands have experienced the benefits of selling merch at gigs, many others evidently don’t seem to think it’s important. Fact is, selling physical products – T-shirts, CDs, vinyl, cassettes, hoodies, USBs – at gigs is a game changer for many artists. It can mean the difference between crashing on a fan’s couch and renting a room at the Ramada Inn for the night. If you are still one of the merch holdouts, here are 6 reasons why you need to have merch for sale at your next gig.
1. PHYSICAL IS AS RELEVANT AS EVER
Yes, I know, we live in a streaming world. But let’s be honest, streaming doesn’t pay enough for most of today’s emerging artists to buy a pair of drumsticks. On average, it would take 3,000 music streams to equal the profit from one CD sale at your next gig. And 5,000 streams to equal the profit of one T-shirt sale. Which is why even in 2019 the average emerging artist makes more money from selling merch at their gigs than from streaming. That’s why physical media is as relevant as it ever was, even in its heyday.
2. PART OF A WELL-BALANCED DIET
There are many, many ways to monetize your music. As an artist you need to utilize as many of those ways as you possibly can… because all those fractions of pennies from streaming, publishing, public performance, neighboring rights, and YouTube do indeed add up eventually. An indispensable part of every artist’s revenue mix that pays off right away is physical product, and again, there are SO many options: vinyl, CDs, T-shirts (so many types!), hoodies, stickers, buttons, USBs, cassettes… the list goes on… and the income driving potential is real.
3. THE PROFIT MARGINS ARE HUGE
When you’re an independent artist buying your merch directly from your CD or merch provider, the profit margins are huge! One CD sale for $10 nets you $8 to $9 in profit. A T-shirt sale for $20 can easily net you $15. Those are profits you can reinvest – in renting practice space, buying gas, strings and drumheads, and that room at the Ramada Inn. Plus, who says you need to sell a shirt for $20 anyway? I’ve attended recent concerts where color T-shirts were being sold for $35 to $40! Can you imagine the margins?
4. YOU’RE NOT SELLING MUSIC
Let’s be honest, when a fan buys your vinyl or CD, they’re actually going to listen to your music on Spotify or Apple Music. But they buy your product because they want to support you as an artist. Today, your CD or vinyl is no longer a carrier medium for sound. It’s a souvenir. By buying your CD, it allows your fan to tell the story that “I was there.” When you autograph that CD, it allows your fan to tell their friends (or grandchildren) “I met this artist way back when.” It’s not a CD – it’s a $10 substrate for your autograph.
5. PEOPLE PAY YOU TO ADVERTISE YOU
In the business world there are only a few iconic brands that inspire people to wear them on a T-shirt: Adidas, Apple, Nike, Coke, Harley Davidson. As an artist, your fans line up every day to buy YOUR brand and wear it, and advertise it. Selling T-shirts at your concerts creates a beautiful flywheel effect: the more merch you sell, the more money you make, and the more your brand gets promoted by your fans. Which gets more people listening to your music, coming to your concerts, and buying your merch.
6. BUILDS FAN CONNECTION
Physical media allows you to create a unique, irreplaceable connection with your fans. That conversation you have with a fan while you’re autographing the record they just bought can become a lifetime memory for that fan. That fan who buys your T-shirt didn’t just buy a garment… they become part of your TRIBE when they wear it. And those personal connections create fans for life. Everything is merch* *that is not streaming
Today’s artists – from the newly formed punk band playing a basement club to the Rolling Stones filling arenas – make more income from touring than from selling music. Physical product (and let’s be honest, it’s all merch nowadays, regardless of the format) is not just a way to drive more revenue from your live gigs. It’s not just an indispensable part of the overall income mix for today’s artist or label. It’s a part of the overall fan experience, the relationship between your fans and you. And sure, not everyone will buy a shirt or a CD or a record at your next concert, but SOME will. Why miss out on the opportunity to make that special connection with your fans, while putting a few shekels in your pocket?
Tony van Veen is CEO of DIY Media Group, which includes Disc Makers and Merchly. As a young lad he played in indie bands, created his own vinyl, cassettes, and T-shirts, and sold them at his gigs. As an adult he continues to avidly buy concert T-shirts to support the artists he loves.
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