How to succeed in selling merchandise

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Written by: Lorna Murphy


Artists within the music industry have seen revenue streams change dramatically in recent years. The rapid decline in music sales as a result of widespread streaming mean artists have been forced to source revenue from other avenues. Selling merchandise can be a lucrative activity, but only if conducted in a strategic manner. It is not only a useful revenue stream but it can be beneficial in creating brand awareness and creating a stronger relationship with your fans. According to the Future of Music Organization, “the best merch builds buzz along with brand recognition while shoring up additional revenue”. In this article, we will explain what you need to take into account to make your merchandise a success.


Understanding your audience


As with any communication or marketing effort, it is essential to understand your audience and what they want. Your first activity when developing your merchandise will be research. Engage with fans; create some polls on social sites to see what merchandise items are popular. It may be worthwhile checking out other artists’ merchandise offerings and their price points. Use analytical tools to gather information that can help inform your choices. Initially, you may choose to play it safe and produce tried and tested items such as flags, t-shirts and hats etc. but don’t let this restrict you. The larger your audience the more creative you can become with your offering. Deadmau5 is well known for his mau5 glow ears which still remain part of his merchandise range.


Pricing/ Distribution


In order for your merchandise to be a financial success you’ll need to develop a pricing strategy to make sure that you actually generate some revenue. This strategy must take into account all the additional costs involved in producing the product such as packaging, shipping and taxes in certain countries.

Your merchandise should consist of low, medium and high priced items to cater for every budget. This can prevent you from alienating a whole section of your fan base. Some fans will automatically gravitate to the lower priced item and others will be happy to spend more for other items. Occasional flash sales can generate some quick revenue while at the same time giving the customer some discount. Some artists choose to outsource the distribution of their merchandise to a third party service. The additional cost of engaging these services often pay dividends in the long run for all that they do.


Be involved


Sharing and selling merchandise can increase your connection with your fans and help to build that all important and very valuable fan to artist connection. Invest time in the creative process, show your interest in the item and tell your fans about it. Sharing aspects of the creative process on your social platforms can involve the fans and create a stronger connection. Of course it goes without saying that the biggest endorsement you can provide for your merchandise is to actually wear it yourself. If you wear it and love it your fans will too. Having tangible items available to sell at live shows gives fans an opportunity to take something home and in turn this can create a stronger memory. Many fans purchase merchandise to keep as memorabilia.


Another way of being involved with your merchandise is to integrate a meet and greet with a pop-up store or merch booth at a live show. This can increase sales and give fans a unique experience. Don Diablo created quite a buzz when he launched his new Hexagon merchandise range with his pop up store at ADE 2017. He announced prior to the event that he would be stopping by to meet fans at the store. He spent several hours at the store meeting and interacting with fans and created a roadblock with long queues demonstrating the popularity of the Dutch artist.


Sell merchandise on all online platforms


Many artists restrict their merchandise selling activities to live shows and this significantly reduces the potential audience for your items. Artists should avail of every avenue to sell their items. Make your merchandise available on your website. Remember to provide detailed descriptions of each item and use high-quality images to display the items at their best. Your aim with online merchandise sales is to make the process as user-friendly as possible by reducing the number of clicks required to make a purchase. There are a variety of platforms available that offer you a digital shopfront such as Woo Commerce and Shopify. Be aware that these platforms have different benefits and charge a fee for their services so shop around to see what suits you best. Check out a comparison video here:




Live show merchandise


Create a space for your merchandise that is visually appealing. Identify a central location to maximize people’s exposure to the items and invest in some quality banners to advertise it. Items available for sale should be clearly labeled with prices and visible. Staff should be friendly, approachable and available to process sales at all times. You might consider creating an exclusive item for a live show that is only available at the show. Selling exclusive items give the sense of rarity to an item and are often highly coveted by hardcore fans.


Lastly, make sure there is a system in place to accept card payments. In an age where people are heavily reliant on completing transactions using cards, it would be foolish not to have this payment option available for fans. Only accepting cash will cost you sales. Shopify can help with this using their Retail POS system.

Merchandise is a key aspect of any artists’ career and once you have developed a core base of fans it should be given priority. Use data collected to inform future decisions. Once you have a feel for what’s popular and what sells with your fans you’ll be able to direct your efforts better.



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