Making merch is a really exciting process, and so much time and effort go into making sure the design is perfect. Choosing the right garments and getting the print just right! However, you can have the absolute best merch in the world, but no one’s going to buy it if they don’t know it exists. Music and merchandise, while being complementary to one another, are two very different beasts. So naturally, they need to be promoted in different ways. In this blog, we’ll share some key pointers we’ve picked up over the years to make your band’s merch stand out!
We’ve talked about this topic in more detail in previous blogs. However, here are some key things to keep in mind before you start making shirts. Starting with design, this is, without question, one of the most important factors to any merch run. Your design is an extension of your band’s brand, and should therefore reflect that. Building a good relationship with a designer whose work you like is an invaluable resource, and if you have a band member that’s a designer as well, then problem solved! The important thing is having a relationship with someone who you can work with long-term. To develop your band’s unique style, and consistently hit the mark with your merch runs. This means you can also have a large variety of designs that all feel connected instead of each merch run being completely different from the last.
This goes hand in hand with building a relationship with a reliable printer as well. Having someone who can advise you on different printing techniques, garments, inks, and accessories can save you a lot of work and frustration in the long run.
The traditional way of selling band merch is really simple: Have a banging merch stall, play a great show, and the shirts sell themselves! While there is still absolutely nothing wrong with this approach, the current climate doesn’t really allow for this to happen at all. That doesn’t mean that you can’t sell merch unless you play a show though, it’s just a different ball game!
The important thing to remember is why fans buy your merch, there are more reasons than simply keeping a memento of a great show. People have really deep emotional connections to the music that they listen to, and by extension, the bands they listen to. So naturally being able to hold or wear something physical that represents that connection is something people gravitate towards. People want to be a part of something, and they want to show that. What better way than wearing a shirt?
Get a bunch of photos that make your merch look awesome! If you have some photogenic friends or band members that are comfortable in front of a camera and know someone who knows their way around a camera, make a day of it! Choose a spot, think of a couple of variations and just have fun shooting some photos. The more you can get the better!
Why is it so much easier to sell shirts at a show? Our theory is the interaction. Most of the time when you buy a shirt after a show, it’s a band member selling it to you. You get to talk to them, they see you supporting them, and you can keep that memory forever. It’s direct engagement that leads to that warm and gooey feeling of ‘being a part of something’. This can be done online as well!
If your fans post photos of themselves wearing the merch they buy. Ask them to tag the band and then share those photos! The fans will absolutely love being featured on your page (even if it’s just a story) as it allows them to, in a really small way, feel like a part of the band as a whole. This is also more free content for you to use to market your merch, so it’s the ultimate win-win! A great example of a band that does this consistently is our friends over at Dead Label, check out their Instagram if you want some examples.
Thinking of creative ways to get fans involved on a personal level is possibly the best thing you can do. Whether that be by letting them vote for their favourite designs, running a design competition where fans can submit their artwork to possibly feature on your next piece of merch, or simply holding a contest to give away some freebies! Creativity and interaction are both key factors here, but your fans will appreciate the opportunity to participate.
Another great thing to do, if you’re sending out each package yourself, is to add something unexpected along with whatever your fans bought. This could be a sticker, a simple handwritten note thanking them for their purchase, or any number of things. Everyone loves feeling appreciated, and the more personalized you can make this, the better! This will of course depend on the amount of merch that you sell, but especially in the beginning. If you’re only doing a few orders in a month going the extra mile for the first fans that support you is something they will most certainly remember. It’s not like your target market is going to change with every merch run you do, so keeping your customers happy from their first order is a really valuable thing!
One post is not enough! With the way social media is set up these days, every post doesn’t reach every follower you have, so if you post something only once there’s a very good chance it will only be seen by about 10% of your followers. Therefore sharing merch-related content regularly is a really good idea. This is where getting content from fans that have bought merch can be really helpful in generating continuous interest.