File Under: Creating and Selling Your Merchandise, Making Money With Music, Booking and Performing Live

At a panel at SxSW 2015, we were reminded the merch table is one of the key revenue sources musicians and DJs have, and yet most barely pay any attention to it. It's the only place in the music venue besides the stage that represents you and your work, so it's worth putting some thought into it to ensure it represents the image that you want to project to your concertgoers.

Your merchandise is the only physical translation of your music that your fans can take home. It's a way they can capture the moment and the feeling they get from your live show. So, make sure you have plenty of stuff to sell. Both your merchandise and your store presentation should fit your persona so it represents you and your music. Make it special. Try to think beyond just a cardboard table with a box of t-shirts. Make the store an experience.

Here are some suggestions you can incorporate into your future live shows or appearances to improve your sales:

1. Make the Merch Table Visible and Inviting.
Your merch table needs to be as friendly and inviting to your fans as possible. It needs to be prominent within the venue and highly visible. Create a sign and hang it above the store. Make it easy to view the merchandise (don't hide it all in boxes or crates), and make it as simple as possible for customers to make purchases. And always mention your store a few times from the stage.

2. Provide Low-Cost Items to Draw Them In.
Whether it's a $5 lighter or a $1 sticker, provide low-cost items to spark that initial interest, and once they bite, use that as a reason to upsell to try to get them to buy more. Once they're in front of the table, it's an opportunity to sell them additional items.

3. Provide $75/$80 Items for Big Spenders.
Not everyone is a low-roller, some are "whales" who will spend more. So you want to provide higher-end items -- jackets or other more expensive products -- so that you can score the big sales, not just the smaller ones.

4. Keep the Store Open at Least 30 Minutes After the Show.
Don't just pack up your table and head off once the show is over. After the show is when a lot of your sales will happen.

5. Get Someone to Run the Merch Table.
You need a team behind you if you want to sell merch during the show. Get a friend to manage it or hire someone to staff the store while you're up on stage.

Although you can make all kinds of merchandise on demand, if you are creative you have other options. At the SxSW panel, one panelist shared a story about a musician who owned a screen printing machine and made his own unique t-shirts. He also had metalworking equipment that allowed him to make his own merch as well. You don’t have to own specialized equipment to make one-of-a-kind items; with a bit of creativity and some materials found at craft stores, you can create merch that you can sell at a premium.

Remember, the merch doesn't just represent you, the designs need to represent your fans. The more you can create items that they'll want to wear and show their friends, the better you'll do at the merch table.

Challenge: Implement one of the above ideas at your next show.


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Photo credit: Will Fisher