File Under: Creating and Selling Your Merchandise

Although they say there's no such thing as a free lunch, amazingly, there is such a thing as free merch. That’s right -- merchandise that doesn’t cost you anything to create and sell. The print-on-demand revolution has been around for some time now, and yet, some musicians have not taken advantage of it to be able to sell more than just their music.

  • Use Merchandise Sites
    The moment you have any imagery for your music, consider signing up at sites like Spreadshirt, Zazzle, or Cafepress, to upload the image. They'll create an online store that will let you place your image on all sorts of merchandise at no cost -- from shirts, posters, mugs, or even underwear. When someone orders an item in your store, they handle it all -- from order taking, credit card transactions, manufacturing (by printing the image onto the item), and shipping. It's that easy.

    The pricing allows you to set a retail price that's the same or larger than the base price for each item. For example, a t-shirt may run $18.99. The difference between this base price and your selling price -- the “mark-up” -- is your profit. Note that some of these vendors include transaction fees on top of the base price, so read the terms and conditions so you know what you’ll be making. Also note that some of these print-on-demand vendors have policies such that they won't cut you a check unless your total sales hit a certain monetary threshold.

    Because of the pricing model, the margins on these sales are very low, much lower than if you made a traditional inventory and sold them yourself. However, creating the merchandise is no cost to you, so you can put up as many images as you want and start making merch available for your fans, all within a few minutes. This is often a reasonable trade off.
  • Get More Out Of Merch-On-Demand
    The best way to use online stores like this is to find out which items sell the best, so that you can make them at a traditional (and local) vendor. By generating a ton of ideas and using print-on-demand to test what merchandise your fans want to buy, you’ll minimize the risk of locking up your money into an inventory that won’t sell.

    Another idea is to consider using them to print one-off t-shirts for events, shows, or festivals so that the artists can wear a special shirt on stage. Or use them to print a very small run of shirts that are aimed at the event that you can sell to fans while you're there.

Finally, don’t forget your extra cut! Nearly all of these online print-on-demand vendors have affiliate programs, that allow you to get an extra cut of every sale, as long as you make affiliate links. Join their programs and use those links to improve your profit for each sale.

Challenge: If you don't sell merch yet, this week explore some print-on-demand vendors and sign-up with one. Upload some of your artwork, and see how your merchandise looks in the online store. If you're satisfied, consider using their widgets to add a store to your website or online presences.


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Photo Credit: Electronic Musician