It’s not enough that you have catchy designs for your merch, you have to know how to sell them! Here are some tips on how you can maximize gigs to boost your merch sales from artists who are selling merch like hot cakes:
#1 Get Merch Sellers
You see tweets and Facebook posts from touring bands all the time asking for merch sellers for tonight’s show in exchange for free admission. Bringing a merch person on the road with you is best, but expensive, and you probably won’t be able to afford that for awhile. Not having someone sell your merch, though, is not an option unless you play very short sets and are certain people will stay the entire show and you can run over and man the table yourself after you finish playing. But most likely, not everyone will stay the entire time – especially if there are multiple bands on the bill or you’re playing a late night, 4 hour bar gig.
#2 Have someone at your merch table at all times
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many artists just set up a table and go on about their night. Toussaint Morrison notes that not having a person behind your merch table will likely result in stolen goods. He adds that in addition to security, “If you have someone holding down the table, people always [have] a human being they can ask about the merch.”
#3 Show up to the venue early
Professionals who actually want to make new fans and move some merch arrive at the venue a full hour before things get started. Work the whole room, and make sure everyone knows your name. Thank them for coming to your show even if they came to see someone else or are just hanging out at the bar randomly. Tell them how much you appreciate them coming out, and ask them how they heard about you. It starts a convo 75 percent of the time. It piques interest and gets curiosity happening. The more of a connection you have, the more of a chance they will watch your set with care, and the more likely they are to buy your shit!”
#4 Have fans who already own your T-shirts come to the show wearing them
If you have an email list, or any sort of following on social media, influence your fans who already own your merch to come to your shows wearing it. The more people, especially women, wearing your merch at shows, the more people will buy your merch. And if a little motivation is needed, have the venue take a dollar off the cover if someone is wearing your merch.
#5 Hook up the venue’s employees
Since the venue is going to be your home for the evening, hook up the employees. N.M.E. The Illest explains why artists should do this: “Who are some people you are guaranteed to run into at a show? Door guy. DJ. Bartender. Sound man. Headliner. Give them a shirt! Ask them to rock it!They will essentially be promoting you all night.”
#6 Get Your Stage Pitch Down
Make sure you announce the merch you have for sale from the stage. This is the single most important thing you can do. This is the first step to get people thinking about if they want to buy your merch. I’ve tested this. The shows where I announce the merch from the stage I sell double what I do when I don’t say anything. Want to double your income? Announce your merch from the stage.
Getting your merch pitch down is almost as important as getting your live performance down. You may say this is a vibe killer or kills the flow of the show, but on the contrary you can make it a part of your show. Create a joke around the merch pitch. People remember stories and jokes at your shows much more than they’ll remember which songs you played. I once titled a 3-CD combo for $25 “The Midwest Combos” and made some crack about how I’m born and raised in the Midwest and we love bargains. People came up to me after the show with a smile on their face and said “give me the Midwest bargain!”
#7 Offer Bundles
Always give incentives for buying multiple items. If you’re selling your vinyl record for $20 and T-shirt for $25, offer both for $40. This will push people over the edge who are on the fence about getting multiple items. It’s also easier to add an item on if you can mention “you know you save $5 if you add a T-shirt.”
#8 Have A Big, Well-Lit Display
Have an impressive merch display. This means it needs to be big, attractive, professional and well lit. For all intents and purposes you are traveling sales people. So make your displays as such. If your “merch display” consists of CDs tossed in the corner of the room with no light then you aren’t going to sell anything. Bands bitch that their fans don’t buy merch. That’s bull. Every fan buys merch. If you sell it right they’ll buy.
#9 Take Credit
You need to accept credit. Who carries cash anymore? With Square, Paypal and Amazon all offering free swipers and all taking less than 3%, there’s no reason to NOT take credit. I doubled my merch sales once I started accepting credit. And YES announce this from the stage.
#10 Offer Creative Options
Use your talents to offer items that are unique to you. Are you a painter or photographer? Sell your artwork. Are you a calligrapher? Sell lyric sheets handwritten by you. Can you screen print? The more unique the merch item the more it will sell (and be talked about).
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