A lot of artists see merch as just another way to try to make money on a tour. But merch isn't just a revenue stream, it's marketing. Hey, I know merch is tough – it's a lot of money. And, short-term, it's a bit of a gamble, especially for a new artist. But that is exactly why you shouldn't focus on getting the cheapest deals and selling for as much as possible. Invest in great design and well-made products. Take lower margins so you can sell more of stuff. Like everything else, there is no easy formula or magic answer that works for everyone. But take the time and figure out what appeals to people who come to your shows. Find a designer and manufacturer to help you do it the right way. With that, here are three reasons why you should invest in offering great merch to your fans:
- People aren't going to buy a shirt just because it has your name on it. Okay, so maybe a few people will, but when you're a new artist, people don't know you. They don't love you. That is why your merch has to be so cool that they want to wear it despite the fact that your name is on it. When you're starting out, you need to give every single person in the audience an excuse to buy your stuff. Great design can help convert the people who like you, but don't love you... yet. CLARIFICATION: I am NOT saying you shouldn't have your name on the merch. You have to. That's the point of merch. But think of it like a novelty tee at Lucky or Old Navy – you don't care about "Rockford Motorcycle Club" (maybe because it doesn't even exist), you buy the shirt because you like the design.
- The merch itself can actually deepen a fan's connection to you. When you have a t-shirt or hoodie or koozie that you love, some of those warm fuzzies get transferred to the artist or band whose name is silkscreened on the front of it. It isn't just "that blue shirt," or even "that awesome blue shirt." It's that "awesome Dave Barnes shirt." It keeps your name in front of their face and eventually, finds it's way into their brain, too.
- Every time they wear it, it’s a billboard with your name on it. It's a personal endorsement from that person to the people who know them and like them. It's powerful and it's real. Also, we like the familiar, even if we don't know why it's familiar. So seeing a name around makes us more likely to consider that artist or band when it comes back around.
So there you have it. Make cool stuff. Offer it at reasonable prices. Get it out there. Great merch is an ambassador for you. A trojan horse. Cheaping out now will cost you money, not save it.