Merch Madness

Merch Madness

Having the right merchandise to sell can dramatically increase your income.

© 2019 Vinny Ribas

When it comes to selling merch, there are 3 facts that are important for every artist to understand:

  1. Your real fans want to support you in any way they can. Buying your merch is a very accessible way for them to show their support. Don’t deny them the opportunity.
  2. Your in-person fans want to take something home with them – some kind of souvenir – when they see you perform. Don’t deny these fans that opportunity either! It’s a win for both of you.
  3. How much your fans spend is based on their income and the level of relationship they feel they have with you. The deeper the relationship (measured by your engagement with them), the more they will spend. Building relationships will increase your income.

Here are some key things to consider when determining the right merch to sell:

  • Be sure everything you put your name or logo on is representative of your brand.  
  • Sell something for your fans’ kids.
  • You can sell one-of-a-kinds or eclectic things that fit your brand but do not have your name on them. I know several artists who go to flea markets to find odd merch that they can re-sell. And once it’s gone, it’s gone. Usually it’s something ‘cool’ that they can autograph.
  • Merch with a quote from one of your lyrics can be extremely popular.
  • Merch with clever saying on them, especially if you authored them, are also extremely popular.
  • Sell copies of things  you actually use or wear, especially on stage. Be sure to point them out to the audience.
  • Sell items that a couple will buy 2 of – one for each of them. Think his and her…
  • Always have something that is small, light and inexpensive for you and the fan. Small and light so you can carry a lot of them without a hand truck and fans can put it in a pocket or purse. Inexpensive for the people who just want to support you by buying something, even if they throw it away when they walk out the door. Common examples are stickers, wristbands and postcards.
  • Always have something small and light that your fans will love and that you can make a very good profit on. Get creative with this. One of my artists is a piano player who loves watches. He found watches with pianos on them that he buys in bulk for $2.50 each and sells them for $15!
  • Know the income level of your current fans and price your merch accordingly. At one venue you might a t-shirt for $10, while in a different kind of event you can charge $15 or $20 for the same item.
  • Always have an exclusive item your fans can’t get anywhere else. For example,  know a jazz band that sells beautiful sets of 2 wine glasses in a custom leather case. The glasses and case have their name and logos imprinted on them. Another always carries 2 leather jackets with their logo on them. They buy them for $100 and sell them for $200!   
  • Know your fans well enough to know what they love. For example, if your audience loves to golf, sell golf shirts or golf towels with your logo on them. If they love football, sell branded, autographed footballs.
  • Make as many of your items time-sensitive. That might mean only having something for sale until they’re gone and then not restocking them. It might be something that is dated, such as official tour merch. It means that every year your fans will need to buy a new shirt.
  • Rotate colors, styles etc. Your fans don’t want to buy another of something they already have. But if you change the color or style, they will be compelled to buy it because it’s new to them.
  • Be aware of what is important or of interest to an audience you will be performing for and sell something related to it. For example, you might sell football jerseys with your name on them during football season if you’re playing a lot of sports bars.
  • Have commemorative merch celebrating an event or something you’ve accomplished.    
  • Sell something there is only one of, such as something you made or possibly painted. You can easily charge a premium for these. The more personal the better.
  • Tie in your other interests. If you love photography, publish a coffee-table book. If you love dogs, sell branded dog collars. Any fans who share the same interests will buy that merch.
  • Sell something they will use up and need to re-stock. I know a female artist who has her own ‘brand’ of lipstick. Every time their fans see her they buy more.
  • Create merch bundles, especially if it looks like a ‘deal’. It’s also a great way to liquidate stock you’re not going to replenish.
  • Sell something that makes a great gift for your fan to give to someone. Along the same line, consider having a few popular items pre-gift wrapped just for this purpose.     
  • Sell something even your non-fans might buy just because it’s cool or useful. The afore-mentioned lipstick is a great example.
  • Try to find something your fans who can’t see you in person will buy from your merch store.
  • You can more items on your store than you sell at your live performances. There are services such as that will print on demand so you never have to stock up the item.. So let’s say you want to sell large beer steins but you don’t want to carry cases of them around. You can have one on display at your merch table and direct people to your online store to purchase them.

When it comes to merch, you need to think like a retailer. You want items you know both your new and your established fans will buy. You want to rotate your stock to keep it fresh and up to date. You want it to be relevant. You want to encourage repeat purchases. And you want to ensure you are at least doubling your investment with every item.

Here is another great article on maximizing your merch sales written by Chris Dunnett. It hammers home a lot of important info beyond what’s written here.

About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.