Merchandising For Artists - 20 Merch Ideas for Bands

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Turning your music from a hobby into a lucrative business in the modern music industry can be intimidating. Over the past 20 years the internet has shifted the means of income for musicians from in-person performances and physical sales, to digital content and online marketing. As a result, musicians have found themselves either exploring new innovative avenues of profitability, or else falling behind.

Merchandise however has always remained lucrative. The transition of physical records, cassette tapes and CDs to digital platforms didn't eradicate the sale of those physical items; it created a market of nostalgia for them, with online sales opening up new opportunities for profit.  More than ever before, merchandising has become an extremely profitable for musicians.

But to thrive in this space it's important to not just sell merchandise, but to do so thoughtfully and strategically. To help fuel the creative spark we've put together a list of 20 of our favorite merchandising ideas for bands, that will not only help you become more profitable, but also deepen your engagement with fans.

Selling Music Online (On Demand vs Bulk Orders)

First things first, a musician is a salesman and their music is their product. Band Pioneer exists to help musicians succeed by teaching them how to market their sound. 30 years ago that meant curbside sales of tape cassettes. Today it means embracing the internet, to extend your reach beyond local fans to listeners worldwide. That doesn't mean physical sales are no longer lucrative. If you're not already offering merchandise at your shows, it's high time to start! But you should also consider branching out by offering your merch online as well.

Online sales generally fall into two categories:

  1. Bulk Order Sales
  2. Print On Demand

Bulk order selling involves procuring a large quantity of merchandise upfront at a lower per-unit cost, which can then be sold individually at a higher price for a profit. This method often requires a larger initial investment but can yield higher profits per item sold.

Print On Demand selling operates on an order-by-order basis. You collaborate with a supplier who customizes each product with your branding as orders come in. This approach produces less profit, but requires less upfront capital and reduces the risk of unsold inventory.

Setting up an online shop can be done in numerous ways, and it can be seamlessly integrated into your website or social media pages. For instance, Shopify can help you build an online storefront to sell pre-existing merchandise, while its sister service, Merchify, offers print-on-demand services. Platforms like these allow you to efficiently manage your merch sales, while reaching fans no matter where they are located.

Free Digital Downloads

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Believe it or not, giving your work away for free can be a positive thing. Many artists choose to make at least a couple of their tracks available for free streaming or download. When you offer free downloads with purchases of your t-shirts or other products it gives your fans the opportunity to own something unique, that they can't easily get otherwise. An exclusive track that's only available to them will make your fans feel appreciated and have them coming back for more.

And it doesn't need to be an online sale, physical purchases can be accompanied by a card with a download code. You can also use a service like Dropcards or CD Baby. For more information on distribution services, checkout our article breaking down CD Baby vs Distrokid.

Modernize Your Merch Stand

Almost everything is done electronically now and many people don't carry cash any more. Having the option to pay by card at your merch stand could bring in more sales. You can use your cellphone to accept payments using services such as PayPal Here or Square. Some banks also provide apps to help with this. 

Another way to modernize your merch selling at shows is to use an app like Vicci Mobile Merchandise. This app lets fans place an order from the show to be delivered to them later. Use Vicci or a similar app and you can choose not to bring any merch with you at all, saving you space and energy.

When you've chosen how and what to sell, remember to put effort into promoting your merch. Don't just let your online shop sit there, or expect people to be drawn to your stand at shows. Mention your merch in your newsletter and on your website, and make sure fans coming to your shows know it will be available to buy in advance. Revenue from merchandise can become a significant part of a musician's income, but you need to put thought and effort into it like you do your music.

Make Your Own Vinyl Records

In a digital age, the tangible appeal of vinyl records holds a certain magic that's only grown over the years. Offering your music on vinyl not only gives fans an audio-visual experience that digital can't match, but it also satisfies the craving for physical collectibles. Holding a record, admiring the artwork, and dropping the needle to hear that distinctive vinyl sound delivers a nostalgic and authentic musical journey.

Now, let's discuss how a band can have their music pressed onto vinyl. First, your music needs to be mastered specifically for vinyl, a process that considers the format's distinct characteristics. Once the mastering is done, you'll need to work with a vinyl pressing plant. When selecting a pressing plant, consider factors like cost, pressing quality, and turnaround time. You'll also need to provide the plant with your master recording, artwork for the record sleeve, and any other packaging elements. This process may seem daunting at first, but many pressing plants offer detailed guidance to help you navigate it.

Retro Music Videos on DVD or VHS

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Embracing nostalgia by pressing your own music on vinyl records can bring a unique twist to your merchandise offerings. Another way to do this is by selling music videos of your songs or video of concerts, on DVD or even VHS tapes, to provide fans a physical piece of your band's history. It's not just about watching the music videos, but about owning a retro-collectible item that captures your band's visual journey.

Creating DVDs or VHS tapes of your music videos starts with ensuring you have high-quality video files. From there, unless you already own DVD or VHS recording equipment (20 years ago we all did!), you'll need to work with a company that specializes in this form of media production. They'll handle the process of transferring your videos onto the chosen format. Be sure to design attractive packaging to create a desirable, unique piece of merch that fans will want to own and display.

Live Concert Recordings

There's something uniquely captivating about a live concert. The energy, the connection between the band and audience—it's an experience that studio albums simply can't reproduce. Offering live concert recordings allows fans to revisit those experiences anytime they wish.

To create live recordings, you'll need a solid setup to capture the performance's audio (and video, if you choose). High-quality microphones and sound equipment are crucial, and you'll want someone experienced in live recording to handle the process. After the concert, the recording will need to be mixed and mastered. You can then offer these recordings as digital downloads, on physical media like CDs, or even on vinyl. Remember, fans aren't just buying the music; they're buying the memory of the concert. Create artwork that reflects the live experience to make these recordings even more appealing.

Band Stickers and Decals

Stickers and decals can act as mini mobile billboards for your band, appearing everywhere from laptops to guitar cases, skateboards to car windows. Producing these items is relatively inexpensive and they're easy to distribute – both at gigs and via online platforms. When designing your stickers, keep your band's aesthetic in mind to create something that resonates with your audience and represents your music.

Branded Accessories

Branded accessories such as keychains, patches, or even scarves can serve as daily reminders of your band for fans. The more practical and unique the item, the more likely fans will use it regularly, naturally promoting your band. Working with a quality supplier can ensure your accessories are durable and well-crafted, matching the quality of your music.

Posters and Wall Art

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Offering high-quality posters or wall art gives fans a piece of your band to display in their personal space. They not only generate revenue, but serve as continuous advertising, for potential future opportunity. When a fan hangs up your poster, it can spark conversations with guests, leading to word-of-mouth promotion. Consider featuring compelling album covers, stylized band photos, or unique artwork. In addition to selling these items at shows, they're popular items in online stores, including Amazon.

To get started, collaborate with a graphic artist who can create compelling designs that align with your band's aesthetics. Then find a reliable printing service. Websites like Printful or Printify offer print-on-demand services, reducing upfront costs and managing shipping directly to your customers. Don't forget to include these items in your online store and on platforms like Amazon, where you can reach a broader audience.

Custom Phone Cases

Custom phone cases have a dual function: protection for fans' devices and portable billboards for your band. They are particularly popular among younger demographics, who frequently update their phone accessories to reflect their individual style. Your band's logo or album artwork can turn these everyday items into striking accessories that fans will be proud to display.

Given the prevalence of smartphones, custom phone cases can have an extensive reach. They continuously expose your band's brand to the world, providing visibility every time a fan uses their phone.

We've already mentioned Printful as an on-demand service for posters, and they offer phone case customization with print-on-demand capabilities as well. These services allow for cost-effective production and easy integration with your online store.

Band Instruments or Gear

Band-themed instruments or gear can create a powerful, tangible connection between you and your musician fans. Items like custom guitar picks or drumsticks allow fans to participate in the music-making process with tools that bear your band's name. This adds an inspirational dimension to your merchandise, as fans can use these items to create their own music.

In addition to the revenue generated from these sales, band instruments or gear can help nurture a community of musician fans around your band. They serve as a nod to the musicianship in your fanbase, showing appreciation for their craft.

To begin, identify a manufacturer that can customize the gear you want to offer. Vendors on Amazon offer customizable items like personalized drumsticks and are easy to use, however they may not be the most cost-effective resale option. Websites like InTuneGP offer customizable items like guitar picks and may be a better option for bulk orders. Adding these items to your merch lineup can enhance your band's image as supporters of the musical journey of your fans.

Band-Themed Games or Puzzles

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Band-themed games or puzzles are a unique and fun way to deepen your connection with your fanbase. This form of merchandise provides an opportunity for fans to interact with your band's brand in a fun and engaging manner, beyond just listening to your music. You could create puzzles based on your album artwork or band photos. Or for a more immersive experience, develop a custom board game centered around your band's journey or musical universe. And the great part is, your fans will haphazardly advertise your band when they play the games with others. Free marketing!

To make this a reality you'll need to find a reputable custom game manufacturer. Websites like Board Games Maker and PrintNinja offer custom board game and card game production. For puzzles, sites such as Create Jigsaw Puzzles offer customization services. By offering unique merchandise like this, you’re adding a memorable and engaging dimension to your fan's experience.

Create Amazon Music Playlists

The next few ideas are specifically for Amazon, the largest online marketplace in the US by a huge margin. Almost everyone uses it, and creating playlists on it featuring your band's music can engage existing fans and introduce you to new listeners. 

You might make a playlist featuring all your top hits, or categorize your music by mood, theme, or album. This not only serves to present your music in an organized manner but also allows listeners to discover your broad range of work. Also consider intermixing your songs with popular tracks from similar artists, as this can draw their fans to your music. 

To create a playlist, simply open Amazon Music, select "Create Playlist," and start adding tracks. You can then share the playlist on your band's social media to reach your fans. Once you've created your playlists, promote them on your band's website and social media channels, and update them regularly to increase your visibility on the platform.

Sell Merch Using Amazon Custom

Through Amazon Custom, you can create and sell a wide range of personalized items, such as T-shirts, mugs, posters, and more, adorned with your band's logo, lyrics, or album artwork. Amazon handles the inventory management and shipping, reducing your operational hassles.

To begin selling, set up a professional selling account on Amazon, enroll in Amazon Custom, and then create your product listings with customization options. Detailed descriptions and high-quality images can enhance product visibility. Remember to promote your merch on your band's website and social media platforms. Personalized merchandise not only provides fans with a tangible connection to your band but also turns them into walking advertisements, promoting your brand wherever they go.

Live Stream on Amazon Music Live

Amazon Live is a powerful tool for real-time engagement with fans. This is one the more technically challenging ideas, but also one of our favorites. It enables you to create unique and memorable experiences, by performing live, holding Q&A sessions, or showcasing your merch, to a wide audience of online viewers.

Here's a simple guide to get you started:

  1. Create an Amazon Live account: The easiest way to create an account for free is by downloading the Amazon Live Creator app, available in the Apple App Store.
  2. Download and Set Up Streaming Software: Amazon Live requires you to use external streaming software. This could be OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), Wirecast, or any other similar software. Check the software's websites via the provided links for information on how to configure it. This includes setting the video resolution, frame rate, and output settings according to Amazon Live's recommended streaming configuration.
  3. Get Your Stream Key and URL: Log into your Amazon Live account, navigate to the 'Stream' tab and there you'll find your unique stream key and the Amazon Live RTMP URL. You'll need to input these into your streaming software to connect it to your Amazon Live account.
  4. Configure Your Streaming Software: In your streaming software, add the Amazon Live RTMP URL to the 'Stream' or 'Broadcast' settings and input your unique stream key. This connects your streaming software to your Amazon Live account.
  5. Create a Live Stream on Amazon Live: Back on the Amazon Live platform, you can now create a new live stream. Here you can title your stream, schedule it, and select the products you want to showcase.
  6. Start Streaming: With your streaming software connected to Amazon Live, and your stream set up on the Amazon Live platform, you're ready to go live. Start the stream from your streaming software, then go back to Amazon Live and click 'Start Stream'.

Interaction is key in live streams, so engage with your audience, respond to comments, and perhaps even take song requests. Regular live streams can strengthen your fan relationships, enhance your band's visibility, and drive traffic to your Amazon Music playlists and merchandise listings.

Kindle eBooks

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Creating a Kindle eBook allows you to share your band's journey, providing fans with an in-depth look at your music-making process, tour stories, or band history. You could also consider songbooks, lyric compilations, or an anthology of tour photos.

To publish an eBook, write your content, format it for Kindle, design a compelling cover, and upload it to Kindle Direct Publishing. Once live, promote your eBook on your band's website, social media channels, and during your Amazon Live sessions.

An eBook not only provides additional revenue but also strengthens your band's brand, offering fans a unique way to engage with your music beyond listening to your songs.

Create a Coffee Table Book

Kill 2 birds with one stone, by not only publishing your your eBook to Kindle, but in a hardcopy format as well! Coffee table book are an excellent way to showcase your artistry and history, in a visually engaging format. These books can include high-quality photographs from tours, behind-the-scenes snapshots, album artwork, and more, allowing fans a unique insight into the band's world.

To create a coffee table book, you'll first need to curate your content - this could involve sourcing images, writing accompanying text, and arranging the material in a manner that tells a compelling story. After you've compiled your content, you'll need to find a reputable book publisher that specializes in coffee table books. Consider printing a limited run initially, to gauge demand. Once your book is ready, promote it on your band's website, social media channels, and during live shows.

A coffee table book offers fans a tangible piece of your band's history and can be an intriguing addition to your merchandise offerings.

Create and Sell Custom Band Art

Paintings, illustrations, digital art or even handcrafted items, and can serve as a unique, artistic expression of your band's image. Collaborate with local artists and illustrators, or run a fan art contest allowing your most creative fans to contribute. These pieces can be sold individually or as limited edition prints.

Platforms like Etsy can be a great place to sell this kind of merchandise, with their focus on handmade and unique items. Remember to showcase these artworks on your band's social media platforms and website, drawing attention to their uniqueness and the talent of the artists involved.

Commission a Song

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This is another idea we absolutely love, as it creates a way for you to connect with fans on an intimate level. The personalized song market has exploded recently. To commission a song, fans would submit details about their story, the occasion, or the message they want the song to convey. You then write, record, and produce the song, creating a unique piece of music that will be personally meaningful to the fan for years to come!

You can set up a song commission using an online platform like Songfinch or Downwrite, or by adding a form to your website for fans to fill out details of their song request. Pricing can vary greatly based on the complexity of the request, and how famous the artist is. The more well-known you are, the more demand you'll have, increasing your price dramatically.

Offering personalized songs not only provides an additional revenue stream but also fosters a deep connection with your fans, as you become a part of their personal celebrations and milestones.

Be Unique!

Let's face it, your fans already have a hundred t-shirts, hoodies and buttons. Giving them yet another black Rock-n-Roll t-shirt will make you a few buck, so will easily get lost in their dirty clothes pile. So make sure to offer them something unique. Something that is bound to pique their interest. Handmade items in particular are enjoyed by dedicated fans, especially if they're custom made by you.

Music merch is more than just a revenue stream. Physical goods like vinyl records or branded accessories, and the digital experiences listed in this article, provide an opportunity to deepen the bond between you and your fans. Unique, personalized merchandise gives them a tangible piece of your world, and strengthens your community.

Succeeding in the music industry involves mastering both its creative and business aspects. Understanding the financial and financial landscapes of this field will guide you towards success. So make sure to explore all of our resources for additional insights like this, and no matter what you do, always enjoy the journey!

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