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4 Important Things To Remember About Merch

by Shane Mehling
music & audio

merch tips

T-shirts, beer koozies, patches, limited cassettes, promotional vape pens. Bands throw a lot of stuff on their merch tables, and often this comes at a pretty big expense. A modest bundle of shirts can end up costing enough money to go record an EP, so sometimes we don’t exactly feel great about dropping that kind of dough. But you can make the process a little less painful if you remember the following:

Use Bandcamp

Why are you making it so hard for anyone who’s not at your show to buy merch? Not only that, but there may potentially be people nowhere near you who would like to pick something up. It’s incredibly easy to throw your merch on a site like Bandcamp, and many of them at most take a measly 10% off the top, before shipping. So a 10-dollar shirt with $3 for shipping nets you 12 dollars. That’s around 9 bucks profit, which isn’t too bad for a trip to the post office. Sure, maybe you’d make more if you were selling it at the show, but onto the next point.

Don’t be Greedy

Unless you’re running a clothing company, then your merch is more promotional than anything. You want people to hold onto your stuff, see your name and logo, flash it around so other people can see it. It is about the music and your band and sometimes that means that you may have to lower your prices or even give away a few shirts for free. Making an extra ten bucks pales in comparison to having a bigger band rep your shirt on stage while they’re touring. But with that said…

Merch Equals Money

Not at every show, of course. There are plenty of bar gigs where your stuff is going to collect dust. But you should be charging at least double what you paid and that means this can be a great way to start building up a war chest for something bigger the band needs. So always, always show up with something to sell. Maybe someone will pass it over, but it’s now in their head and they may show up to another show with cash, or they may tell their friends about this cool thing, if it’s actually cool. So…

Make Cool Stuff

Okay, we already said that you’re not a clothing company. But there are a lot of musicians out there with a lot of things to sell. And many bands, no matter how good their music is and mindblowing their live show might be, have terrible, terrible merch. The kind of merch that the next Velvet Underground couldn’t move. Don’t be that band. Don’t just iron a logo on some Hanes tees and expect that anyone will pull out of their wallets. Not only will cool stuff sell, but you’ll have cool stuff. And just like your music, you should strive to make everything pretty damn cool.

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Shane Mehling

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.