Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Desert Island Merch Table

I’ve been constantly frustrated by music business magazine articles, blogs or eBooks that present the problems of the industry and in the end don’t provide any helpful information on what in the world the artist should do! So lets get down to it. What is do or die? What piece of the business of an artist’s career makes the biggest impact? What part of your business should you get right even if you end up messing up everything else? The answer is quite simple. Merchandise Table!
Selling merch is the difference between you having enough gas to get home and being stranded in Southern Georgia. (Trust me, I know.  It’s no fun). It’s the difference between getting paid a couple hundred bucks for a gig or a couple thousand.  Understand the information listed below is by no means the only way to do it. But my tips are battle tested and have helped me immensely in giving me a career making music.
            Know your audience?
Bear with me for a moment, as I’m about to go a bit extreme to make a point.
Look at the difference between Metallica and Brittany Spears.  Who buys their music? What do they wear? Where do they shop? What other products do they buy?  Metallica for instance has made millions off of selling Black everything; black albums, black t-shirts, black stickers, black hoodies etc. Why? Because that’s what their fans want and that is what they already wear!  Brittany on the other hand has bright “girly” colors; pink, white, blue, etc.  She would never sell on her merch table what Metallica has sold a million of. Why? Because it’s just not the same life style and its just not the same fans.
            The wonder of T-Shirts.
The band t-shirt was basically started by arguably the greatest band of all time: The Beatles. Since then, every band (including mine) has made a lot of money off of this no brainer.  First rule of T-shirts (keep in mind the know your audience rule) Simple is always best.  Go simple with your design and colors. Black T-shirts almost always sell the best. People just want your band or artist name across their chest.  The great news about this is that what people want the most is also the cheapest to make! Cool designs are still a very valuable commodity, but in my experience they will not be your biggest sellers and the will cost you a lot more. Always, always go with a comfortable material over a fancy design.
            CD’s are still the bee’s knees!
Lets imagine I just saw you play live and guess what…you killed! I rush over to your merch table to buy your music and all you have is a download card or a flash drive?!?! The after show buzz is gone! I had visions of rocking out to your last song in the set on my drive back home.
Here’s the deal. Technology is great and I would encourage everyone to look into download cards, flashes drives, iPod docks etc., but never, ever choose these before you have a CD.  CD’s are still by far the most cost effective way to sell your music and they provide the fan with very important instant satisfaction.

     Bundles work.
You have three main items on your merch table; a simple t-shirt, a CD and a poster. Lets say all of these items combined cost you $6.25.  When fans approach your table with a 20-dollar bill they are already willing to spend it all.  Give them a reason to spend it! Create a deal for them.
Take that black T-shirt that you sell for 15 bucks, add in your CD for 5.00 and something cheap, like the poster, that you also sell for 5 bucks and sell it for $20.
Your pitch is “If you buy the “special” then you get the T-shirt and the CD for $20 and we will throw in the poster for “free”. That’s a $13.75 profit.  Your fans will be walking away thanking you for an awesome deal and you’ll be thanking them for the extra five bucks. 

Quick recap. Happy fans equal more money for you and more t-shirts, CD’s and posters out there advertising your band at your fans expense.

Written by: Blake Easter