This article originally appeared on CD Baby’s DIY Musician Blog.
Why the Value of Your Merch Changes Every Day
Let’s say you just started a hot-sauce business. The price of your product probably changes depending on the buyer; lower-end grocery stores, shi-shi markets, restaurants, and direct customers on your website will all pay a little something different for the same mouth-burning sensations— to say nothing of the folks who will try free samples at the store.
Musical products aren’t that different; the value of your merch changes from gig to gig, and should (or could) be priced accordingly. This is NOT “Name-Your-Price,” but an alternate system where the band and manager keep the context of the concert in mind when setting today’s “market price.” And unlike fish, your music won’t grow stale,… right?
Every audience is unique, and every concert is not created equal
If you’re one of those folks who thinks, “Hey, I spent a lot of time and money on my recording; I say it’s worth $12— for everyone, everywhere, all the time!“— well, I understand that attitude. But consider the possibility that you might sell more music if you thought of your merch items as mementos from an event that will never happen again.
As Tom Jackson says, the art of live performance is all about “creating moments” on stage, moments that stick with the audience so much that they want to take a part of that concert home with them. And if that’s the case, your merch is worth only as much as the memories you created.
Most people will pay a lot more for a Mickey Mouse hat from DisneyWorld than they would for a keychain from the Darryl’s Texas Ribs in the back of a gas station in El Paso. Similarly, your latest CD is “worth” more when you play a 2-hour concert at a beautiful venue with amazing acoustics than it would be if you played on a 5-band bill at an all-ages club in a warehouse. It’s worth more if you add something extra to the show— choreography, videos, fancy lights, special guests, etc. Merch is worth less if you’re just filling in last-minute at the local bar.
Consider 3 things when pricing your merch
1. Demographic of audience- Think about the economic means of the folks in attendance. The point is to get your music out there, right? Sometimes lowering your price to encourage sales can actually result in larger earnings overall. Conversely, there are some venues and communities where raising your price above normal will have no adverse effect on sales. If you feel like you’ll give them a show they’ll remember, go ahead and raise the price.
2. The show- How unique is the event? What was your energy expenditure? Production budget? Crew? Again, the better the show— the richer the memory; the richer the memory— the more valuable the memento.
3. The merch itself- How many songs are on the CD? Are the T-Shirts made with the most comfortable materials? Are the posters limited edition? This is perhaps the most obvious consideration, but the better your merch, the more it’s worth; and that gives you even more leeway with your prices— whether you’re adjusting up OR down.
Have you tried selling merch with flexible prices? How’d it go? Let us know in the comments section below.
Chris Robley is a songwriter, producer, poet, blogger, person, and marketeer for independent music distributor CD Baby. The LA Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Examiner, and other fine publications have used nice words to describe his music. NPR says: “Dark, romantic strains take flight. This gothic, orchestral indie-pop is sure to leave heads spinning with its unique and haunting sound.”