How To Sell Merch Like A Boss
September 29, 2016
Dan Matthews in Crowdfunding, Digital Downloads, Merch, Merchandise, band marketing, music sales

I’m not going to nag you about putting out quality merch, because it sells itself. Were I to nag you like that, I’d have to quit making music and become someone’s dad. And I’m no one’s dad. At least that I know of.

Everyone knows what they produce, from music to merch, needs to be good. The “good” part is intangible, it’s wrapped up in opinion, and pretty much everyone knows that, too. But not everyone knows about different ways to get rid of their merch. Today, there’s so much more you can do to sell merch besides setting it out at a show, feebly announcing you’ve got stuff for sale, and you’ll be back there “hanging out” if anyone wants to “stop by and say hello”.

We’re in the digital age now. The bands I see making good on their merch account for the ones and zeros. If you’re on the fence, they make it so you can’t stay there with a lame excuse like, “Well, all I have is plastic”.

Here are some of the best ways I’ve discovered for bands and artists to sell their merch like a boss.

1. Accept mobile payment

This one is huge. A mobile payment device will let you sell merch to anybody, because you’ll accept both card and cash. Square’s guide on how to accept credit card payments reveals that people spend 12-18% more when they pay with plastic. Spending that extra $10 on a t-shirt just doesn’t seem as drastic when you don’t see any money disappear from your wallet. Besides Square’s ubiquitous mobile payment device, Intuit, PayAnywhere, Paypal, and Shopify all offer solutions.

2. Do digital downloads

Hard copies of your album are sweet. CDs, vinyl, cassettes—yes, cassette tapes—the more options you have the better. But now people expect a digital dowload option. You don’t have to have a record label with a website to provide this option. Sites such as Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and Audiomack let you upload your music and decide what you’d like to charge for it. From my experience with Bandcamp, I know that once your songs are uploaded, you can get dowload codes to sell at shows. You can also sell your other merch, including hard copies of the album, directly from your Bandcamp page. Including a digital download with the hard copies you sell at shows also increases your chances of selling your album. 

3. Crowfund your merch production   

If you don’t have any money to make merch to begin with, crowdfunding is an excellent option. Sites such as Kickstarter, Patreon, and Indiegogo facilitate your campaign, in which you ask people to donate money to fund your cause. For all of these platforms, you’ll want to create a video detailing your campaign. With Kickstarter, you’ll deliver donors a finished product if you meet your funding goal. Your campaign can last up to 60 days. Beware: if you don’t meet your merch funding goal, you don’t get anything.

With Patreon, you can choose between an on-going (monthly) campaign and a limited, per creation campaign that’s all about the finished product. Think you could keep on pumping out new, awesome merch items? The on-going campaign could be for you. 

And with Indiegogo, you can choose between a Kickstarter-style, all-or-nothing campaign, or a flexible one, meaning you’ll still see some of the cash even if you don’t hit your goal. Campaigns can last up to 120 days.

All of these platforms take a percentage of your earnings, so be in the know before you go.

4. Setup your own website  

This is a middle finger to the digital download platforms and the crowdfunding platforms I outlined above. Selling your merch through your website says you are absolutely doing everything yourself, eschewing the middleman. The middleman is digital platforms, or record labels, who love to use an open source Content Management System called Drupal. Well guess what? You can use Drupal or Wordpress or Joomla or other Content Management Systems to setup a site, do your fundraising, and sell your merch. Many of these—such as Drupal—are free, and they’re designed to make site-building and design easy for the layman.

5. Sell through a third party 

A site such as Big Cartel focuses on selling indie artists’ merch and making it easy. You pay a monthly membership fee (actually, you can start at $0), and can cancel anytime. This simply provides you with a popular platform that specializes in selling the type of stuff you’re making to a broad audience of people who are into this sort of thing. Or, just open an Ebay account. Some time ago, in the not-so-distant past, a woman named Sophia Amoruso did this with her vintage brand Nasty Gal, and now she’s worth millions.

Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer, songwriter, musician and poet from Boise, ID. You can find him on Twitter. 


Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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