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The Top Ten Reasons Fans Don’t Buy Your Merch

I thought I would follow up Jed’s post titled The Four Reasons Fans Buy Your Products with this quick post on ten reasons why they don’t (assuming your live show is dialed in):  

10.  You never create anything different.  It’s the same merch you were pushing two years ago, but you tried to change 2008 to 2010 with a Sharpie.

09.  Your merch looks like your little sister drew it…using crayons.

07.  There’s not enough lighting on the merch table; everything looks monochrome.  

06.  The merch table is next to the dance floor / mosh pit.

05.  Your manager (smaller acts) has too much pride to be hawking merchandise, but he or she should be…

04.  You can’t process debit cards.  Get a wireless solution.

03.  Just starting out, you underestimate the importance (to the band) of grabbing that extra $100 to $200 per show, so you don’t bother making the effort.

02.  The lead singer refuses to promote merch.  Solution: give him or her a pitch speech that doesn’t sound desperate or cheesy.  Wrtie and then sing your signature “buy my stuff song…” three times a night.

01.  You don’t connect with your audience; you don’t make eye contact; you don’t know the name of the bar you are performing in; or you forget that you were in Portland last week (Seattle this week).  

Reader Comments (27)

"Just starting out, you underestimate the importance (to the band) of grabbing that extra $100 to $200 per show, so you don’t bother making the effort."

You are joking right? An extra 100 or 200 per show, on top of what?

What are you guys already getting in America per show cos here in the UK bands RARELY sell CDs or T-shirts at gigs?

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

"...cos here in the UK bands RARELY sell CDs or T-shirts at gigs?"

Here in Wales, we rarely get paid for doing gigs! :(

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterDim

Yeah same here. We get the occasional £20 sometimes.

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

Reason Number 11: You perform in the UK and fans there would rather spend money on....

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Here in Wales, we rarely get paid for doing gigs! :(

Yeah same here. We get the occasional £20 sometimes.

Strange to hear this, as I know a few artists here in Seattle who actually fly to the UK and Europe several times a year to perform and actually make a real profit. They do this instead of touring the US.

April 28 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Chris and Dim, the club owners aren't the ones with the power to determine what you make, unless there's no demand for you. If there's no demand for your music then that's your fault. If there is demand for your music and you're unable to turn that into profit, then that's also your fault. You either need to become a better band or a better business person.

If you have the power to make club owners money then you have the power to negotiate. The fact that you play in a band doesn't entitle you to getting paid anything. Only the fact that you can give value to fans and club owners gives you cause to get paid.

I'm quite sure that there are a number of acts making a good living in your country. You're using the same excuse that I've heard 1000 times in America. It's not your country. It's you.

I'm not saying it's easy, but the first step is to take responsibility for your results and to live at cause instead living at effect and being a victim of the outside world. Step up!

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterScott James

Ever think about your music? If the music is not happening, ...


April 28 | Unregistered CommenterAirview

What happened to #8?

It's not always the bands fault that they don't get paid. We often pack the house, but get paid little to nothing. But just not playing is worse than playing for free. We may be walking out with less money than when we walked in, but we also walked out with more fans due to live exposure and the value and longevity of this is better than a dollar if your a band.

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterUTF

@ Tiara - you win the prize.


April 28 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Quality of music doesn't have anything to do with sales or how much a club pays. Appropriateness of music for a venue does. If you don't play rock music, don't play rock clubs.

Reason 12, you can't get the merch cheep enough and have to sell t-shirts for 20 quid to break even.

reason 13, the people that make it are in the states and shipping costs a small fortune (nudge the reverb store )


April 28 | Unregistered CommenterJon Roy

@Scott James

Yep I totally agree (on most points). I couldn't agree with this more: "The fact that you play in a band doesn't entitle you to getting paid anything."

You gotta take FULL responsibility for your own situation as a musician. We can't turn the money we make into profit yet but we are working on it. We have the music but I'm still working on business skills, promotion skills, networking skills etc. Every day is another lesson learnt.

I also didn't mean to come across as blaming my location. It's tough for everyone everywhere as indies, especially indies just starting out.

I probably didn't make my point clear but the OP said as a band "Just starting out". Trust me, as an underground metal band just starting out in the UK, if you don't have the contacts you will MOSTLY pay for free, quite often PAY TO PLAY, you will drive to gigs halfway across the country that don't even exist and you will REALLY STRUGGLE to sell t-shirts and CDs.

(good blog by the way, found it a couple of months ago)

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

@ Chris - I could have been more specific about "just starting out". To clarify: decent live show; been playing together for one to two years; featured act at small venues; playing regionally; still under the radar.

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

@ Bruce

Thanks for the clarification, that makes more sense.

There's some good info on there - number 1 and 2 especially. I see bands failing on these points all the time and don't have much sympathy. I can't count the amount of times I've heard "buy our f***cking merch, we'd like to eat this month" from a buch of overweight metallers who clearly work day jobs just like the rest of us .... etc.

Does anyone have any info on credit/debit card solutions for the UK? I'm aware CD Baby have a handheld card reader but I'm assuming you need to be selling your music through them.

April 29 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

Hey, just thought I'd point out that this article got mentioned in Coolfer's column at And he adds:

The list is missing the biggest single reason fans don’t buy your merch: too few bands treat merchandise like an actual business. Instead, they assume people are going to walk in the shop because they [see] the “open” sign in the window.

April 29 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Thanks Scott. I wish Glen was not stuck at Billboard. It's such a tough site to digest. I can' t get past the scattered design.

April 30 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

@ Chris - Try this -

April 30 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Cheers Bruce, I'll keep my eye on that. Hopefully it'll be made available outside the US cos it looks like a great solution.

April 30 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

To be honest, Sell as much as you can at a show with all the avalible tools you have, then use your online store to max out your revenue. From what I have found out people don't bring alot of money to shows unless your a huge act... I have had fans see shirts online and bring money to buy it from me in person... kinda cool.. anyway. I Just use the internet to sell my music and everything else.. save up all and tour and then sell to the kids who know me that brought their friends to the show and push to sell from their.

I would suggest hiring an aritst to do all the work, they can make something people want to buy rather than something you "like" people don't care what YOU like they care about what THEY like. Make THEM a shirt

Ok. These are my 0.2 cents. If you promote you win, if not you lose. As a designer of software for viral marketing, seasoned and starting bands approach us for tools to promote their music, lyrics, merchandise and more. We build a tool for a band (who's name I won't disclose) which has a team of 2 graphic designers & 3 marketers to promote their stuff. If they can pay the team, they are earning.

Maybe you are a small band which every Saturday pack 70 people into the next block bar, and you think you don't have time or resources to promote your merchandise. Well, wake up. You can win the internet battle, if you think outside the box and use the new viral tools around. Open a store online and start promoting it in social media (Facebook is better than Twitter to push fans around, and YouTube is better than Facebook for acquiring new fans).

I also agree with: ""The fact that you play in a band doesn't entitle you to getting paid anything.". Conquer the market, man, Uk or USA are not the only countries in the world, in fact, there are more than 140. Asian markets are dying for the "west rock style".

John Hudd

April 30 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Hudd

So the above tools are the tools big bands use for promotion. Nice to know.. As always doing things by hand it seems a waste of time.

Ok I just have to comment on this.
Who ever said that it's worse playing for free than not playing at all
really doesn't make music for music but for money.
And that's a big mistake.
You have to have your show, your music, your act first in your mind.
The money is the last thing you want to think about.
Do you have fun making music and performing or you're there just
because you have to make money. I mean, you can sell burgers
instead dude. I am sure that the paycheck there definitely comes.

Music is art and most of you treat it like a regular job, but is not
and that is why your music will produce only a few pennies,
cause you treat it like that.

Bless you!

May 1 | Unregistered CommenterKam

Do you solicit feedback from your customers online? This is yet another example of how business owners may be accidentally marketing their business on the Internet.

John April 30 wrote "Maybe you are a small band which every Saturday pack 70 people into the next block bar..."
Small band pulling 70!? Always makes me laugh when people say things like this. If I was pulling 70 people to every gig I'd feel like Robert Plant. I've seen established artists play to a lot less than 70.

May 4 | Unregistered CommenterThe Blob

This was very amusing. I've seen this happen too many times

@ Kam

obviously the music comes first, but the idea is that it is possible to make money in this industry as an independent artist if you work at it and change your attitude towards the business aspect of music

October 4 | Unregistered Commenterben

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