The Ultimate Guide to Band Merchandise
July 16, 2013
Simon Tam in Merch, Merchandise

These days, merchandise sales make up a pretty big portion of most touring acts’ income. The staples of CD’s, shirts, and stickers have become even more important as income from performing has gradually dropped. There are many tips out there of what bands should order and how they should sell their products, but there doesn’t seem to be much on how to get the best possible pricing from vendors, how to calculate prices, or how much product should be ordered before a tour.

 

What You Should Order and Who You Should Order From

The standard band mix of products should include:

 

There are many other options out there and I do recommend that you explore custom merchandise, but it’s important to balance the “cool” factor of having variety with what actually sells and what you can make money on. These are other common products:

 

How to Get Better Pricing for Band Merchandise

Here are some tips on how to get better prices for your merchandise:

 

How Much You Should Sell Your Merch For

There are a few different camps on this one. Some people believe that you should offer your products up for a suggested donation; others believe in having set prices. How much do you want to make off of your merchandise? Is it more important for you to have more cash in hand or products in the hands of your fans?

If you want to run your band like a business, then you’ll want to calculate things like ROI (return on investment), profit margin, turnover (how quickly the product sells), and keep track of your inventory. Translating that to the band world would look like this:

Tip: you should have something in your inter-band agreement about merchandise policies: who pays the upfront money, how people get paid back, who is able to take/give away merch, and what terms are involved with that. Some band members sell merchandise to family and friends, others give it away. It’s best to have upfront conversations about how much merch can be used for promo or charitable reasons. If you decide to give away or discount a certain amount, that should be factored into your cost as well.

This is how much I typically sell merchandise for at shows:

CD - $12

Shirt - $15-20 (depending on design/type)

Hoodie - $45

Poster - $3

Sticker or Button - $1

Necklace - $5

Cell phone charm/Earrings - $3

Bracelet - $3

Water bottle - $8

Shot glass - $5

Lighter - $10

 

Another tip: Offer combination packages, it gives a better value to fans and helps you sell more. For example, we’ll often sell a cd, shirt, poster, bracelet, sticker, and button for $25-30.


How to Sell More Merchandise

 

Supplies Every Merch Bin Should Have

In addition to the obvious (merchandise), your merch bin should have the following:

 

Less Common Items Bands Should Own

Here’s a list of helpful items you should eventually get:

More than anything else, make sure that your approach to merchandise is thoughtful, makes sense for your music, and makes sense for your budget. It’s definitely worth investing into but it should be done the right way!

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Simon Tam is the President and Founder of Last Stop Booking, author of How to Get Sponsorships and Endorsements, and performs in dance rock band The Slants. Simon’s writing on music and marketing can be found at www.laststopbooking.com. He is on Twitter @SimonTheTam 

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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