We recently conducted a small survey asking two simple questions. Quite a few people kindly filled out the survey and what we found was rather interesting...
Our first question was:
Which of these generate the most income for you?
- Downloads / Streaming Services
- Posters & Stickers
As we suspected CDs do better than any other type of merchandise. This is probably because fans coming to shows are there primarily for the music rather than the T-shirts. CDs are touch and feel tangible, unlike digital downloads. When they're at your show, all pumped up, ready to make an impulse purchase, they would rather have the physical CD where they can read lyrics and liner notes than wait till they get home to download the songs off iTunes or your band's website. In most cases, by the time they get home the initial excitement is fading and they might just forget to download those tracks...
Our second question was:
In general, which makes you more money at your shows - the performance fee (guarantees, cut of the door) or selling merchandise ?
Most people claimed they made more money at the performance fee, which is quite uplifting in contrast to stories of pay to play and venues cutting out live music to save costs.
However this also begs the question...
How much money are you leaving on the table by not maximizing your merch sales...?
We have come up with 4 foolproof ways to sell more merch at your shows.
1. Location, presentation, organization & illumination
Set up your merch table in a high traffic area, close to the exit, bathroom or bar. When more people walk by your table several times during the night, you increase your sales potential. Make it look nice and keep it organized. It should be easy for you or whomever is manning your table to find the right sizes of shirts, more CDs and stickers, etc. Don't make customers wait unnecessarily while you rummage through a pile that looks like dirty laundry. Your merch table is a store. Make it one where people would want to shop. Use lights when you can to illuminate your display. Hang up your T-shirts. Display your prices clearly to make it easy for fans to see.
2. Announcements from stage
You have the mic, so use it to your advantage. Several times during the show tell people that you have merch for sale and point out where it is set up. Be specific and say things like: "This next song is from our newest CD that you can buy at our merch table for only $10". Point out audience members, bartenders and other staff that are wearing your shirt. (Give some out for free before the show to make sure this can happen.) Invite your audience to come hang out with you at the merch table after the show.
3. Accept credit cards
It is 2017 and there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to accept credit cards. You get free card readers for your smart phones from companies like Square and PayPal and the fees are rather nominal. It is better to make 97.1% of something than 100% of nothing from the people that don't have cash on them.
4. Man the table
Make it a priority to hang out at the merch table before and after your show. During your show, have someone man the table. If you can’t yet afford to tour with a crew of any kind, maybe you have a dedicated fan that can run the table for you while you play.
For independent artists selling music and merch at shows, it can be a generous revenue stream. Making sure to maximize every opportunity is critical to keeping the band on the road.
Please let us know if you have any good tips on selling merch in the comments below. :-)