Merch will likely be one of the main income streams for you as an artist. Here’s what you should consider before printing and selling merch
Seeing your band’s name printed on someone else’s chest is an undeniably cool feeling, but printing band merch is far more than just a vanity project. For many emerging bands, merch can be a primary source of revenue.
It’s an unfortunate reality that you’re going to struggle to make money as a musician from music sales alone in the age of SoundCloud and Spotify. Which is why it has never been more important to explore other streams of income.
By selling branded T-shirts, tote bags, stickers, hoodies, or even lighters, you’re offering your fans a chance to directly support your work (and promote your music at the same time).
Establish A Budget
Selling merch can raise a large sum of money in the long run, but you’re still going to need to dish out a bit of cash up front to have the items manufactured. So it’s important to establish a budget.
You’re going to need to get together with your band and establish how much you’re willing to spend and how much you think you can move. From here, you can decide on which items you’ll sell, the quantities you’ll order, and how much you’ll sell them for.
Smaller items like pins and stickers are obviously going to be a lot cheaper than hoodies and T-shirts. However those big-ticket items will also sell for more, so keep this in mind when deciding on items.
Identify Your Audience
To make the most of your investment, you really need to think hard about who your audience is and what kind of merch they’re likely to purchase. Next time you’re at a gig for a similar band, pay close attention to the kinds of merch people are wearing and buying. This is a great way to gauge your audience’s tastes.
What Type of Merch Should You Sell?
T-shirts are the staple item of every merch table. People love them and they’re relatively easy and affordable to get printed. Not only will you make a decent profit from selling them, but every time someone wears your shirt, they’re advertising your band.
Where to buy blank tees:
When making merch, you will need quality blanks to print on. Natural fabrics like cotton and cotton blends are the best option for screen and digital printing. These are better to work with than synthetic fabrics as they absorb ink more readily. Organic cotton is the best option. Other natural fabrics like wool and wool blends are also good choices.
CB Clothing have a range of 100% Australian cotton blanks available at wholesale prices that are perfect for printing. Their fabrics are WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certified and enzyme-free, which is great for the environment.
CB supply tees, singlets, jumpers, and hoodies in a range of styles (from baseball tees to crew jumpers) and sizes (XS – 5XL in adults). They can refer you to screen or digital printers and see your order through from start to finish. They also offer same day delivery, which is a huge plus.
Check out their pricing here.
Blank Tees is another great option. They offer really reasonable wholesale prices on merch classics like AS Colour, Anvil and Gildan (short and long sleeve), plus hoodies and jumpers.
They also offer fast in-house screenprinting for orders over 20 shirts and free shipping for orders for over $135.45.
Check out their pricing here.
While we definitely recommend printing T-shirts, there are still plenty of other merchandise options. These include tote bags, caps, lighters, stickers, badges, and a whole lot of others. Don’t be afraid to get creative – one of the best pieces of merch I’ve ever seen is Confidence Man underpants.
Badges (or pins) are one of the cheapest merchandise options out there, and people are always paying attention to what badges are on each other’s jackets.
The other option is to buy your own badge pressing machine (which can be found pretty easily on eBay). This way you can press endless amounts of badges with as many different designs you wish.
There are a few different types of stickers you can print. The most common for bands are paper and vinyl stickers. While paper stickers tend to be cheaper, we definitely recommend vinyl stickers – they’ll last a lot longer, and the design won’t fade as easily.
Sites like ozstickerprinting.com offer large quantities of vinyl stickers for cheap (a thousand 50mm x 25mm vinyl stickers are just $99).
The other, more DIY approach is to buy your own adhesive paper from Officeworks and print the stickers yourself. This is the cheapest option, but the product will be lower in quality.
Doing It Yourself
A good way to minimise costs is to buy blank merch in bulk and do your own screen printing. This is more time consuming, but it allows you to do short runs whenever you wish and make custom items for your fans.
Aside from your blank garment, you’ll need a couple of other things to make your own merch including a screen, a squeegee (minimum 12-inch), screen printing tape, and screen printing ink. You can pick up all of this stuff either at Bunnings or your local art supply store. Here’s a pretty good guide to screen printing your own T-shirts. You can follow the same method for jumpers, totes, undies – whatever you want really.
No matter what item of merch you’re selling, design is everything! Nobody’s going to want to buy a t-shirt with an ugly print on it. If there’s a member of your band with artistic skills, you can probably get going on this yourself. If no one in your band knows much about design, don’t be afraid to reach out to artists and designers – music and art go hand-in-hand, so merch can make for the perfect collaborative project.
If you’re unsure of where to source a designer, sites like Fiverr allow you to browse through a list of freelance designers and pick one that’s best suited to your project (they’ve even got a section dedicated to t-shirt designers).
Taking your time to carefully consider your design can have a huge pay off once it’s time to launch your merch line.
How Much Should You Charge?
Of course, pricing will vary from item to item. You’ll be able to charge more for bigger items like shirts than for smaller items like stickers and badges. The best bet is to see what other local bands are charging for their merch items. The standard price for T-shirts tends to be $20 – $25, while stickers and badges will cost only a dollar or two (a lot of bands give these away for free).
Setting Up A Good Merch Table
Now that you’re merch is ready to go, you’ll have to set up a merch table that’ll entice your prospective customers. Here are some things to consider:
- The first step is to pick a good spot. Many venues will have an allocated area for merch tables, but if not, it’s important to select an area that is visible and easily accessible. You want as many eyes gracing your awesome merch as possible.
- Man the table at all times. At points throughout the night, ensure that there’s at least one person attending to the table. This can be a member of the band or even just a friend.
- Accept card payments. In this modern age of ours, a lot of people only carry credit/debit cards. We are rapidly sailing towards a cashless society, and it’s important that you keep up. Small gadgets like SquareUp allow you to accept card payments wherever you are.
- Bring plenty of change. There’s always one person who wants to pay with a $100 note. Make sure you’ve got a float to fix up any punter who’s interested in purchasing your wares. You never want to lose a sale.
Selling Band Merch Online
On top of selling merch at gigs, it’s a great idea to make your items available online. It’s never been easier to set up an online store, and doing so can really help you rake in some profit off your products.
Through sites like Big Cartel and Shopify, you can set up your own personalised web-store through which customers can pay you directly for your merch (no design experience needed). Both stores offer free and paid services, with the free services limiting you to only being able to sell a small number of products.
The other option is to sell your merch through Bandcamp. This option is becoming increasingly popular as it allows your merch to sit side-by-side your music. Uploading your merchandise options to the website is as easy as uploading your music – just set a description, upload some photos, set a price, and Bob’s your uncle.