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8 Reasons Why Musicians Should Sell Merch [+3 Successful Examples]

8 Reasons Why Musicians Should Sell Merch [+3 Successful Examples]
Melanie Kealey

By Melanie Kealey

9 min read

It’s common for musicians to focus on the writing, recording, and performing cycle, but now more than ever it’s important to create multiple income streams for support. 

Ideally, making music should keep you making more music. However, making smart marketing decisions—including dedicating time to selling merch—will not only help you to make money as a musician, but also help to broaden your career and deepen your connection to your fans.

If you haven’t yet started selling merch, here are several reasons why you should give it a try, how to get started, plus examples of musicians doing it right.

Why musicians should sell merch

1. It gives your fans a way to rep your brand

One of the best ways to get new fans is through your current fans acting as walking billboards. Once your true fans have bought or streamed your music, merch is another way to show their support. Whether it’s a t-shirt, snapback hat, or sticker, merch gives your fans a way to help promote your music in a physical way, while offering something tangible in return.

2. Selling merch can make you money

Music sales may be declining, but physical merch sales are on the rise. If you set up your online store successfully, there’s no reason why band merch can’t be a big seller for you. Artists in 2021 sold more than $6.4 million in merch through their Bandzoogle websites, commission-free. With print-on-demand as an integrated option, there are no upfront costs either.

3. It’s easier than ever to sell merch online

The best place to sell merch is directly through your own artist website. People are used to shopping online for physical products, so adding merch to your site makes it easy for fans. And with print-on-demand, you don’t have to worry about storing stock or sending out orders yourself. Products are printed and shipped to your customers as soon as an order is made. That means setting up your store is the hardest part—but then you’re set.

Plus, you can reach a wider audience. As it gets easier to connect with listeners all over the world, your international fanbase is most likely growing. An online merch store means you can offer products to everyone, regardless of their ability to see a show in person. 

musician merch

Source: Bandzoogle

4. It adds momentum to your music

Fresh merch items give you more reasons to re-promote a release. For example, you can issue a vintage sweatshirt with an old album cover printed on it. Or, take advantage of the season to draw interest back to a specific release. If you released an album in March, you could create tank tops as summer approaches, sending details to your fans who may have missed it the first time around. 

5. It goes hand in hand with playing live

Nothing beats a live show for creating a personal connection with your fans. More than that, shows are a great place to sell merch. With print-on-demand, you have options: you can ship a certain number of items to a venue, or send fans back to your website to peruse your offerings after the show. 

6. It can help you in the industry 

Whether you’re looking to secure a manager or work with a talent buyer, a track record of selling substantial amounts of merch matters. It shows that you’re tenacious, can manage the business side of your music career, and have a solid fan base supporting you.

7. It builds a stronger connection with your fans

Maybe most importantly, merch gives your fans something they can hold onto. When they wear a band t-shirt, they’re reminded of that amazing concert and the songs that inspire them. Your music provides emotion, and merch transforms that feeling into something they can wear to relive the feeling.

8. There’s room for creativity

Adding a few creative merch items can help cement your brand. Selling less common products with cool, original designs like blankets or phone cases might catch the eye of budding fans or non-listeners on the hunt for novel products—and convert them into fans. Plus, interesting items will give your current fans something new to purchase or gift. 

And remember the idea of turning your fans into walking billboards? With a novelty merch item, their friends and family are more likely to take notice and ask about it, creating some solid word-of-mouth marketing for your band.

print on demand merch

Source: Bandzoogle

How to sell merch as a musician

Now that you know why you should be selling merch, getting started might feel daunting. But just like you’d see an album through to completion, the process for selling merch can be broken down into manageable parts.

1. Make a plan

Similar to embarking on a new recording or tour, planning is essential. A plan to sell merch using a print-on-demand dropshipping service might go something like this.

  • Determine your brand identity: Decide which colors, fonts, and imagery suit your style of music. You want your brand to communicate who you are visually—before someone even listens to your music.

  • Research what’ll sell well: See what other bands in similar genres are selling in their online stores. You can also ask your fans what they’d like to buy.

  • Make a list of products to start with: T-shirts, hoodies, and tote bags are usually top sellers. You can also choose a few items that reflect who you are personally, like a bomber jacket, if that’s your style.

  • Sign up with a print-on-demand service like Printful: Partnering with an on-demand production and fulfillment company will take the guesswork out of getting your merch to fans. As your orders come in, Printful will prepare, pack, and ship your products with your branding. Check out the Printful Product Catalog to get an idea of the products you can sell, and the prices.

  • Determine what you’ll need for artwork and marketing: If you’re selling merch, it’s worth investing some time in your artwork to make sure it’s something you’ll be proud to associate with your band. Likewise, you’ll need to set aside some time and money for marketing your merch, especially if you’re interested in running ads.

2. Design your merch

Make sure you have a great logo or a design that’ll work well on clothing and other products. Communicate what you’d like to see to a graphic designer, or create something yourself—it’s easy to get into designing with Printful’s Design Maker tool. Choose from tons of different colors, fonts, and patterns, as well as clipart for every occasion and Premium Images, all for free. It’s an easy way to make your merch stand out.

It could also be as simple as your band name as a text logo. Or, you could use album artwork. The design you choose should convey your brand, and it should look great on larger items like tees and hoodies, as well as smaller items, like mugs, stickers, and more. 

Whatever you decide to start with, get your artwork prepared in the proper format to print on merch items. Check this guide to learn all about print file requirements, terminology, and the most common print file mistakes, plus how you can avoid them. 

3. Create an online store

The best place to sell merch online is your own, fully owned and personally branded website. That way, you can have full control over the products you sell, the pricing, and the look and feel. Design a store page that’s an extension of your online persona, building on your website’s current look, and creating a seamless shopping experience. 

Your online store should exist on a dedicated store page. It should include:

  • A simple, easy-to-scan design

  • Multiple products available for sale, at different price points for all budgets

  • A clear description of each item, plus images and the price

  • Clear purchase buttons

  • A shopping cart that is fully mobile responsive

  • The shipping time frame and how to contact you with questions about an order

Your online merch store should have a simple layout and design, with text that’s in high contrast to your background color. Make your online store the best place to support you by giving your fans lots to browse and buy. And be sure to update your store regularly with new music and merch releases.

4. Promote, promote, promote

Another advantage of selling merch online is that it gives you extra opportunities to promote your music. You want to be sure you’re reaching your current fans, and then also connecting with potential listeners.

Here are a few promotion ideas to get you started:

  • Build hype with a pre-order

  • Add an interesting or exclusive merch item

  • Send a newsletter to your full fanbase

  • Add a call-to-action on your website’s homepage directing fans to your new merch

  • Create posts for social media and share (staggering your content)

  • Consider social media ads with a specific landing page to measure success

5. Keep track and keep trying

Throughout the process of selling merch, keep track of your sales alongside your promotional efforts. You’ll want a clear picture of what worked well, which products sold, who bought them and when they were sold. This’ll help you revisit your plan, and turn it into a blueprint to follow each time you release new merch.

Create and sell custom merch online
  • Sign up for free
  • 439 custom products
  • Sell without inventory

Examples of how to sell band merch

Setting up an online store and adding your products is a good first step. But taking your band merch to the next level means making lots of sales. Check out these examples of musicians doing it right—connecting with their fans in order to make merch sales online.

Get started with simple merch items

Fulfillment using a print-on-demand service means there isn’t an initial investment required. So indie artists can experiment with multiple types of products to see what sells well. Choose a few simple options and see what resonates with your fanbase.

Musician Mela Bee is a great example of how creating simple merch can enhance an artist’s brand. She’s created all-black merch in multiple product offerings, each one featuring her name or logo. Each item follows a similar color scheme which is also reminiscent of Mela’s atmospheric sound.

Mela B musician merch

Source: Mela Bee

Sell a variety of products

If you’re a bit farther along in your merch-selling journey, add more options to your store. Select your most popular releases, or choose your most recognizable albums to print onto a variety of items. An online merch store can contain as many items as you’d like, and since you don’t have to store inventory, integrating plenty of merch items into your store will give your fans a variety of options to peruse.

Musician Adam Ezra has created a variety of merch from different releases. Listing these items in a grid view on his website’s store page means that every item is easy to spot. Universally appealing t-shirts lead the way in his store. The selection also includes novelty items like printed koozies and winter hats. With such a wide range of items, there’s something for everyone. Each product is clearly labeled, with the description and price visible in a highly contrasting font.

adam ezra musician merch

Source: Adam Ezra Group

Create merch options tailored to your fanbase

If your band has been playing and successfully selling merch for some time, you likely have a good handle on your fanbase’s demographics. Create merch that hones in on their interests. This is especially helpful to capture sales from repeat customers who may already own t-shirts from your last merch drop.

The Famous Last Words band has made a website that’s primed to successfully sell merch online. Their store page offers a variety of tailored options which indicate they understand their fanbase well. The products are easily visible as you scroll down the page, with a description directly beside the product, and an add to cart button that stands out.

famous last words musician merch

Source: Famous Last Words

It’s your turn

Selling merch online used to be a labor of love—and a lot of work. With print-on-demand, offering a variety of online merch products is accessible to all musicians without needing an upfront investment. Take advantage of this and create merch products that’ll strengthen your relationship with your fans, and generate more income for you as a musician.

author

By Melanie Kealey on Oct 25, 2022

Melanie Kealey

Guest author

Melanie Kealey is the Director of Communications at music website platform Bandzoogle. In addition to overseeing the Bandzoogle blog, she regularly writes posts with helpful website tips for musicians.

Melanie Kealey is the Director of Communications at music website platform Bandzoogle. In addition to overseeing the Bandzoogle blog, she regularly writes posts with helpful website tips for musicians.