11 Music Merchandise Tips from Independent Managers and Music Marketers

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Photo: Alpines's 'Another River' limited edition merch bundle.

Editor’s Note: this blog is an edited version of a post originally published on Music Ally, a leading publication and specialist consultant for the new music business. For the full article, please click here.

From signed CDs and topical t-shirts to snapbacks and fire-starting jigsaw puzzles, merchandise is a vital income stream for independent artists. How to make the most of it? Here’s a roundup of the 11 most useful advice from a session on merch at this year's AIM’s Indie-Con conference in London.

1. Physical music is merchandise in 2017

“The highest-quality ‘item’ that emerging artists have is their music.” - Achal Dhillon, Killing Moon

2. Personalisation can mean more than autographs

"It can be t-shirts dedicated to specific events, a tour version of an album, an extra items in the package or a handwritten note saying thank you for buying this. Nowadays, when kids buy a record, they know they’re basically paying the record label. They see merch as more of a direct way to support the artists”. - Iris Gomez, Raw Power Management.

3. Get topical with your t-shirts

“You have to keep track of the trends and see what people like ‘this month’ rather than ‘this year'. You have to be very reactionary with it.” - Iris Gomez, Raw Power Management.

4. Tie merch in with your overall campaign

“(On Music Glue), when you do an album preorder campaign, one in two people who buy the pre-order will also buy another item. Create different bundles at different price ranges to allow for everyone to buy something, be it a CD and a t-shirt to the £100 bundle with all the vinyl, exclusives and meet’n’greet”. - Gabrielle Nicot-Berenger, Music Glue.

5. Get out there on the merch stall yourself

“Fans love to meet artists after they play, so the benefits of an emerging band getting behind the merch stall to meet their public (not just to sell them t-shirts and CDs) are considerable.” - Achal Dhillon, Killing Moon

6. Hanging on your online rights can pay off

“By keeping the rights to your online store, you can keep a steady flow of money going to the band’s accounts. Loads of bands signing to bigger merch deals do lose those rights, and the steady revenue. One of the big advantages of retaining control is access to data on the fans that have bought merch.” - Gabrielle Nicot-Berenger, Music Glue.

7. Respond to fan demands, but don’t overload them

“A lot of work with product is making sure we’re producing merch that fans are interested in. If it’s not connecting with your audience, it’s not worth doing. Having a yearly or two-yearly merchandise plan in place can be really beneficial: making sure you’re not asking for too much money in too short a period of time.” - David Riley, Plan It Music.

8. Don’t be too cheap

“Quality should extend to the online marketing of these products. Display the product in store in a good way: an actual photograph always sells better than a bad t-shirt mockup... ” - Iris Gomez, Raw Power Management.

9. Hoodies for dance fans, t-shirts for indie fans?

“The Prodigy have seen differences according to the musical focus of the festival they are playing. The black ‘band’ t-shirts sell really well at [rock festivals] Sonosphere, Download, the Rock-am-Ring shows. And the lighter t-shirts sell more at the dance festivals. But the merch sells better in general at a rock-based festival than a dance one.” - David Riley, Plan It Music.

10. Pop-up shops aren’t just for Kanye and Bieber

“Pop-up shops are becoming an increasingly-common tactic for big artists. They may also have potential for independent labels though. It’s a very interesting experience in terms of meeting the people coming in.” - Kevin Douch from Big Scary Monsters.

11. Don’t underestimate the appeal of snapbacks… and puzzles!

”The Prodigy aren’t afraid to try some extremely unexpected merch categories. My favourite thing we put online? A thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle!”. - David Riley, Plan It Music.

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