For many years, musicians sold merchandise like t-shirts and posters simply as a way to make money. It might not have been the most important revenue stream back when CD sales were still growing, but cash is cash.
Now, an artist’s merchandise has yet again taken on new significance, but this time around, it’s not only about the money. According to Mat Vlasic, the CEO of Bravado, a merchandising company that has handled all manner of merch solutions for artists like the Rolling Stones, Katy Perry, Drake, Lady Gaga and most recently, Prince, items with a logo or a name are about much more than just making a few extra bucks.
Example of how Chance The Rapper is using custom merchandise
Chance the Rapper has won three Grammys, one of which was Best Rap Album for Coloring Book; the first streaming-only album to win a Grammy Award. People were surprised that music that good was free and available all at the click of a button.
After dropping his second mixtape, Chance the Rapper released a branded full fabric hat that fans could purchase. Not only is the hat a nod to the success of his recent album, but he also created a new opportunity for his fans to show their support.
So how do you do it?
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Creating ‘versions’ of merchandise
One of the best ways to increase merchandise sales is to create different versions that your fans will enjoy collecting. Anything that feels exclusive, such as a t-shirt that can only be brought at the gig rather than online, has collectible potential. Nowadays it’s easy to get t-shirts printed for different cities, which your die-hard fans will love to collect.
Gone are the days when band t-shirts, caps, or hoodies were just a simple band logo, and maybe some tour dates. There’s now a focus on creating merchandise that’s a little cheekier and fun, adding a topical touch and using memes that your audience will enjoy. Because printing merchandise can be turned around so quickly, you can keep up to date with trends and what people are talking about. Just be careful not to infringe on copyrights.
To make sure people don’t just stop at one thing, try to upsell your other merchandise. This could be by:
Bundling things together – for example, selling tour posters with CDs
Selling signed versions of merchandise
Selling pre-order bundles, so fans can buy the CD plus the latest t-shirt
Ensure your merchandise range flows – a distinctive design will help you sell more than music
Sell your own merchandise online and at gigs
Once you sign to a label, it’s worth keeping hold of your own online store. Not only does this make you money, but it also means you have more control over what’s sold and can communicate directly with the fans. This gives you the opportunity to push pre-orders when you release a song or album, and offer promotions that’ll bring people to your online shop.