Posts in Fan Engagement
From Your Brand To Your Fans - Making Music Merch Work For You

Your brand is the face that you show the world, and your fans are the people who represent it. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is portrayed in your merch - your T-shirts, hats, CDs and other things you sell, that your fans take home to forever remember that awesome show you put on. 


Merch, especially in today's music industry, is the crown jewel of revenue streams for artists. This being the case, it's important to choose wisely when considering what merch to put out there, and it all starts (or it should) with your brand. If your brand has a feel that represents you in an organic, authentic way, your fans will connect to that which will inspire them to support you. If they're inspired to support you, and you give them good merch, they'll buy it, wear it, and become your brand ambassadors. If they become your brand ambassadors, they're marketing for you, and their friends and people in their network will become aware of you and be inclined to jump on the bandwagon. This is how your fan base can grow. As your fan base grows, you’ll have more fans to spread the word to more potential new fans, who will buy things and help generate more revenue for you. More revenue for you means you get to continue to do what you love. Follow so far?


So what's in a brand? Where do I start if I don't have one? What should I do if I have one but I'm not happy with it or I want to reinvent? Let's take a look at some of the things you can tap into that will help represent you in an authentic, "real" way:

What kind of vibe did you put into the musical universe?Now you’ve made some great music that you poured the very essence of your soul into. Was it inspirational? Spiritual? Hopeful? Motivational? Mystical? Were you angry, frustrated or in a dark place? Focused on a cause (political, religious, social, environmental, etc.)? Happy? Joyous? In Love? Going through some emotional strife that forever changed you? 

What values embody you as an artist and a person?Do you have a high moral compass or do you gravitate toward a more debaucherous state of being? Do you go with the flow or are you rebellious? Leader or follower? Self-serving or humanitarian? Are you honest or do you over-embellish? Are you open and accessible or private? 

What and who inspires you?Love? Relationships? Friends and family? Other artists? Nature and scenery? Spirituality?

What’s your style?

Is it edgy? Conservative? Trendy? Hipster? Glam? Old school? Traditional? Goth? Eclectic? Preppy? Nerdy? Simple? Flamboyant?

How would your fans describe your show to their friends – i.e. your potential new fans?“Wow! That was…” Loud? Raging? Energizing? Mesmerizing? Inspiring? Killer? Mellow? Moving? Soothing? 

Whatever the answers to these questions, own them, start to brainstorm how to translate them into a design, and let them shine through. 


Whether you’re designing your brand assets yourself or using a graphic artist, the results will be the most optimal if you go in with some ideas already in mind. If you're a peaceful soul, you may not want to have daggers, blood, demons or dark colors or aspects reflected in your brand. If you’re more of a straight laced type, you likely won’t have neon colors in your brand. If you’re a heavy metal artist, you’re most likely not going to want your logo to be a pink pony in a flower field (although the irony couldbe interesting). If your music genre is hop hop, you're probably not going to have a cowboy themed logo or brand artwork. BUT if you're a hip hop artist who happens to like to dress like a cowboy, maybe you work those cowboy boots or hat into your branding somewhere. The bottom line is you want your brand to make sense with your overall persona so people can relate to it and "feel" you.  


Whether you’re an artist with an established fan base or you’re building a new fan base, a great way to engage your fans is to invite them into your world and ask them to help in this process. Ask them to vote or give feedback on logos or artwork you’re considering, or take it a step further and ask them to submit some designs based on how they perceive you, and then reward the winner with some incentive. This, in itself, is a way to put forth your authenticity and give fans an opportunity to connect with you as a person or group.


After you’ve honed in on where you want to go with your branding, it’s important to implement it into all aspects of your marketing so that there is some consistency and overall flow – this includes your website, social media content, album artwork, and of course, your merch. So let’s get back to merch for minute. As mentioned, it’s a crucial revenue stream for artists these days, and also serves as a great marketing tool, IF your fans are wearing it. Now that you’ve got this great new brand/logo/artwork, let’s incorporate it into something your fans will want to proudly rep. If they’re wearing your T-shirt as pajamas, it’s probably not doing much for you beyond the dollars you’ve made. Before you pull the trigger and invest in your merch, take a step back and ask yourself does this make sense with who I am, my music and the vibe that I’m wanting to put out there? Would I want to wear it? And more importantly, would someone other than me think this is cool and want to wear it? Pick shirts that are decent quality. Some will argue that it doesn’t matter, that if people love you (or you’re a good salesperson), they will buy it. This may be true to some extent, but with many bands to support and choices to make out there, you might lose some customers who just don’t want to spend money on another stiff white band T-shirt. OR, they may actually buy that shirt and let it sit in their drawer, which again, is not helping to get your brand out there. There are happy mediums out there now where you can find a marriage of quality and affordability.


Maximizing your merch business means also making smart decisions about the merch that you buy, where you buy it, and how you keep track of it and use the data kicked off from your merch sales. When you’re ready, choose a merch provider who has good minimums, good price points, is artist friendly, and has a good variety of merch to choose from.  Merch Cat can help with this! Just give us a shout, we’ve got you covered.  

Using Merch To Engage Your Fans

Fan engagement and direct-to-fan are hot topics these days because it's finally come to light that fans are the real gatekeepers in the music business. And by now we should also know that merchandise is one of the surefire ways that artists can make solid money today. Like most other revenue streams for artists, being successful at your merch biz is highly dependent on your fans. The good news is that in addition to being a cash generator, your merch can actually be used as a fan engagement tool. When you're using your merch to engage your fans, they’ll feel connected to you.  When they feel connected and as if they are part of your journey, they will be likely to buy more. So how exactly can you use merch to engage your fans? Here are five ways:

1) Offer Limited Edition and Exclusive Merch Items   Nothing gets a fan going like fear of missing out (FOMO). It’s the good ole law of supply and demand. Limited supply = greater demand, and when it comes to exclusives, your fans will likely act on the fear of never being able to obtain that item again.  A Nielsen 2013 study revealed that fans would spend $2.6B more a year if they had opportunities to buy exclusives and behind the scenes content. We can only guess that the dollar amount has grown over the past few years. This is pretty easy to do. If you’re touring or have a web store, kick off a new season with items that will only be available for a couple of months or the length of your tour. If you’re on tour, create items specific to that tour or album you’re promoting or if you want to get more personal, design a merch item that’s indicative of something that’s going on in the band’s world or represents someone in the band. 

2) Specials At The Merch Table At Your Shows    The best time to get your fans to buy is when you have them in person and they’re running on the adrenaline of a “concert high”, this is why 80% or more of merch sales occur at live shows. Offer deals like buy one get one half off, discounts to the first 10 fans (or whatever number makes sense for you) to the merch table, and special bundles at your show. Deals offered ONLY at the merch table will get your fans coming over for fear of missing out, and is the perfect time for you or your merch person to have a chat with them if possible. Either way, your fan who’s basking in the glow of your awesome show and the deal they are getting, may just see something else they must buy while you have them there. 

3) Ask what items they'd like to see on your next merch run   Since your fans are the number one consumer of your merch, doesn’t it make sense to ask them what they’d like to see on your next merch run? You may think they’d want a beanie, but maybe only a small number of fans actually wear beanies, and the majority would rather sport a trucker hat. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe your female fans are dying for a ladies T or tank, and maybe they’d help you think of things you never would’ve thought of putting out there. Inviting your fans to contribute to ideas will keep them engaged, and also up your chances of selling the merch they suggest. Where should you do this? Wherever you can reach your audience, but we’d recommend email blast and social media. 

4)Invite Them To Submit Designs Or Help You Choose One   Along the same lines of asking fans what items they’d like to see, another good way to engage them with merch is asking them to actually help you select the art – either by submitting something or by choosing from some designs you put out there. Either way, this is a win/win because you’re inviting your fans to be part of your process, and you’ll likely be creating an item that they’ve already approved of, so you’re increasing your chance of sales. 

5)Contests, Call to Action and Crowdfunding   Most of us already do this without realizing it, but creating calls to action and contests with merch as the reward is a great way to use merch as a fan engagement tool. The best example of this is via a crowdfunding campaign on a platform like Kickstarter or PledgeMusic where merch is used or sold as incentive for fundraising or as part of a pre-order campaign. Not up for that? Simply askfansto post a picture with your merch using a special hashtag, and reward the person with the most likes with a meet & greet at your next show. Ask fans to share their latest merch on socials and in their network with a special code or link for other to buy it, and if a purchaseresults because of that share, reward them with more merch, a special item, or a ticket to your next show. Empower your fans with the tools and incentive to be your brand ambassador and they will! 


At Merch Cat, we believe that artists need better ways to capitalize on their merch business, specifically at the live show. This is why we started by building the Merch Cat platform to help you get the fundamentals down. We also recognized that artists need better ways to capture their fans in the moment at the live show, which is why we created Merch Cat FAN. Merch Cat FAN is connected to the Merch Cat app for central real-time inventory and sales tracking. It will allow fans to purchase your merch 1) in app at shows to pick up at the merch table or send home, OR 2) anytime, anywhere at your discretion. It will also easily capture fan data. Check it out at


If you’re not already using Merch Cat to sell and manage merch at your shows, we invite you to get acquainted for 7 days on us before we launch our FAN app. Visit and use the promo code MCAT07.  Offer valid for new users only and expires on 12/31/18.