Posts tagged merchapp
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.  

Merch Smarter – Unraveling 5 Common Mistakes Artists Make With Their Merch Business 

There are two ways that musicians have always made money. One is by performing and the other is by selling merchandise (“merch”).  With the continued decline in music sales (except vinyl), and the increasing popularity of music consumption through streaming platforms like Spotify, artists are yet again forced to lean more heavily on other income sources in order to make a living doing what they love.  Touring and live shows continue to be a primary revenue stream for artists, and most artists sell 85% or more of their merch directly at live shows at the merch table.[1]With that, merch can be a lucrative source of income to artists if they play it right.  While many artists know that selling merch is a good way to keep the hypothetical lights on in their business of being an artist, we’re still seeing some common mistakes being made out there across all levels. Let’s zone in on 5 of these and see if we might make more sense of this merch madness. 

1.    Not having a merch business 

See above!  In order to win at the merch game, you need to be in it.  Artists are under the misconception that there is a high cost barrier to entry for having a merch business, but the reality is that you can, and should, start small.  There are multiple merch vendors out there who have low minimums with good price points and cater to the independent artist.  Start small, see what works and build it out from there.  Keep designs simple to start– this will help keep costs low.  A one location, one color item for a first run will suffice to get you started.  Yes, you will have to do the leg-work of ordering, choosing styles and sizing, and actually selling the merch, but the reward is that you get to keep 100% of the profit.  If you buy 50 shirts for $250 ($5 each) and sell them for $15, you’ve made $10 per shirt. Multiply that by your 50 shirts and your profit is $500.  Yep – an additional $500 in your pocket to fuel the van, feed your belly, buy more beer, or reinvestto buy more merch and grow your business.  Your fans WANT to buy things from you to help support you, so give them the opportunity to do so.  Merch is not just a way to make cash, but it’s also a great marketing tool.  Let your fans be your brand ambassadors and spread your music message by wearing your latest merch.  

 

2.    Not accepting debit/credit cards for payment

Crazy, but true, many artists still do not accept debit/credit cards.  I was recently on the merch line at the show of a successful veteran artist who shall remain nameless.  The people in front of me asked the merch person if they took cards, the merch person said “no” and the people walked off of the line.  Maybe they went to ATM machine to get cash and come back, but I’m guessing that sale was lost.  Today’s world is all about convenience, and unless that fan REALLY REALLY wants that merch item enough to go find cash and get back on line, that pivotal moment is gone. Not accepting the form of payment that a fan is most likely to have in their wallet – i.e. plastic, will result in sales lost. In today’s day and age with the multiple payment services out there that will give you a swiper for free, there is really no excuse for leaving this kind of money on the table, unless you just don’t need it. I often hear complaints about the transaction fees for cards, but let’s do the math.  At an average transaction fee of 2.75%, the benefit of being able to make the sale, outweighs this small cost.  Don’t lost a 20 dollar sale to save 60 cents.        

 

3.    Not keeping track of what is being sold

Okay so now you have merch to sell, you’re taking cards for payment and your merch business is starting to rock.  How are you keeping track of what you’re selling?  Are you using a tally sheet?  Excel spreadsheet?  Not keeping track at all?  Do you know if you’re making a profit?  How many shirts did you give away at your last show? What inventory did you sell? What inventory is left after a tour or show?  If you’re not keeping track of what you’re selling, it will be near impossible to understand what’s going on in your merch business.  If you don’t know what’s going on in your merch business, it will be hard to make future decisions to ensure that it is working for you in the best possible way.  

 

4.     Not knowing when inventory is low and it’s time to re-order

That moment when 5 of your biggest fans rush to the merch table and all want a size small and all you have left are larges.  Depending on the fan, this may or may not result in lost sales, but wouldn’t guaranteed sales be better? Timing is everything, and time is money, so the better handle you have on what inventory you are out of, along with allowing enough lead time to re-order so you’re not paying more for expedited shipping, the better position you will be in to capture that fan in the moment and make as much profit as you can on that sale. Fan engagement is a key driver of an artist’s business today, so you want to be able to capitalize on that to every extent possible.

 

 

5.     Not taking note of fan behavior at venuesand showsshows/venues

No, I don’t mean taking note that fans try to jump on stage when you play a show at Mercury Lounge in NYC, but when you play at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta, they beckon you to crowd surf. While there might be value to knowing this, I’m talking about taking note of what your fans are buying at what shows – styles, sizes, and quantities. What sells big in the Southeast, may be different from your bestsellers in the Northeast, both in styles and sizes. Maybe you kill it in Merch at venues in primary cities, but when you travel to less mainstream destinations not so much.  Or maybe it’s vice versa.  There is not an exact science to this, but chances are that if you start keeping track of these things, and listen to what the data is telling you, the next time you have shows in these places, you will be better prepared.  You can also measure venues against one another to figure out why you had a killer merch night at one, but not another.  Maybe your price point was too high and next time you can try lowering it a bit, or maybe the location of the merch booth didn’t have the right visibility, so next time you work a little harder to make it known that you’re selling merch.  Paying attention to these metrics will also help minimize waste. If you know what people are NOT buying, you will not re-order those items and sizes on the next go around. 

 

Now I know you’re thinking this all sounds like a whole lotta work.How am I supposed to do this while traveling, writing, recording and doing whatever else artists do? Enter Merch Cat, our one-stop app and web solution that was created for artists like you to help you have a better merch business. You can sell your merch, keep track of inventory and get real time analytics, all from your iOS device at the artist friendly price of $7.99/month or $84.99/year.


[1]Hypebot.com “Modernizing The Merchandise Madness”