Merch tables have been lighting up dark corners at venues for eons, but with a cash crisis hitting most music-makers, product is now more crucial than ever.
It’s the last remaining physical revenue stream in the business without a digital competitor, so there are plenty of readies to be made if you approach it right.
Terrible Merch, a new business founded by streetwear designer Tersha Willis and major label musician Jack McGruer, estimate the market to be worth over £2.3bn, following a 9.4 percent sales surge last year.
But with so much to think about – from inventory management and accounting to design and ordering – where to start?
Make sure you have a good design that can be translated well to the products you’re making. Always ask yourself, would I want/wear this?
Find a good supplier, with high quality products at a good price, that you can afford.
Make sure you understand measurements of screens and garments.
Look to fashion for inspiration.
Make sure your margins work: don’t spend £4 making a t-shirt and then sell it for a fiver. You have overheads and those overheads need to be factored in!
When it comes to clothes, order the right sizes in the right quantities.
Be organised: get a cashbox, make price lists, have your merch clearly labelled in sizes and easy to find, have a way to take cards or phone payments (it’s 2018, who the hell is still carrying cash around?!), bring coat hangers, masking tape, sharpies, learn to fold things well and make sure your merch looks good to your fans.
Keep track of sales and inventory.
Look after your stock, no one wants to buy a white t-shirt that has been on the floor.
Know what sells where you’re playing. If you’re going to Berlin, you better damn well make sure you have tote bags to sell!
Treat your band as a business and a brand – merch is the last thing you can sell that can’t be streamed online.
Let your fans know you have merch, and always let them know when you have new merch.
Stand at your merch table after shows, meet your fans, sign stuff for them, help them buy your merch.
Don’t over-make or over-order: if you’re playing a five-date tour at 100 capacity venues, make 50 tees instead of 100 and restock if necessary.
Don’t make obscure stuff that is hard to sell or carry around on tour. There are so many great things you can make that your fans will actually wanna buy – be creative in you current situation.
Don’t take merch advances unless you absolutely have to, don’t let your manager talk you into it either. There is a lot of money to made in merch, don’t give that away to someone for pennies on the pound.
Don’t work with merch companies who charge for every little thing like lawyers do.
Don’t use more than one place online to sell things from: drive all your traffic to one place – a good merch company will help you move it.
Don’t make merch if you’re not playing shows or releasing singles – try a manufacture-on-demand service.
Finally, do not sell weird fitting items or pick weird colours for merch. Yellow t-shirts will not sell, nor will dark green or pink. If you must try to stand out with your merch, do it with design or in limited numbers.
Terrible Merch has launched a Crowdcube campaign to secure funding for increased investment. Learn more.