Posted: Jun 3, 2013
Booking fees and ticket sales only represent a portion of a performer's income for everyone from the independent artist to the big name band selling out huge venues. As a result, it is essential to take advantage of any opportunity to bring in extra cash via merchandise sales for CD's, T-shirts, and the like. Merch sales can not only be a great revenue source, but certain items (if done correctly) can offer something fans are truly hungry for, especially if they are anxious to take home a piece of the concert experience. It's also a great promotion tool - people playing your tunes in their car or wearing your T-shirt are spreading the word about your band without even trying.
But how can you create an inventory of merchandise without breaking the bank? Here are a few places you might be able to score some great deals:
One of the biggest names in the promotional product business, 4imprint does huge volume, and as a result is able to offer very competitive prices. The sheer number of products and options on the site can be overwhelming, but if you're looking for something specific, they're likely to have it. Sort results by price to see if the least costly options suit your wants/needs and go up from there. Prices are displayed as a range, so remember that if you're ordering a low quantity, you're likely to pay at the higher end of that range.
Expect to pay a setup charge for most products. For example, when printing t-shirts, there is a set-up charge for each color of printing as well as an additional cost per shirt for printing each extra color. 4imprint's website does provide an instant quote that will update as you change options, so you can see exactly how your choices will impact the total price. And pay attention to product minimums if you are hoping to start out with a small quantity - 4imprint does offer many products with low minimums, but for others you'll need to order at least 100 or more.
Catering specifically to the music industry, MerchHero makes screen printed apparel and promotional products. General pricing is listed on their website, but you can also get a custom quote by submitting a short online form.
Another great thing about MerchHero is that they offer a low price guarantee, so if you find cheaper prices somewhere else, you can call them and they'll match it. Like 4imprint, they too have product minimums (50 for shirt orders and other minimums for other promotional products), so be aware of that when browsing their site. Some unique options they do offer include flip flops, scarves, and fedoras.
Though they target businesses and corporations, Planet Logo has a ton of merch choices that will appeal to musicians at competitive prices. Planet Logo is also a company with a conscience - they don't sell any single use plastics and encourage reusable items for their positive ecological impact. You can use the price sliders on their website to search for just those products that fit within your budget.
Want to get the most bang for your buck? Consider these budget friendly options when purchasing merch:
- White shirts, posters, etc. tend to be less expensive than color.
- Placing one large order rather than two smaller orders often costs less due to volume discounts and reduced shipping charges.
- Longer shipping & processing times are almost always cheaper than rush jobs, so plan ahead if possible.
Do you have access to some artistic talent and a little elbow grease? If so, you could consider making your own T-shirts. Get some plain tees (absent of any printing) cheap from a local big box store or a website like BlankShirts.com and screen print them yourself.
Screen printing supplies are available at art supply stores and on websites, and require only a minimal investment. You'll need a screen on a frame, screen filler, paint, and a squeegee - these essentials are often sold together in a kit. After drawing your design on the screen, simply fill in everywhere you don't want paint with screen filler. Then you carefully place the screen on the shirt, put paint on the screen, and scrape the paint over the screen with the squeegee. Keep in mind that a separate screen is needed for each color in your design.
When you pull up the screen, your design will have been transferred from the screen to the shirt. It takes time and effort, but perhaps you'd rather that than spend your hard-earned cash. The finished product is unlikely to look flawless, but that slightly imperfect look is popular, can have a vintage feel, and is something that designers sometimes intentionally create even when having items professionally printed. You can also screen print posters, hats, and other items if you're feeling savvy and creative.
You're not limited to t-shirts and tour posters when creating merch. For clothing, consider fitted tanks, cozy hoodies, and baseball caps. Try offering some kids' sizes even if they don't make up a huge percentage of your audience - parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles love buying things for their favorite little guys and gals. Stock up on lower priced items such as coozies, frisbees, cheap sunglasses, and bottle openers to provide an option for those not ready to shell out $10-$20 (or more). You can also appeal to your eco-conscious fans with reusable water bottles and tote bags. Don't hesitate to listen to your fans either. Perhaps they are interested in buying something that you don't currently offer.
In the end, your options are limitless, but it can take time to figure out exactly what you want and how to get/create it within your budget. Hopefully, the above resources and advice help to get you there.
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