Posted: Jul 24, 2017
**Guest post written by Allison Stafford, lead singer and acoustic rhythm guitarist for the Southern Country band No Deceit.
"We all know as musicians that the Merch Sales and Tips can be the saving grace of a show!
You may not make a lot of money from the venue that you’re playing, or anything for that matter, but sometimes, you can make more in a tip jar or in merch sales than you would from the venue anyway!
How do you get people directed toward your merch and tip bucket?
Well, I had asked myself the same question for my band for a while now, and I came up with a few ideas that would work in any situation. I wasn’t sure these would work until I tried them! Now, I intend on using it at almost any show that I haven’t played before!
It’s simple really, if you have a few dedicated fans of yours at your shows, they are always wanting to hear something new (probably because they’ve been to more than three of your shows, and the set list can get repetitive.) So, to change things up a bit, I did a “Surprise Song.” I learned a song that I didn’t even tell my band about, it was literally a surprise to everyone but me! Then, I told the crowd:
“I have a surprise! Something that I haven’t even told the boys in my band about! I have learned a new song! Something that I have never played on stage or in front of anyone before! I can’t tell you what it is, but I can tell you it will be worth it! BUT I will only play it on a few conditions. In the time that it takes us to play 3 more songs, 5 people have to buy a shirt, OR 7 people have to buy and album, OR 20 people have to put a tip in the tip bucket! You have the time it takes for us to play 3 songs to complete this task! Are you up for it?”
Of course, everyone yelled, YES! I must say, I wasn’t entirely sure how this would go over, but to my surprise it worked like a charm! People were LINED UP to put tips in the tip bucket and lined up at our merch table to buy Shirts and CD’s from our Merch girl! (PS You need someone setting at your merch table at all shows!) Check out this article for more info on that:
Before the first song was over, we had 20 people tip us, 3 people buy a shirt and 2 people buy an album! In 3 minutes! It didn’t even take them 3 songs to reach the Goal!
Now, at this point, I felt obliged to go on and sing the “Surprise Song.” You can use this at your own judgement, you can make them wait the extra 2 songs and see if you can keep the trend going or if you’re anything like me, I was so overwhelmed with how well this worked that I had to go ahead and give them the song they deserved!
Now, there are a few stipulations to this trick, One, YOU HAVE TO HAVE A KICK BUTT SONG!
This can’t be something you have played before on stage, or something that you like but the rest of your band or friends are like, “eh, it’s decent.”
This song needs to be something that you KNOW the majority of your crowd will LOVE!
Know your Crowd:
So, the first step is knowing your crowd! This is important at any show, do your research on the venue before you play there, see who likes their page on Facebook, see what kind of crowd you are playing to and make sure that your song you choose will be something they really like.
Weather you have long time fans coming to your show, or you’re playing in front of people who have never hear you before, this will create some value to your show because even people who have never heard you will be interested in the mystery of a “Secret Song.”
We noticed that even the people who had never heard of us before came up to tip us or buy merch! THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT!
We were playing at a BBQ joint in Central Kentucky right around the time that Chris Stapleton became a big name. So, I learned to play “Whiskey and You” by Chris Stapleton. This is a BEAUTIFUL song if you have never heard it, you need to! Anyway, I knew this song would go over extremely well with the crowd we were playing to!
Know your odds and adjust your goals to whatever your crowd size is, if you have a crowd of 10 people, it’s unlikely that EVERYONE of those ten people will tip you, although, it would be nice! Haha So, if you have a crowd of 15 people, maybe adjust your goal to if 7 people throw a tip in the tip jar, I will play the song. That’s almost half of your crowd. If you have a crowd of 100 people, raise the stakes a little, make it 20-30 people. Or more if you are seeing a great response from the crowd!
It is important to read your crowd, are they into your show? Are they paying attention? If not, this may not be the crowd to try this out on! For the best results, you want a crowd that is attentive and into what you’re doing! If your crowd is not into your show, check out this article on how to put on a killer show your crowd will love:
How to Make Your Audience Love You!
Also, I learned an acoustic song because it added some “interest” for the crowd that I hadn’t even told my band about this song! If you play with a band, make sure you don’t surprise them on stage and make them play! Only surprise them if they are not going to have to play something they have not learned!
When in the Set to Try This:
You CANNOT start your set off like this! You have to build the crowd up! Show them what you got first, play for a little bit, (we played for an hour to be exact) THEN pull this card trick out of your sleeve!
It is best that you mention doing this well into your set, and also make sure that you have mentioned that you actually have a Tip Bucket and Merch before you do this! However, I’m not saying wait until the last song for this. We were playing a 2-hour show when we did this! We played for an hour, then I pulled out the “Surprise Song”, took a quick 15 min. break, and then played for 45 more minutes!
Be sure that you do follow this up with other songs! This is important because you don’t want to leave no time for more people to take advantage of your tip bucket and Merch! Use this trick to get people interested, then, allow them more time to take advantage of your merch table and tip jar!
Lastly, have fun with this! Make a joke out of it, say something like “hey guys, we’re broke musicians asking for money, imagine that!” Then tell them your spill about learning a new song and it’s a “Surprise.” There are hundreds of ways to work the tip bucket and merch table, this is just one way that I found really worked for us!
That night, we sold 7 shirts and 5 CD’s and made over $160 in tips!
We’ve had better nights, but every little bit helps, and I know that this trick helped us make that much in tips that night and make those sales! Otherwise, we would have walked away from that show with a lot less I can guarantee you!
Like I said before, this is not a guarantee, but it is a tactic that worked for us and may work for you if you know your crowd and what they like to hear! I’m sure that it will work in some form for you weather you get 10 tips and sell 1 shirt and one CD, or you make 100 tips and sell 20 shirts and 20 CD’s! Every little bit counts and this is just one tactic that I have found can work on the right crowd at the right place to help you raise some extra funds!
This technique is a bit more obvious and you may or may not see an increase in sells or tips with this; however, it is a good way to entice your audience not only to come to your shows, but to have them be a participant in them as well and like and share posts from your social media pages!
We started scheduling a post during our shows where we knew we would have a decent sized crowd, and did a FREE PRIZE Giveaway. Let me tell you that when you mention the word “FREE,” people’s eyes automatically look up from their phones and their ears perk up. This is a GREAT attention grabber.
Our post on Facebook consisted of the name of the venue we were playing, and the directions the crowd needed to follow in order to be entered into the prize drawing, and then some type of video or promotional material that would benefit us by being shared across Facebook. For instance, our post would look something like this:
“Rib Licker’s Crew, THIS IS FOR YOU! “Like” and “Share” this post to be entered in the drawing for FREE PRIZES!”
+ Link to video, Online Music, Picture, etc…
Depending on the size of your crowd, you could wind up with 30 + shares of this post so make sure whatever you’re wanting them to share (i.e. your video, music, picture, etc..) promotes you to people who may have never heard of you, because this will be shared on their pages where their friends can see it!
So, you ask your audience, maybe after your first song or two, “Who Likes Free Prizes!?” Then you explain to them that you have a post on your Facebook page that says “(insert the beginning of your post here.)” You then tell your audience, if they want to be entered in the drawing for free prizes, the have to go “Like” and “Share” your post! Then when you have time, take a quick break, go to your page and see who liked and shared your post, write a list of names, pick 1- 3 random numbers and those are your winners! Or just pick one - three random names. (Don’t pick your best buds… that will make the competition seem rigged and people won’t want to try to win anymore.)
Your prizes can range anywhere from 1-3 prizes. We normally do 3 to give more people a chance to win. 1st Prize is a copy of our EP, 2nd Prize is a T-Shirt, and 3rd Prize is a bracelet with our name on it. Depending on how much merch you have, will tell you how many prizes you can giveaway. Yes, you do lose some merch on this, however, in the past it has proven to draw more people’s attention to the fact that we have a Merch Table, Where it is and what all we have to offer at it.
This tactic has always worked really well with the shows we choose to do this at! We always wind up with 30 or more shares! Again, this is another tactic where you will need to know your crowd. You can do this even if there is 3 people in the room, but obviously, the bigger the crowd, the more beneficial this will be for you!"
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