Right now, we’re all stuck at home (or working in an essential job – stay safe!)
No one is playing shows, so what can we do during downtime?
Maybe it’s time to review your merch setup and see what you can do to boost your merch sales at shows.
Listen now to learn how you can boost your on-site merch sales and improve inventory tracking as well as sales efficiency!
Note: this episode was recorded before the COVID-19 crisis hit the US, but we are confident that the advice presented in the episode will apply once the pandemic is under control.
What you’ll learn:
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Data Points: Why Your Work Isn’t Over When The Show Ends
How To Make Your Band Stand Out Using Tactics The Major Labels Have Mastered – With Infinite Signal
Store Supply Warehouse (for your shirt forms and merch grids)
Welcome to Episode 21 of the Bandhive podcast.
Can you believe it? Episode 21 of the Bandhive podcast Aaron. Our podcast is finally legal God, and that was how we're starting this episode with the first fun I have ever made ever, at least on the podcast in this episode that's pushing it, I would say in all episodes there is a I don't know if the listener remembers, but there was a really, really good and very much appreciated set your goals pun.
You know, I say terrible things on this podcast for anyone who doesn't know terrible things. It's Fred from taking back Sunday that is another band, and I just made another band fun anyway. As always, I am James Cross here with Erin generous of suburban samurai. How are you today, man? I'm good for the first time in a really long time I took a day yesterday, just the kind of whatever chillax, uh, south care. Um recoup, I think would be the right word. So I blew through the Witcher on Netflix.
Very nice. And for those of you who have done the same, you know how long that probably took and took a whole day? I think it's eight episodes, right about our each. Yeah, well, that's awesome. I'm glad you had a day to just relax and do your own thing. It's, you know, I have gone months without having that. And then when you finally get that day, it's the best feeling in the world and you don't want to come back. But you do, because it's important. Thio, Yeah, sorry to drag you out of your house to come record a podcast episode.
Well, you know, I had a great day to, and it's been really beautiful outside. The snow is melting, and I know I'm not gonna talk about the weather, but it's somewhat relevant because there's something funny and I know this is a music podcast, but I'm going to talk about my dog. His name is Bapu. He's a black lab and beagle mix, and he's the best dog ever, as the poster on my Wall attests, and he's just awesome. But he's also 15. By the time this episode comes out, he'll be 16.
And so right outside our front door today, a bunch of water was dripping down, and this is a dog who used to go out in, like, negative 10 blizzards or torrential downpours or whatever. He just didn't care. But today, this one stream of water dripping off of the roof on our front steps, he refused to go past it for like an hour and a half and like he'd really had to go out and he didn't want to go past. So he went back in, like an hour and a half later.
He wanted to go out again. No, still not going in. So my dog is being very cute and refusing to get his feet wet like that looks like rain or something. Can you do something about that, even though there's another way for him to get out? But he didn't go that way, like for a guy, anyway. So that's my days. Just I've been entertained watching my dog not go out even though he really wants Thio on a totally unrelated note to get the actual episode topic and really see which your topics we're gonna talk about today toss a coin to your merch guy you're looking at me with.
There was, like, a song in the Witcher, and I'm pretty sure that was the melody. Got it? Yeah, I have not seen that yet. So no spoilers. That's not a spoiler. I'll be fine with that. Anyway, we're gonna be talking about how to drive merch sales at your shows. And on the surface, it seems pretty self explanatory. But we're going to break it down into four main headings. Your products, your set up, your systems and your sales were doing in this order because that's kind of just the natural order of things.
Without products, you don't have anything to set up without a set up. You're not gonna have systems to use without systems. Well, why are you having emerged person selling stuff? I mean, technically, I guess you could skip the systems and just wing it, but then you're gonna miss out on a lot of data that you're gonna want. And we talked about that back in Episode 11. Data points. Why your work isn't over When the show ends. It's really important to track your data. So if you wanna listen to that episode, just go to Band.
I've dot rocks slash 11. That's 11 So it's really vital to have those systems in place so you can track your data points and understand what is selling well. It shows now. A big part of this episode is going to be based on data points from artists of all genres, different venue sizes, different areas because at venue about two months ago released their 2019 year in review. So, Erin, I think you had some thoughts about the at venue report that they released. Yeah. So basically, as we were saying, the report obviously covers a wide range of different music performance styles, a genres, Aziz Well, Azaz, I'm sure location on DMA Many, many other factors This in terms of the size and the scope of the attendance, the venue, all sorts of things.
So super broad stroke. But it's a really awesome report, and I would definitely suggest if you have the interest, I would definitely suggest going and learning a little bit more about it. There are certain things which probably won't comes a surprise. There are other things that may kind of open your eyes just in terms of what sort of items are selling more than others at the merch table. Yeah, and we'll have a link to that report at Bandhive dot rocks slash 21. That's the numbers to one band.
I've got rocks slash to one. So on that note, I think the main thing that this report really showed that bands need Thio learn from is what should I sell? So I think this is something that's kind of common sense to anyone who's done merged on a professional basis, like Aaron or myself. But black T shirts That's just everywhere. And I know there have been shows that I went to as a fan where they had, like, six different shirts and none of them were black. And I just didn't buy a shirt because I wanted a black shirt.
Now at venue. Thanks to this report has solidified that subjective feeling because Blackshirts were 59% of All T shirt sales in 2019 2nd place where white shirts at 13%. So black T shirts out sold white T shirts more than 4 to 1. Not only that, but 50% of all sales tracked by at venue in 2019 wear T shirts so effectively you're looking at about 29% of all sales were black T shirts. That's insane. Which also means, though, that about 20% of all sales were T shirts of other colors White, blue, red, whatever. But Erin, I think that really shows that the black T shirt is not going anywhere.
I, too. I've seen artists who have displays that don't include a black T shirt, and it sort of seemed a little funny. But then I've totally Conversely, I've caught myself looking at certain artists displays, and they're all black T shirts. And to be honest, I've totally been like, That's weird. Why don't they have some diversity? My band, at a certain point, had been guilty of this, too. Obviously, the numbers show it is worth it to have a little bit of diversity. But it's more than clear that black T shirts or where it's at absolutely.
And I think one other thing before we move on to the second most popular item, which may or may not be surprising how not popular it is at venue published the top 10 items, but at venue also says that you shouldn't have too many items because typically 3 to 5 items far outsell anything else. So if you have, you know, 10 or 20 items or more, you're probably still gonna be selling mostly like 3 to 5 items, and everything else is just extra, which it's nice to have selections and options. But you're also going to have higher costs if you have more designs and you're going to really be stretching thin, the capabilities of your merchandise manager.
And if you're a D I band who does it all yourself, you could spend that time doing something more productive, like interviews or setting up your gear or, you know, having food, things like that. I do want to jump in here and sort of basically confirm everything that you just said. I did a little bit of work a number of years ago for a punk band out of bustin I saw the merch. I did work tour. I did ah, few other um, shorter U. S and Canadian runs on Ben.
Ah, bunch of sort of. They're like Halloween holiday show in Boston, and their thing is toe have or my interpretation. My assumption is that one of the things is that they want to make sure that their fans have a certain experience when they walk up to the merch table. Um, and I'm thinking that because we're talking and I'm I'm being serious about 15 T shirt designs. Ah, couple of hoodie designs. They've been around for quite a bit, and they've been busting their butts for a really long time.
So they have a bunch of music. So you know, like between 10 and 13 15, CD's sort of on display or most of them available vinyl books, in addition to all the normal stuff and the feelings. Really like while I'm walking into a store like, you know, there's a certain kind of person that they're, I think, trying to connect with the I just think that's kind of cool, and it totally is awesome. It looks rad, but I will confirm they totally capitalize on the black T shirt thing. In my experience, obviously, there punk band Boston Blah blah, blah.
But at the same time, with all of those items available, I can totally back up your claim that they don't all cell evenly. They're all there. I've sold them all at one point or another, and I think having a range of items available, that's not a bad thing, because that one time that one person's really hoping for that one weird thing and you have it like you've just won that person over. But, you know, nine times out of 10, I think you're right that, you know, anybody coming up to the merch table is gonna pick out of those 18 or, you know, with the music like 25 30 different items available, the top five or six sellers.
Or however many like equally match, if not more like the sales generated by all the other items. So there's definitely a core group of items, even when you have, like, nine million things available. Yeah, it seems almost like that artist is touring with a pop up store rather than emerged display that like the picture that I'm getting of it, and having seen a picture that you showed me of this merch display a while ago. That is what it feels like. That's a really good way. Yeah, and that can work out great for some people I work to show at Staples Center in L. A. They turned the Lakers set up into a pop up shop for that artist on.
I wasn't doing Merchant that show, but I just like That's really cool. Like the entire Lakers show became insert pop star's name here store, which, you know, I signed India, so I can't talk about it. But it was a cool showed at work, and one other thing is, it's is it the Lakers and the Kings? I think both play there. I'm not a sports person, but that sounds right. Yeah, neither quick side note here that stores set up that when they switch games rather than just swapping out all the inventory, all there racks like along the wall rotate.
So all they have to do is just flip it around, and all the merch is there for the other team. Please tell me everything's on like a set of wheels, and they have like a red button somewhere. No, it's just like it's built into the wall So you just don't like it's a shelf on the wall or, ah, you know, hooks on the wall of stuff on hangers and you spend the wall around. It's like a probably 4 ft wide section that just rotates on the center. You have other teams stuff there.
Oh my God, that's doing it like the right way. But obviously, you can't take something like that on the road and it wouldn't be convenient and it would just be too much. And that story is huge. They have everything there so I could see the artist you were working with going in there and taking over that shop. Oh my God, if they were to play Staples Center and they would probably fill up the whole thing and it would be called insert artist names here, pop up shop.
I had never thought of it like with that term, but that's that's super cool and totally what it is. Yeah, there's one other artists who I can talk about. I found out while I was working that show that another artist had done it, and I believe it was. Kiss had been there, and they they're known for many like a crazy march. Yeah, I can't remember selection. I'm pretty sure his kiss. I can't remember for sure, but they did the pop up thing to and I did not sign in India because I wasn't working for them so I could talk about that.
Well, I've seen somebody on TV talk about, like, the kiss coffin or something. So yeah, what we're saying is, don't have too many items unless you can have a pop up shop and people who actually buy the items in your pop up shop. But now, moving on to the second most popular item behind T shirts and keep in mind T shirts accounted for 50% of all sales tracked by at venue in 2019. Second place, with only 5% of sales, was long sleeve shirts. That means second place was literally 1/10 of the sales of the first place item.
So we just want to stress again how important it is that you have black T shirts. That's like the thing to sell. If you're only gonna have one item, it better be a black T shirt. If you're gonna have to items, it better be a black T shirt and a black T shirt. Three items. Maybe you can throw in like a white shirt or red shirt or blue shirt or something, and I mean, if you're a Star Trek fan, I wouldn't go for the red shirt. But I mean, you never know.
I'm just so bad with bad show. That's another fun. That's so good. That's not even a pun like you, like, cut straight to the chase. You know, that's just like a bad reference. Really. That's so good. But, yeah, you can have other shirts and maybe, just maybe, you'll have some unique items. What are some items you can think of, Aaron, that maybe people will buy them just because they've never seen a band do that before? So you've got all the items that, um, some of you might be thinking cozy scarves, hats, key chains.
Then you get into Maybe you've seen these everywhere. Maybe not. But, um, some more genre specific items like, you know, the buttons that pins the like, the patches that be another one stickers, you know, maybe patches or more like a rock. Or like a punk, or like a metal sort of a thing for the best vest. That'd be a good, unique item, very expensive. But then you get into the super unique items like I've worked with some folks who a member of the band wrote books based on their tour experiences or poetry or just, you know, fictional novels.
So it's a good opportunity to assuming the discussion had already been had with the rest of the band or management. Whoever you need. Thio sort of introduced some like personal flair and, ah, way to connect with some of the band members personally via the merch table. So, um, definitely tons of stuff you can do. And my experience with sort of the smaller items has been a fairly positive experience, whether it's just making sure you have something available there that somebody could walk away with for free or for, you know, very little, a couple of bucks or something.
Yeah, I agree with that and going in totally the opposite direction of small things that are just a few dollars. I saw a band once who did one of a kind, custom painted kick drum hits, so it would be like, Oh, here's you know, this album's art but hand painted Or, you know, here's this hand painted and it was all themed to the band done by their guitarist. What's unique or super fan food? Exactly. He was an artist to aside from playing guitar, so he would go out and do that, and then they'd have him at the merch table, and it would be like we sell one per show.
We I made one for every single show and Onley. This one is available. Like if you want to see the other ones, you have to come to the other shows. To be honest, I can't remember if they sold them or if that was like a giveaway they did to the fans that were helping them the most. But even if they weren't selling them, that's something that another band could make and sell. If they have fans who are willing to drop like, you know, $60 on a drumhead, and there are totally those bands out there that have those fans that just like that's the thing that that person is going to do and that period of four months where like that you know, I really looked forward to Avengers Endgame other people look forward to x y Z artists show and like, they know they're going to go there and, like, buy whatever new T shirt, Probably a black T shirt is there on display.
But then they've also got the T shirt they bought 10 years ago. That's getting a little tourney up. And they're gonna hope that that T shirt has been reissued and they're gonna buy another one. So those fans were the best. Yeah, And I'm just gonna name dropping because they're not a huge band. And, you know, they know about these drum heads because they were posting about on Facebook every show, its stellar corpses Awesome band from Santa Cruz, California. So if you're into horror punk, they might be worth listening.
Thio Well, they're also from Santa Cruz, So it's SC SC. Oh, yeah, but yeah, fun band and really creative really nice people in that band. So, yeah, have some unique items and then in the band I've group which you confined by going to Bandhive dot rocks slash group or searching Facebook for Bandhive. We had a big threat the other day about how CD Baby is going to be closing their online store so they will no longer be selling artist CDs online. They will still be distributing toe Amazon, and they will also be producing CDs Still, for artists who want TEM.
But the number they published with something along the lines of 3% of artist revenue comes from physical sales according to their numbers, which is bonkers. Like that's a tiny amount of physical sales. So I don't blame them for closing this. And that doesn't seem like too far from the findings reported inthe e Avenue report, either, um, CDs coming in at 4% vinyl at 1% of sales. So definitely seems like there's a trend of their, you know by I don't want to say it. I don't wanna hear myself say it, but have your music available, but also definitely make sure you have black T shirts.
I don't know how I feel about that, but like it zero, it doesn't not make sense with the Internet, that music is that low, and the black T shirts was that high. Yeah, to me, honestly, it really shows that people have switched to streaming, which is absolutely fine. That's the way of the future. That's just how it is. Most devices don't have CD drives anymore. My I Mac does not have a CD drive. Anybody with a Mac built after? I think it's 2015 does not have a CD drive.
Do I have a CD drive? Yeah, I paid 20 bucks to have an external CD drive, but most people aren't going to do that. That's just because I get so many CDs still, because, you know, living in Vermont cell service isn't that great, and streaming isn't that reliable around here. So if I'm driving around on the back roads of Vermont, I wanna have the music on my phone. And obviously I could get Spotify and save it to my phone. But then, if I stop paying for Spotify, I don't have any more.
Whereas if I just buy a CD, especially for me, I love you CDs. So, anyway, there's one alternative to this Erin. You guys do it for your band. Oh my God, love ish, we dio And it's actually because when I was doing a little bit of homework on like a city, what should we do? Where should we source this for when we're ready to print. I realized the computer I was using to look around did not have a CD drive, which totally blew my mind. And so because of that we have custom made.
And by custom, I mean, you know, we've we have, ah, service that Prince album artwork on basically a small probably I don't know how big they are. They're like one inch by one inch, maybe 1. 5 by 1.5. They're very small, but they're big enough. Where if your album artwork is sort of bold to where if you print it that small, the details wouldn't get lost. We have a service print album, artwork or whatever artwork we want on these small square USB. I'd say sticks, but more like drive USB squares on, do you know?
So we found a company that offers, ah, number of different styles and models of these. Um, and we chose the square one because that we most conducive to sort of, you know, printing album artwork on it on De. So if person A who's kind of looking at our merch set up, is sort of like what the heck is this if the album artwork is on it like there's more of a chance, I think for them to, like, make the connection like, Oh, there's music on there even though, you know we always weigh do usually get the like What's that?
And we'd say, Oh, it's our you know, x Album y album or at the moment because we're running low on our stock. We actually uploaded our entire discography onto those. And it's a USB, so you can do that. And they could be totally changeable all the time. Um, and to be transparent, our total like entire discography isn't that bigot this point? But we that's the whole point is like we can keep adding to it if we want to, and sort of modify what that March item is, which is a really cool thing.
The service and there are a number of services out there that also give you the option to upload the content to their platform, and so they can basically be shipped to your door, ready to sell or for, you know, it is a little bit cheaper for them just to, uh, you know, print the design on the drives and then send them to you and you can do it yourself. Eso There are a bunch of different ways to do it, but that's sort of Ah, um, definitely not.
Is hot oven item as many black T shirts we have, but it's It's definitely something that gets looked at more than once. Um, you know, because it's it's kind of a CD, but it's not a CD. Yeah, to be honest, I have one. I would buy a second one if I needed another USB stick. Just cause it's a cool USB stick like That's another thing to Somebody wants to support a band they like, they might say, Oh, hey, I need a USB stick. You know, I only have the music.
I listen to it on Spotify, but yeah, you know, it's you guys sell it for, I think, 10 bucks, right? Yeah, I say USB stick 10 bucks. Is it eight gigs, 16 gigs, something like that. The ones we have at the moment are four, but that's another option that you can. You know, I think it's, uh, to maybe the smallest, but then it's, you know, 248 16 up from there Yeah. I mean, four gigs is pretty standard, I think for like a baseline, I think USB stick. At the moment, we have basically just a bunch of MP three separated into different folders with, um I think maybe artwork at the moment.
Um but, I mean, you could put a bunch of waves in there, too, and you'd still have a little bit of room to play around with. So And if somebody wanted to buy a second one and wipe the music out and put their own stuff on it and just carry it around and show that a love for sub Sam there, Ugo, that's our joke if you want to be that person who doesn't actually like my band, But you want everybody else to think you like my band because it is the cool thing to Dio.
You can buy the U S V delete everything that's on it. Don't carry it around or, you know, copy the music into your iTunes and then delayed it from the Yeah, the less cynical over s Oh, yeah, that's a creative way toe. Have your music in a somewhat physical format without having to have CDs or vinyl, which, like Aaron said CDs only accounted for 4% of all sales and vinyl only 1% of sales in 2019 tracked by at venue. One other thing is you should have download cards because recently I went to a show and I bought the record that the band hand, which was only on vinyl, they didn't have a CD, and the final didn't come with a download code.
So now I have to stream it, which, you know it's fun. And I like to stream when I can, because that supports the artist more than me just playing the CD. So like I'll buy the album on CD or vinyl or download or whatever. But when I can stream Ideo because that's just a little bit, that helps the Spotify stats. That helps with the royalty payments, all that kind of stuff. So even if I do buy something, I still try to stream. But again, like for me, if I'm driving around in the car, it's better to have it actually on my phone and, you know, again, I can save stuff off Spotify or I think Apple Music does the same thing, but specifically with the apple music.
I remember I did not do that because if you dio, it takes everything else off of your phone. And so with that, I was just like, That's why I stopped using Apple music because I couldn't download stuff from the streaming side of things without erasing everything that had been saved to it from my computer. Which is like, really a stupid idea. If you ask me, I'm sure Apple's reason for it. So, yeah, that's our thing about what products he should have is black T shirts, black T shirts, maybe a long sleeve and maybe some music on a USB stick.
One thing that you can do to help your numbers if you do report sales to sound scan is you can actually, for example, say Buy a CD for $15 to get a free shirt or something like that. Bundle it so people get the music when really what they want is the merch. But that way you can report it as an album sale. Sneaky but effective. It's the same thing. A lot of bands have been selling tickets that come with a copy of the album, so they'll do a tour.
And if they sell out the tour, it's like, Hey, you know, we sold 2000 copies of the album in our first week because, you know, we played 5 200 cap shows. That's awesome. Do it. Keep that up like that on Lee. Help sales and you can set it up So it's a like instant preorder assumes the album comes out. The people get the music Now I think, Erin, we've probably beat this dead horse a little into the ground with the black T shirts things so we should probably move on.
What are we talking about next? Well, James, we're talking about black T shirts. Eso we're talking about the set up Onda first thing that we've got here again. Just moving in no particular order listening these off. Um, let's start with, like, a merch grid again. So black T shirts one of the last times we're gonna mention this. So if you've got a merch grid or like a rack, some people call it Iraq. Think of the order and sort of how you're displaying those items Be as thorough is try to think about where you're going to standard where your merch person is going to stand, Um, when they're just standing there, Um, not counting inventory or working or engaging with somebody and then think about where they could be When there may be moving around a little bit more when they are And make sure that you have.
I guess just be aware that depending on how much you have and what you're set up, looks like that person might be standing in the way. So basically, get just to kind of sum that up. Be aware of how awesome your merch grid or your accurate your display looks to you when you're kind of setting it up at home or in the practice base before you set it up. Be aware of how it looks in the space before the doors open and then be aware of you know what the person 40 ft in the other direction is actually seeing when somebody is standing there in front of it.
So, in other words, uh, make sure you're black T shirts at the top, so so people can see them. Yeah, typically, you would see T shirts on a merch grid, but you can hang other stuff on there, too. Like I've seen people put vinyl up on the merch grid or put CDs upon the merch grid. It could be really creative to display things and give yourself a little more space. Remember one tour I did. They had, like, a jeweler's counter, you know, the glass case. So that was really cool, because I put everything in the glass case on the different shelves and then people could speak.
Oh, I want this. And I'm like, Okay, and I grab it. And obviously that was just like the display eso I had everything else behind that and it was really fancy. I didn't have to have anything on top of the table where somebody could grab it. I didn't have to hang much up behind me. I think I hung up to out of the 45 shirts we had, but mostly it was just in the glass display and it looked really cool. Most venues aren't that awesome. That's just a fact.
Like in fact, that's the only venue have ever seen. That has something like that. I was highly impressed. Venue in Connecticut? No. Okay. Oh, are you thinking of the space? I am thinking I lied there too, because I've seen that half. That one I was thinking of was the boot like theater in Los Angeles. California s so nice little, I think. Probably 150. 200 cap room. Whole place sounds very similar. As East Coast, West Coast were only allowed one per coast. Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, that is the case. Cool little venue across from a bagel factory that made really good bagels, but unfortunately closed.
So yeah, it's called Brooklyn Bagel, but it was in L. A the figure, So yeah, it's, uh, you know, figure out what looks best for each situation is what I would say. We're going to give you some general pointers for your set up, but you might get to a venue that has a jeweler's case and say, Hey, I'm going to use this because this looks way better. So another thing. And you guys, Aaron, you have ah, merch grid. But it's a little different because rather than being on the wall, you actually set it up on the table in front of you.
So I think that's a cool approach to having the merch be a little more in your face for people who are walking up. They can look at it right there. They can, you know, pick up the U. S B stick or the sticker. Look at it. And you also display your shirts in a way that many d i y bands don't think of. Yeah, we've gotta listen. Here is like shirt forms, you know, like mannequins, hollow mannequins. I'm in love with those because, as you said, like I I'm sure there tons of people who use them.
But e think in our area, I haven't seen too many other folks use them in the same way that we dio. And so that's super cool because you can sort of leave them to sort of be their own unit and sort of stand them up. Or if you have a merch grid behind you, you can use a hook, kind of, you know, turn them in to a part of your merchant grid. But we just like, you know, we've got all of our stock kind of on the floor behind the table or in the band, somewhere safe, but easily accessible to us.
And so with that, we've always kind of loved the idea of having, you know, a couple of different shirts sort of tucked around, Um, you know, sort of square either plastic or sometimes even cardboard, depending on what it is, you know, molds to sort of display shirt designs. But then, you know, we've got we don't have any hoodies at the moment, but tank tops or any other T shirts to, um, that we want to sort of display in a different way. We use the shirt for MSAs Well, on it just kind of it doesn't really take up a lot more space on it.
Kind of just makes it pop a little more and look interesting on guy will say if you have ah, merch grid, um, sort of standing on the table or if it is behind you, if you have a larger one of these, I'm always a fan of sort of having like a nice, uh, print out tucked in like a plastic sleeves. So it's protected. I like print out of, like, all of the merch information and the pricing, too. Yeah, Having clear pricing will also just make your life so much easier.
There will always be that one person that looks right at the sign and ask. So how much for the shirt? And then you're like $15 yelling over the music and pointing back at the sign. And then they're like looking at the sign and like, Okay, 15, how much for the poster? It's like it's just all right there. So one creative thing I've seen for that is taking like, index card size things, and it's probably just a regular sheet of paper cut up. But you can print prices for different things and put the price tag nice and big on each individual item, so I wouldn't see a number of the items.
That way to that does help. What I did is not quite that this was not a D I y tour, but it was basically D i. Y. It was low budget, And so I just took, uh, sheets of paper and kind of made a triangle out of them, like the long way and then would write, for example, like this item this much, this item that much and so that way, you know, I had to remake the signs every couple nights just because they'd get wrinkled and folded and stuff, but it did help quite a bit for just having something.
And then I also had a master price list so that people could look either at the item or the price list and understand how much it was going to cost. That's about it for the set up, which is just make it look presentable. Adapt with what you have if you do want to get a merch grid or some short forms or like half mannequins. Our first look was at Amazon, but while we were looking around, we found a place called Stores Supply Warehouse, which is just stores supply dot com that has cheaper prices than Amazon.
So, yeah, so if you're looking to buy some stuff, you can check it out there, and we did find that they sell on Amazon as well. But it's a few dollars more expensive. You do pay for shipping on their site, but on Amazon it's more expensive than the base cost plus shipping on their own site. So it's definitely worth looking into it and just shop around, see what's better, whether it's better on Amazon or the store supply warehouse or somewhere else. But just to give a general idea.
One of these shirt forms was $8. 50 plus $8. 50 shipping. So that's $17 for a shirt form, and I would assume they combined shipping. So if you order multiple things, it's not gonna be as expensive. So that's definitely worth looking into. And, you know, do some research. Ask around. You can find stories that air going out of business. They might have a grid or mannequins or anything like that, Uh, that you can buy from them dirt cheap because they're going out of business and trying to liquidate and please their creditors.
So take advantage of stuff like that, and at the end of the day, you know, some of the stuff might sound silly to some people, but the way I think you should think about it is first. It's literally of one time investment that will absolutely, immediately prop up your merch sales or at the very worst, literally and physically prop up your merge items. Eso they look nicer. You cannot go wrong with that. And at the end of the day, if you're not willing to spend $17 to sort of help improve the way you're displaying.
You know, a bunch of T shirts that you've probably already spent a couple $100 on. I think you should probably reassess your priorities. It's an investment. It's fun. It's something that you could like touch with your hands and rearrange every little bit. I would definitely promote, like getting into it and sort of totally owning it. And it will really go a long way for you, Absolutely. I think it's so important to have a very good set up moving on, though. From the set up portion, we're going to talk about systems, which is going to come down to two main categories.
Inventory, tracking and point of sale. Now the better options will do both. Others will not. So I think we should just go through the bullet points here and talk about each one of them. So by far the most advanced inventory and point of sale system for artists is called at venue, and they will actually handle payments in there for you in their app as well as inventory they integrate with. I believe it's stripe or square. I can't recall for sure right now, so they're not actually processing the payment, but they do it within their app.
It's integrated, so you don't have to switch APS like you do with some other APS where you have the inventory tracking app and then the inventory track links you to the point of sale app to make the actual sale with that venue. It's all within their app, which is really handy merch. Cat is similar to at venue and much more affordable for D. I Y artists. It's really a good deal, I think, and we interviewed Infinite Signal two weeks ago. They were on the podcast on Episode 19, which is at Band.
I've Got rocks slash 19 They actually use merch Cat, and they speak highly of it. And it's an app that I've actually spoken with Vanessa, who founded the company, and she's really invested in helping artists make money with this. You know, she's coming at it from the right place. I have no idea about at venues motivations, but they seem to be, ah, lot more corporate and money focus than merch Cat, where she's just trying to make things accessible for artists, and you can even sell in merch Cat through their merch cat fan app.
So either fans can go to the fan app and pre order your items to pick it up with show. And it's already all paid for. Or they can pay to have it shipped and merch Cat instead of saying, Here's the money they paid, plus the money they paid for shipping. We'll just say, Here's the money they paid for their shirt and a prepaid shipping label so you don't have to do anything except print out the label, put it on a box or an envelope, put the shirt or whatever merch item in there and take it to the post office and drop it off, which I think that is an awesome move.
I got to say that sounds huge. Just the ability to sort of scope out one's tour dates and sort of pre purchase, or at least to do exactly what you just said is huge and sort of jumping back really quickly to the accessibility part. It's kind of sounds like she's made herself accessible, like you've had a conversation with her, have you? Not So for somebody to sort of be client or artist, however, you wanna put it banned, focused to the point where they've created a system that has a couple of pretty neat features and then is also able to remain, um, you know, accessible to anybody who might have a question.
Yeah, they're fairly new company they've been around for I want to say 2. 5 3 years. But if you go to the site, which will again be linked in the show notes at Band I've got rocks slash 21. That's the numbers to one. You can find a link to all of these APS that we're talking about so you can look at them all and make your decision on what do you want to use? But yeah, you can reach out to merch cat. And, uh, you can talk with Vanessa. And like I said, she's really great, really helpful.
She'll do an on boarding call with you, or if I don't know, if she has an assistant now, maybe the assistant will do an on boarding call, but they will go through the app and show you how to use it, which I think is awesome. And a lot of software companies are doing that, but it's really cool to see a smaller operation saying Hey, this is what we're gonna do. This is how we wanna help moving on now to the next one, which is made by Wicks.
It has a similar functionality to merge Cat in that whatever you sell on your website, if you're hosted on Wickes. So this has to be if you have a week's website, otherwise it will not work. You can also then use a app to sell your merch at shows which will handle payments and your inventory, which is really cool as well. Now merch. Cat has separate inventories for your online store through the app and your inventory at the shows. The Wakes app does not, so that's one disadvantage.
But if you're the kind of band who takes all the merch you have because you don't have thousands and thousands of items, you just have, you know, your stock and that's it. Then that's not really a limitation. It's a nice feature for merch. Cat toe have it. But again, that's not really something I would be too picky about. The last two are probably the most well known universally it's square and PayPal here. Personally, I don't know about PayPal here, but in square they do have, like, a little inventory type thing that you can dio, which is nice, and I'm sure it's great.
But why not use one of the ones that specifically made for the music industry? It's specifically made for merch because those air tailored to you, whereas with square it's not gonna be quite the same. It's not gonna let you track, you know, different venues and all that kind of stuff with at Venue and merch Cat, you can literally pull up a venue and see your history at that venue and to the inventory. Tracking is on again. I have I haven't, like jumped into each of these head first, and I don't know everything that there is to know about them or nearly as well as you do, James.
But, um, just in quickly thinking about square, I did appreciate that there was a time that I don't think Square did offer an inventory system or a feature, and now they do, which is totally appreciate it, especially if you're if you are a band that enjoys using square but to your point that there is something to be said for what type of business the features catered to. Um, I want to say I remember sort of playing around a little bit with the square inventory system, and it was cool.
You could, you know, include, like photos of the item. You know that interactive is that sort of thing. But just something as simple as a time that I was playing around with it. Which, to be honest, you know, was, ah, while ago, um, that point something as simple as having more than one size of the same T shirt. You sort of had to create an entirely new entry, as if that was a completely separate items. So in my experience and my admittedly dated experience, it was a little bit more labor intensive just because of that.
Whereas you're saying you know, then you were merch. Cat, you're probably not going to run into those same issues if it's catered to a band or music setting. Yeah, so I may be totally wrong in re collecting this, or it may also have changed in the last year when I talked to Vanessa about the app and went through it, you had to make a new item for each size, but I was really easy. You just duplicated and change the name on. I asked about it. Why not have it there?
And she said, Well, because it's actually easier when you're trying to go quickly, because rather than tapping on the thing and then tapping the size menu and tapping the size, that's three times you just scroll and tap and that's it. So that was a conscious decision on her part when she instructed The Dev team to do that. And this is what I recall again. This was about a year ago that I spoke to her about it, so that may not be the exact reasoning, but it was along those lines.
For all I know, that's changed. That definitely doesn't not make sense, though. That's when you think about it that way. That's yeah, especially if you're selling on a tablet that makes total sense. If you're selling on a phone might be a little more scrolling, but on a tablet you're going to see, you know, like 12 products instead of two on the screen, so there it makes a lot of sense toe have different ones. But either way, I think that's still gonna be If you look at the merch cat reporting available, it's so much more complex than what anything else aside from possibly at venue is going to give you.
But we should also talk about the price difference merch. Cat is, I believe, $8. 10 dollars. Something like that at venue is $50 per month. These air both per month, so you're going to pay 5 to 6 times more for at venue than you do for merch. Cat. So for D. I Y bands, I think merch cat is much more accessible. That being said, there is one other way, too. Track your inventory that we haven't talked about yet, which is band camp. But again, that's mostly on Lee. For your online sales, you can still use it to track inventory by editing the numbers, but it's not gonna be as integrated as using any of these APs.
Or, of course, you can use a spreadsheet, which that's been a thing for a while. And that's how bands used to do it all the time before venue came out. Yeah, I mean when I was doing emerged towards latest 2016, we used a spreadsheet and that was actually with at Venue. But the record label had only paid for the basic subscription for At Venue, which is essentially just sound scan reporting, So all I could use it for was album sales. I couldn't use it for T shirts or anything else.
It was just for albums and music. So for all the other stuff, I had to still use a spreadsheet. So essentially, when I had music sales, I was entering them twice, once in the APP and then once in spreadsheet. So that's a quick rundown on the systems of running merch at your show. We have one last topic here under this which Aaron, I think I'm gonna hand over to you. So the last piece of this pie, it's just it's sales. A lot of this is going to seem total like no granary.
But it's as the difference between sort of understanding that basically, whether it's somebody from the band or if you're the point where you're able to, or a thought of hiring a merchandise manager or a seller for the show, whoever it is standing at the merch table, making sure that they're friendly and outgoing. Because that person, that personality, is gonna be a vital to selling any merch and definitely more much than you already dio. It's your band's representative with the audience. Yeah, that's really what it comes down to.
And, you know, you and I are both fairly introverted. So having to sell merch has always been interesting. Our other co host, Matt, is a super extrovert and having seen him firsthand, selling stuff in line at Warp tour that it was just amazing. I'm just like that guy is born to sell. It comes naturally to some people, like at least much more quickly. Recently, Thanet does it. Other people, I think. What is it they call it that on point matters on point. He is just a very outgoing, friendly people person, and he uses that to his advantage, and there's nothing wrong with that.
But I think it's great that he's able to do that. And so obviously to go along with that, you know, no hiding behind your phone or your laptop. I know some people have begun to use, you know, like square register or you know, registered type pieces. So if that's taking up like the first six inches off of the like march able, make sure you're not sitting in like a super saggy like long chair or something, like make sure like, you know, standing on your feet sucks. But, you know, you're there to try to, like basically, to be honest, like, pedal as much stuff as you can and but at the same time interact with And, um, you know, talk to the fans and you are totally an important part of that position is totally an important part of the fans experience the people who come up with you again, kind of calling back to you know, that one person really hoping you have that one size or that one, like, weird item.
And then you totally do like, you know, you being like on point about that being organized, having this system in place, you know, just sort of quickly responded that person and sort of deliver that item like you're totally gonna make that person tonight, or even if you don't. If you're friendly, if you're right there, if you're talkative, you know, if you're personable, that person is still gonna have a pretty good time because depending on you know what kind of person they are, they might walk away feeling like, Wow, I just talked to like an extension of the band.
That's pretty cool. Yeah, And you know, that actually gives me one more thing to talk about your systems with your systems. If you are using something like the square register that has a much more professional experience because people understand that's your point of sale system. Whereas if you're using your phone or a laptop, people might not necessarily be aware that you're actually doing work. Rather than just talking to your friends on Facebook and arguing about politics, that's a really good point and sort of on that same note, like another reason why if you are at the point of having a system like that, Um, it might be a good idea is I cannot tell you how many times I've other people touch my cell phone, you know, because that was my in those situations.
That was my point of sale system was logged into square or logged in tow, you know, whatever it waas and but you know I think I'm super lucky that like nobody's ever run off with it. But, like I got to think that that's, like, totally of anything to. And so I think that's just one more piece of the system that you kind of maybe built for yourself at some point, which is sort of removing your personal this or that, or the other device from the equation. And yeah, and that's like, totally, you know, not even touching on the thing that you said, which is like this, the aesthetic of that On that note, and again going back to systems I would almost absolutely advocate by a used $100 iPad.
For the band, you don't need a lot of storage. It could be a 32 gig version, which even the new ones, or for like 2 32 to 50 typically online. But you can buy a couple of years old. I pad and use that just for inventory tracking. So no matter who's at the table, the iPad is there. So, for example, you know if if you're running it and then you're going to go on stage, you don't have to leave your phone with the local seller who's selling for you or with the other band who's selling for you.
That's a really good point. Or, like log in. The other person logs out like exactly messy. So, yeah, just having a shared iPad can be very helpful. And there's just one last thing that we were going to cover under this topic of sales, which you had some examples. Even so, if you're like me and you're more introverted than you are extroverted, one tactic that I've totally ripped off and stolen from other people but sort of figured out how to use for myself is basically just developing soundbites that they're kind of they're ready to go.
Um, you know, ready for me to, like, blurt out when engaging with some people, you know, if you're on tour if you're tired, um, if your brain's text in any way or again, if you're just an introvert, sort of developing the sound bite for the person who's approaching the merch table and they look nervous. What's the best way to like, engage the nervous fan and, like, draw them in? You know, I'm going to go, you know, I've got an option for that or I've got an option for the maybe slightly intoxicated couple who I wanna make sure how, like, just as much of a positive experiences, the other person.
But maybe you wanna, like, keep an eye on those people because they might steal something. But just, you know, so they don't mess up here, display or, you know, and I mean harf all over the place or, you know, let's be realistic. Or, you know, maybe I have a third option for the person who's like you recognize because you were doing merch for your band or whoever others bandit is the last time you were there and you're like, Wow, this is a super fan. Bell goes off.
Maybe you have, like, soundbite in your back pocket for that person like, you know, Wow, like I remember seeing you here last year or blah, blah, blah whatever it is just and oftentimes like, even if you have those, like just a small handful of jumping off points like the conversation will sort of flow naturally from there because they'll start talking about themselves. And, you know, you can kind of riff off that absolutely and just, you know, to wrap this all up. The whole point of this episode is to drive home that if you have emerge, you will probably sell merch.
If you have the right merch with right sales person, you will sell even more merch. If you have good systems, you have good sales. People who know how to use those systems and set up your display properly. That's what it comes down to. It's really the sales person and the product because the right sales person will know how to do a set up and will know how to implement those systems. That's it for another episode of the band I've podcast. This one is in the books. I know we're still talking about things that aren't really related to current events and don't always make sense in relation with current events.
But think of it this way. You have all the time in the world right now to plan out what you're going to dio so you can hit the road stronger than you were before. Once all this stuff about coronavirus is over, so keep that in mind and keep an eye out next week at six AM on Tuesday for an episode about the sacrifices that we have to make to go out on the road and tour. Thank you again for listening. I hope you're all healthy and safe.
And, of course, as always, keep rocking.
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