[00:00:00] James: Welcome to episode 164 of the Bandhive Podcast. It is time for another episode of the Bandhive Podcast. My name is James Cross and I help independent artists tour smart. This week on the show, we're not gonna have quite the episode that we had planned out because I didn't have power for six days over Christmas and the week afterwards, it was the Friday before Christmas through, like midday on Wednesday, after Christmas, we did not have any electricity.
[00:00:27] James: Aside from a generator to run like the heat, and that was about it. So I wasn't able to record and unfortunately I had to reschedule an interview that we had booked for Wednesday morning. That one will hopefully be the next episode next week, but if not, we will get that going at some point. I'm really stoked for that interview.
[00:00:44] James: In the meantime though, because of this silly little power outage, which was caused by a terrible power company, We're gonna talk about merchandise from concept to execution because it is so important to have merch for your band. First of all, it's [00:01:00] an income stream.
[00:01:00] James: That's really valuable because a lot of artists make the bulk of their money on merch. So let's say you go out on tour, maybe if you're lucky, you're gonna break even on ticket sales, split deals, guarantees, whatever kind of deals you have. If you're lucky, you'll break even. But then in your merch that you sell at those shows, that's where your actual profit on the tour comes from.
[00:01:22] James: and this is why I always say, you should never play a show without merch. And usually I see local artists do this, but I've seen national touring bands do this, like bands headlining 750 cap rooms and they don't have merch. That is bad. That is not how you wanna run your business.
[00:01:39] James: You are missing out on potentially thousands of dollars of revenue if you're that level. But even if you're a local band, you might be missing out on 50 or a hundred dollars a night. And guess what? That's gas money to get you to the next. Also, aside from being that income stream, it helps you promote your.
[00:01:57] James: Because when people wear your merch out and about, [00:02:00] sometimes people will ask about it. I remember probably about 12 years ago, I was wearing it between the buried and me hoodie and I was walking down the street and this girl goes, Hey, what's bit-bam? And I just said, it's BTBAM, Between the Buried and Me.
[00:02:13] James: They're a banned. And I kept walking. I have no idea if she looked up the band. Maybe she did, maybe she didn't. But no matter what, People were asking about that band because I was wearing their merch. You've probably had the experience where you see somebody wearing a band shirt from a band you like and you get really happy.
[00:02:30] James: You're like, oh, you know what? Like, let me go talk to this person and tell them I love that band too. This fosters community among fans because not only do you want to have that relationship with your fans directly through your music, but if your fans can bond with one another, that makes their connection to your music even stronger.
[00:02:49] James: That is just another reason that merch is really important because they have that connection not only with you, but potentially they make friends through the band. That is really important [00:03:00] too. Like just last night I was hanging out with a friend. He lives in Boston, but came up to Vermont to go skiing and it turned out his Airbnb was actually in my town.
[00:03:08] James: Now I've known this guy for, I don't know, 13 years probably? Because we met on the AFI forums, and then I saw him at a show and I was like, oh, you're that guy from the forums. And it was, 13 years later we're still here and we're both saying like, oh, are you going to the AFI show in March?
[00:03:24] James: Are you going to the AFI show in March? We're talking about their like biggest singer sorrow thing. So having that connect. Any way you can foster a relationship between your fans. whether they meet at a show or because they see each other wearing that band shirt. This is something that's really important for the longevity of your career.
[00:03:44] James: So let's get into designing your merch. With anything you do for your band, visually or even, you know, in speech, written content, whatever it is, you have to keep your bands branding in mind. So that means your image and your style, but also [00:04:00] your tone and how you speak. So if you're a relatively dark band, you're probably gonna want dark merch.
[00:04:05] James: And keep in mind that the number one selling merch item, Is the t-shirt and the number one selling color of t-shirt is black. So always have at least one black t-shirt to offer to your fans because if you only have different colors you might not sell as much. I know I've walked into a show and seen like red, blue, and white and thought, no, I don't need anything.
[00:04:28] James: And it wasn't an American band. They were actually, they were Danish. It was the same band that didn't have merch at the other show I was mentioning. Actually, come to think of it, it was new politics. they're making multiple mistakes. They still have a good career, you know, they're full-time musicians, good for them, but have a black t-shirt available that is like, that would be the first design I create is a black T-shirt.
[00:04:47] James: And I realize the irony, if you're watching this on YouTube or like a social media clip, I'm wearing a gray Less Than Jake shirt. I hardly ever wear, not black. But today I am. So I appreciate the irony of what I'm saying. [00:05:00] But you want to be sure that you are creating the merch that would be most effective in appealing to your fans.
[00:05:08] James: So your design and messaging have to match that. And that's why if you're a darker band, you need to have darker merch. And that's not to say like happy bands can't have black shirts. I mean like thematically darker, the designs on there. So one thing that I would recommend is working with a professional designer.
[00:05:26] James: No matter what, they are going to have better designs than you unless you yourself are a designer. I remember back before the Bandhive Podcast changed our name to Bandhive. I had done the original designs for our old logo and they were okay, but they weren't great. When we switched to Bandhive and rebranded, I hired a professional designer to do the logo, the little B that you see night and day difference. You cannot tell me that a professional designer or an illustrator is not going to do a better job. So find somebody that does artwork that [00:06:00] you like and it matches your style and talk to them and say, Hey, we'd love to have you do a couple designs for us.
[00:06:07] James: What would that look like? This way, you're fostering a relationship with another creative. You should always pay them for what they do. By the way, never ask people to work for free, because how do you feel when people ask you to play a show for free? Right? That's no fun. But no matter what, go out there, and unless you are a designer, have somebody else do that design for you.
[00:06:25] James: It's just so worth it, and even if it's just something like text, a designer will be able to do that better because they'll have different type faces, they'll have different fonts and they'll know how to put the spacing to make it look just right and all that kind of stuff.
[00:06:40] James: They will make sure that it looks good. You can probably get three quarters of the way there by yourself, and that's fine, but it's not gonna be as appealing when people see it at the merch table. So once you have your design, then you need to choose where you're going to get it printed. Now, personally I like to shout out Convicted Printing.
[00:06:56] James: They are fans of the Bandhive Podcast, but also have a really great [00:07:00] mission in that they support victims of human trafficking. So if you wanna support a great company, and unfortunately I think they are US only, but if you wanna support a great company, hit up convicted printing, their information will be in the show notes at bandhive.rocks slash 1 64.
[00:07:15] James: That's the number 164. So, yeah, hit up Kyle at Convicted Printing, and he will get you set up with a quote and help you out with what you need. That said, there are lots of different manufacturers and suppliers for t-shirts, for bands, as well as other types of merch, You might wanna consider a company like Convicted Printing that only works with bands, but there are also other options like merch by Amazon, which is basically on-demand.
[00:07:42] James: Merch or Teespring, Cafepress, whatever, all those. You can do that if you're not ready to buy a bulk batch of like 50 plus shirts yet, if you just wanna do one-offs, a solution like that is fine, but keep in mind that your profit margin is gonna be a lot lower because they're gonna be charging you, you know, 15, [00:08:00] $20 a shirt rather than to $10 a shirt. The other thing to consider is that when you're choosing where to get your merch made, the quality is really important. I have seen bands print stuff from, I don't know if it was Teespring or Red Bubble or whatever it was, and it was just not great quality.
[00:08:17] James: You could tell it was gonna fall apart very quickly, and it did. Be careful with that. You don't want to have a reputation among your fan base for having it bad quality merch. I've seen this happen, two major label bands, and it is not good when your entire core fan base hates your merch company. That is not something you ever want to happen because then you are going to be missing out on sales.
[00:08:39] James: So don't let that happen to yourself. Always. Review what is going out and make sure that the products are actually up to the standard that you would purchase yourself. Aside from that cost and turnaround time are important to consider, but the main thing here is the quality because you don't want to alienate your fans, your customers, [00:09:00] and have them over years of mistreatment by merch.
[00:09:03] James: C. Shy away from buying merch from you. There are bands that I would love to buy merch from, but I don't because their merch companies were consistently so bad that all aside, once you have your merch, it's time to sell your merch, which includes marketing. So the easiest way to start selling it to your fans is putting up an online store.
[00:09:23] James: Super easy. You can. Really cheaply to be honest these days. some store apps will just take a percentage. Others will charge you monthly. It all depends on what you're looking for. Now, Bandhive is gonna have a merch store app very soon, so stay tuned and if you want to get in on the beta for that, email me [email protected]
[00:09:42] James: That will also be in the show notes at bandhive.rocks/164. And yeah, email me there if you want to get in on the beta for the Bandhive merch store. But the other big way that you can sell merch is at your shows. Now what you can do, and I really like this, is using social [00:10:00] media to promote that you have merch at your shows and saying something like, Hey, this is limited.
[00:10:06] James: We're only gonna have it at these three shows. And it doesn't have to be anything crazy unique. It could be the same shirt, but a slightly different design, and you just get a small run of them made. You sell them at those shows and then whatever's left over, you can say, fan club, exclusive mailing list, exclusive, whatever, and you send it to your mailing list and say, these are gonna be on sale for the next few days until we sell out.
[00:10:28] James: Get it now, or they're gone forever. It's really effective to do that because you're letting people know, Hey, you don't have to wait two weeks for us to ship it to you, or five days for us to ship it to you, or two days or whatever. If you wanna be like Amazon, that's great. Two day shipping, But no matter what, let people know what you're gonna have at your shows. That's a really effective way to tell people, Hey, we have merch. This is what we're gonna have. oh, by the way, it's limited. So if you want it, you better come get it. The other thing there is when you are selling merch at shows, don't tell people to go by [00:11:00] merch.
[00:11:00] James: Instead, tell them, Hey, we're gonna be hanging out by the merch table if you wanna chat with us. So come over after the set and say, Hey, we'll see you there in five minutes. And that way you can talk to people and while they're talking to you, if something seems to catch their eye, you can say, oh, by the way, like, did you wanna see a shirt?
[00:11:15] James: Like, I saw you looking at that. That is how you smoothly and effectively sell your merch, without being a pushy salesperson. Last but not least, when you are selling merch online, don't be afraid to push people there. You know, once or twice a week, make a post saying, Hey, this is what we have at our merch store.
[00:11:32] James: Here's new items, here's new photos of a different model wearing the items. Whatever it is, remind people that it exists and give them a reason to go there. Offer people discounts. You know, if you have a mailing list, give them 15% off for their birthday. If you have their birthday in there, give them 20% off for Black Friday or Christmas or whatever it is.
[00:11:50] James: Find excuses to send people to your online merch store. Now, to wrap this all up, by having merch that you can sell, you are generating a key income stream [00:12:00] for your. If you don't have that, you're never going to go anywhere. As an artist, you literally will not go anywhere if you don't want to create and sell merch. I've seen bands say, no, we don't wanna sell merch.
[00:12:11] James: We don't want to invest into it because what if it doesn't sell? Well, guess what? If you don't invest into it, it's not gonna sell. You miss a hundred percent of the shots. You don't take Wayne Gretzky, Michael Scott. You put merch out there, it's high quality merch made by a good manufacturer. It reflects your image and style, so you've worked with a designer who understands what you need, and you also have merch together that is appealing.
[00:12:33] James: It balances that quality, the price and your brand. So it's appealing at a good price point for your fans. that is how you support your career as a musician. And then when you go to sell it, don't be afraid to actually sell it. you need to tell people that your merch is out there or they're never gonna know. It's not an, if you build it, they will come world. You have to remind people that, Hey, we have this. You can get it now.
[00:12:58] James: That does it for this episode of the [00:13:00] Bandhive Podcast. Thank you so much for tuning in and listening. I really appreciate it, and I hope that this episode has given you some insight onto how you can start selling merch for your band. Now, we've done a bunch of merch episodes in the past, but we've never done an episode like this where you just go through from start to finish and talk about the key points from the design to the sale.
[00:13:19] James: This way, it's all in one episode. And I will link to several other episodes that go into more detail in the subtopics of merchandise. in the show notes page at bandhive.rocks/164. But this overview is where I'm gonna send people first from now on, and then from there they can find the other episodes.
[00:13:38] James: So again, that's Bandhive.rocks/164 to find the other episodes that I recommend that dive a little more into the details of each portion of selling your merch. So for example, how to sell Merch at shows. That's one of the episodes I'm gonna link because that is a topic in and of itself.
[00:13:55] James: So go check that out. Bandhive.rocks/164. We'll be back with another [00:14:00] brand new episode of the Bandhive Podcast next Tuesday at 6:00 AM Eastern.
[00:14:04] James: Until then, I hope you have a great week. Stay safe, and of course, as always, keep rocking.