Odds are, if you’re in a band, you’ve got a t-shirt. Somewhere along the history of artists selling branded products, the t-shirt became the household item to have alongside a new record. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
T-shirts are great: they’re simple, versatile, (should be) comfy, and best of all, a walking advertisement for your new album or musical project. By all means, have t-shirts to sell at your shows.
But when it comes to merch items, and especially pre-order bundles, t-shirts are really just the tip of the iceberg. Countless bands could be selling more records and taking home more cash from merch sales by simply adding a bit more variety to their product options. If you’re looking for some ways to get creative with new merch items, try considering a few of these additions to your lineup.
Coffee mugs might be a close runner-up to t-shirts in terms of value: they’re cheap to make, easy to print on, and let’s be real, everyone drinks coffee (or at least some sort of hot beverage). Custom ceramic or enamel mugs with a song lyric or artist name on it are a great way to increase your band’s visibility. It’s something that people grab for and use, possibly on a daily basis. So what better way to wake up in the morning than to a fresh cup of joe in a mug with *your name/album title* on it?
While obviously still in the apparel family, sweaters can be a great seasonal addition to your merch lineup. We’ve found that crew neck hoodies have sold particularly well in the past, especially when you use a super soft brand like this one. Depending on your fan base, sweaters can even outsell t-shirts at times. Plus, adding a sweatshirt allows you to experiment with a different design than the t-shirt (remember: variety!).
This one may seem trivial, but stickers can be a great way to add a little extra value to your pre-order bundles. And they’re super cheap -- like so-cheap-you-might-as-well-try-it cheap. Even if they’re not a big seller as an individual product, adding in a sticker to a bundle or other product adds that much more value to the purchase. Depending on the quality of the sticker, you could even throw one in with each online order for that extra surprise value when a fan opens up their much anticipated merch package.
The album poster has become a bit of a staple item as well, but it’s not to be overlooked. While posters may not have the mass appeal they used to, there’s still a fair amount of folks out there who will hang a tour poster on their wall, admiring the nostalgia of that amazing concert years ago. Posters are great to autograph as well for an exclusive, limited-edition sort of vibe. If you’re looking to try something a little different than the normal tour poster, try making custom screen-printed posters with lyrics or the album title. Fans will notice the difference in quality to a digital print.
People are fond of categorizing others as “hat-people” or not. I tend to think of everyone as a hat-person -- you just have to find the right hat. Depending on your fan base, the odds are good that a certain style of hat will be the right fit (yes, I realize that was a pun). For example, country music fans tend to lean towards the trucker hat style, while indie rock and alternative fans may like beanies a bit more. Do your research beforehand and find a hat that your fans will love.
NEXT LEVEL MERCH ITEMS
Ok, I know...candles? But weird as it sounds, people can get really into it. Now, this merch item certainly won’t work for everyone. But for some, a candle can be just the specialty sort of item that fans really remember. And with companies offering candles in recycled wine or whisky bottles, it also has that artsy/vintage feel to it. Slap your name or logo on the outside, and you’ve got yourself a branded candle.
Selling VIP Passes before a tour can be a great way to increase merch sales while also providing a memorable fan experience at the live event. The actual VIP event can be as involved as a fan meet-and-greet or a more basic, hands-off approach. For example, one artist we work with sold VIP Passes to fans that allowed them to come in during soundcheck and watch the band warm-up. It may not seem like a big deal since musicians have to do that anyway, but for a fan it can make the difference between an average show and the highlight of their year. Learn more about how to setup VIP ticketing here.
This obviously isn’t something you would sell all the time, but it can be a great way to increase fan engagement during dry-spells like recording an album or just after a recent tour. You’d be surprised how much people are willing to pay for a sheet of paper with your lyrics written on it. Add in a special personal touch at the end, and that’s some fridge-worthy material for sure.
Without simply ending this list with a “whatever-you-want” category, custom experiences act as an open-ended opportunity to maximize revenue during a tour. Want to plan a house show? Custom experience. Host a private instrument/voice lesson? Custom experience. Anything that you think will engage with your fans and get them excited about your music can be made into a custom experience. And that experience can then be turned around into sales.