Merch Items You Should Be Selling Besides T-Shirts

Bundle option from Penny & Sparrow's upcoming record 'Let a Lover Drown You.'

Bundle option from Penny & Sparrow's upcoming record 'Let a Lover Drown You.'

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.

Mugs

Mug from a previous pre-order bundle from Jon McLaughlin.

Mug from a previous pre-order bundle from Jon McLaughlin.

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? 

Sweaters

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!).

Stickers

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.

Posters

Custom screen-printed lyric poster for Sandi Patty.

Custom screen-printed lyric poster for Sandi Patty.

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.

Hats

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


Candles

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.

VIP Passes

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.

 
 

Handwritten Lyrics

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.

Custom Experiences

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.


Looking to add more merch items for an upcoming tour? Rivet can help.

 

8 Steps to Developing a Successful Pre-order Campaign

In the age of Spotify and music streaming, making money on album sales alone has become an old practice for many musicians.  But among the alternative revenue sources, many bands and artists underestimate the potential of online merch sales.  Even if they have great products that sell really well, most don’t realize the big revenue opportunities that can come from strategic and planned merchandise campaigns. Our favorite strategy also happens to be the most under-utitlized: the pre-order bundle campaign.

With a combination of loyal fans, great products, and a highly-anticipated upcoming release, artists can set themselves up for one of the most profitable album launches ever with a well-developed pre-order campaign.

So where should you start? We’ve got you covered.

Here are 8 simple steps to get started setting up and launching a successful pre-order campaign.


1. Plan ahead 

An album release can approach quickly, so getting a head-start on new merch items that will pair well with the new album is essential. Merchandise design and production can take a couple weeks, and finding the right companies and vendors to facilitate these tasks can add even more time.  A good time to start planning for a pre-order campaign is 6-8 weeks before the album release.

2. Create attractive merch 

Developing attractive merch can be a challenging yet rewarding part of the pre-order campaign process.  Striking the right balance between personal taste versus market preference, and artist branding versus general design is very important.  For example, an artist may like an apparel item because it’s something they’d wear, but that doesn’t mean their fans would buy it. The same is true that while it’s important to brand the artist’s name or album title on the product, that doesn’t mean it should be the focal point of the merch.  Creating merch that is both visually appealing and relevant to each artist’s market is the main goal.

There are a lot of things to consider when looking at product development, like material, quality, and color.  A good product vendor will have a lot of options they can offer, but keep in mind that they will not necessarily know the best interests of the artist’s market.  In general, fan preferences vary quite a bit between each genre of music, so having a good idea of the artist’s core demographic will help the final decision. Need help narrowing down the options? Let's talk.

3. Price the products 

Balance the pricing of individual products to whatever provides a good profit margin while also giving fans a good value.  Coming up with prices for individual items isn’t too difficult, but finding prices for multiple-item-bundles can be a bit trickier. But fear not: referencing similar products on the market to come up with a good price is always a good place to start.

4. Group the products into bundles 

Group the products into 3-5 bundles that provide a good range of affordability and value.  Here are some recommendations that can help get the ball rolling:

  • Bundle #1: This should be the lowest priced bundle.  It can be pretty simple and include only the new album plus another merch item.  
  • Bundle #2: This bundle should include the items from Bundle #1, plus an additional merch item.
  • Bundle #3: This bundle should include the items from Bundle #2, plus an additional merch item or a variation.
  • Bundle #4: This should be the highest priced bundle and should include most, if not all, of the products.  One good way to increase value (and profit margin) with this bundle is to add an autographed item.  
Pre-order bundle options for Judah and the Lion. Mockups and item arrangement designed by Rivet.

Pre-order bundle options for Judah and the Lion. Mockups and item arrangement designed by Rivet.

5. Price the bundles

Bundle prices are generally calculated by totaling the price of the items, plus adding a built-in discount.  Discounting the price helps incentivize fans to paying for the higher priced bundles and helps them feel rewarded for ordering the merchandise and album early.  However, be aware of the profit margin when discounting these bundles.  A good method to pricing the bundles is to calculate the profit margin for each bundle and then look at how different discounts will affect the margin.  

Pro tip: a discount of 10-20% can usually provide a good balance of margin and value.

6. Create the listings

Rivet created the mockup for this Penny & Sparrow pre-order bundle. The individual item mockups can be seen as thumbnails.

Set up the listings for each bundle in a way that is attractive and descriptive.  The main image for each bundle should showcase all of the items, so the fans will quickly be able to see what is included.  Each additional image in the listings should be of the individual items.  The description section of the listings should list the items that are included in the bundles, plus any other product description that may need to be communicated to the customer.  Finally, be sure to specify when the bundle will be shipped.  Since the fans will be purchasing the product in advance, many times they don’t realize that they will still need to wait for the product to be delivered on (or slightly before) the album release date.

7. Launch and promote

A good time to launch the pre-order campaign is about 2-4 weeks before the album release date.  This keeps the “album release buzz” within a manageable timeframe, but also allows enough time for fans to make a purchase and for the artist to promote.  Promotion can be quite simple.  Grab one of the bundle images to use as a graphic to post on social profiles.  The graphics can also be used in a pre-order email campaign and can link out to each corresponding bundle.

8. Fulfill the pre-orders early

Fans who pre-order the bundles expect to receive their package no later than release day. Shipping the bundles out early is a great way to reward the most loyal fans with a surprise package.  


Although developing a pre-order campaign is comparable to simply making merchandise for an album release, don't be fooled into thinking it's a simple, fast, or easy process.  Taking the right amount of time and thought into creating great merch and preparing to take it to market requires a lot of steps, communication, and resources.  However, the end payout can make for a highly-profitable album release.

Pro-Tip: A great way to boost revenue from an upcoming album release is to make the pre-order bundles the exclusive way fans can pre-order the new album.  Limiting how fans purchase the highly-anticipated record and directing them to higher-dollar product options will maximize pre-order sales and merch orders.


Let us help make your pre-order a success. Contact Rivet today.



Introducing Rivet Press: Custom Design and Screen Printing for Bands and Artists

When we started working with artists in 2012, we had one goal in mind: helping musicians create a better fan experience. It was a simple idea, one that continued to change forms and is still growing today.

Rivet Creative Group was born through partnering with artists and labels to build a cohesively designed album launch, including everything from designing the physical album to websites, marketing emails and social graphics. After a while, we saw another desperate need in the music world: reliable merch fulfillment. And so, Rivet Merch was created shortly after with the intention of making an artist album launch as unified as possible. We began forming deeper relationships with artists and management teams by becoming an integral part of the album design, pre-order strategy and direct-to-fan order fulfillment. Over the past four years, our observations about the music industry have been reinforced as we’ve seen our business grow year-over-year. But as we began to run more pre-order campaigns, ship more items and bring on more new artists, we realized that there was still a missing piece to our full-service creative agency. And so, we are proud to announce…

Rivet Press

A custom design and screen printing service for bands and artists.


A Turnkey Solution for Direct-to-Fan Album Releases and Pre-Orders

We created Rivet Press to streamline the album launch process and better serve our roster of musicians and artists. Now, we can produce all merch orders in-house, all the way from converting a digital design file to physically screen printing on shirts, sweatshirts, posters and more. With each unique artist, we want to be a strategic resource for the critical steps involved with a successful album launch.

 
 

Screen Printing Capabilities

Our six-station manual screen printing press allows us to print large quantities of shirts while still maintaining the care and attention to detail of printing by hand. Screen printing is a craft, and we take it very seriously. No matter how large the order is, you can rest assured that each shirt will have the same quality and integrity.

We can print on items like:

  • T-Shirts

  • Sweatshirts

  • Hoodies

  • Posters

  • Album Packaging

  • Canvas Bags

  • Stickers

  • Notebooks

Fast Turnaround Time for Reorders

By having our own screen printing press, we can process an order for a reprint of low inventory and have it turned around in 3 days or less. Using Rivet for your printing needs eliminates the worry of running out of shirts for a pre-order or selling out while on the road touring. Plus, our convenient reorder form makes it fast and easy to get the merch you need to maximize sales.

Custom Short-Run Orders

Due to our fast turnaround time, we can print custom short-run orders of shirts for smaller projects or releases. If you have an idea you want to see printed, let us know. Rivet can also design the concept and only print on-demand based on when each sale is made. This is a great way to try out new merch ideas with little-to-no risk or cost to see what sells well and what doesn’t. Whether it’s seeing a mockup printed on a shirt or ordering a few shirts for a side business, we can customize your order preferences to a solution that works for you.

Free Design with Each Order

For each printing order placed, Rivet will offer one free design for an apparel or print item of your choice. We see this as a great way to build relationships with our clients while giving our team the opportunity to be creative. You come with an idea, and we’ll help you turn it into a design for print--free of charge.


Get started planning your next release today. Request a quote or contact us with questions on how Rivet Press can help maximize your next project.