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.