Savvy singers can make good money from selling merchandise at gigs and online. Vanessa Ferrer, founder and CEO of Merch Cat, a platform that helps artists sell and manage merchandise at live shows, explains how to get started.
What makes good music merch?
Vanessa Ferrer: Good design and decent quality products. No one wants the stiff, white, beefy t-shirt anymore or an item that’s going to fall apart. You want people to wear or use the item that you’re selling, but also for the item to be a representation of you as an artist. Don’t throw just any art or font onto a shirt – the lack of authenticity and thought shows through and doesn’t necessarily resonate well with fans. If you’re an artist who is not yet identifiable by your logo alone, make sure your name is present somewhere on the merch. Also, have a variety of items at different price points to be accessible to different budgets.
What’s your advice for a band or artist putting together their first merchandise offering?
VF: Start small with basic products. Make things people will want to use or wear and then expand. Don’t take costly design risks; a one-colour design on a black or neutral color (gray, tan or white when appropriate) t-shirt is the most cost effective, least risky item. See what your fans are receptive to and then build out the merch line from there. Look at analytics on socials and digital platforms like Spotify and Apple Music to see who is streaming their music and where, and use them to help make decisions on sizing, styles and whether to do a gender specific item like a women’s t-shirt or tank. In terms of tried and true items, shirts, hats, CDs (people still buy physical music at shows) and stickers work well. For festival season consider the drawstring backpack -they can have a good profit margin. Totes are also great.
Can you advise on price points?
VF: It depends on the cost of the item and your fanbase (students usually have less money than 30 and 40 somethings). We generally recommend no less than twice the cost of the item. If you acquire shirts for £5.50 each, sell them for no less than £11, but if your fans can handle it, try selling them for £15 each.
How should merch be displayed at gigs?
VF: Keep your table neat. Presentation matters. Use hangers and wire grid or display panels if possible and bring lighting of some sort in case your table is in a dark corner. Have someone at the table at all times. If a band member can’t do it, get a friend, family member or fan to help. Announce that there is merch for sale from the stage and mention the location of the table in case it’s not in plain sight.
What common mistakes do artists make with merch?
- Not taking debit/credit cards
- Not tracking inventory and, as a result, not having the sizes and styles that fans want on hand
- Not paying attention to what fans are buying or are asking for
- Not ordering/re-ordering with enough lead time
- Not selling merch at all!
CLICK HERE to read iSing’s tech profile on Merch Cat.