From designing it to selling it, here’s our complete guide to merch for music artists.
Written by Leni - November 24, 2020
With many gigs and tours on hold for music artists around the world, putting together a merchandise strategy has never been more important. Whether it’s t-shirts, vinyl, hoodies, bracelets, or face masks (#2020), selling merch is a good way to maintain an income stream and keep up your relationship with your fans until you can see them again IRL.
With music fans stuck at home, they’re also hungry for a bit of connection and eager to support their favorite artists. From developing your merch look-and-feel, to designing and selling it, here's our complete guide to merch for music artists.
Develop Your Brand Identity
Before you get started designing or selling your merch, make sure your artist project has a strong brand identity and its own unique way of identifying with fans.
“Building a recognisable brand and visual identity takes time and is something that you have to stick with for a while. It’s important to keep in mind that whilst you might have seen your branding and visual identity for a long time, it might still be new to the general public,” says Daniel Åberg, Design Lead at Amuse.
Processes for developing brand identities can vary from artist to artist, but there are a few baseline steps that can apply to any artist, market, or genre. You can read more about them in our Guide To Artist Branding.
When brainstorming merch concepts around your brand identity, think about: What are you trying to say through your merch? What do you want people to remember? How do you want your fans to feel when wearing it?
Get culturally relevant
While tote bags and hoodies might work for some fan demographics, they might not work for others. Find out what kind of merch your fans want by doing a quick Instagram poll or looking at your social media statistics. Who follows me? Who engages with me the most? Who shows up at my shows? Are they men or women? Where do they live? What do they care about (aka what are they posting about?
It’s also not all about profit. “We're seeing a lot of advocacy and support for the social causes that are happening, whether that's COVID or Black Lives Matter,” co-founder of Merchbar Ed Aten told Spotify. “Artists are using their platforms not only to speak out but also raise money for causes, donating portions of proceeds or creating products specifically for causes they think are important.”
From British singer/songwriter James Morrison donating the proceeds from his Live at Dingwalls t-shirt to the UK Black Lives Matter Fund to Social Distortion sending all income from their "Social Distancing” shirt to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund and the United Way, there’s a whole group of artists using their merch strategy for good. Black Sabbath even released a tee with the Black Sabbath logo that says ‘Black Lives Matter’, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Black Lives Matter movement.
How To Order Merchandise
There are a heap of companies that help artists design, print and ship merch. Two of our favourites are Hello Merch and Printful — an on-demand service, meaning they only produce what your fans order. You only pay only when you have orders, so there’s no need to worry about product flops or extra inventory going to waste. They also print and ship everything under your artist brand with custom labels, pack-ins, and other branding options.
Merch doesn't need to start and end with tees and hoodies. It’s important to remember just how wide-ranging, inventive, and strategic your approach to merch can be. Lady Gaga is selling a jockstrap. The Jonas Brothers have a face mask and wine tote. And US alt-rock band Guster made granola and a mustard called Gustard.
Marketing Your Merch
Once you’ve designed and ordered your merch, it’s time to start thinking about creative ways to market it and sell it to fans. Some ways to market your merch include releasing limited edition drops and hosting pop-up shops (post Covid, obvs). Freebies are also a good way to promote your wider merch collection, like bracelets, guitar picks, and stickers. Read our guide to music promotion here for more tips.
Tips For Selling Merch
Use high-quality photos: Need professional photos of your merch for your website but don’t have a good camera set up? Ask your merch company for some high-quality photos of the items and use these on your site. It’s important to make your merch look as high-quality and professional looking as you can.
Hook up your store to your social media: Have you connected your store to your artist page on Instagram? Instagram Shopping connects the products that you have in Shopify to your Instagram business profile. You can also make a Facebook product catalog by setting up Facebook Shop.You can read how to set them up here.
Selling Merch on Spotify
Did you know that artists on Spotify can sell merchandise to fans directly via the platform? Whether it’s a limited edition vinyl, or a classic band tee, using Spotify for Artists and Merchbar, you can make your Spotify profile a digital merch table. Here’s how to do it:
Ready to take your career to the next level? Sign up for Amuse Pro for access to premium features like team accounts, distribution to Instagram and TikTok, automatic royalty splits and fast lane releases.
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