T-Shirts are popular, but Brian Taranto of design firm Love Police warns bands not to get carried away with design. “Don’t get too excited and waste a bunch of money on pleasing your own desires, like having three different prints over eight different coloured shirts. Make it stylish, noticable and reflective of the band. And, most importantly, display or market them effectively. Posters are another way to make money, you can sell copies of posters you have printed to promote your gigs.”
Brian Taranto, Love Police
Merchandise has always been an excellent way for artists to earn money. Traditionally, anything that can have the artist’s name, logo or picture printed on can be sold at gigs. Emerging artists can also sell CDs at shows and it’s one of the most effective and profitable forms of merchandise. CDs can be easily sold at gigs by either selling them at the door or by setting up a merchandise stall within the venue.
As most artists will be recording a demo to produce as a CD for distribution to media, booking agents, and record companies, it’s a logical step to produce extra for sales at gigs and through your website to help off-set your costs and make some money.
T-shirts and posters are another way to make money. You can sell copies of the posters you have printed to promote your gigs and sell T-shirts with your logo that help spread the word about your band. Punters that come to see you perform will, if they like you, be happy to buy a CD, T-shirt or poster at the end of your set. During your show, don’t be afraid to announce the merchandise is available and offer to sign the items if people buy them on the night.
Always make sure you have the permission of the venue before selling merchandise. Some venues and most festivals have rules about merchandise sales and may require a percentage of sales or want one of their staff to sell the goods. Sometimes merchandise can only be sold at the door and not by the band on the side of the stage. You may have to pay the door person a fee for selling or employ someone yourself. If you’re a support act, check with the headline act if selling your merchandise is okay with them. They may may be selling some themselves and want their person to sell yours too. This may also cost you a fee or percentage. No matter how you are selling your merchandise, don’t let it get in the way of your performance commitments.
Like everything else, merchandise needs to be accounted for. Below is an example of a merchandise sheet that allows you to keep track of how many T-shirts, CDs, posters you started with, how many were sold and how much money was taken that day.
MERCHANDISE – A Summary
- Deciding what merchandise you wish to sell
- Seeking venue/headlining act’s permission before selling your merchandise at gigs
- Making sure all merchandise is accounted for