Want to sell more merch?

Unless you’re already selling hundreds or even thousands of dollars of merch per show, you’re probably wishing you could move a lot more product than you are right now.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

We tend to make a big deal about money as musicians. It’s become somewhat of a taboo subject.

But if you were to get honest with yourself, you would recognize that there’s a part of you that wants to be able to make money from doing what you love to do.

Don’t be ashamed of that.

You work hard at your art, and you deserve to earn more from it.

Here’s a simple tip that will help you sell more merch.

The Problem with Digital

It’s simple really.

Although digital downloads and music streaming apps are convenient, they aren’t tactile – you can’t hold them in your hands.

Even if you were to promote your music from stage, a vast majority of listeners either won’t have heard you (it’s kind of noisy in a lot of venues), and even if they do, they’ll probably forget by the time they get home.

So you play a show, the audience loves you, and you go home to look at the reports only to find that you only got a couple of sales.

Discouraged, you go back to the slog of booking more shows and promoting your music unsuccessfully.

This cycle repeat itself.

Getting People to Buy Online

Your situation may not be as bleak as the picture I just painted – and by the way, that’s a good thing.

But the problem persists – digital products are hard to sell in-person.

You can send fans home with download cards, but how many of them will actually use them? My friends have tried, and they tell me the conversion rates aren’t very good. If you find that they work well for you, I would love to hear about it.

You can get people on your email list at your show and tell them about your release later, and I do recommend doing that, but an email open rate of 20% is considered standard and even “good” for most marketing campaigns.

It’s hard to get people to buy online for a variety of reasons.

Physical Merch

So you probably think I’m going to tell you that physical products are the answer. Well, you’re partially right.

See, there are some problems with physical merch too – especially recorded music. There will always be a contingent that wants CDs and vinyl records (at least in the foreseeable future), but they probably only represent a smaller percentage of your fans.

The goal is nevertheless to have your audience walk away with something from the show, whether it’s a T-shirt, wrist band, pin, sticker or whatever.

Here is how to make that happen more often.

Place it in Their Hands

Even if fans don’t rush your merch booth during a break or after the show, odds are some will come up to you and want to chat.

If you aren’t taking advantage of this opportunity, then you definitely aren’t selling as much merch as you could be.

What I’m about to share with you is not a sales technique.

You can think of it that way if you want to, but it’s really more of a means to make your fans aware of what you’ve got.

Let’s face it – unless your audience has been following you for a while, they have no idea what your latest merch item is or what you have to offer them (yes, even if you announced it on your blog, in your emails, or from stage).

So here’s what you do when the conversation naturally turns to what you’ve been working on.

You place the CD, the T-shirt, the sticker or hoodie in their hands (be careful with pins/buttons).

Really think about this for a second. Physical products have weight.

And I’m not just talking about the actual weight of the merch item, I’m talking about the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating that product.

When you place an item in a fan’s hands, they can physically see it and feel it. They can even smell it.

And that, my friend, is a completely different experience than going online to buy MP3s.

Now, if they hand the item back to you, don’t fight with them, but many will choose to buy at that point.

Create an Experience for Your Fans

Performing is all about creating an experience for your fans. Why should selling merch be any different?

You can tell your audience to go online to buy your music, and some of them will. You could even be more proactive about passing around a smartphone or tablet to collect emails addresses and earn sales.

But at the end of the day, there’s no experience like a live experience. You have a much better chance at touching people’s hearts and getting into their wallets (not in a sleazy way) if you put your energy into creating “moments” in your show.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t sell online. You would definitely be leaving money on the table if you don’t set up a proper e-store.

But merch is really about helping your fans capture a memory. Give them the opportunity to take a memory home. Better yet, give them a reason to.

Final Thoughts

It’s a simple tip, but it has worked for me.

People are skeptical. They may not even believe that you have CDs to sell unless you show them. They may not buy unless you give them the chance to hold one in their hands.

Again, don’t see this as a sales tactic. But don’t rely on what you think your fans do and don’t know about you or your merch, because a lot of people aren’t that aware. They’re wondering what’s in it for them. That’s why creating an experience is so important.

Place merch items in their hands so they can see your awesome photos and artwork. Let it sink in.

Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Author: David Andrew Wiebe

David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.

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