Presentation earns you a lot of brownie points.
When it comes to selling your wears, there's a butt-load to know. Especially if you're DIAY (Doing It All Yourself). From understanding the basics of design to specific tactics for moving more swag, you'd probably have to earn yourself a degree in band merch if you wanted to cover all of your bases (not much fun if you're making out... you know, bases?).
So here's what you do. You start with the basics, like the butt-kicking Shaolin monk you are. It's not about the 10,000 strikes you've practiced once; it's about the one strike you've practiced 10,000 times. Get good at the basics and you'll always be ready to take things to the next level.
And we're going to take things to the next level by delving into some specifics. Onward, march!
Choose Your Merch
The old standbys tend to do pretty well; items like shirts, stickers, buttons, and CDs. But this is where chatting up your fans and learning about their secret fantasies needs and wants really pays off. The thing is that they probably have certain preferences of their own (weird, right?). It doesn't always make sense to design an item that you've only had one request for, but if the people keep asking for something in particular, get the net already!
This is all about selection. Be prepared with a variety of items, test them out over the long term (it's not hard to figure out what's not selling; just consult the biggest pile), and apply some creativity. USB sticks, vinyl LPs, tumblers, collectible mugs, alcoholic chick drinks... There's a variety of stuff you can test out on the road. You could also create (limited edition) one-of-a-kind items like paintings or embroidered shorts that fans can only acquire at that specific show.
Way to go, guitar head. Now your hand-weaved abstract paper mache sculpture is selling on eBay for top dolla (how the heck are they going to ship that thing!?).
Organize Your Booth
People are super visual, you know, especially dudes. Girls like neatness, cleanliness and tidiness, and guys just like hot chicks. Either way, the way you present your booth to the public is going to have an impact on your sales.
Lighting could certainly go a long way towards brightening your presentation (get it?). You could get some lights mounted on stands, or you could even use Christmas lights. You could hang your various T-shirt designs on the wall. You could adorn the tables with branded tablecloths. You could hire a belly dancer shakin' her thang in front of your merch table. What? It could be a thing.
If in doubt, find someone with an eye for design and ask their opinion. Provide fun things for your fans to do at your merch table. Collect email addresses. Give away a few items if they share a concert photo on Instagram. Get creative!
Offer A Variety Of Payment Options
In case you hadn't noticed, we're no longer in the caveman age where people had to roll their currency over to the nearest stone-kiosk to purchase a pound of dinosaur meat (dude, that's endangered). This is the modern age, and in case you hadn't noticed, a lot of people aren't really carrying around a lot of cash anymore (just check your own wallet; oh wait, you're broke).
So be prepared to accept plastic or even digital transfers. Use PayPal or a no-fee bank account to receive e-transfers. Use CD Baby's swiper program or various smartphone apps to accept credit payments. Get with the times!
Track Your Sales
First, you should probably have a cashbox. I know, we just finished talking about how you should accept different forms of payments (10 goats for a T-shirt), but you never know when you're going to need to break a 20, and of course there will always be the keeners who want to pay you in exact change. Don't forget; your cashbox should be equipped with fingerprinting, eye scanner and car alarm technology so nobody takes it, and even if they do, they can't get in.
There's another functional purpose of the cashbox; you can keep it furnished with a pen and paper so you can track the sales of your various items (maybe keep a couple of sharpies in there too; so you can sign cleavage). No one particularly likes tracking inventory, but having this data on hand should help you to make some tweaks to your swag strategy later on.
Now, everything we've talked about so far should help you sell more stuff. But we know you want some specific sales tactics too. It's like with getting more dates, guys would rather get right to the pickup lines than spend any time building their own self-confidence. Yeah, that'll work.
Anyway, here are a few things you can do:
1. Mention your merch from stage
Let everyone know about the special promotions you've got going on at bargain-basement prices (only three easy payments of $4.67 for this stylish T-shirt).
2. Offer bundles
If you've got multiple albums, offer them in affordable bundle packages (cheaper to buy three than to buy them individually). Offer special packages that include buttons, a T-shirt, a CD and a DVD. You know, stuff like that.
3. Perform often
The more often you perform, the more data you'll have to work with (see note about tracking your sales). Different audiences might be interested in different items, and of course you'll have the opportunity to increase the awareness of your band too.
4. Give away stuff
Be strategic about it too. Give some things to friends so they'll be wearing it around the venue. Give your stuff to the venue owner or the person who booked you. If they like you, they'll be caught wearing your stuff even when you're not playing (how embarrassing).
Anything we missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
Cover image by JAM Heads