Humans love options, give them a choice with your merch too!
It’s no secret that selling merch is key to turning a profit as a band. With album profits dwindling in the age of streaming music, if you don’t have a merch line, your band doesn’t have any real way to make money. Merch allows your fans to invest in your band while giving them something kickass to wear around town as they spread your name.
But what about those of you who are looking to maximize your merch profits? Consider offering a variety of designs and styles for your merch line.
We all have our own preferences
Your fan base is made up of unique individuals, each with their own tastes and preferences. Though your fans have their love of your music in common, you should think of them as individuals and plan to provide merch that can appeal to multiple different tastes and personalities.
Imagine one of your fans that has a background as a drummer - what they adore about your songs, what they can’t wait to turn the volume up for, will be entirely different from a fan that trained to play the electric guitar since they were ten years old. Your killer guitar riffs might be completely lost on that drummer simply because of who they are - they speak rhythm and can tell you their in-depth opinion on musicians who work with a click, but if you asked them which chord progression or guitar solo was their favorite, you can bet you’ll get a blank face.
Same goes for your guitar virtuoso who loves the crap out of your band. They know all hours of effort it took to make your guitar runs look effortless and melt faces, they’ve lived it too. But you ask them their favorite vocal harmony and they may look at you like you are crazy, “Huh? There were vocals in that song???”
Think about the members of your own band - how many of you share the same favorite song? Or even the same favorite lyric? Each of you has different passions and elements of music that light you up. You all have your own taste as individuals. If you raided each other’s closet, how many of the same band’s shirts would you find? Even if your whole band went to the same show and all bought merch the same night, you would still end up selecting a different item based on your tastes.
So do your fans a solid and offer them a variety of merch designs and styles to choose from. When you offer a range of multiple designs and styles, you have a better chance of having something to offer for every fan that is looking to buy.
One merch design limits chances to make money
Variety gives your fans more to buy. Only selling the same tired design at every single show means your fans are going to run out of things to buy from you with their first purchase! They may love your music to their core - but what use do they have for five copies of the same t-shirt? Don’t cut them off so quickly, instead, give your fans several merch options to choose from. More chances to give you their money!
Multiple merch designs means freedom to experiment
Nobody can see the future, but researching your fans helps! Offering multiple designs gives you a chance to test out your different design ideas on your fans to see what they like. Taking note of what sells, and just as importantly what doesn’t, will help you to learn more about your fans’ style and taste.
Do you think that any top brands knew what their customers would go crazy for immediately out of the gate? No way! Only that fair, rare Unicorn brand gets to be successful without any research on their customer. Pay close attention to what your fans are buying and give them more of what they like. Pay attention to the garment styles that are popular (tank top versus crew neck tee, sweatshirt versus full zip hoodie) as well as which of the designs themselves are selling.
What's stopping you?
But my merch vendor doesn’t offer many design options! TRUE. When you work with online or mass print companies, they’re focused on getting profits for themselves. From you. Funneling their customers (you) down pre-packaged designs is more efficient for them, but doesn’t necessarily create the most crave-worthy designs your fans will want to buy. Your choice? Design it yourself! I’ve written several blog posts on what you need to design here, here, here and here. Plus check out my video tutorial for how to use my favorite free online design software Canva!
But printing lots of designs through a print company is expensive. TRUE. Print companies give you a discount for ordering bulk, but that doesn’t usually include multiple designs. So you either buy bulk of all your designs right away. Or you print your merch yourself. I show you some of my favorite cheap methods in my Quick&DirtyPrinting Series.
But how do I know what our fans like? Just ask them. Seriously. Ask them. Ask them when they’re looking over your merch booth at shows. Pick your most popular social media profile for your band and ask your fans - what do they like? What do they want to see more of? Let them have a voice and design for them, there’s no way they can resist. Have a few designs you’re not completely sure about - let your fans vote on it!
How many designs/styles should I shoot for offering? Starting out - try three varied designs. This doesn’t mean your band name in the same font on three different colors of tee shirts. It means creating designs that are completely different - visually and garment style. Try out different fonts and colors. Try different decorative elements from free websites like Vecteezy.com.
How can I tell if my design will look good before it prints? Imagining a flat design you are working on taking three-dimensions when a person wears it can be really difficult to do. Instead, try loading your completed design into a t-shirt mockup generator so you can get a better idea of the end product.
I used a generator for the images like the one above in my blog post Font Roundup! The Best Free Fonts to use for Band Merch. You’ll be able to get an idea of how it looks on a t-shirt and what colors work well together (as well as if the design is a “Hell No”. As one of my favorite professors in art school said, “First, you gotta shovel the shit.” Sometimes you have to just push through all the bad ideas and get them out of your system before the truly genius creative work happens. Keep going.
Now your next steps
Now it’s time to get designing. Take a little time to brainstorm your ideas. Don’t know where to go from here? I’ve created an online course Merch Design Bootcamp to help you get your merch designed this weekend! You’ll get access to the entire course as soon as you sign up.
Let me know in the comments what you think!