It’s no secret album sales have been declining for over a decade now. As consumers have ditched hard copies and resort to streaming, digital downloads and (unfortunately) pirating music, artists and labels have looked to other means of revenue generation. Although shows, syncs and publishing continue to be the most significant drivers of revenue, ancillary streams like merchandise are very important. Especially for an independent artist who doesn’t have the esteem, demand and backing of a booking agent or major publishing company to go out and book them shows or attain them placements for their music.
Every week we see more and more artists experimenting with selling merchandise, many doing it successfully and others failing miserably. As we shift our editorial strategy to longer-form content, we feel it is necessary to publish a column every now and again to help advise independent artists (and labels) on how to strategize and execute on certain opportunities. When it comes to e-commerce particularly, a few of our staff members are experts. That’s why we compiled three keys to doing merch the right way. Check them out below…
1) – Don’t Sell Merch Until You Have Legitimate Following
This may seem obvious but many independent artists still don’t get it. Don’t waste your time, energy and resources selling merchandise if you don’t have a sizable and engaged following. Your time is better spent in the studio, writing, reading about your trade or engaging with your fanbase on social media. If you think you have the following in place to start selling merchandise, then test your audience! Shoot out a tweet or take to Facebook and ask your fans if they’re willing to buy it. If you get more than a few (ringer) responses then maybe it is worth your time. But in our opinion it’s best to grow a fanbase, sense real demand and then launch merch.
2) Setup a Shopify Store
Shopify is the largest consumer e-commerce platform in the world for a reason, so use it! We can’t tell you how many independent artists out there are struggling with setting up their own storefronts because they are either unaware of Shopify or because they are ignorant. DO NOT go through the hassle of designing, coding and integrating secure payments systems into your blog when Shopify can provide you with easy-to-use tools to do it in a matter of hours. The platform gives you templates to design your site, easily add products and the tools necessary to manage all areas of the business. Plus they are integrated with Stripe payment processing so that’s all handled for you. All you need is a logo and $14 a month to get started!
3) Don’t Handle Your Own Manufacturing Or Fulfillment!
We could name 100+ well-known artists that do merch the wrong way. We aren’t saying they don’t make money off it, but we are saying they could be saving themselves ALOT of time, energy and headache. We understand handling your own manufacturing and fulfillment allows you to control the quality of the material and products you offer, but the task you undertake is enormous. DO NOT bring somebody on to your team to source product and fulfill for you when there are a handful of 5-star apps that can do it.
For example, check out TeeLaunch. It’s a FREE Shopify app that easily integrates with the platform. You simply install the application, pop your logo on a few products you like and then upload the products to your store. Then whenever you get an order Teelaunch makes, prints and ships the item for you without you having to touch a single product! Yes the margins aren’t as good as if you were to do it all yourself, but shit this automates the process for you!
We hope these three keys can help you make merch worth your time. This is a concise version of a longer column on merch we plan to do in the coming weeks so stay tuned. And as always, if you have any questions whatsoever feel free to email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.