How to make merch for your band (and sell it for additional income)
Creating and selling merch is a fun way to connect with your fans, but it’s also one of the best ways to make money.
Whether it’s band tees or pins, band merch goes a long way in getting your name (and your music) out there. Plus, it makes you feel pretty cool as an artist. However, if you’ve never made any of your own promo gear before, it’s not easy to know where to start. How much should you charge for your items? What should you make? And where can you get stuff printed?
If you’re new to making merch or want to up your game, we have you covered. In this post, we outline how to make merch for your band and how to sell merch for some much-deserved additional income.
Why should you make and sell merch?
Band merchandise is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it helps you connect with your existing fans, while also getting your band’s name out there. If you grew up wearing band tees or buying vinyl records of your favorite songs, you’re not alone. Band merch is a great way for fans to show their love for your music, and it’s one of the most tried-and-tested ways to spread the word about your work to others.
But on top of connecting with your fans, it provides you with an important way to get some additional income as an indie artist. When you make and sell merch, you often do so while making a profit. Over time, and with enough volume, this can give you some extra money to buy new equipment for your DIY studio, or invest in promoting your music to new fans.
The most common types of merch out there
There are tons of different ideas for band merchandise out there, but these ones remain crowd favorites:
- Wearables like band tees, hoodies, beanies, or scarves
- Decorative items like stickers, pins, posters, and badges
- Physical copies of your music, such as signed vinyls or albums
- Other novelty items like phone cases, tote bags, or mugs
- Limited-edition drops or signed items
A step-by-step guide on how to make merch
To make merch, you need planning, good ideas, and some partners to help you with design and manufacturing. Luckily, thanks to the internet and the rise of indie artists, this process is much more simple than you’d think — and there are plenty of services out there to help you along.
Below, we run through a step-by-step guide to help you plan, create, and produce merch, along with some tips on marketing and selling it effectively.
1. Create a list of items you want to produce
When it comes to what you can produce and sell, it’s incredibly easy to create anything your heart desires (within reason). The main question you have to ask is whether or not you can sell enough to justify your investment in the design and manufacturing.
At the very least, it’s important for every musician or band to have the staple merch stack, which includes t-shirts, posters, buttons, and stickers. If you’ve gone to any merch table for any tour around the world, you’ve probably seen these items and for good reason: They’re best-sellers.
Beyond that, you also consider other types of merch that might be a little bit outside the box. Despite the fact that people don’t buy physical CDs as much as before, vinyl and CDs are still a great option for any fans looking to score a physical copy of your music.
2. Crowdsource merch ideas from your fans
When in doubt about the type of merch you should produce, ask your fans. They’re your customers as well as your listeners, and chances are they have a pretty strong opinion on the items they’d be most keen to buy to help support you as an artist.
Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have built-in polling options, so create a quick poll with a list of different merch options you think your followers would like to see. Reaching out to your fans on social media is also a great way to gauge the demand you might have for a certain product.
Another way to do crowdsource merch ideas is to hop on crowdfunding websites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. On top of providing you with a way to involve your fans in the merch design process, crowdfunding sites are a great way to make sure you have the funds needed for manufacturing from the get-go.
3. Finding a graphic designer
Once you’re clear on the types of merchandise you want to sell and your branding, you need to finalize the design itself. If you or one of your friends is a whiz on Photoshop, then creating a design is a breeze. But even if you’re not, there are a variety of options available if you want to hire a graphic artist, depending on your network and your budget.
If you’re wondering how to make merch for a low price, the easiest way is to put out a call on social media to your fans and the music community. Ask people to submit preliminary sketches or a portfolio of their previous works — or better yet, create a contest where fans can submit their designs. Not only is social media a great way to find artists; it’s also the perfect opportunity to engage with your fans online. (Note: If you do select fan-created work, make sure you give credit and monetary compensation to the artist.)
If you’d rather look elsewhere for a graphic designer, the good news is that there are a variety of ways to source professional artists online. Here are some of the most popular platforms out there that musicians can use for merch design:
- Upwork. One of the most popular freelancing websites in the world, Upwork is a great place to find graphic designers for any project. It’s free to sign up and post a job, but they do take a small percentage of your total fee upon completion.
- Freelancer. Freelancer has a massive marketplace for featuring millions of projects and users. With Freelancer, you can create a project or a contest, then freelancers bid to be selected on the project. Like Upwork, Freelancer is free to sign up, but they have multiple pricing models depending on your needs.
- 99designs. Unlike Freelancer and Upwork, 99designs is a competition-based freelance graphic design website. Once you submit a project, freelancers will have an opportunity to submit their pitches. After the pitches are in, you can pick the best of the bunch and use that for your work. 99designs’ fee structure is charged based on a per-project or per-contest basis.
- Fiverr. Fiverr is most known for being a popular marketplace for fixed-price projects. As their name suggests, projects start at just five dollars. It’s not really the best platform if you’re looking for seasoned professionals or long-term contracts, but if you’re looking for a quick turnaround or a low fixed-price option, this might be the best (and most affordable) pick of the bunch.
- Dribbble. Dribbble is a little different than any of the other options on the list. It isn’t designed specifically to make clients with freelancers, but it is a large community of talented designers who showcase their portfolios. Dribbble has a job posting section on the site, where you can post up your project to the community. Dribbble charges an annual fee per year for access to their job board, but it’s certainly worth it: The quality of talent on there is simply amazing.
Tip: To get the best result possible, you need to have a clear brief that you can provide to your graphic designer. Be as specific as you can, and attach examples of your branding or other designs that you like. This will help guide the artist to deliver a result that you’re happy with.
4. Find a manufacturer for your merchandise
Once you have the designs finalized and you know the types of merchandise you want to sell, it’s time to manufacture the merchandise. This used to be the most tedious step in the merchandising process, but thanks to the internet, finding a merch-maker is a cinch.
With a number of merch creator options available at your fingertips, you can have your designs easily printed on pretty much anything you decide to sell. Like graphic design, there are plenty of platforms out there for artists to find manufacturers. These are some of the most popular:
- Merch by Amazon. Selling your merch on one of the biggest online shopping websites in the entire world is a pretty amazing feat, and with Merch by Amazon you can do just that. All you need to do is upload your design, and they’ll take care of the rest, from stock and shipping to customer service. However, Merch by Amazon is currently invite-only, and their selection is limited to t-shirts.
- Jakprints. Jakprints is a custom printing company founded by musicians, which means they know exactly what musicians need from a merch manufacturing service. Jakprints offers a variety of options for creating band merch, including clothing, stickers, buttons, flyers, and banners. They also have tailor-made options if their menu doesn’t offer exactly what you’re looking for.
- Printful. Printful is a print-on-demand service that offers worldwide shipping with no minimum order requirements. On top of that, the platform easily integrates with the most popular web hosting services, so you can sell merch directly on your website or online store. Printful has a ton of different merch options, from clothing to posters, bags, phone cases, flip-flops, and even face masks.
- Spreadshirt. Spreadshirt allows you to print your shirt and sell it, all on one platform. Once you upload your design, Spreadshirt takes care of the rest, from printing to your online store, shipping, and customer service. With worldwide shipping and a variety of merch options, this is a hassle-free option for any artist that’s just getting started with merch.
- Threadless. Threadless is another print-on-demand platform that also doubles as an online store. Like Spreadshirt, you can upload a design onto a product and sell and ship it directly on the platform. The cool thing about Threadless is that you can also completely customize the design of your online store to match your band or design aesthetic.
5. Place your order
Once you’ve got your design and your platform, you’re good to go. The next step is to make sure you market your merch well, so you can drum up as many sales as possible.
Marketing and selling your merch
Now that you’ve got your merch, you need to get the word out. There are a lot of different approaches to marketing and selling your band merch, but these tips will help you reach your listeners and generate as much income as possible:
How to price your merch
If you’ve never sold merch before, it’s tricky to know how you should be pricing everything. You don’t want to price it up so it’s too expensive and doesn’t sell; but on the other hand, you want to get as much income as possible to help support your passion.
At the very least, your pricing needs to cover the cost of manufacturing and production (this is known as COGS, or the Cost of Goods Sold). Let’s say it costs $10 to manufacture a t-shirt and $5 for the design. This means to break even, you need to sell the shirt for at least $15. Any extra is a profit that can be reinvested into your music.
It’s also key to have a range of items at different price points, so everyone who wants to pick up some merch can afford to do so. This could mean creating stickers and pins, as well as t-shirts or hoodies, so fans can continue to show their support without spending too much money.
Tip: When pricing up, don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping and credit card transaction fees. These little costs can quickly add up over time.
Set up an online store or website to sell your merch
Regardless of whether you’ve been a musician for years or you’re just getting started, it’s important to have a website to showcase your music. However, this is also a great platform to sell your merch directly to your fans.
Some websites have a built-in online sales platform, like Shopify, BigCommerce, or Squarespace. However, if your website doesn’t have this functionality, there are still plenty of options to sell your stuff online.
Merch makers like Threadless and Spreadshirt have online store functionality, allowing you to easily pop a link from your site to your shop on there. Online marketplaces, like Etsy or Amazon, are also great avenues for you to sell your merch while also growing awareness of your music and your band.
Promote it across social media
Once you’ve got your merch up on your site, it’s easy to promote it via social media. There are a number of ways you can do this:
- Provide a link to your online store to let fans know where they can pick up gear
- Share snaps of your fans or bandmates wearing your merch
- Run giveaways to build awareness and encourage sharing
- Ask your followers to vote on their favorite piece of merch, or give feedback on what they’d like to share next
- Launch a flash sale on merch for your band anniversary
- Wearing your merch while live-streaming your music
Don’t forget about your live shows
Last but not least: While you can sell online, it’s still important to bring along merch to your live shows. During this time, your fans are most engaged with your music, which means they’re also more likely to pick up an item to show their support.
Set up a merch table at your shows, and bring along a few of your most popular items, such as your band tees or stickers. Don’t forget to direct fans to your online store as well, so they can pick up additional items even after the show is over.
Merch is a must-have for any indie artist looking to connect with fans and provide them with ways to support your work. Plus, it’s a great feeling to have your band logo and design on a physical product, whether it’s a band tee or a laptop sticker.
With the right items, pricing, and marketing strategy, you’ll be well on your way to engaging with your fans, while also making some much-needed income along the way.