Bands and merchandise have always gone hand in hand, but just a basic black t-shirt with your band’s logo won’t cut it anymore. Fans are looking for a more personalized merchandise experience, based on their likes, lifestyle, and vibe. With physical sales of music - CDs, vinyl, downloads, and streaming - declining over the last few years, it’s important to find other ways to engage with your audience. Your band is your brand, and it’s important to develop it like any other business.

“It [band merchandise] is about extending an artist’s brand through a global program of different consumer products. It's important to learn from other industries where they have tapped ideas around merchandising being a prominent marketing vehicle and being able to help build your brand,” - Matt Vlasic, CEO Bravado

Creating a Community of Fans and Brand Ambassadors

How do your fans feel when they’re listening to your music? What types of merchandise can reaffirm that feeling? What type of community are you trying to build? The answers might seem obvious to you, but if you want a wide and engaged fan base, it’s important to think seriously about all of these questions. Understanding your audience is just as important for a retail brand as it is for a band. You won’t find the same sort of merchandise at a Lumineers show as you would if you went to see Beyonce.

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Working with a designer to identify what makes your audience unique can help you create merchandise that your fans will not only love to wear, but will give others a better sense of who you are, what your music sounds like, and the type of show you’ll put on. Plus, if you create merch that reflects the types of apparel your fans really want, you’ll create enthusiastic brand ambassadors doing free advertising by rocking your logo wherever they go.

Special Event vs. Everyday Merch

Another element to consider in designing your band’s merchandise is whether or not it’s tied to a specific event or if it’s something available to your fans all the time. Event-specific merch could be tied to a tour, a festival, an album release, anything notable and time or location specific. Other designs might be more of an evergreen offering, the type of merchandise you’ll want to always have in stock.

There are benefits to having both types of merchandise available: limited releases get fans excited because they’ll be a part of an elite club that attended a specific tour or who love a certain album, while merch that is available all the time is consistent and easily recognizable as connected with your band.

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Keeping Your Fans Engaged

Just like bands need to be producing new music to keep their fans engaged, it’s also important to keep developing different types of merchandise, as well as different ways for your fans to access it. Outside of your website or a merch table at a show, how else can fans get their hands on your carefully curated merch?

Some bands and artists create pop-up shops that bring their online store to life as a physical location where fans can mingle and shop. You could also consider using your merch as a contest prize, or as a promotional tie-in to a new music release. Thinking outside of the box, both in the design of your specific merchandise and how it’s delivered to your fans, is another great way to build connection and community.

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So now it’s time to decide: are your fans t-shirt wearers? Do they love hoodies? Leggings? Would a festival offering of a custom headband get them excited? What about a hat (or are they more of a beanie crew)? Our process makes it easy to figure out the style, types, and design of swag that get people excited. We’ve got a team of designers that are ready to work with you to create custom merchandise that appeals to your fans while always keeping in mind the vibe and style of your band.

 

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Alex Bair

Written by Alex Bair More by this author Arrow