For many DIY and emerging artists, merch can turn into a solid backbone of tour and production financing. And it should be treated as an untouchable grail. Just recently, loveable indie-madman Mac DeMarco stressed the importance of merch. Artists should fight for keeping ownership and/or cash flow under their own control.
And he’s totally right, if you ask us.
If sold and utilized right, it can be more than a fan gimmick. It can carry through financial bottlenecks, especially when unforeseeable costs and spendings occur. We gathered some common mistakes, and simple ways to avoid them, so you can make the most out of your personal DIY sale.
As always, some pointers might suit your needs, some might peripherally occur within your merch scheme. Take it or leave it – but merch should always be treated as a necessary lifeblood of artistic DIY brand development.
So let’s dive into the first mishap…
A common mistake of many emerging DIY artists is overstocking basic items in their catalogue. This can be anything from T-Shirts to memorabilia, and it can get quite expensive if merch starts stacking up, unsold.
There’s a simple solution to this problem – print on demand. Especially for online sales and distribution, services like printify can offer risk-free, easy to access and implement mockup development, product sale and logistics.
The huge upside to this is obvious – DIY artist don’t have to advance any cash, deal with complicated shipping schemes and they can even try out various designs and mockups. Feeling out the market, testing what works digitally can also be an incredibly powerful tool for deciding upon actual tour-merch, things to take on the road.
So – test the market digitally and on demand, and only mass-produce what you actually need.
Creating merch for certain releases, be it album or single, is great and necessary. Limiting your stock and production to this time-sensitive product catalogue, though, is not really a good idea.
You should aim to keep a 70/30 balance – meaning 70% percent timeless merch, and 30% time sensitive merch. Especially in times of constant content production and flow, you never know when the next album or EP has to drop. By keeping a large part of your merch catalogue timeless – meaning not bound to a visual release campaign, it never loses its relevancy.
As always, you have to develop a feeling for demand. Producing too little can create a bottleneck of exclusivity, but it can also displease potential customers. Try a run of several Eps and see how much merch is actually bought by your fanbase. Using this market research you can then set up a realistic plan of production.
Underestimating the workload
Creating a catalogue of merch, meaning product development and production, and finding the right distributive means, is a hell of a workload. Some labels employ a specialized staff of professionals especially focused on the task of merch production and distribution.
If you want to roll out a catalogue of engaging merch, make sure you have the time and energy to actually deal with all facets of your potential endeavor. We highly recommend you set up an organizational sheet to keep an overview over all activities and to-dos related to the production of your merch catalogue.
Rushing the merch production
Rushing the production can lead to grave quality deficits. Again, this has to do with your own time- and resource management. Make sure you find the right producer and take some extra time to read reviews on quality and service.
The payoff will be immense, if you find yourself in the lucky situation of working with a production partner that actually cares for and implements quality standards. Not dealing with these aspects of merch production, on the other hand, can lead to a long range of frustrating encounters, be it with production employees or – far more worse – fans that are disappointed by the fabrics of the merch they buy.