Merch is a really important part of being a musician.
You’ll remember what it was like to buy a t-shirt by your favorite artist and proudly display your band colors to everyone. And now you’ll know that selling your merch is an important part of making a living from your music.
Deciding how to sell your merch online is really important and it’s something you shouldn’t approach lightly.
Below I have run through the various ways that you can sell your merch online. But the first thing that you need to decide is whether you’re going to sell via your record label, or through a direct-to-fan model.
Selling via your record label is just as it sounds. If you have a record deal, then you can let them handle everything: deciding what merch you are going to sell, how much you are going to sell it for, and where it will be sold.
The benefit of this model is that it makes the whole process easier; since your label is handling everything, you won’t need to worry about how to sell your merch online, because they’ll do it for you via their own outlet(s).
- You need a record deal
- You need to be signed to a label that has an online store
- Your label must be willing to create, sell and distribute your merch
- You’ll relinquish control of your brand (you as a band/solo artist) identity to your record label
- Your label will take a cut of the profits
Even if you do have a record label who are willing and able to sell your merch, you need to consider if it’s going to be in your financial and creative interests to sell via their online outlet(s).
Financial and Creative Considerations
Royalties from record labels are either based on percentage deals or profits splits. However, whichever deals your merch is based on, the important detail is that if your label sells your merch, they’re taking a cut.
As far as your creative interests go – if your label sells your merch, they control the your brand. Ask yourself this: “do I want my label to decide what t-shirt represents me?”
The other option for selling your selling your merch is through a direct-to-fan platform.
Direct-to-fan selling cuts record companies out of the picture, meaning that you would sell your merch to your fans yourself.
This means that you can retain creative control over the way you represent yourself on your merch, and look after your own finances.
It does, however, mean that you will need to devote more of your own time to selling your merch than you would if you sold it via your record company.
There are a few different ways that you can set up online direct-to-fan selling for your merch.
Peer-to-peer selling is where a buyer and seller deal with each other directly, rather than communicating through a third party, store, or business.
If you choose to sell your merch in this way, then you would set up a page on an ecommerce store. You then advertise your goods and sell them to any buyers that contact you directly.
A great example of a peer-to-peer selling site is eBay. Using eBay is great because you are in control of the creative side of things – you can sell the goods that you want. However, because eBay is hosting your merch, they will take a cut from any sales that you make.
- You retain creative control
- You set up a page for your merch, but not a whole site
- The peer-to-peer platform will take a cut of your sales
- You can only control how your product looks, not the site
Rather than hosting your merch on an ecommerce marketplace, you could set up your own store. With this option, potential buyers would come to your store and then buy your advertised merch.
This does not mean that you don’t interact with your buyers, but instead they are buying from you as a store and not you as an individual seller.
There are a three main ways that you can set up an ecommerce store.
Build A Custom Site
As you would expect, this way sees you contact a developer directly. You the give them your brief for how your store is to look and operate, and get them to build your site to your specifications.
There are many thousands of website developers around.
It will pay for you to spend time planning how you want your site to look, and how you wish to use it to sell your merch. You will also need to settle a budget, as any two web designers will charge varying rates: often for a product that looks, acts, and is, in essence, the same.
Then research the available web designer, review their work and decide who is going to to be the best designer for your site.
- Your site will have a bespoke design
- Once set up, the site is yours
- You’ll need to spend time researching the available webs designers
- While rates vary, a bespoke site is expensive
Use An Online Ecommerce Platform
If you don’t want to design a bespoke site to sell your merch, then you can use a Content Management System to build your own.
A great example of a site that you can use for building your own online merch store is Shopify. This site lets you set up your own ecommerce store and design how it looks. There are also a bunch of training videos available and a library of apps and plugins to help you personalize your store.
However, as with eBay, there is a fee for using Shopify, as the site is letting you use its software and hosting to set up your merch store.
- It’s a quick and simple way of setting up a merch store
- There are lots of apps that let you personalize your site
- You have to pay a subscription fee – in essence you’re renting your site
- There are a limited number of free templates available (more if you’re willing to pay for a premium theme)
Dropshipping is a way of selling your merch without having to hold and look after the physical goods. You set up an online store and then transfer any orders placed by your customers to a wholesaler, or retailer, who then ships the product(s) to your customer directly.
The benefit of using dropshipping is that it allows you to sell your merch online with a minimal amount of overheads.
The downside is that because you are dealing with a third party, you are passing over control of the distribution of your goods. This will make it more difficult to address any problems experienced in shipping your merch – problems which may not have anything to with you.
- Low overheads
- You don’t need to ship your merch
- You have to pay a subscription fee
- The design won’t be totally unique
Knowing the different ways of selling your merch online is a starting point. However, if you are already selling your merch online, then you’ll want to know how you can sell more. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.
Paid Per Click Advertising
Paid Per Click (PPC) advertising is something you may already know about. PPC is where you pay each time an ad that you have set up is clicked.
While you might not want to promote your merch by paying for advertising, there are some clear benefits to doing so:
- You can track your conversion goals
- You can measure your success rate
- You can drive more targeted traffic to your website
PPC is available through Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While each of these channels operate in slightly different ways, they all offer similar benefits.
The bottom line with PPC is that it makes it much easier for you to measure your bottom line; the data that comes from your PPC campaign(s) let you see where you have been successful and unsuccessful, giving you the chance to improve with each campaign.
An influencer is someone with a captive, engaged, and social audience. They may have a blog, vlog, website, or potentially all of these things.
Working with influencers can help you to increase your sales because it places your products in front of a receptive audience. The followers of influencers put trust in their opinions, and if their is opinion that they should buy your merch, this gives them a justifiable reason to do so.
FameBit is a site that helps brands connect with influencers. Using this will allow you to find the right influencer to promote your merch and find a new audience to buy your merch.
Tweak Your Merch Site
There are always things that can be done to improve the conversion rate potential of your site – shoppers requirements are ever changing and your site must evolve to meet these needs.
Here are some things you can do to help improve your conversion rate:
- Include customer reviews – 66% of shoppers trust reviews from previous customers
- Use action words in your content – “buy now,” “last chance,” these are evocative and direct your site visitors into buying your merch now
- Employ social logins – instead of asking your visitors to fill out a form with their details, let them do it at the click of a button by transferring it from their social media account
- Remove visual distractions from your landing page – make sure that your landing page is designed with the aim of directing your visitors towards buying your merch. You can do this by removing unnecessary content and keeping things minimal
- Include offers – you love an offer, I love an offer, your followers love an offer. Include clear offers for your merch and entice your customers into making a purchase by including a closing date and making it actionable
Selling merchandise online is an important part of being a musician; it’s both one of the ways that you can earn a living from your music, along with being a chance for you to connect with your fans by allowing them to buy your products – they can wear your t-shirt as a badge of honor.
Your initial decision of whether to sell your merch through your record label, or via direct-to-fan selling, is crucial. It depends on how you value your time against creativity and economics and you must make the decision that is best for you.
What you shouldn’t need to decide on is whether selling your merch is a good idea – it is and now that you’ve read this article you will have a much better idea of how to do it.
Victoria Greene is a freelance writer and branding consultant. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce, marketing, and how writers can improve their skills. She is a passionate advocate of helping businesses improve their online marketing strategies.