Many musicians have a tough time making a living off music, partly because they have a hard time accepting that being a working musician/band in the digital age also means running your own small business because you won’t get enough paid for record sales and gigs. That is also what has to happen in order to find success as a professional musician today and a way to make money when there’s no market at all for records – it’s basically promo stuff, just deal with it – and gigs pay less for every year that pass by. But, if you consider that the market for band merchandise generated $3.1 billion dollars in 2016, almost a 10% increase each year since 2010 according to IFPI, you will understand that band merch is a very important driver in the economy of many bands today.
One key area to spend a lot of time on is your merch table’s range of offers. Why? Well, for one, it is a place where you can meet and mingle with fans, so it is important that it’s representative of you and your band; it’s not only about money, it’s very much about your brand as well. Secondly, it is a means to actually make money, even if you show up to a venue that has conveniently found a way out of compensating you for your musical abilities. And finally, the items you sell at your merch table are not just meaningless knickknacks for people to buy and ignore; hopefully, they will be a great way to continually promote your music and your band in the areas you perform, even when you’re not in town. Daft Punk sell (maybe they’re sold-out?) “Get Lucky” condoms, Slayer had a holiday sweater, Weezer sold “snuggies”, and Pixies sold a cycling jersey just to remind people about their presence.
The truth is that music fans are no different than the hulking masses that loiter next to shopping mall at 3 p.m. on the Monday before Christmas. They have the same potential chaotic mindset as the idiots shooting people for a pair of exclusive Nike shoes on Black Friday. And while our punk rockers might say otherwise in the name of anti-capitalism, many fans are innate consumers, ready to feast upon whatever they can get and whenever it’s available. That explains why your next-door neighbor has some fun with the Rammstein dildo box six days a week.
At the end of the night, no band member needs sell their blood to get their band a quick buck or five. Or why not go for your own alcohol brand just like too many bands have done the last years?