We all hear about it everyday, CDs are not selling anymore, it’s all about digital and streams, so is there anything physical still selling for bands and artists?
I have worked with several bands in the Hardcore scene in France and later on with the Rap scene in the US and I can tell you that merch can work.
You better have the right strategy, as always, because this is something you could make hundreds of thousands of dollars of if you have the patience to do everything step by step.
When I say “merch” I mean “merchandising”, meaning T-shirts, hats, shorts, wristbands, guitar picks, custom glasses… I don’t know but nothing musical (CD, Vinyl, Tape…).
The truth is that merch is very popular in a lot of genres, especially in the rock scene because it is very common to wear the bands you listen to on t-shirts.
I mean, who hasn’t got a Guns And Roses, Pink Floyd or AC/DC t-shirt? Do you guys live naked?
Merch was a huge deal in the 80s for a lot of signed artists because trends started to shift and people wanted to really show what kind of music they were listening to. Therefore, we were starting to see a lot of items from underwears to Pez dispensers.
Nowadays, while it is a little bit less of a deal for artists, it is still quite a lucrative business depending on what you are selling and at what time you are selling it.
What is working?
The number one item that is really selling is the t-shirt.
It became crazily inexpensive to make printed t-shirts. You either can ask to have it done on demand with services like Spreadshirt for example or you can order a lot of 200–300 t-shirts already printed for $100 and sell them later on for ten times their price, it is up to you.
There is always a solution for this.
Some items work too : hats, hoodies and posters.
I wouldn’t even go further if you are a “not-really-established” artist, meaning that you don’t bring awareness from your music.
Make money from merch or music?
I want that to be clear in the minds of people: you will not make money out of your music.
This is a business model that belongs to the 2000s at the very last and there is no way you will make money out of streams and digital sales.
That being said, it looks like artists, singers, bands and musicians have to make money out of something else.
It could be concerts and live performances or… Merch.
When to start selling?
THAT is the real question.
I believe in a new model, that I should call the “Vitti Business Model Of Music” since I made it after years of observations working with bands from all genres possible and with Majors and heads of Creative at different labels.
The model is simple: bring awareness to your brand (you as an artist) and sell everything you want but your music.
The catch is that if you don’t bring awareness first and so don’t have a great amount of fans, releasing merch before or at the same time as your music will lose the end-customer into a bad branding.
Nothing is worse than bad branding.
In conclusion, I think that you can definitely sell whatever you want as an artist as long as your music can power you for this task.
Dr. Dre completely understood this technique by using his platform as a successful rapper and producer to spread awareness towards his headset “Beats by Dre”.
Dr. Dre doesn’t sell music. He sales Headsets.
Be like Dr. Dre.