To start off, you have to be willing to put in some time. We’re not talking 20 minutes, by the way, we’re talking hours. Think about how much time you and your band put into writing and practicing your songs. Think about how much time you put into playing and driving to shows. This is another important amount of time spent.
RESEARCH FOR THE BEST PRICE:
This is the part that can be done anywhere– jump online and start shopping. Start rabidly price matching (and price beating). Find out how much and where you will get the best deal for every piece of merch that you want for your band. We’re not talking Google’s top 5 results– go deep! Some great businesses can’t afford to be the top results on search engines, spend some time checking out what every site has to offer. Things to look for: instant quotes, low quantities, and whether they’re comparable with other sites. Maybe you’ll find that mixing an matching is the best way to get the cheapest deal. DIY doesn’t always mean “do it ALL yourself.” Using different services out there to up your merch game is still punk rock, I promise.
Keep a back stock of materials on hand (CDs, sleeves, cases, etc) so you’re not stuck explaining your really cool idea that you’re gonna do as soon as our guitar player gets paid. Mixing factory produced discs with one-of-a-kind packaging (or vice versa) can go a long way with creating a unique stand-out product. Giving your customer/fan something special and somewhat personal can really be the difference between someone investing in your band or just streaming a couple songs and moving on.
UNIFORMITY WHILE STILL UNIQUE:
Remember what I said last time, “DIY does not mean homemade and looks like shit?” You can create a line of products that are each unique and special unto themselves while still being part of a whole. Keep the phrase “Uniform while unique” in your head. You should be able to hold five copies of your demo, EP, album, whatever and have them appear uniform. Once you open them up and see hand written or custom ink stamped artwork or logos is where you get the unique. A big plus for a lot of music collectors is numbered editions too. Even if you’re only running off 25 for your first run, number them. Seeing “2 of 25” on a band’s demo is a cool confirmation that you own a specific piece of that group’s history. Whether your burning all your discs yourself or handwriting all of your track listings, your band’s assembly line doesn’t have to be mechanical to create something great.
BREAK IT DOWN: COST ANALYSIS
This is the part that I really geek out about. Price out how much everything costs that goes into your product. For example, take the $20.95 you paid Amazon for the CDRs and the $8.69 to Sleeve City for some cardboard sleeves, add it all up and divide it by how many you can make. Now you know how much you have to sell each unit for in order to make your money back or even better– to make a profit.
Keep records of all of your band’s expenses. Being able to track your ins and outs will help you guys make better decisions down the road too. Each band member will have a different idea about how well something sold (or didn’t sell) and being able to look back and see exactly what you paid, lost, and/or gained on a certain item can determine whether you want to do a second run or not.
The trick to the whole idea of band merchandising is giving your customer something worthwhile to purchase at a decent cost-to-price ratio (for the band) to allow for a memorable reminder (for the fan) to come back for more, while beefing up the band fund so that things like more merch, nicer merch, or touring becomes a reality. So instead of a Sharpie on a Memorex CDR, how about a custom rubber stamp on a white inkjet CDR? Instead of “the best drawer in the band” scribbling out your cover art, ask around to people in the scene to see if anyone else can contribute and help make something that really stands out. There’s a ton of talented people all around you and you’d be surprised how many might be willing to help out.
Words- Matt Bennett