TIPS & TRICKS FOR A SUCCESSFUL MERCH DROP
Every musician and music fan knows how powerful merchandise can be in connecting fans to their favorite artists. When you put on your Life of Pablo hoodie, you remember the buzz and excitement of the line outside his NYC pop-up shop. When you glance up at the Taylor Swift poster on your wall, you remember counting down the seconds till Midnight, waiting to hear the new version of Red for the first time. Personally, wearing my favorite artists’ merch always puts a smile on my face as I recall hearing them in person for the first time, maybe greeting them at the merch table.
Notable merch campaigns such as Kanye and Taylor Swift’s require a significant amount of thought, planning and care. It’s important to have a rock solid strategy in place to maximize sales and connect with your audience; while you might not have the resources of those artists backing you yet, there are plenty of strategies out there that can help you find similar successes. Here are 3 principles and ideas you can follow to bring your merch game to to the top:
1) Launch Around a Moment
From an artist’s perspective- sure- merch is about making a bit of extra money. But in order to launch a successful merch campaign, it’s important to consider merch from the point of view of your fans. What does merch mean to them? What makes them click that purchase button?
When it comes down to it, fans buy merchandise because merch is a physical representation of an emotional connection. That connection could stem from the way a song or an album makes them feel. Or maybe the feeling of belonging among the community of an artist’s fanbase. Fans are compelled to make a purchase when that connection is ignited; a merch drop is most successful when focused around a moment of excitement.
That moment could be a song, an album, a concert, a music video- anything. But it’s important to note that while simply putting a link to your merch shop in your Instagram bio might generate a sale here and there, it won’t stir up the engagement needed to truly make a difference. Give your fans a reminder of why you and your music mean so much to them first. In that sense, selling merch in cohesion with your other projects may be the most critical way to draw in your fanbase.
2) Consistent Branding
Every artist knows that creating great music is only part of the equation. There’s a whole lot of immensely talented musicians out there that the world will never hear of. If you don’t have a strong marketing plan to back up your art, it’s tough to find success no matter how brilliant your music might be. A major piece of the marketing puzzle is branding and aesthetics: album art, an outfit for a music video, the layout of a social media feed for instance. Creating a consistent brand is crucial to building an artist’s image, and merch is no exception.
It’s important to make sure your merch feels connected to your artistry as a whole, especially when releasing merch around an album or a concert. Do you have a logo? Does your band have a color scheme often used in social media posts? Is there a motif or image used in your album art? Make sure to keep that sort of imagery consistent as you consider merch designs.
Take a couple of successful merch campaigns for example. Surfaces have built a reputation as incredible live performers and have capitalized on their concerts with excellent merch sales. The clothes they sell along the way feature a heavy use of soft, pastel colors, reminiscent of much of their album art and Instagram posts. Also take a look at Ed Sheeran’s merch centered around albums such as Divide and Equals for an instance of remarkable consistency between clothing and album art.
All this goes to say, make sure to think of merchandising as a tool to build your brand, mirroring themes and aesthetics that you create in other areas of your art. This perspective can go a long way in building a world that your audience recognizes as uniquely you and can help you sell products that are distinctly a part of that world.
3) Stay Creative
Branding and aesthetics aren’t the only ways to craft a unique merchandising campaign that stands out from the crowd. Thinking outside the box in your promotion can make a big difference in sales as well. When putting a plan together, there are tons of excellent strategies to stir up excitement among your fans and bring a more seamless and authentic feel to your marketing.
Try to think of as many ways as you can to engage and connect your fans to your merch. A few examples to build on: Package merch sales with ticket sales to provide an easy avenue for sales. Pick a random merch customer to win a giveaway for VIP concert tickets and behind the scenes access. Run a contest among your followers and use merch as a prize. Wear your own merch in a photoshoot or a music video before you sell it. Use an exclusive merch drop that only sells for a short period of time.
Likewise, creativity is essential when it comes to design and it might be just as important when it comes to the types of products you choose to sell as well. If your band is connected to skate culture, why not sell branded skateboards and skate shoes instead of more traditional merch items? If your fanbase is composed of a lot of artists, see if you can sell notebooks or art supplies.
4) Get Selling!
Releasing merch is an important step for any artist to take in building their brands and funding their careers. While it may seem like a lot of details to handle, the right amount of effort will lead to a solid, established and can be extremely rewarding. By asking yourself the right questions, staying consistent, and bringing a bit of creativity to the mix, you’ll be able to create a formula that works for you and bring your career to the next level.