Viral Merch: The Often Overlooked Powerful Way To Promote Your Band Part 1

Simple plan bandana.jpgI remember it very well, I was 12 years old and my dad took me to one of the local pizza places in our town. The guy at the counter had on a Guns N’ Roses shirt which was my favorite band at the time. He was older so I thought he must be such a bad-ass. A few days later I came back to this pizza place and he had on a Slaughter T-Shirt, the next day I went out and bought their CD and found a another band I liked. This happened a few more times until I learned how to discover my own music.

The greater point of this story is merch is one of the best ways to promote your band. When someone sees your merch on another person it helps reinforce your brand in one of the most important ways possible. It also has the opposite effect of seeing some questionable merch on a questionably dressed person may remind you to avoid a band at all costs (see picture above).


Beaten Over The Head
If you have been around any music scene long enough you have had it happen. You see a band’s name on so many T-Shirts, Buttons, Stickers etc. You eventually check them out to see what they hype is all about. This is the one of the basic ideas of advertising is to beat you over the head until your are so unconscience you pay attention to what someone is selling.

Spreading The Word!
Remember the more merch you have out in the world the more walking advertisements you have out there. So many bands only look at their merch as a dollar amount, when you really need to be seeing it as building the foundation of a promotional campaign. The idea is to get as much out there as possible

The Money
The funny thing is, as the New Music Model emerges
bands are still expected to make money off the thing that most
companies use as advertising. Most corporations try to give away free
T-Shirts, Buttons, Stickers in an effort to try to get people to spread
the word about their company, yet today in music we are being told this
is one of the last ways of making money as a band. What’s a band to do?

The Options
While merch is one of the only ways left to make money in this business there are options to use it both as an promotional tool and as a money maker.

  • Give away somethings like stickers and buttons. These items are made for so cheap that charging for them is silly. You can also put a price on them that is cheap like $.25 and then give them away for free if someone really does offer the quarter. This ensures that they really do want it and the liklihood of them displaying it somewhere increases. Do not think of this as giving away something that could me monetised. Think of it as people posting free ads for your band. Remember if you make another fan off this free promotion that can lead to more paid merch sales.
  • Make sure your merch shows your bands logo! All too often today I see bands merch designs, where the design is amazing but I can’t even tell that it is for their band. Make sure you have a legible logo in all of your designs. Yet again, if people can easily see your band name, you now have a free advertisement, not just a merch sale and money in your wallet.
  • Have a cheap T-Shirt design. The number one stupid thing I see bands disregard is the fact that just because something sells for cheap does not mean they won’t make as much money. If every band at a venue is selling T-Shirts for $9 and you have a $6 shirt it may help sales. Many bands think this will make them less money, however if you just sell a few more shirts then you would have at $9 you have made more money then the band selling the expensive shirt and now have a few more walking advertisements out in the world.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.