How to Make Your Own Merch
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We've said it before and we'll say it again: man cannot live on music royalties alone! At least not at first in your budding career. In the past, we've talked about taking advantage of other types of revenue, such as songwriting, video content, and paid content, but today we want to talk about something that your community of fans will demand in time: merchandise!
We're going to break down the three essential steps to adding physical products to your income-generating strategy:
1. How to make the merch.
2. Where to sell it.
3. How to engage with your fan base through your merch.
Let's jump in!
Step 1: Make The Merch!
Alright, before you jump on these websites and start ordering, the very first step is to make a design. This will help you create custom merchandise that lets your artist brand stand out. We recommend finding simple visuals that represent who you are as a musician. These could be lyrics from your popular songs, a symbol on your album cover, or even a commissioned art piece. You can create the design yourself with easy-to-use design tools, or you can pay for design services if you'd rather outsource. Try not to make the design process too complicated, though. Find a graphic designer that can work with your budget, or create a custom design that is easy for you to make with the tools at your disposal.
Once you have your design chosen, it's time to choose what type of merch you want. The most popular merch item is T-shirts, but it's by no means the only route you have to go. You can go playful with other unconventional kinds of products like lanyards, mugs, tote bags, glasses, and art prints!
Print-on-Demand vs Wholesale Orders
Before we get into the merch vendors we love, it's especially important to know the difference between “print-on-demand” and wholesale, or bulk-ordering, for your merchandise.
Never “run out” of stock.
Payment immediately upon order.
No need to store your merch.
No investment loss if your merch doesn't sell.
- Some vendors ship items for you.
Higher cost per product.
Takes time to make before shipping (no two-day shipping here).
Constantly need new ideas for a range of products.
May have to ship items yourself.
Products are immediately available for shipping.
With bulk orders, it's a lower cost per item.
Can work with a fulfillment center to send orders for you.
Invest in stock before you sell, which can mean higher upfront costs.
Need to find storage for your merch because of minimum order requirements.
May have a limited variety to choose from for custom products.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to both sides, so take stock of what you can handle and what your fans are demanding. You may find that one fulfillment method is more advantageous than the other.
Our Favorite Merchandise Vendors
The internet is your oyster, as they say, so we're taking some of the stress out by recommending a few sites to get you started:
Printful: They go the extra mile by providing Print on Demand AND Warehouse and Fulfillment (if you so choose). They not only sell custom t-shirts, but also home decor, phone cases, hoodies, hats, jackets, and so much more. You can even go as far as to change the label tag inside, or build an “unboxing experience” with custom pack-ins for a more exclusive feel.
Bands on a Budget: It’s not just the name we love, it’s the services too. This is the first vendor we’ve seen that completely caters to the music industry, and understands the struggles that independent artists can go through with finding a reliable vendor. In fact, the two founders were in a band once, so you can bet they know from first-hand experience. Bands on a Budget also offers custom merch packages with quick turnaround, so you don’t have to order items piecemeal. Instead, you get it all done at once!
- Teemill: Teemill is the best when you're looking to create and sell high-quality products that are made sustainably. You can start a store with them for free, and they even have a design builder that makes creating your merch easy and seamless. They also offer built-in marketing tools to help you promote your products with engaging visuals.
Teemill has been working with artists including Thom Yorke, Bastille and teams like Jamie Reid, Bestival and Music Declares Emergency. Their merch is made with GOTS certified organic cotton, the packaging is made from plants, not plastic, and they have carbon neutral website and factories powered by renewable energy. Plus the supply chain is completely circular, which means no overproduction and no waste! Teemill easily lets you set up an online shop with them, and they store supplies, accept payment, and fulfill orders for you!
We've collected some screenshots from Teemill to help you see the process of creating merch and selling it from your personalized Teemill store.
1. First, you can easily access and review your inventory by clicking "Products" on the left menu bar inside your Teemill account.
2. Click on "My Products" to view all of the products you've created.
3. Once you click on a product, you'll see the product details window, where you can easily edit the product name and description.
4. You can choose to enable a product or remove it from your storefront at any time using the "Enabled" toggle button.
5. Adjusting the price is easy with a slider bar. With Teemill Pro, you'll be able to see what you earn from each purchase in the blue text next to the price!
6. Teemill lets you create different collections, so you can create pages on your store for each of your releases.
7. Creating an online store is easy with Teemill. Just click "Website" from the side menu to access your site. You can design your store website with their easy-to-use builder, and with Teemill Pro you can create a custom URL.
You can sign up to Teemill here, and check out this page for more information!
Step 2: Sell Your Custom Merch!
Okay, so you've got your designs and you've got the goods! What do you do next?
Sell it, of course! Nowadays, thanks to the wonders of the internet, it's fairly easy to set up an online merch store and start funneling orders. You have a wide range of options to choose from for setting up your ECommerce platform. Squarespace can set you up with a nice website and a store backend, or you can open an Etsy shop with their friendly seller support. Another option is to start a shop on Shopify, which integrates with Spotify. Lastly, to make things even easier, some print-on-demand options have a built-in shop available for you to use!
The real trick is the fulfillment part, which may take some time. Some sellers can box and ship customer items directly from home. But if you don't have the space or time, then there are warehouses available (such as Printful and Teemill above!) that can store and fulfill orders for you.
Step 3: Engage With Your Merch!
Alright… you've got the goods, you've got the fulfillment side covered, and now it's time to sell your new, branded merchandise to your audience of fans! Send out that blast to your email list, or make announcements on your social media accounts to let them know all about your swag. We recommend you take advantage of Facebook ad campaigns, or strut your new stuff on Instagram to get the word out.
Here are a few promotional strategies to get the interest sizzling:
Wear your merch in your next music video or behind-the-scenes video.
Model them for your fans!
Hold contests to entice new listeners to follow your social media for the chance to win your merch.
Or have them tag themselves on social media platforms with your merch for the chance to win more!
Offer timely sales for special events, like holidays, guest appearances, or new releases.
Keep Your Merch Shop Up-to-Date
We can't stress this enough: once you start with the merch, don't stop! If they're selling well, think of adding new items periodically to garner up more interest. Keep your online store and merch tables running smoothly and ensure that orders are getting out on time. As you sell more branded products, you're turning your fans into ambassadors.
After all this hard work, it's time to sit back and enjoy the pride you'll feel when you see your merch in the wild.
Want to learn more about how to get fans engaged and ready to buy your merch?
Check out Music Selling Through Storytelling at the link below:
The data is clear: better content WILL grow your fanbase and take your music career to the next level. That's why artists need to master these proven storytelling structures that are guaranteed to make fans listen, engage, and spend money with you!