Boring Merch? Here’s How You Can Up Your Merch Game (With Examples!)

merch table items

merch table at live show

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You know what bores me to tears? When I’ve just watched a band play the most exciting set, full of raw energy and enthusiasm, and I practically run over to their merch table to see what I can pick up to commemorate this incredible night and I see… the same oversized t-shirt that I’ll never wear, maybe a few lackluster stickers and, that’s basically it.

Look, I get it.

I know that thinking outside the box on merch is arguably one of the last things on your mind when you’re trying to write great songs. It can also feel like a pretty distant priority when you’re slammed with the pressures of releasing a new single, making sure people actually hear that single, booking shows to make sure you’re staying relevant, keeping up on your social media; you might just feel like, hey, we know we need something to offer and every other band does the one size t-shirt thing and it’s probably the cheapest avenue so, let’s do it too.

But let’s be honest, that’s not really making an impact on anyone is it? So much of what we talk about at Soundfly revolves around how to take every opportunity possible to leave a (positive) lasting impression on your audience. So if you’ve never thought about how to create merch that leaves fans excited, this one’s for you.

The Interesting (Well-Fitted) T-shirt

I don’t mean to knock t-shirts. They can be really amazing when done well! What I don’t love is the same simple design on one t-shirt that never comes in my size because it’s a unisex shirt and unisex shirts are never fitted to anyone.

That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have t-shirts. It just means you should take the time to make them the kind that stand out, are designed well, and preferably offer them in different sizes and fits that fans will want to wear. If you have a decent amount of female fans, this probably means also having women’s t-shirts.

One of my favorite t-shirts to wear is from a band called Abbot Kinney. It’s light, it fits like a glove, and I love the quirky design. I wear it all the time, not just because I love the band’s music, but because it’s just a really comfortable article of clothing. If you’re going to make shirts, make them the kind that your fans would want to wear even if they weren’t promoting you in the process.

Photo via Abbot Kinney.

The Card

Creating a highly custom card for your fans is one of those ideas that you’ll soon wonder why you didn’t think of before. It’s a really affordable way to offer something a little unique to your fans (usually for free, but free can still mean memorable).

The first time I actually saw a band use a postcard method successfully was at a Brave Shores album release show in Toronto a few years back. They were handed out to everyone who came in the door that night, and since then it’s served as a memento for what became a fantastic, memorable night.

Another way to do it is to offer them as thank you cards to send out with merch orders or Patreon supporters, like Jon Pattie did with his Patreon supporters.

Or, there’s this incredibly fun, highly branded, unique merch that our friends Shadow of Whales did for Valentine’s Day:

For Valentine’s Day, the band sent one to everyone that ordered merch in the week or so leading up to Valentine’s Day. It was a definite hit on social media and it probably didn’t hurt to drum up a few sales too!

The Highly Unique Branded Merch Item

We’ve had a quick taste of branded merch with Shadow of Whales’ example above, but we’re not done yet. Being able to really tap into your brand means being able to create merch that reflects that and that in turn, speaks to your audience. Not only will fans be more likely to invest in it, but they’re going to fall a little more in love with your music, your message, and your brand.

One of my favorite examples of this is a UK folk band called Fitz that sold their own brand of tea. How perfect is that?!

Different Price Points

Have you ever noticed how many brands tend to have a tier system for their products? Usually they have one expensive product or service, followed by several smaller options at different price points? It’s because they want to make sure everyone has an option, and no one is left out from purchasing whatever they have to offer.

To apply this to the music world, you might offer stickers, pins, or guitar picks at $2/each, your last EP at $5, your most recent CD or a high-quality poster at $10, then your shirts at $15-$20 and your sweatshirts at $30. That way, everyone has a chance to grab something that fits their personal budget.

Got 10 minutes to learn something new?

Explore Soundfly’wide array of free online courses and expand your musical skills over your lunch break! Here are just a few free courses you can choose from: How to Create a Killer Musician WebsiteTheory for Bedroom Producers, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existed, and of course, Touring on a Shoestring. 

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