Merch Madness: Is Your Stuff This Cool?

Merchandise plays an important role in branding an act’s image. It also provides a significant source of income. In fact, merch sales are often the difference between making a living or going into debt. When compared to other income streams, merchandise generates the greatest profit margin for artists at all levels. And for emerging acts, those profits can support a career.
To make that happen, however, you must be creative. If you follow everyone else—selling tees and CDs—you are likely to be disappointed. Even established acts are pushing the envelope with cool and unusual ideas. Taylor Swift bundled her album with pizza, Beck released an album of sheet music and Jack White distributed a single via helium balloons. If artists of that caliber feel the need to stand out, imagine what you must do.
Selling merch may seem easy, but it is not. You must consider your fans, the venue and the items you sell. To help you get better results from your merchandising efforts, Music Connection asked experienced artists, managers, labels and PR companies to send us examples of items that not only get attention, but also sell like crazy.

By Bernard Baur

MERCH STANDOUTS
With some imagination–and extra cash –items like these can be custom-made:

Shorts-Mastodon_WPSHORTS
Mastodon  http://mastodonrocks.com
Mastodon have some very cool merch, from bikinis and sling bags to belt buckles and beach towels. But, the shorts––called “Asstodon”––take the prize.

BLACK “MYSTERY” BOX
Olio http://oliomusic.com
The “Black Box” houses Olio’s merch items. To find out what is in the Black Box, fans have to go to the group’s shows. The “Box” contains a revolving assortment of merch: tees, guitar picks, key chains, autographed drumsticks, stickers, posters, earrings, beanies, wrist bands and CDs. Olio also encourages fans to help them with promotions in order to get free music.

BEER KOOZIE
Goat  http://musicbygoat.com
While working on a project called “senseless” (about the abuse of our senses), the band Goat released a single titled “Cup in Hand.” To highlight the abuse of taste, they designed a koozie with their logo on it and the word “senseless” written in Braille.

BABY ONESIE
Ellee Ven  http://elleeven.com
If you have fans who are starting families, these could be big sellers. Artist Ellee Ven had “Groovalutionary” printed on them––which signifies “a person engaged in a creative revolution.”

NECKLACE & RING
Dead in 5  http://facebook.com/deadinfive
Detroit outlaw rockers Dead in 5 wanted to offer their fans something custom and cool. So they partnered with Claudia Leo who recently launched her own jewelry company, Rock Design. They gave her their logo and she created amazing one-of-a-kind pieces that sell for $20 to $45 a pop.

SKATE DECK
Willie Psycho  http://facebook.com/williepsycho
According to Willie Psycho, his originally designed skate decks sell like crazy via social media, events, festivals, etc.

RUSSIAN STACKING DOLL
Marina V  http://marinav.com
Being from Russia, Marina V is often asked by fans where they could get one of those hand-painted Russian stacking dolls. Now, every time she goes to Moscow she brings back a few and personalizes them for sale. She notes, “People seem to like that better than buying one made in China on eBay.” Marina also sells her own artwork, handwritten lyrics and sheet music for a song that won her the YouBloom Award from Sir Bob Geldof.

RUBBER SPIDER
Characula  http://characula.com
Characula came up with the idea of rubber spiders because, she claims, she’s just like a black widow spider… she kills her lovers after mating. Additionally, her upcoming record has eight songs (to correspond with eight legs).

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