As musicians scramble to find new ways to make money in the digital era, Jakprints released data on the profit margins for a variety of popular merchandise options for artists (see photos). Digital Music News broke down several merch selling strategies, including everything from partnering with distributors who organize drop-shipping, sales, and merchandise printing to organizing touring inventory and merch giveaways.
In an age where the top DJs don’t sell many records, the modern day musician needs to professionalize the rest of their trade (i.e. stuff other than recording music) and concentrate on diversifying with alternative revenue streams. When people think merch, most think of t-shirts first because fans proudly sport the latest in their favorite artists’ fashion. Artists know people need to wear clothes, so fans might as well support artists at the same time as they pick their wardrobe.
T-shirts provide a good profit margin, as Jakprints’ data shows, but there’s no reason to ignore little knick-knacks that are fun for fans and easy to produce cheaply. This means everything from stickers to magnets to patches. These are all items that fans can easily stick on clothes, laptops, and their local indie club’s stall doors (disclaimer: I’m not condoning graffiti, but some clubs dig the grungy vibe provided by a sticker-covered bathroom). This all means getting free marketing as you would with a fan wearing a t-shirt, except that fans can’t wear the same shirt every day, assuming they have some sense of proper hygiene.
Not only should you look at other options other than clothes, but you should think about what fans can wear year-round. A t-shirt is good in the summer, but hoodies, hats, and maybe even a wool scarf is something your fans could be into. If you’re pinching pennies, ask your fans what they want via an online survey before making an investment in merchandise—use a site like SurveyMonkey if you have an email list of your fans all ready to go. Alternatively, run a presale for items on your website or an online store widget and only commit to charging your fans for an item once you’ve sold enough of a specific item and can commit to ordering the item from a manufacturer.
Merch is just one of a varied number of ways to make money as an artist, but even within that one category of sales, dig deeper and find new ways to take advantage of product offerings.
Check out the profit margin of each product type below: