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The AFM has a proud history of managing change rather than being victimized by it. We find strength in adversity, and when the going gets tough, we get creative - all on your behalf.

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Home » Music Business » Merchandising Is Extra Money and Free Promotion

Merchandising Is Extra Money and Free Promotion


I can’t for the life of me understand why artists across the board are not merchandising from their first show forward. Providing your family, friends, and any fans you may win over the opportunity to take home a keepsake of the evening, such as a T-shirt or bumper sticker to support your band will help you finance your group and will also help increase your visibility.

If you have fan support, and you’re merchandising, you’re actually not doing all the promotional work yourself. For every T-shirt and every bumper sticker you sell, you are creating a walking or driving billboard for your band.

This grassroots branding is some of the most valuable visibility you’ll have. Because if someone sees another person wearing your shirt, he’ll immediately see that you have support and may want to look further into your band. As your fan base grows, so will your visibility. Your fans may be wearing your shirt when they are performing.

Maybe in order to make this crosspromotion between bands happen, you’ll need to rock another band’s shirt while you’re on stage. Take the first step and set a precedent of support for the other bands in your scene and show that you stand united.

Merchandising legitimizes your existence as a band. It separates you from those that talk about it and those that are actually doing it. You must have merch while you’re on tour or traveling anywhere on the road.

Some merchandising tips summarized from The Music Industry Self-Help Guide, 2nd Edition, by Mike Repel:

1) The table: Usually a six by eight foot banquet table; many venues will be able to provide one. It should have a tablecloth custom screened with your band logo/name.

2) T-Shirts: Single-screen, one-color shirts are a staple for any merch table. You can hang them behind your merch table with tacks or duct tape—whatever works—or bring a wire frame divider that you can position behind you. Display each available design and include a price on each. As these are “big ticket” items protect them from thieves by not putting them on the front of the table. Store them in plastic storage boxes in between gigs.

3) LPs, EPs, and CDs: Your music is obviously the item that you want displayed and you want to move units of. With the rekindling interest in vinyl, having this format available is a good idea. Stand up the 12-inch LPs in the back of the table using display stands and position smaller items flat on the table. Consider taping them down to deter theft.

4) Posters: Place them on the wall behind you, flat on the table, or tape them so they are draping down the front of the table.

5) Other: Smaller items (stickers, buttons, patches, guitar picks, lighters, shot glasses, coffee mugs, download cards, etc.) should be organized in front of the larger items to create a visual spread that provides your friends and fans with lots of items to choose from.

6) Keep the table staffed: Walking away from your table is walking away from sales. It also invites the possibility of theft. Make sure someone is available to relieve the merch person for breaks.

7) Online options: It’s common to run low on certain items or T-shirt sizes while on the road. If you stock these items at a webstore then someone can make a purchase via credit card or PayPal while at the show and let you ship it the next day.

8) Be prepared in case you need to re-order from your screen-printer while on the road. Find out the lead time and schedule the shirts to be shipped to an address (friend or hotel) where you will be arriving two or three days after the shirts do.

—adapted from The Music Self Help Guide, 2nd Edition, by Mike Repel, a comprehensive guide to building your career. It contains valuable tips and insights, such as a step-by-step guide on how to register copyrights. You can sample the book or order it at

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