IHM News

IHM Road Tips Vol.12 – 8 Keys For an Effective Merch Table

Posted By : IHM, Posted On : October 15, 2013

The following blog post assumes you have great music and a solid live show before hitting the road. Not sure? Contact Bram, head of IHM Artist Relations & Support about a show evaluation,, on twitter @bram_rocks or call 877.994.6446 xt. 2


“As a consumer and as a fan, I buy merchandise at a show for 2 reasons: 1. The item is original, useful and/or trendy. 2. I am feeling impulsive, and buy the item for it’s souvenir value, even though it may be overpriced” – Weedback


A 2012 Nielsen music study revealed that 54% of teens and 46% of 18-24 year olds who attend live events purchase concert t-shirts. The same study showed that 14% of teens, and 7% of 18-24 year olds purchased concert posters at live events. Along with music sales, merchandise sales at live shows are the financial lifeblood of your band. In #fromtheroad 1, IHM artist The Lighthouse and the Whaler said that on their July 2013 national tour, 50% of their tour gross came from music and merchandise sales after the show.


In past #roadtips, we discussed the importance of creating unique, live experiences in selling CDs and getting on the Billboard Charts. In #roadtips 12, we’ll analyze how to set up and promote your merchandise table to maximize merchandise sales. According to Jonathan Ostrow, the three essential parts of an effective merch table include increasing your sales, increasing your fan engagement with new and returning customers, and decreasing overhead when planning merchandise for your next tour. Here are 8 tips to creating a stand out merchandise table:


1. T-shirts, Hats, Merchandise, and Cool

The reason why your audience buys merchandise can be summed up with one word: cool. Just like sharing your music video (#roadtips 10), audiences gain social credibility when wearing your merchandise – and t-shirts are the easiest way for fans to show their cool. Tony van Veen recommends keeping designs simple to appeal to a wider audience base, keep printing costs low, and make it easier for printers to translate design to merchandise. But the design should be unique and something more than a band logo. Keep in mind that people buy t-shirts because they like the t-shirt, in addition to supporting your music. Out of the many T-shirt designs my band, State of Man, sold, one of our bestseller was a simple design with “You know you want it” printed on the front of a girly-T and “GET S.O.M.” on the back.  Women loved it and would often buy them before we even played. For his recent tour, Jason Isbell sold t-shirts with a logo of a Little League baseball team he sponsors in Alabama. As Kevin Jardine says, “People will buy a cool cheap shirt, even if the band is average”.


The more specific your merchandise gets, the more unique of an experience you can create for your audience. Although more expensive, t-shirts with a specific city and venue is very effective. Ostrow recommends a high quality print of the show poster. Mumford and Sons created passports for fans going to their Bristol show.


Lastly, consider alternate forms of merchandise outside of t-shirts, hats, hoodies, and posters. You can put your logo on anything from keychains, stickers, pins, guitar picks, lanyards – anything that your fanbase can show off to the world to increase their “cool” factor and often charge premium prices. Better yet, ask indiehitmaker how to offer this kind of merch combined with selling and reporting record sales without CDs.


2. Promote your merchandise throughout the show: Don’t be annoying about it, but find a way to work merch plugs into your show. Daniel Rubin from Marbin, a Chicago band that plays 250 tour dates per year, says he announces the location of the merch table, and what CDs/merch they have available 3-4 times per show as part of his audience interaction.


3. The final song leads to the merchandise table: As we covered in #roadtips 9, your final song must lead the audience wanting more, and must lead them to the merchandise table. Tom Jackson recommends a song that leaves the audience “up” and excited from the ride.Then, the lead singer must walk the audience to the merchandise table. As Afton resource says and IHM 100% agrees and preaches, “After you are done playing your last song, your SINGER MUST walk off the front of the stage, through the crowd and walk to the merch table…THIS IS VITAL! You literally have a 15 minute window after your set where people are much more likely to buy your CD’s and other merch and get on your Mailing List”.


4. Set your merchandise table by the venue exit – Your merch table must be in a high traffic location – so where better than the exit? The Lighthouse and The Whaler’s lowest grossing tour date on their recent tour was due to the merchandise table being in an awkward place that the audience couldn’t find (although if your lead singer walks the audience from the stage to the merch table, this shouldn’t be an issue).


5. Give away something free at the merchandise table: Other examples of free merch include bumper stickers, pencils, concert fliers – something simple to entice people. Van Veen also recommends giving something away for free with each purchase, like an old CD with every t-shirt purchase.


6. Have bundled deals: Rubin says when they first started touring, they had two CDs that they sold for $10 each. But they wanted fans to have both CDs, so they increased the price of one CD to $15, but had a package deal of two CDs for $20. There’s many types of bundles – you could also have a CD/t-shirt package, a t-shirt/poster deal, etc. For artists thatreport their live venue sales to Soundscan, make sure your bundled deals comply with Soundscan policies – contact IHM at least two weeks prior to performing any shows with bundling offers.


7. Accept Credit Cards: Rubin estimates that taking credit cards makes them 50% more per gig. Use portable credit card readers like Square, Intuit and sign up to find out more aboutIHM’s up & coming mobile appspecifically designed for the indie touring artist.


8. Have a Mailing List: Signing new fans up to your email list may be the most important, and most overlooked part of creating a life long customer. Place an email sheet or try one of these technological solutions at your merchandise table:

  • Reverbnation FanReach

  • iPad app Thread allows you to add emails electronically



Join the indiehitmakermailing list and receive more tips on funding tours and getting the most from the road. Have a question, comment or feedback? Tweet us @indiehitmaker #RoadTips, like us on Facebook, orcontact us online.


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