Here on BandAids, we’ll explore ideas, innovations and inspirations in band promotion. Making killer tunes is only half the battle; in order to find and keep fans, you need to think of yourself as (cringe) a brand and put some thought into marketing yourself!
By day, twenty-something Bostonian Erica Truncale manages events at a university, but by night she masquerades as Boston Merch Girl, slinging swag for many local and national acts in clubs all over the city and beyond”and she has become the go-to girl for Boston acts who need a hand with sales at their shows. We hit her up for some insider tips on what works and what doesn’t behind the merch table. Read on!
OS: So how did you become Boston Merch Girl? What exactly is your role?
BMG: I started doing merch when I was asked/offered to do it for some friends’ local bands. My boyfriend had been doing it for a couple of bands, and I took over his role when he took on other responsibilites. It sort of snowballed from there. Other bands alongside our merch would ask if I would do theirs, and I decided this was definitely a niche that no one was filling. My role is to be the support a band needs so they can focus on what they’re really there to do”play music. I arrange/inventory/sell merch, circulate mailing lists, answer fan or venue staff questions…things the musicians shouldn’t have to worry about”they should be focused on their music and gear.
OS: What is it that you do so well that makes all the bands want you?
BMG: I strive to provide a peace of mind, and like to think that’s what has bands reaching out to me again. Merch/fan interactions/mailing lists are really important to bands creating and maintaining relationships with a fan base, but there’s not always time to dedicate to that. I do my best to represent the band during a live show while they’re soundchecking, playing, breaking down”you know, the stuff musicians are supposed to be doing.
Show posters can be works of art, but on the DIY/local level, all too often they’re amateur eyesores that break all the rules of good design. Sure, it can be argued that a hideous poster draws attention just as well as a beautiful one, but is that really the image you want to perpetuate for your band? Your visual identity counts big, especially in an era when your image and branding is frequently the gateway through which people discover your music. So it’s important that you take care to make yourself appear pro and polished, or else you risk turning many potential listeners away before they even hear you.
Last week we looked at some cool custom merch items to sell at your merch table; this week we sweat the small stuff. Fans may not be willing to fork over money for some of these smaller items, but having them on hand as giveaways will still be worth your investment when you factor in the value of getting your name and branding out there. Consider bundling some of these items with your paid merch”free sticker with every CD purchase, for example”to give your fans an extra incentive to buy something. Remember: Merch sales rely on a good band logo design, so put that at the top of the priority list if you don’t already have something professional and polished. Also remember: Put your URL on everything! Make sure people can find you later.
In rock ‘n’ roll, buttons are like mini badges of honor, and they’re always a big hit at the merch table. Some button makers like Busy Beaver Button Co. include a small line of text along the back rim, so take advantage and put your Web site or a download code or something else worthwhile on there. In fact, if you use the space for a download code, you can justify moving your buttons into the sellable category by making them an actual medium for selling your album. Same goes for lots of other merch items, so always keep this in mind.
Hard to believe we’re already a month into 2012. Just as hard to believe is that we’ve almost got season two of The OurStage Panel in the can for you. That’s right, we just wrapped the first four episodes. Now all that’s left is the finale, which is gonna be big, man. Big. Might I add that the one and only Gavin DeGraw is our guest panelist this season? I might. I might just. Stay tuned for updates.
What else is new? I’ve been enjoying the outrage over that TIME Magazine piece on the two brothers in a band trying to make it in some kind of misguided interpretation of the modern day music business. Their central claim is that it costs $100,000 to operate a band these days.
This, of course, is insane. To begin with, everyone does things differently. Every successful artist has a different story about how they got where they are. But then there are varying degrees of over-inflation in their good-natured, passive-aggressive, woe-is-me, itemized list. This aspect quite riled up some people.
- The A.V. Club: Band claims it costs $100,000 to make it in indie rock, finally rendering the term indie rock meaningless
- The Lefsetz Letter: Time Magazine Band
- And our own Munson the Destroyer gives his quick take:
You can absolutely be a successful artist without dropping $100k. First of all, they shouldn’t include lessons [in their tally]” that’s a personal expense and something not everyone needs to incur. Secondly, that instrument cost is well inflated. Drag that price out over a decade and halve it due to gifted instruments and it would make more sense. Lastly, there’s no way that they need to blow a bunch of money on living in NYC. Cool sob story, fellas. Learn to spend your money better and do some things yourself. It’s a rough world, learn to adapt.
All of this is not to say that you can’t spend $100k a year on creating, recording and promoting your band or career. Yes, I think it can be very easily done. But, damn Sam, if you have that kind of money to spend, don’t do it like these goofballs. Send it to me. I will make your ass famous. I mean that literally. Your ass. Famous. Nothing more, nothing less.
Speaking of new and interesting and not stupid ways to promote your art, watch our BandAids column for creative ideas.
P.S. Spiritualized just announced a 2012 North American tour. Thank you @babyjeebuz.
Here on BandAids, we’ll explore ideas, innovations and inspirations in band promotion. Making killer tunes is only half the battle; in order to find and keep fans, you need to think of yourself as (cringe) a brand and put some thought into marketing yourself. Since many people will hear OF you before they ever HEAR you, first impressions are a really big deal. Put some care and effort into what you put out there”things like good design, pro-level photography, and a variety of merch offerings could persuade a lot of potential fans to give you a shot, while conversely a poor visual identity may turn people off before they even hear your music, or a lack of swag to give out/sell at shows means fewer people remember you in the morning. Here, we’ll present you with tips to help make sure that doesn’t happen.
Creative Custom Merch: Part 1
At your shows, your merch table can be the difference between breaking even and a big profit. A little creativity with your offerings can go a long way towards upping your sales. Yes, CDs and t-shirts are important, but when all the bands are offering them, how do you stand out? Here are some ideas to help make your corner of the table the center of the action: