• Joe Sage

5 - Making Money From Band Merch

We all want to get paid to do music. Even if you’re just in it for the fun, a little bit of extra cash can help fund further recordings or gigs. One such way is to sell merchandise at your gigs, but with pricey overheads, it’s not as simple as it sounds. I’m going to run you through some creative ideas to get your merch stall to turn a profit at gigs.

Why Don't People Buy Things?

The obvious choice when it comes to band merch is t-shirts but let’s deconstruct the thought process of one of your potential customers.

They either fit into one of two categories;

  • Fan A - They love your band and have come to the gig specifically to see your band play.

  • Fan B - They came to see a different band and you happen to be on the same bill.

Now Fan A has already spent money to see you. They’ve paid for the ticket, transport to and from the venue, maybe a few drinks… they’ve made a night of it. It’s starting to add up quickly already. Unless they already planned ahead to buy your t-shirt it’s a costly investment, potentially more than what they’ve paid combined for the rest of the night.

Fan B didn’t spend their hard earned cash to come to see you play. They were impressed by your set and want to find out a little bit more about you. You become the centre of the “I saw this great support act last night” chat at work the following day. Although their interest is rising, it’ll take a lot for them to part with their cash for a band they’ve only just heard of.

Be Inspired by TEsco

When you go to the counter to pay for your with your weekly food shop, there’s usually a small stand next to the till with chewing gum, chocolate bars etc. Let’s refer to these as small, snack-able and more importantly, impulsive purchases. You pick up one of these items to add to your basket because they’re tempting and, in the grand scheme of what you’re already about to pay, relatively inexpensive.

Now imagine you go to the same counter but on that stand are high price items…suits, televisions, expensive wine. It’s nowhere near as tempting to have the ‘ah well, might as well pick one up’ mentality, right? Well, that’s how your gig goers see your relatively expensive band t-shirts for sale.

“Joe, it’s all good saying that, but what’s the other option…?”

Let’s make your merch more tempting and an impulse buy. Make them feel like they came away with something without taking a hit to their wallet. Here are some suggestions...


Everyone loves a memento from a gig, so why not turn your fan into a walking billboard at the same time. Stickers are an expensive item to sell online as you’ll fork out a lot of money for postage and packaging if ordered individually. If you sell them at your gigs though, you cut out the middle man and avoid P&P costs. It’s also something the purchaser doesn’t have to worry about carrying around with them for the rest of the gig or night out. They can simply put the sticker in their wallet/bag and be on their merry way.

Because of stickers low production cost, they are something you can offer at a temptingly low price but still turn a good profit.

Like I mentioned before, they’re also a great marketing tool. Make sure your sticker has your band name clearly printed and add your band’s social media accounts to the back for them to find you online. For Fan A, it’s a great way for them to show off their dedication and for Fan B, it’s a good reminder of who you were and where to find you again.

Download Codes

Offer a download code for your latest single. Maybe even have a few options. Ask the fan what their favourite song from the set was and then offer them the recorded single for a £1. They hand over the money, you ask for their email address and you ping them a download code.

“But Joe, they can just go on Spotify and listen to the track for free…”

They could, but that’s why you offer them just a little bit more. With every download code, why don’t you add an exclusive cover, acoustic or alternate version of the song? The important thing here is that it’s not available to anywhere else. Only they, the loyal, paying gig goer gets access to your exclusive content. Not only does this build a sense of community with your fans but it also helps to generate money from recording separate from streaming services. It might also convince fans who like your music but have yet to see you play live, to go down to your gigs if that’s the only way of getting hold of some of your bonus recordings.

So those are just two quick examples of turning a profit with affordable and impulsive items. I’d love to hear if you tried these or something similar? Hit the comments section below and let me know!

Your friendly neighborhood mix engineer,