One of the best ways for a band to make cash is by employing a merchandise table. Unfortunately, many treat it as an afterthought, doing nothing more than throwing a few shirts on a table and calling it a day. If you're serious about making money off of your merch table, you need to treat it like you do your music -- giving it the attention it deserves. Below are a few tips for an effective and successful merch table.
Nail The Basics
When trying to sell anything, you have to make your products attractive to a potential buyer. If you’ve ever been to an open air market, you’ll notice that the tables that attract the most buyers have a lot of things in common: they are well organized and clearly display what they are selling. Some of them even add decorations just to make them more inviting. Your merch table should follow a similar philosophy. If things are randomly scattered and prices are nowhere to be seen, you might end up losing a lot of potential buyers. It’s also a good idea to incorporate a stand that will allow people from across the room to be able to spot your table, especially in a crowded club. Otherwise, your table can get easily lost from everyone sight.
Pick A Good Location
If you have the option of setting up your merch table anywhere, the first thing you should do is avoid putting it near the stage. While it might seem like a good idea, most people tend to avoid going to the front of the stage. It’s intimidating. Furthermore, it will probably be nearly impossible to hear anything once the music gets going. Also, try to avoid empty sections with little to no traffic. A lot of people buy things on a whim, meaning they weren’t planning to do so in the first place. If possible, try to set up your booth near the entrance of the club. It will be the first thing they see and the last. The more people you can expose to your table, the more potential buyers you will likely snag.
Have Good Lighting
Most clubs aren’t known for having great lighting so it will be up to you to provide that for your merch table. Without good lighting, it will be pretty hard for people to see what you’re selling. Try to avoid using Christmas lights as they tend to break easily. Instead, consider rope lighting. They are just as flexible as Christmas lights but much more durable. Don’t forget you’ll need a power source to get those lights going. Every club isn’t going to give you the luxury of having wall outlets placed all around you. Invest in a 100-foot extension cord so that you can be certain you’ll be able to power those lights from your preferred location.
Invest In A Folding Table
Having your own folding table is an absolute must. They are pretty inexpensive and very easy to transport. Also, you never know if you will have a table provided to you at a club so it’s a good idea to always have your own. And even if a table is provided, it might not be big enough. Having your own table will also allow you to set up as soon as you get there, giving you a better chance to snag a great location.
Wide Pricing Range
While it might not seem obvious at first, it is important that your merch table offer items that range from very cheap to more expensive, from $1 to $80 or so. The cheaper items will allow casual fans to purchase a keepsake from your show. Whether its pins, stickers, patches or cards, most people love little mementos to remember their experience. The more expensive items will probably not go flying off the shelves, but diehard fans that want everything from your band will probably take the plunge. They also serve another, more important purpose: higher-priced items will make middle tier stuff seem much less expensive by comparison, giving them more apparent value.
It is also a good idea to offer at least one free item. This will get plenty of people who would have otherwise ignored your booth to stop by. And once they’re there, they're more likely to purchase something. And make sure you take advantage of that free item. For example, give away free stickers that have your band’s website or social media page URLs on them.
Email Signup Sheet
A fan email list is a valuable tool. While a band web page is certainly a must, being able to email fans will allow you to directly reach them with important info is just as important. Whether you have an upcoming show, a new release or promotion, relying on nothing but social media and your website might leave out potentially willing fans. As far as the email signup sheet goes, make sure you have plenty of space for their name and email. It should also be on a clipboard, that way they can either grab it or you can just hand it to them, even away from the merch table. Also, make sure you either securely fasten a pen to the board or buy a ton of them. Pens have a habit of getting lost or accidentally taken, so be prepared because a signup sheet is worthless if no one can actually signup.
Always Have Someone At The Table
Few things will make you lose potential customers than having an unmanned table. It might not be the most exciting part of the night but it’s definitely important. People who might be on the fence about an item aren’t going to wait around and loyal fans who will wait won’t be happy doing so. It’s just bad customer service – period. Make sure you enlist a buddy who is not in the band to help out at the table while the rest of you are up on stage.
Leave It Up Until You’re Done
Your merch table should be the first thing you set up and the last thing you take down. It should be up before the crowd begins to enter and after everyone has gone home. Also, most fans tend to buy things at the end of the night just as they are leaving the club. If you pack up right after your set, you will completely miss these potential buyers. It can get very boring waiting around but your goal is to make money off your table, you have to put it the work.
Promote Your Table On Stage
There’s no better time to promote your merch table than when you’re up on stage and have the crowd’s attention. There’s a lot going on during these shows so fans that might not have otherwise known about your table will be informed. This is also the perfect time to plug in any free stuff you want to give out or even a "meet and greet" at your merch table after the show. A "meet and greet" in particular is a great way to get the more ardent fans -- who are more likely to buy merchandise -- to your table.
If your band is still relatively new, your merch table might be the main provider of income for a good while. Give it the attention it deserves and it will be sure to pay you back.
Your Turn to Sound Off!
What are some other tips for creating an effective merch table?