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:
They may only sell to smokers, but the good news is that lots of rock fans are still smoking. Wait, that came out wrong. In any case, a lighter with your band’s name/logo on it has a good chance of being frequently passed around by a lot of hands, although whether or not the people passing it will remember it is a whole ‘nother story.
Play shows at the beach a lot? Have a hacky-sack-happy fan base? Then slap your logo on some Frisbees. People will hold on to this kind of thing for years—probably longer than most bands stay together.
Keychain bottle openers
Most everyone needs a bottle opener, and a handy keychain bottle opener appeals to the on-the-go drinker. Fans who buy your keychain bottle openers will be reminded of your band virtually every day. And when they whip it out at parties, their friends will see it too.
Up the cool factor of your merch collection by adding condoms with your band’s logo on the wrapper. Best case, fans buy them as a novelty item without intent to use them. Worst case, they get used and discarded but even still, not a terrible thing to be remembered by. Go the extra mile with the custom picture condoms, which allow you to print directly on the condom itself. Put your members on your fans’ members!
Another one of those things that everyone uses, branded chapstick is a good pocket item especially in the winter months. Forego the tinted options since you want to maximize your sales, but flavors are probably fair game.
This one will require some planning, but if you’ve got (or can get) lots of good quality high-resolution photos and artwork related to your band, your biggest fans will appreciate a wall calendar like the ones Vista Print offers. Theirs can start at any month so you don’t have to wait until the end of the year, though you might want to so as to maximize on calendar-buying season (have them on your merch table starting in November). This gives you plenty of time to plan photo shoots for your 2013 calendar.
Tote bags are a higher priced item, but the up-side to that is that people who spend the money to buy them will use them with pride, giving your band another walking advertisement. Sites like Cafe Press allow you to design your totes (and countless other items) and then direct fans to their site to buy them, printing the bags to order. This means you don’t have a ton of up front costs and there’s no risk involved if it turns out your fans aren’t the tote bag types.
Taking it further…
• All of these custom pieces rely on your band having a well designed logo, so if you don’t have that yet, find a good designer who can make you something that you and your fans will be proud to wear as your badge for years to come. Okay, so the drummer’s girlfriend took an art class in college; there’s a big difference between amateur and pro when it comes to design, and this is an area where not being a cheapskate will pay off.
• Put your web address on everything! The whole point is for people to be able to easily find their way back to you later. The more creative and memorable your promo items are, the more likely they’ll succeed in bringing people back; if your information isn’t on your stuff, you lose.
• Bundle items. If your CD costs $10 and your tote bag costs $15, sell a CD/tote bag combo for $20. Or give away free stickers and buttons with any merch purchase. Make your fans feel like they’re getting a lot of bang for their buck.
Next week we’ll bring you part two of this inaugural post, featuring swag ideas that are better suited as freebies and takeaways. Stay tuned!