The world is a digital place. But is it, really? Let’s put this simply. We all love goodies from our favorite bands. They’re unique, cool, you feel like you’re supporting the band when you buy them. But above all, you probably suffer from the century’s most popular syndrome: FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.So, when your favorite artist announces that exclusive vinyl edition of their new album, you can’t help but press the “Add to cart” button. Are you still asking why is merchandise important for artists? Let’s talk about it.
Not sure this is official, but “Aaaaaaahhh, me wants it!”
There are 4 key aspects that make merchandise so powerful for artists. 1. Branding, 2. Fan engagement, 3. Visibility, 4. Revenue.
Merchandise carries your brand identity. As highlighted on a previous post, artists are living brands. They reflect certain values, convey unique messages and portray distinctive characteristics. That identity can be transferred to merchandise through format (t-shirt, guitar pick, vinyl, hoodie, etc), shape, color, copy, logo, among other elements.
Creativity is key if you want to stand out.
From a branding perspective, exclusive and unique items can take you far. They generate excitement in your audience. They will in turn either buy it or comment about it, spreading the word to their network of friends and acquaintances, encouraging others to listen to your music. This is extremely important for artists nowadays, as the need to stand out from the crowd is ever growing.
Check this list of weird merch by Consequence of Sound.
Part of being human is being part of a community. Being part of a group of people that have similar interests and viewpoints and through that support each other. As Seth Godin mentions in his famous book Tribes:
A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.
This is why merchandise is so important for artists. Because it has the power to make people, in this case fans specifically, feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. First, it makes them feel closer to the artists. I bought your merch, therefore I am a true fan and support your art. Second, through merch fans identify themselves with the artist’s values and carry them wherever they go. Third, they connect to each other and build their own fan community, sharing concert photos, stories, articles about the band, etc.
For example, Italian metal band Lacuna Coil has their own dedicated fan community called Empty Spiral. The site was created by the band’s fans and has grown to a point where Lacuna Coil themselves recognize the community as their own official tribe.
Following the lines of branding and engagement, having merchandise it’s like having a cool business card to give out to those that don’t know you that well yet. There are really creative ideas to get key people interested in an artist, especially when it comes to catching gatekeepers (i.e. major press journalists) attention and get them to listen to your music.
Again, the key is creativity. Imagine meeting someone important in the industry, they don’t have much time to talk to you or listen to your song on your phone. Imagine giving them a cassette-tape-shaped USB stick including your top song, bio and other relevant info and press coverage. That person may not remember your face, but it will be hard not to notice the piece of merch you just gave them.
Concert revenue has increased steadily in the last few years while physical sales plunged. Merchandise has always been a way for artists to fund themselves. Due to its face-to-face nature, concerts are usually when most merchandise gets sold. The audience is right there, the merch table is strategically placed so that nobody can ignore it. Fan levels of excitement are through the roof because they just watched an amazing show, so they rush to the merch table fearing that awesome black hoodie with the singer’s face on it is already sold out.
Merchandise provides artists with an extra source of income while at the same time providing added value to their fans. Smart artists will have exclusive merchandise at their gigs, that fans cannot get through their online store. This keeps fans engaged and compelled to buy. I remember going to see one of my favorite bands live when I first moved to Ireland, and wanting to buy this white t-shirt with beautiful album related art printed on it. I couldn’t because I had no cash with me and I thought “Oh, I can buy it online”. I was very wrong. That particular item was not available online. Actually, most of the merch I saw at the gig was not available online.
And that folks is how you make money!
Thoughts? Leave a comment or connect on Twitter.