Ten Ways to Sell More Merchandise as a Music Artist

In the last post, we discussed the importance of really honing in on your average “subscriber value”. The gist of the post was that presenting your fans with product options and after-purchase “upsells” can often be the difference between a campaign that runs at a loss or at a profit. In other words, success or failure for your music career.

But one of the common concerns we hear from music artist is that they simply don’t have anything else to sell.

Well, here are 10 product ideas that you can quickly add to your sales funnel to increase profit and the ultimate value of each new fan you acquire


1. Interview Albums – Suggested Retail: $10 – $30.

Real fans love to hear the story behind the song.  An interview album is insanely simple to make and there is no established precedence for value. Often these interview albums sell for less than the price of a traditional album, and often they sell as collector items that go for much MUCH more. All you need is a Skype recorder and a friend who is capable of asking intelligent questions about your music.

Don’t have anyone who can interview you? Hire a professional to do it for you for a mere $5.


2. A Membership Site – Suggested Retail: $20 – $40 Annually.

A really great way to boost your income is by creating a virtual back stage pass for the dedicated fans; AKA, a membership site. It takes little more than a WordPress blog, a membership plugin, a Paypal button, and you’re all set.

What content do you offer in your membership site? Anything that is digital and which the “super fan” would be interested in getting access to.

A few ideas: Your complete catalog, demos, B-sides, unreleased songs, interviews, unpublished videos, web cams, concert footage, photos, host live concerts and chat sessions. You can also give early access to new material, blog posts, contests, VIP access at live shows, and anything else that comes to mind that can be delivered digitally.

Products like this can be offered for a one time payment, though we strongly recommend a recurring, monthly fee. You can do so as a monthly micro-payment of just a few bucks, or a larger annual payment. Our personal suggestion is the latter. The price resistance is basically the same and with an annual payment the customer is not given the option of canceling every 30 days.

Just imagine having 1000 fans paying you $40 a year for access to your membership site. For many music artist,  this is a good living and it’s a very achievable goal!


3. Sell Your Demos – Suggested Retail: $5 – $15

Why not include your fans in the music making process?  Take those rehearsal studio sessions, pre-production sketches, live recordings and old four-track recordings from 2008 and sell them to your fans. Your hard drive is probably loaded with material that your fans would love to have access to. You can offer these as EPs, LPs, or even as part of a membership site using a recurring billing element.


4. YouTube Sessions – Suggested Retail: $10 – $30

Here’s an idea that you can implement right away. Offer your fans access to private micro-concerts. Fire up your web cam, pull out your microphone or instrument of choice, and record one song a day for 30 days. Publish the videos privately on YouTube or if you prefer, use something more professional like Easy Video Player (That’s what we use for most of our private videos) and sell access for $1 song. 30 days for $30. You can tell the story behind each song and really create a “digital campfire” kind of feel.

Create 30 quick emails and load them into your autoresponder. Setting emails to go out each day with links to the latest video. Voilà, you’ve got yourself a product that can sell for more than the price of an album, but which costs almost nothing to create.

Run the audio through a half decent mic and you’ve got the makings of a rare collectors album, the “YouTube Sessions”.


5. Custom Written Songs – Suggested Retail: $200 – $5000

How much you can charge for something like this really depends on your relationship with your fans. But the sky is really the limit here. Most artists with a mailing list of any decent size will find that they have at least a few die-hard fans with a little money to spare that would love to be commemorated with a song by one of their favorite artists. This is a great example of a big ticket item that can seriously boost your average subscriber value with a single conversion.

One of our favorite examples of this was when the artist Momus offered to write and record a song for any person or group that paid $1000. The result was a 30 song album called “Stars Forever” that included patrons such as artist Jeff Koons and two year old animator/superhero Noah Brill.


6. Sell or License Your Master Recordings – Suggested Retail: $1000 – $10,000

Now this is not something that we have personally seen anyone do, and we certainly know that this is not for everyone. But we thought it would be fun to throw the notion of selling your masters on the table. Selling resale rights is something we see in many other markets. Why not music?

It wouldn’t be too difficult to structure an agreement in which you could retain certain rights to sell and use the masters yourself, while granting ownership rights to someone else. Many reading this would happily hand over their master rights to a record label who often wouldn’t pay nearly as much for even greater rights. Why not offer the “super fan” the ability to invest in, and actually own, a master recording of one of their favorite artists?

A rather outside-of-the-box idea to be sure, but something to consider. This is yet another fantastic way of increasing your average customer value dramatically, while transforming your music from a work of art into an actual investment.

Disclaimer: You would need to consult with an entertainment attorney about the legal issues and complexities of such a strategy.


7. Fan Books – Suggested Retail: $10 – $30

Why not gather up your lyrics, blog posts, and photographs and compile them into a fan book? Have an old lyric book of never completed songs? A little copy editing and you’ve got a book of poetry.

Very often our musical artistry extends beyond just music chords and lyrical sensibilities. Perhaps you’re a music artist with a collection of short stories in your possession. A book of just about any kind can be the perfect companion to an album and an easy way to double your revenue.

You can easily create your own affordable books through Amazon’s Create Space, Lulu.com, or our personal favorite, the brand new BookBaby.com (CD Baby’s sister company).


8. Signed and Limited Artwork – Suggested Retail Price: $50 – $500

While this is more of an option for those of you who are artistically inclined, many artists have done quite well by offering hand created, signed, and limited album covers. We’ve also seen a number of artists do quite well by offering prints, drawings, and/or paintings as part of “product packages”. Sometimes running in the thousands of dollars per package.

Not an artist?  That didn’t stop Amanda Palmer (Who incidentally DOES happen to be a pretty damn good artist) from working out a deal with another artist to hand paint 100 ukuleles to be offered as part of a $250 product bundle for the release of her album “Ukulele Head”.  And to our knowledge, they sold out!


9. House Concerts – Suggested Retail: $200 – $1000

We really think this is a must for any performing artist, particularly singer/songwriters. We’ve had a number of clients report pretty encouraging conversion rates when offering house concerts to their fans.

The idea? You simply email your mailing list and let them know that you’re going to be hitting the road and that you’d like to offer a small number of fans a chance to have you give a private concert in their home. You offer them the chance to sell tickets, invite as many friends as they want, really make it whatever kind of event they’d like. In return you get a fee and the ability to sell your merchandise.

Note: You typically sell a lot of merch at these things and make relationships with fans that last for years.

Setting up a house concert tour can take a little juggling. Our best advice is to offer a few scheduling parameters and have people submit their city and ideal date. Then you can attempt to schedule everything once you see how much interest there is and how spread out across the country each potential location happens to be. Just a handful of shows can bring in thousands of dollars, increase your average subscriber value dramatically, and create a fantastic bond with your fans that will last a lifetime.



10. Good Ol’ Fashioned Merch – Suggested Retail: Prices Vary

It would be silly not to mention traditional merchandise in this top 10 list. But the truth is that most people are more interested in paying for more access to you and your music then they are in some Velcro wallet with your logo on it. On top of that, traditional merch is more work and more expensive to create. Worse yet, profit margins are often terrible. It’s not uncommon to make a mere $5 on a $25 T-shirt when ordering in small runs.

We like to think of our customers as having a finite amount of money to spend on music. We’d rather see a larger piece of that pie going into our pocket. For that reason we focus on solutions like those mentioned elsewhere in this post. With that said, there is a place for traditional merch. Particularly for more established and touring artists.

What kind of merch should you consider? It’d be pretty easy to simply say that you can sell anything that you can stick your logo on and which offers a decent profit margin. However, we think the real thing to ask yourself here is what products will enhance your brand and make the user experience more FUN for the fan.

Certainly T-shirts and belt buckles have their place. But unique items that really compliment your particular brand can really go along way with the fans and strengthening the bond that you have with them.

Some of the more interesting band merch we’ve seen out there…

…Vinyl, underwear, coffee mugs, iPad/iPhone cases and candy to name a few. The list goes on. One great example of reinforcing your brand with creative merch (ahem, and justifying a higher price point) is the White Stripe’s release of a custom vintage-style camera kit. It was fun, reinforced the artistic image of the band, got them a good deal of press, and probably made them a pretty penny.


This is how you make the much talked about “1000 true fans” model actually work folks. By creating a sales funnel, maximizing your “average subscriber value”, and using proven selling triggers to convert fans in to buyers. Make more money from less people, and do it in a way that is fun, interesting, and exceptional.

As spelled out in part one of this post series, by adding product options and “upsells” into your sales funnel, you have a good chance of generating enough income per subscriber to make advertising a profitable possibility.

A positive ROI (return-on-investment) is the holy-grail for the independent artist. From there, it’s just a matter of scaling things up.


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