Updated: Jan 22, 2019
Written By: Austin Hull
Making money as an artist isn't easy. Sure, you can make money from people purchasing your music or streaming it, but it's not always enough to live on. Let's discuss an easy way to make extra income as an artist without breaking the bank.
It's not secret that making a substantial living as a musical artist is a huge challenge. Especially in an era where sales have trickled and streaming payouts are generally low, and the market is becoming more oversaturated every single day. I see artists every single day pouring thousands of dollars into releases, only to see $53 in sales come in from that song from their distributor. I will make a whole different post in the future on how to capitalize on streaming platforms to make some actual bread as an artist, but right now I wanted to talk about something even more crucial for artists, selling merchandise. Next to touring and playing shows (and possibly even more so), selling merchandise is the number one way to make some revenue as a small artist. But not only will it get your some extra cash, it is also free publicity for your brand. Let's chat about merchandise.
Merchandise gives you the ability to capitalize on your brand, pull in some income, create a stronger fanbase, and scale your business faster than you can imagine.
Selling merchandise is crucial for any artist. Merchandise gives you the ability to capitalize on your brand, pull in some income, create a stronger fanbase, and scale your business faster than you can imagine. If you are an artist, you have to sell 50 copies of your single on iTunes to make $50, or you need about 10,000 streams on Spotify. But you only need to sell 3 shirts to make $50 profit. Merchandise is very affordable to print, and people want it. If you have 200 fans and you're not touring or selling merchandise, each of those fans is a $1 fan, max. This is great, but this won't get you anywhere financially. You would need over 1,500 VERY committed fans to buy a new release from you every single month for you to make minimum wage as an artist if you only have $1 fans.
But let's say you have 3 t-shirt designs at $20 a piece ($14 profit), stickers $1 a piece, a hat design at $25 ($12 profit), and a hoodie at $40 ($24 profit). See what I'm saying now? Instead of having a committed fan that will buy your music that you so desperately plug every day, try building committed fans that will buy all of your merch. If your music is solid, your brand is solid, the merch is solid, and you connect with fans, I promise you that the merch will basically sell itself. If you have 20 dedicated fans, and each one buys a shirt, you just made almost $300. And that's only 20 sales. This is how you make money as an artist. Convert your dedicated fans into a $70 fan that will buy your song, buy a shirt, buy a hat, and come to a show. Stop wasting your time releasing music to only cap out with $1 fans.
Another reason merchandise is great, is because if your designs are cool, people might want to buy them just to have a fresh t-shirt. Using your merchandise as fashion is crucial, because if you have a piece of merch that some random person would want to rep, and it just so happens to have your name on it, then that's a win/win. Put some time and effort into making unique merchandise that your fans actually want, and that has the potential to go beyond your fanbase and your immediate market. Merchandise has the potential to spread your brand just by someone wearing it. Think of it like a walking billboard. If you sell 100 hats, then you have 100 people walking around ALWAYS repping your brand. This is how you grow, this is how you find new markets, this is how you start making actual money. At the moment, creating merchandise and distributing it has very little, if any, overhead cost and upfront investment. If you really want to do it big with several shirt designs, hats, stickers, etc, you can get that bulk ordered and printed for decently cheap. You could also use something like Printful to do print to order and drop shipping (the profit margin isn't as high but there is literally no overhead cost or investment).
At this point, there really is no excuse to not have a merchandise line if you are an aspiring artist. Stop leaving money on the table and start treating your music endeavors like a business. Start capitalizing on the methods that we know work.