While it may be easier to sell merch when you’re performing live and in person, there are techniques you can use to promote and sell your merch while streaming online.
Merch is one of a musician’s key revenue streams, but in a world where live shows are on hold, how do you promote and sell merch when you’re live streaming? It’s one thing to sell when you’re performing live, it’s a lot harder to do so when you’re performing live online. Fortunately, there are ways to promote and sell your merch virtually, though it takes a mix of good merch strategy with some solid online sales techniques. These can be easily learned and then applied to any live stream you do, as well as applied to your YouTube or other social media channels.
Here’s what to do to increase your merch sales — especially when you’re live streaming.
1. Choose the right mix of merch
The key to selling more merch is having the right merch for sale. This doesn’t change whether you’re performing live and selling from the stage or performing a streaming concert. As we discuss in detail in our book, Making Money With Music, it’s critical that you create a mix of merchandise options to sell — not just one item. The easiest way to do this is to make merch that will satisfy each of your customer segments classified by how much they spend (Minnows, Dolphins, and Whales). You’ll want to make at least one item for each price range. So, at a minimum, you’d have three items available.
As for what type of merch to produce, we recommend a mix of practical items such as CDs, t-shirts, apparel, bottle openers, magnets, etc. and impractical items, such as posters, toys, buttons, or other souvenirs. You can also create a mix between mass manufactured and exclusive/limited availability items (such as hand-making a few items and charging a premium since they’re one-of-a-kind and rare). And, you can create multimedia content such as selling downloads or USB drives with content.
When you pull all this together, your merch mix may look something like this.
2. Make your merch available for purchase online
Next, you want to make sure that your fans who are watching your live streams can buy the merch easily through the web. There are a few ways to handle this. If you already have existing merch which you sell at shows, you might need to handle the online order-taking and shipping yourself. If you haven’t set this up before, the quickest way is to just use Paypal.ME or Venmo and tell people to simply pay you and, in the payment memo/comments, tell you which item and what address to send it to. To level-up so you have an actual storefront and can allow people to click, order, and pay you on their own, try creating a storefront on sites like Shopify. Setting up a shop page on your Facebook Artist profile is another easy way to start.
3. Highlight the merch on your live stream or video channels
Once you have merch for sale, it’s time to integrate it deeply into your live stream to promote your merch and get your fans to open their wallets. There are many ways to promote your merch throughout your live stream. Try one or more of these methods:
- Provide links to merch in front of your camera. Remember, you control what your camera sees! Some of the things you should have in view are signs with link-shortened URLs of where to buy the merch. Because of this, also, wear or display the merch in view of the camera so fans can see what they can get! This is especially effective for limited availability merchandise.
- Talk about it. Mention you have merch for sale that viewers can purchase online. Talk about it every few songs, if you feel comfortable. Remember, people might have just tuned in, so there are always new fans to reach.
- Add merch links to the chat for the live stream. Have your merch links ready to go so you can cut-and-paste them into the chat. Do this multiple times in the show. If you can get someone to help run the chat, have them post them while you’re playing.
- Use video tools like OBS to create an overlay. By using overlays, you can add links, images, and animations in the corner of your screen or as a scroll. You can also create “commercials” in between sets or leave on screen an image of an ad for your merch during a break (don’t just leave a blank screen!). These video streaming tools create many options for you to weave merch promotion, reminders, and advertisements directly into your live stream.
- Use QR codes. QR code makers allow you to enter a URL and create a special code that phones can read simply by pointing their cameras at it. Create a QR code for your online store or merch page that you’re highlighting. By doing so, you then can place the QR code image on screen while live streaming and tell fans to scan the code. Since a QR code can be an overlay, you can use the technique mentioned above to display them.
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Since merch is one of a musician’s key revenue streams, it’s worth taking the time to adjust your strategy for the virtual stage. Create a few items for your different customer segments and make them available at your next live stream and for your shows going forward. Keep in mind, much of the above works anytime you sell your merch online, not just for live streaming. So, incorporate these techniques for your website, video channel, and other social media to make all your online presences help you sell more merch.
Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians — from startups to pros — build a sustainable music business so you can make money in today’s tech-driven music environment.
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