Build Your Music Brand: 7 Ways an Online Merch Store Helps
On top of writing and recording your music, planning tours, and playing shows, there’s a lot to keep track of as a band. But there’s something else that needs your attention, and it’s often overlooked: your brand. Without effectively building your brand, your music won’t make it nearly as far. So, what’s the best way to create a brand around your music?
One of the best, and most profitable things you can do is create an online store for selling merch. With an online store, you can make your band stand out, raise money, help gigs make a lasting impact, and more. If you want to take your music career to the next level, there are several ways an online merch store can help. For example, it can:
- Give your band a unique image
- Build your brand awareness
- Raise money for your band
- Give fans a way to buy merch outside of your events
- Bring attention to your tour
- Get your fans involved
- Show you’re serious about your band
Let’s take a closer look at how an online merch store can boost your music brand and make your band stand out.
1. Give your band a unique image
One of the biggest challenges of creating your brand as a musician is setting your brand apart from others. How can you make your band stand out if there are hundreds of other groups making music in a similar style?
Having an online merch store can help give your band a unique image, and designing interesting t-shirts that fans can order is only the beginning of it. Whether you register a trademark or design a logo that fans can use to identify you, an online merch store brings it all together. For example, an online store will:
- Help establish your visual presence online (e.g., your look, tone, and feel).
- Give you the opportunity to align your band with a particular logo or other visuals.
- Add value to your band’s website.
Creating a unique image can be difficult, but with the help of an online merch store with a variety of products to choose from, you can give your band that boost it needs to stand out from the crowd and make people notice.
2. Build your brand awareness
An online merch store is a great way to give your band a unique image, but it’s also essential to focus on your brand awareness overall. The greatest way to achieve this is by promoting your store and then letting the merch do the advertising for you. Here are a few options to think about:
- Social media. Let’s say you want to promote your upcoming tour on social media. Try promoting your online merch store, featuring tour-exclusive t-shirts, and encourage fans to take advantage of this limited-time opportunity. Your merch is a great way to enhance your music and demonstrate its message in a creative way.
- Giveaways and sales. Boost your brand by giving away merch to the first 10 to 50 people who buy tickets to your upcoming show, or promote a sale you have going on through the weekend. Give fans an incentive to buy your merch and wear it proudly.
- Free advertising. Both of the above points lead to this: free advertising. When fans walk around wearing your t-shirts and other merch, that raises awareness about your brand and can encourage a conversation between music lovers. Who knows, you might get some new fans out of it!
There are lots of ways to build your brand awareness, but using an online merch store is a great way to get ahead. Because you get free advertising when people wear your t-shirts, you’re reaching a wider network of music lovers who might turn into loyal fans.
3. Raise money for your band
Online merch stores serve a dual purpose. The first one is discussed in the previous section: brand awareness. The second purpose is raising money for your band. By selling merch, you can raise money that can go toward traveling on tour, buying new equipment and instruments, and other essentials you need to build and broadcast your brand.
In addition to taking advantage of your store, you can try fundraising, which is a tried-and-true method of raising money and gaining exposure. There are several fundraising ideas that work well, such as:
- Selling band t-shirts as part of a fundraising campaign
- Partnering with local restaurants and having part of the proceeds benefit your music
- Having fans create fundraising pages on your behalf (also known as peer-to-peer fundraising)
Your online merch store starts as the foundation of a fundraising campaign, and even after the campaign ends, your store will be there for the fans who still want to grab some merch. All of this leads to good publicity and can help benefit your band.
4. Give fans a way to buy merch outside of your events
The next way an online merch store can help might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. When you create an online store where fans can purchase your t-shirts and other items, you’re expanding your network behind just the loyal fans who come to your shows and attend all your events.
By having an online merch store:
- Fans can still buy merch on the off-chance they can’t make it to a show.
- Music lovers who might not have heard of you can now be exposed to and learn about your band.
- Fans who are unsure if they want to buy something at a show (or who might not have enough money with them) can visit your store later on and browse the items.
- If you run out of a certain size or design in-person, your fans can always go online to place their order there instead, or even order from a tablet at the event.
Artist, Marc Rebillet, is a great example of someone who does a fantastic job of generating buzz and awareness around his merch and online store. Between the Reddit threads dedicated to his product launches and his colorful YouTube announcement videos, its no surprise that Marc has found a ton of success in growing his brand by selling merch.
5. Bring attention to your tour
If you give fans a way to access your merch and they wear it proudly, you’re not only exposing people to the existence of your store, but also your tours, your music, and every other part of your brand.
Music fans are introduced to their friends’ favorite bands every day, so help your band gain exposure by selling merch. Once your fans share their interest in your band with their friends, there will be an even bigger audience for your tours.
6. Get your fans involved
Another way to boost your brand is by reaching out directly to your fanbase and the surrounding community. By leveraging your online merch store as a way for them to get involved, you can increase sales and engagement, and end up with a really cool piece of merch. So, how can you do this? Here are a couple of ways:
- Host a t-shirt design contest. The ultimate way to get your fans involved with your online store is by running a t-shirt design contest. Promote it on social media and see who can create the coolest look, then award the winner with a few free t-shirts featuring the design. Doing this will engage your fans, and you’ll get an awesome design out of it, too!
- Recruit volunteers. Get your fans involved with your shows and have them help sell your merch or help out with moving your equipment. This is especially great for fans who want to follow in your footsteps and shows that you’re interested in including them.
Having an online merch store is great, but leveraging the manpower of your community to boost the success of the merch is even better. You can get help with inventory and your shows, and create a sense of community along the way. Don’t underestimate the power of community!
7. Show you’re serious about your band
We can’t forget that having an online merch store helps establish your band’s legitimacy. When people are looking at your site, having an online store will show them that you’re serious about your brand and that your brand is consistent.
When it comes time to choose the merch you want to sell, we always recommend having a variety of products available. This will give your fans the ability to pick the type of merch they prefer rather than forcing a single product onto them. Some of the best merch you can offer includes:
- Tote bags
Keep your band legitimate and engage your fans with a variety of items to choose from. This can only reflect well on you and your music, and give you that boost you’ve been looking for.
Your online merch store is a great source for sales, promotion, and establishing your brand. Remember to leverage this as much as possible and you’ll be on your way to great things!
Kevin Penney is the CMO and co-founder of Bonfire.com, a company that’s reinventing how people create, sell and purchase custom apparel. He loves solving difficult problems, working with the Bonfire Product team, and hockey. He has over 10 years experience in digital media, design, and technology.