Turn Your Merch Table Into A Killer Sales Tool

Merch Table - CDBaby.com
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At the end of the night, selling a few shirts and CDs is great but what if you could get more than that? Even better, what if your merch table setup could help you garner more attention online as well? A merch table is an essential part of playing live shows. In some cases it can bring in more money than the gig itself. The merch table is many times a way that the audience judges a band/artist in regards to their professionalism and career level. So obviously, you need to make sure your merch table setup is as fine-tuned as your stage setup.

Have A Smartphone or Tablet With A Data Connection

Smartphones are the normal now and typically require a data connection with the plan. Using a phone is good because it’s easier to carry than a tablet, but tablets have larger screens which make them easier to read and use at a merch table. Plus you don’t want to run down your phone battery and be stuck with a dead phone on the side of the road after the gig when your vehicle messes up. Regardless of which device you use, make sure you have a data connection. If you don’t get a tablet with a 4G/3G option, then you can always get a mobile hotspot instead, and if the venue has wireless you should see if you can get access for the night.

Accept Credit/Debit Cards

This should be a no-brainer nowadays. People find it more convenient to pay with cards than with cash, and in the case of playing bars your audience may be short on cash towards the end of the night. Thanks to services like Square, all you need is a smartphone/tablet with an active data connection to accept credit/debit cards. Of course you end up having to sacrifice a small percentage off of your sales, but making a little less off a sale is better than making no sale at all.


Mailing List

Even with the popularity of social networks, having an email list is a useful want to keep your fans up to date about new tour dates, new merchandise, or just significant updates in general. With all the activity on Facebook News Feed and Twitter feeds, it’s possible that your “important” updates can get lost in the noise. That’s another reason why email is still useful for connecting with fans. They can see your updates with less “noise” surrounding the information. This can also be tied in with your tablet depending on how you manage your list. If you use one of the online services for your mailing list, then you can probably get an app or widget to let fans signup using the tablet.

Check out FanBridge for a quality mailing list service.

Clean and Organized Table

Think about the sampler displays at the grocery store. They have an organized setup to help make the display look more professional and approachable. Apply the same idea to your merch table. Clean the table or wash the cover every now and then. Regular use and transport will not contribute to the clean look so take some time on occasion to keep it looking clean. Organize your table layout in a sensible manner as well. Have prices and merch samples in one section and your tip jar and mailing list signup in another. Have a combo deal? Put all of the items together so the audience can quickly see what the deal includes. Also make sure to have an organized and easy to read price list on display, especially if you have multiple items for sale. Add a small lamp/light to shine on it so people can quickly read the prices for your merch.

Target A High Traffic Area

Sticking your table over in a hidden corner doesn’t help grab the attention of the audience. I know in some cases you won’t have much choice on where to set up your table, but whenever possible pick an area where this is a lot of foot traffic. On the way to the bar or restroom are good locations. Just next to the stage is helpful as well since the audience’s attention will be directed towards the stage for a large portion of the event. Setting up in a high traffic area will also get the added benefit of appeal since the more people around your merch table the more appealing it will become. If your merch table can be seen from nearly every square foot of the venue then even better.

Have A Variety of Merchandise and Some “Unique” Merchandise

Use the same design print on different shirt styles, colors, and sizes. Make sure you get baby doll tees for the ladies. Have a design that’s only available on one specific item like a hoodie or beer koozie to increase interest in those items. Get all the usual staples like stickers (in various sizes and shapes), buttons, keychains, etc…. Then branch out to options that are a bit different, such as custom guitar picks, shot glasses, or sunglasses.

Have A Tip Jar

This is more of a personal decision. For some bands/artists having a tip jar makes them feel less professional, while others don’t mind it or enjoy the idea. Decide for yourself if a tip jar will reflect on you in congruence with your overall image.

Get Your Table Some BLING!

Don’t just leave it plain and neat looking. Yes, having a clean and presentable table is a necessity if you want to look professional, but sometimes some “good” clutter is helpful. Think of some objects you can incorporate into your table setup that relate to your band or style or are simply unusual. In addition, keep your overall color scheme in mind. Sure you may want to tie it in with the album artwork for your newest release, but if you are in a darker area then dark colors won’t stand out. Add some attention-grabbing color with either a backdrop or lights.

Get A Transport Method For Your Merch

Would you want to buy a shirt with a stain or tear from a band? Then don’t expect your fans to! Keep your merch protected during transport is crucial. Not only in keeping it in good condition, but to help keep it organized as well. Depending on how much you need to carry, a suitcase may be enough or you may need a big storage case. There are numerous companies that build custom merch cases for the more financially capable artists. So you can either pull together the money to get a case built or take cues from their designs and build your own. Some of the custom cases even turn the top/side of the case into a table.
Red Dirt Cases
Brady Cases

Tell The Audience You Have It

Don’t just rely on the audience to notice a table with your shirts and CD’s on it. Tell them you have those things. Tell them during tuning stops in your set(s) and remind them again at the end of a set. Mention you also have your mailing list signup at the table if they want to receive email updates from you. If you decide to have a tip jar out, then let them know that as well. Plug your newest merch and any special sales you have.

Hang Out At The Merch Table

Even if you have someone there just to run your merch table, that doesn’t mean the band members shouldn’t be at the table when possible during the night. By hanging out at the merch table, anyone who wishes to talk with you will have to do it right by your merch.

Track Your Inventory

Just like keeping your table and display area organized, you should keep your inventory organized as well. Tracking your inventory will help in keeping up with what you sold on a certain night and how much money you brought in through merchandise. This will also let you know when you are running low on a certain design or size, and offers the advantage of being able to see what sells better.

Hire A Merch Crew

Ever been to a bar during a special event and one of the alcohol brands had people there promoting the brand and giving out free swag? Jagermeister is a common one I’ve personally encountered doing this. They do this because it works. It raises awareness of their brand and entices people to buy it. You can take the same approach by having a “crew,” either consisting of friends/family or paid helpers, to go around at shows wearing your shirts and giving away freebies like stickers or buttons. You can also have them walk around with the mailing list sign up or even tip jars. Heck, have them offer free stuff in exchange for signing up for your mailing list.

James Higgins (295 Posts)

Professional guitarist and instructor based in Alabama; performance, songwriting, and recording. Atlanta Institute of Music graduate. Part-time blogger.

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