Guest Article by Joe Tilston, originally published at Merch Stall.
The weather is getting better, this can mean only one thing: festival season is upon us once more. Are you ready?
Is this your band’s first year playing a festival, or are you on your 10th run through the circuit? No matter how well versed you are, you need to give your merchandise preparation some serious thought. Too often I’ve found myself two weeks before the first big festival date of the year, and we haven’t got any new designs drawn (never mind ordered!), once again making an already stressful situation far more complicated than it needs to be.
So learn from the mistakes of those that have made them before you: prepare!
Keep it simple. It’s easy to get carried away on a merch stall at your own show or a support gig when there are only three bands, but at festivals all the pins, badges and lighters, bumper bonza deals and mega collections should disappear. You want to get through the queue as fast as you can, so show some restraint. If someone wants to haggle or make a deal, let them, but keep the options for people to look at. Simple: t-shirt price, CD price, vinyl price. Done.
Do you have a merch person available to join you? Have you made sure there is space for you to sell your merch; do you need to book it? Make sure whoever is selling your merch is able to spend most of the day there. People will be looking to buy merch all day, not just right after your set. That said, some festivals will only give you a small window to sell, so be prepared for that and communicate it on stage!
A cheeky tip… If you’re playing a festival that charges to sell your stuff in a merch area, consider selling your merch over the barrier after your set. Random Hand did this at almost all our Leeds and Reading appearances and it paid off big time. Mostly you’ll find that the people around your stage aren’t bothered. Be confident, cheeky and above all nice, and you should get away with it.
Do the festival provide the full service, and sell it for you too? If this is the case, make it simple for them: get your merch well prepared, choose one or two designs, 5 of each size and one album, the latest release. If they are selling it for you, they are unlikely to be fans or know a great deal about your stuff, so making it as simple and easy as possible will make the job easier for them. Again, this is a scenario that really benefits from being nice. The people on these stalls have a tough day; the easier and nicer you make the experience for them, the more happy they are going to be to make it work for you.
You don’t need to carry loads of vinyl to a three day festival. Only the seriously dedicated are going to be happy buying something that big, knowing there is a likely chance they will leave it in the campsite bar, or drop it in some mud. I’d be tempted to say the same about CDs too, but they take up less space.
What sizes do you buy? Knowing what sizes to buy is a complete gamble, you’re likely to sell more mediums than any others, but if you run out of large, those people aren’t going to stump for a medium. So place most of your bets on the medium and large. You know your fans better than anyone, so hedge your bets. But don’t forget to get a few small and XXL! If you are ordering quantities of 50+ you really should get some ladies sizes in there too. On the most part, the band tee is seen as a unisex offering, but you can go a long way to making someone’s day if you have something fitted when they ask for it!
There is much to consider, but above all try to keep things simple. Stick to a few really strong designs, try to have something new that hasn’t been on your merch stall at recent gigs, and don’t just buy black t-shirts. If the suns out, people are going to be looking for a white t-shirt.
Joe’s well known for playing in Random Hand and Traits, and has years of experience successfully organing merchanside for both bands. How many Random Hand t-shirts have you seen over the years? Exactly.
Joe’s recently started a new endeavor called Merch Stall, selling the best in high-quality screenprinted garments. They’re offering a great service at reasonable prices, and we’d recommend you check them out if you’re looking to get something printed. Check out their wesbite: Merch Stall or give them a like on Facebook.
While you’re here, why not check out our interview with Joe about Random Hand’s comeback.