Tips for Creating Promotional Items in the Music Business

By Loren Weisman

In the music business, when you roll out your promotional and merchandise items, you create a win-win scenario for your marketing and sales. The T-shirt that was purchased by that girl at a show who wears it to her college classes the next day wasn’t only a sale for you; she’s now part of your physical marketing team.

For every item that’s given away as a pure promotional/merchandise item, make sure your branded information is on it. Well-formatted and branded promotional/merchandise items enable fans to spread the word to others who might never have heard of you.

Creating a physical items list

Start with building a list of items that includes both merchandise and promotional items. The difference is that whereas a merchandise item is still a promotional item, you want to make more profit in sales from a merchandise item than you would a promotional item.

The following is a list of promotional merchandise you can sell. Many smaller items have a high level of visibility that can draw people to you and your music online.

Bracelets Napkins Guitar picks
Posters Coffee mugs Can coozies
Postcards Water bottles Tote bags
Keychains Thumb drives Air fresheners
Hats Wallets Lighters
T-shirts Match books Pens
Shot glasses Magnets Bandanas
Patches Pins/buttons License-plate frames
Coasters Stickers Sweatshirts

Branding your promotional items

Make sure your logo, font, color scheme, tagline, and URL are on the bulk of your promotional merchandise. It’s more difficult to get everything on a bracelet or a pen, but every item out there should deliver a clear direction on how to find out more about you online.

Don’t expect people to remember your name. Make it easy for them to connect with you. Your promotional items need to promote!

Picture perfect

Imagine a potential fan seeing any one of the listed items and taking a picture of it on his smartphone. The visibility, clarity, and readability of your name, logo, and branding makes it that much easier for people to find you and your music later.

Reaching more fans with promotional items

Don’t look at every item as something that’ll make a profit for you. By giving away various items, even the higher-cost items, at the right times to the right people, the profits come from the exposure this item gets for you.

From presenting certain items to media people when pushing a story to giving tank tops to cute bartenders who might wear them it’s all about the physical marketing that draws them to your online marketing that connects them to the music, shows, and promotional merchandise you sell.

Look out for the super fan — the type of person who promotes like crazy, lives in your band T-shirt, and brags about getting something for free because he’s your best fan ever. That super fan is your best marketer.

Plan on giving away a solid 20 percent of the items you create for promotional marketing. Items such as stickers should be given away for free unless someone is ordering them online; even then, charge only to ship them. Getting your name out there starts with giving away the items.

Creative exclusive interactive items

An interactive item can be a T-shirt with a quick response (QR) code to download an exclusive song that’s not available anywhere else. This type of marketing brings up interest in and engagement of your products.

Different combinations that include a level of exclusivity sell and attract more attention for potential buyers than the same items without any extras. It’s easy to add a QR code tag or download a password that leads a buyer to your website to not only get what you offer to them, but also encourage them to look around your site when they get there.

Releasing and promoting merchandise and promotional materials

Your promotional items and merchandise should roll out over time and not be available in one big store all at once. By expanding the release of different products and promotional items, you allow for things to stay new and interesting for an extended period. At the same time, it’s more effective for the new fan to be drawn in when something is fresh and different.

Release and announce a new item every two weeks. It gives you the ability to promote a new item as well as market the existing items that are already available. Too, it gives you more time to monitor sales, and you don’t have to create or choose all merchandise and promotion items at once.

Put the different items out on a schedule and then take pictures of the items with people in different places.

Order in bulk and charge wisely

By ordering in bulk, the items cost less and, in turn, you see more of a profit. Too often artists rush to create the smallest orders and then end up charging more to make a profit, yet selling less because the items are priced too high.

Fans don’t want to pay a fortune for merchandise. Justifying that the item costs you a lot so fans have to pay more is not a strong marketing point. Set your price points with a consideration of that fact, and you will make that many more sales.

It’s better to make $150 from selling ten T-shirts at $15 each than to sell four shirts at $25 each. Keep in mind a key part of your promotional marketing is to be seen and promote your music.

Track the favorites and lose the low sellers

Order in bulk, and keep track of what’s selling, but also keep an eye on the new trends in promotional items and merchandise. At the beginning of summer and the start of fall, in particular, see what’s available, what other bands and organizations are creating, and consider adding those elements to your materials. Just like the marketing itself, your promotional items are ongoing and ever changing. Keep up with the trends.