Marketing & merchandising at live events
As an artist (whether a solo performer or a band), at every performance/gig, you have a fantastic opportunity to really connect with your live audience – the people who are there right in front of you watching you perform. Always remember that in every audience there will be people who’ve never seen you before and might not have previously paid you, or your music, much attention. You also don’t know who is in your audience – DON’T WASTE THIS OPPORTUNITY!
So, outside of your actual performance, what’s the secret to making the most use of this great opportunity? Simple – Your merchandising/information stall or table at the venue.
Here are some thoughts on 5 areas to help you make the most use of this valuable space. There’s nothing earth-shatteringly new – a lot of it is obvious, and easy, but you’d be surprised how often an artist will give very little thought, value and importance to this whole area.
1. Allotted merchandising space.
Make a point to talk to the venue in advance (if possible). Ask them if they want or need you to use an area or facilities they already have. Space in a venue can be limited. This area could sometimes only be a small table in a corner or a bit of counter space.
If the venue is happy for you to take your own display equipment, check what space you will be allocated.
In either case, check if the area has any wall space to display merchandise (or posters/info) and if you have access to power for lighting etc
If, all that the venue is able to offer you is just a small table or counter, then at least take a tablecloth or piece of material to cover the area with and define your space. Take the time and trouble to get a suitably coloured or patterned cloth or piece of material to match and portray your image, logo etc, don’t just grab any old thing out of a cupboard. And (for the blokes), make sure its ironed and well folded and it’s not just been scrunched up in a bag or box (or even worse) in a corner on the floor of your van/boot of your car!
If you can provide your own display equipment, then in addition to suitable cloths, think about the types of folding tables, displays etc you can transport and use. You can also easily get affordable folding or demountable exhibition type displays or stands. There are also floor and table standing roller banners etc There’s a wide variety of display stands available now that pack down into very small cases and the prices are much more affordable.
3. Promotional material.
If you are an active artist and looking to make a living from, or at least keep on performing and growing as an artist, then you should ALWAYS have some form of promotional material available. Have supplies of cards and or leaflets with your artist information on them. You can easily get business card size or postcard size cards or A5 leaflets printed in full colour on both sides for a good price.
This can be something you can design yourself or if you are signed to a record label they may produce something for you. Whatever you have, make sure it is clear and readily available for people to take.
Remember, as with everything, the quality of your promo material reflects on the image/perception of you as an artist.
Make sure your promotional material at least include:
a) Contact details for the band – Email address. Booking agent and/or record label details (if you have these). Telephone numbers (if you want to give this out freely – be careful).
b) Website (yours and/or Record label etc) if you have one, and all social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube channel etc) associated with the band
c) Details of all (or some) of your releases and where people can get them. On which – if any/all – download sites, streaming sites (worth naming/using logos of some of the bigger ones) or if you have CDs (and/or vinyl) and from where they can get them etc
If you have lots of the above info, then restrict what’s included to what you consider the most important. You don’t want to blitz, and therefore possibly, confuse any fan or potential gig promoter etc. Of the above, point c) is probably the most expendable.
The all important Email sign up sheet: Have a sheet that people can fill in their email addresses should they want to be kept informed with news and updates about you and your music. Make sure the sheet looks smart and has a printed header (which can be simple and done at home) and is not just a scrap of paper torn from a pad. And don’t forget to have some pens available for people to use! Remember, direct emails are known to be the most effective and productive ways of keeping in touch with people, so don’t neglect this area.
Music: The music press and the media are always saying that the CD is dead but in my experience in working with ‘grass root’ and independent artists, there are still good opportunities to sell your release(s) on a physical format, such as CD or vinyl to gig audiences directly after they’ve seen you perform.
Clothing: There are companies that can supply a wide range of clothing – T shirts (of various cuts and styles), sweatshirts, hoodies, vests, jackets etc. If you want to offer this kind of merchandise, the key is to know your audience.
What is their age range?
Mostly male or female or is it an equal split?
What style of clothes do they wear or want to wear?
In what colours?
What sizes are your audience mostly going to be?
Do you need to take the time of year into account (with regards to the type of clothing) if planning for a specific tour?
Misc items: This can include anything! Posters, key rings, bags (of various styles, shapes and sizes), badges/pins, guitar pics, guitar straps, mugs, coasters, pens & stationary, cuddly toys etc. Again, if you want to offer any of this kind of merchandise, the key is to know your audience.
What is their age range?
Mostly male or female or is it an equal split?
What type(s) of item would appeal to them?
What style, colour and size would they want an item to be?
Whether you look at clothing or misc items. There is a cost involved in producing merchandise and at the end of the day you want to make money from their sales, or at the very least break even. You don’t want to be left with lots of unwanted items. So think things through thoroughly. Do some research. What appeals to you might not necessarily appeal to your potential core audience.
5. Appearance of your merchandising space.
Make sure your table/stall is well laid out and tidy. Ensure that everything clearly displayed and marked (and priced if for sale) and that the designs on all merchandise are clear and that available sizes (if applicable) are listed. Also, methods of payment are clearly displayed too. Try and provide clear info for any general question that might be asked by a punter.
Also, try and ensure that the person/people looking after your area are ‘presentable’, personable and have a good knowledge of what’s there. Again, they are representing YOU.
Make the effort to get to the table/stall yourself as soon as possible after the gig to talk and connect with people. Networking is king and you never know who is going to be there!
So, as you can see, there is a lot to think about and organise but I’m sure as you think about the importance of this area and after gig time you appreciate that it’s not rocket science but it is all worth your time and effort.