So your band is lucky enough to be on one of the hottest festivals of the year? Well that’s something to brag about in its’ own right, and that placement may even get you more bookings down the road, but those bookings do you little good if you don’t harness all of the opportunity that festival appearance provides.Your job in the band is to convince concert-goers that YOUR stage is the place to be. #DIYBands #Festivals Click To Tweet
We all know that today’s festivals offer multiple stages, sometimes over multiple days, and your job in the band is to convince as many of those thousands of concert-goers that YOUR stage is the place to be. Furthermore, once they see you play, you have to make that memory stand out in their mind amongst the dozens of bands and through the likely alcohol-induced hectic haze of the event. That’s where merchandising comes in.
Some merch choices are a complete loss. You buy into them as a loss leader to entice more sales. Others are a promotional item that you were never meant to profit from. These are in addition to the standard “hot picks” you get at most merch tables during a festival bands performance. For this posts’ purpose I’m ignoring those standards of t-shirts, CD’s, and posters since any band worth their salt already has those.
- Heat Busters: Hats, Insulated Drink Cups, Bandanas – You’re out in a field with a few hundred thousand of your closest friends, under the sun, and slowly roasting to a perfect crisp. Guess what? So are your fans! In my experience these are the three items that fly right off the merch table out of necessity and convenience to beat that heat. You can get blanks in bulk and either silkscreen or add vinyl decals to customize them with your band name and logo at a reasonable cost. Bandanas are the cheapest to produce at about $1.50 each, cups are anywhere from $3-$4 each to buy in bulk and add decals to, and hats tend to be in the $6 and up range, so make sure you set your markup accordingly, without gouging with outrageous mainstage prices.
- Beer Busters: Bracelets, Koozies, Stickers – While we’re talking about price mark-ups, let’s talk about fan budgets. Most fans do NOT go into festivals with a plan to buy merch from the band they never heard of. That puts you in direct competition not only with other bands, but also with what they really want to spend their money on: Drinks. It’s important to have a few items you can peddle that cost less than the average beer at the festival bar. In the midwest we do really well with Koozies given the added selling point of keeping their next beer cold, while in the southwest a triple-set of stickers for a buck is a huge hit.
- Bonus Items: Patches, Vinyl Car Decals, Customized Bulk Items – If you’re following along, you’ve already got someone silkscreening your logo onto bandanas and hats. Why not provide them with a sheet of sturdy denim or canvas material and have them get that logo on there as many times as possible and cut them into patches for the craftier fan in the crowd? Or as you’re getting the vinyl for your drink cups, have them produce a few dozen extra stickers with reverse backing to sell as car decals. And finally, those stickers you ordered, well you can put them on many MANY things that are easily bought in bulk and make those available to fans as well. The whole point is to get as much merch out of your limited budget as possible, while offering fans something great that the neighboring merch stand might not have.
- Promotional Items: Tattoos, Flyers, Download Cards – Of course all these options at the merch table mean nothing if you can’t get people to come watch your set. This is why on-site promotion is key! Warped Tour is really the BEST example of this practice at work. Bands hustle one trick after another to make sure everybody in attendance knows what time and stage they are playing on. It’s really where most bands learn the basics! The point being, you HAVE to work the crowd well in advance of your set time. Go out into the festival grounds, and in the camp areas and make yourself known. Having a bit of free swag never hurts either. Some examples we’ve used in the past: inkjet-printed temporary tattoos, inexpensive business cards printed with a QR code to download the bands’ best track, and of course quarter-sheet flyers promoting not only your festival appearance, but your next few regional dates as well. Even if they don’t come see you that day, they still have your band name in their hands (or on their body) and you help build that familiarity that it takes to get people out to shows!
Good luck this festival season! Heavy rewards go to the hard workers!