The Art Of Making Money -The Merch Table (T-Shirts)

I want to start by defining a term I will be using throughout this column. I call it the “Costco Mindset” – commonly known as a bulk discount – This means when a company lures us into buying two-hundred things at a discounted price. I want to caution you against this! STAND STRONG AND RESIST THE URGE!

At the grassroots level, it’s tough to make any money in streaming music. Really, really hard. From CNBC.COM 

“Here’s the math: Spotify pays about $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream to the holder of music rights. And the “holder” can be split among the record label, producers, artists, and songwriters. In short, streaming is a volume game.”

Okay, so Drake is doing just fine! But I’m barely getting a couple thousand streams over a few songs. I could sell CD’s but let’s be brutely honest here. Very few people still listen to music via CDs. Sure, we have a few hold outs, if you’re having a hard time believing me (I have no idea why you would, this is common knowledge) then ask yourself, “How do I consume music?” If your answer is CD’s… then I want you to keep asking people you know until you get the answer “I stream music.” Then I will feel validated. What I’m trying to say is… I think you’re wasting your money on creating CD’s – and maybe I’m wrong (I would be happy to hear that here)! But if you are thinking about spending money on CD’s to sell. I highly recommend only making a few CDs at a time. Then create more as the need arises.

It’s unlikely you’ll see much (if any) income from streaming right now. So what can you do? This game is expensive!! Recording costs thousands of dollars, marketing costs thousands of dollars. What can you do to start spreading your band brand? 


I want you to invest in making AWESOME (always all-caps) merchandise. I want you to invest in creating some AWESOME designs (trust me, you want you to invest in this). Break out of the creative box you’ve placed yourself in, it doesn’t have to specifically say your name on it. Have you ever seen a really nice shirt on someone and approached them and asked where they bought that shirt? No? Maybe I’m just super extrovert. 

Let me tell you what I usually don’t like… I usually don’t like something that says EXPRESS or CALVIN KLEIN in bold across the front of the shirt. I love the shirts that have a cool logo. I love a shirt that is made with a mindblowing comfortable fabric. I know you’ve seen the Joy Division T-shirt “Unknown Pleasures” Well, If you haven’t been in a hot topic, the shirt is simple, it’s awesome… it’s a great shirt, and many a child has thrown it on without listening to a single note from that awesome band! I’m not an elitist music snob here (which is laughable if you have seen my recently added playlist) it’s okay that people haven’t listened to it. The art surpasses music and has become another form of art to consume. Congratulations, you’re a brand. I will list two rules of thumb when creating your band brand.

1​. Make Something That Is High-Quality – Get the nice fabric, pay someone to design the shirt if you’re not savvy.

2​. Don’t Buy In Bulk – The Costco mindset doesn’t work in the first round. No, the first time I wouldn’t spend more than $250 on a T-Shirt concept. Don’t get tricked into buying fifty shirts for $1,200. You’re not going to move that many shirts right now. In making something “limited edition,” you’ve just given your fan another reason to buy your merch! Remember the rules of supply and demand. If you start to notice that you sell a lot of women’s tank tops in small… then buy more of those as needed. You don’t need fifty shirts. You need twenty. These T-shirt companies will try to trick you into spending more than you need to. Don’t fall for it! 

Sell the T-shirt for $20-$25. Be firm in not giving them away to friends. At the very least don’t give them away until you make back what you’ve spent! Through most T-shirt services, you should sell ten shirts to get your money back. YOU ONLY HAVE TO SELL TEN SHIRTS! Incredible! If you create something people will like to wear, that can be done in a single show, even if you don’t pull a lot of people. 

Take your war to the streets. Become more than just a Singer/Songwriter and become an Artist. If you make a high-quality product, people will invest in you. I guarantee it! 


Published by crazylegsdean

Self defined as: taste taster for the aspiring musician on the go.

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