Photo by Corinne Rutherford / Pixel Faerie

Running a Merch Desk

Written by Lisa Jones.

One way to help promote your music and brand at gigs is by having a merch desk. Here are some helpful hints and tips to ensure everything runs smoothly.

BE PREPARED: Checklists and Spreadsheets

Photo by Corinne Rutherford / Pixel Faerie
  • Create a check list to help ensure you have everything you need before you leave home; including signage, extra lighting such as a small lamp (and an extension cord in case power is not easily accessible), coat hangers, pens (for autographs), extra gig posters, cash box & float, EFTPOS machine etc.
  • Create a spreadsheet detailing all items for sale and prices – this will make it easier to keep a tally of how much of each item sells. Uploading this spreadsheet into the likes of Google Drive will also mean you can update it via your phone or iPad at the gig; however, it will also pay to bring a printed version along in case there’s any technical issues.
  • Another spreadsheet could also be created to take orders should you sell out of a particular item and wish to arrange delivery when it becomes available. Again, bring a printed version with you.
  • Create a list which details all items for sale, and print a few copies to place around the merch desk.This list should provide details of each individual item that is for sale as well as relevant pricing.
  • Discuss pricing with your band mates and anyone else who will help to run the merch desk to avoid any last minute surprises on the day.

MAKE YOUR MERCH DESK STAND OUT

Photo by Corinne Rutherford / Pixel Faerie
  • Ensure your merch desk looks organised and clearly displays what you are selling; for example, group clothing, CDs and other merchandise together. You can also add decorations or gig posters to make it look more inviting.
  • If you have the option of setting your merch table up anywhere, choose somewhere that has plenty of lighting and isn’t likely to interfere with other high-traffic areas, such as the bar. Setting up near the entrance is a good idea as this will ensure your merch desk is the first thing people see when they arrive, and the last thing they see before they leave.
  • Consider selling a range of smaller items as well as clothing and CDs; such as badges, pens, stickers or cards. Most people will love to have a little memento of the gig, and every little sale helps. The most expensive items won’t sell as easily; however, they will make middle-tier items seem less expensive, which will make them more appealing.
  • Offering a free item will also encourage people to visit your merch desk and potentially buy something. You can also take advantage of that free item to further promote yourself; for example, give away free stickers that have your band’s website and social media links on them. Don’t have something free to give away? Offer personalised autographs instead.

SIGNAGE

Clear and accurate signage is one of the most important aspects of running a merch desk, especially if you want to avoid any confusion or disagreements.

Photo by Corinne Rutherford / Pixel Faerie
  • Prepare all signage in advance.
  • Signage should be created for each individual item. If selling t-shirts or hoodies etc with images on both sides, it’s a good idea to create ‘back’ and ‘front’ signs to be attached to any display pieces.
  • Make your signs big, bold and beautiful. Large black writing on a white background will stand out the most, but don’t be afraid to use some colour. You can also add your band logo to any signage.
  • Laminate your signs if possible.
  • It’s also a good idea to use a hole punch if you plan on hanging any signs up.

Other Notes:

  • If someone else is taking care of the merch desk for you, make sure you’ve very specific about prices and any other instructions you have.
  • Review your prices at least a couple of times a year. Prices may also vary within different regions.
  • Always have someone manning the merch table – ask a friend to look after it while you’re on stage.
  • Give mention to the merch you have for sale while on stage.
  • If you have a mailing list, consider having an iPad or sign-up sheet available to allow people to sign up to your mailing list.
  • Consider selling something new for every big tour.
  • Everyone loves a discount, so consider making offers such as ‘buy 1 CD for $15, or 2 CDs for $25’ or ‘buy 2 t-shirts and get a free CD’ etc.

Photos courtesy of Corinne Rutherford / Pixel Faerie

Lisa Jones
I'm Lisa, Muzic.net.nz's founder and manager. I also manage the Aotearoa Music Industry Collective and Gig Space Facebook groups.