You’re finally out playing gigs! Time to hire a friend to sell merch so you don’t have to worry about carrying boxes of t-shirts and talking to strangers, right? No, of course not...this is obviously a setup and now I’m going to explain to you why that’s the wrong idea. You know how I do…
When you’re starting out, you should shake every hand and kiss every baby. Where can you interact with lots of your fans and perhaps get them to help pay for the next tank of gas in that van (the one that gets 4 miles per gallon)? You guessed it; at the merch table.
Your fans want to talk to you, they want to see you and interact with you. In the early stages of your career, even superfans are much, much more likely to buy a t-shirt/sweatshirt/record/keychain/lock of hair from you as opposed to one of your friends hustling your swag. Fans walking around wearing your merch are living, breathing billboards. People say “Who’s Steve Jones” and your fans get to be all “YOU DON’T KNOW WHO STEVE JONES IS YET?” And then they get to preach!
The fact that you need their money notwithstanding, the single most important reason to interact with your fans is that you want them to feel a personal connection with you. People are more likely to go out and preach the gospel of your band if they feel some ownership in it. By standing there and chatting with these people who support you (and maybe selling them a pair of underwear with your name stamped on the ass) you’re that much more likely to become a significant part of their lives. They can go home and tell their friends about you because you belong to them. That’s a big deal. You want your fans to feel like you’re in this together.
My career was built on this idea (btw, this is Ron, hi). After my gigs, I sold every shirt, shook every hand, took every picture, etc etc etc. I hugged every person in the free world who’d let me. I did this for years, until it became a logistical impossibility for me to do it anymore. That should be your goal; meet and greet every fan and sell every piece of merch yourself until it becomes absolutely unmanageable. You’ll miss being able to personally connect with every single fan when you can’t do it anymore, I promise.
Reason To Ignore This Advice: You’re already Taylor Swift. Hire someone else to sling that merch, Tay…you’re super busy and there’s 68,000 people at your gigs who all want hoodies! Lines will be MAD long otherwise.
What am I reading? Advice by the Slice is a weekly blog giving independent/growing artists small pieces of advice throughout the year. Through growing Ron Pope’s career from baby-sized part time gig to (what most consider) a successful independent full-time thing with millions of streams, sold out tours, and living as a mostly full grown adult, we get questions all the time about how to “make it.” Full disclosure: We are not experts and there is no formula. However, these are things we’ve tried along the way and have proven to be positive for an artist. Why one piece weekly? Well, we often feel like throwing a whole lot of advice/opinions at someone makes them want to crawl in a hole and say goodbye to the music industry forever, so this feels a little more manageable. Also, by the slice pizza joints are the best spots on earth, so this is also our tribute to those guys. So, here’s to a year’s worth of tricks to try and slices of pie. Cheers! Check out the first post here.
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