How to take advantage of on-demand services to create music merchandise

I recently committed myself to figuring out the best ways to create really cool merchandise for a self-released album – without spending a dime.

Why? Well, for starters I’m releasing a new album soon, and with that I have been spending a lot of time looking at merchandise options, and exploring the different ways that people value music. What I’ve learned is that there’s a big difference between music that we just listen to, and music that we want to support.

Using myself as the prime example, if I want to put something on or discover something new, I’ll *gasp* go to Spotify, or iTunes, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, eMusic, YouTube or one of the hundreds of other websites that make it easy to discover and hear new music. Most of it is free, and it’s right at my finger tips.

However, when I want to support a band, I buy something. I’ve spent years touring with bands and I know that merchandise is crucial. I’ll even go so far as to buy stuff just to buy it; I recently bought a friend’s new CD at a gig, and I don’t even own a legit CD player anymore. Lot’s of people have no problem paying slightly higher prices for stuff when it’s all about the support, or when they get cool merch in exchange. $20 for a CD? Sure. $45 for a hoodie? Ok. $25 for a t-shirt? Hell yeah! It’s a great way to rep the band, helps them with gas money to the next show, and you can never have too many t-shirts. In stark contrast – I would never pay $25 for a basic t-shirt in a store… but if it’s wrinkled and coming out of a stinky box that’s been in the back of a van for several weeks? Sold. I might take 2.

If you’re in a band and you tour – you gotta have merch. That’s not changing, and it’s still in your best interest to find the cheapest manufacturing and order bulk items that you know will sell to maximize profits.

But what about the bands that don’t tour or play live? Are those projects limited to giving their album away on Bandcamp? Or what about specialized items for album releases? It’s so boring to only have CDs. There’s gotta be another way right? Well, yeah there is. It costs a little more, but there’s ways to get around that, which I’ll explain below.

Again, this whole exploration started because of my album. It’s a solo recording project, there’s no performances, and there’s no tours. I have an awesome fan base, but it’s small enough that it certainly doesn’t make any financial sense to spend money on merchandise that is going to take up closet space and eventually be given away for free. However, I still want to make some really cool stuff and sell it.

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Music industry 101

I stumbled on a good read this afternoon over at

He’s writing a series on understanding the music industry. While it doesn’t answer every question you might have, it certainly provides a great overview of several important topics like managers, labels, agents, publishers, sync licensing, etc.

If this is something you want to learn about, then check out the latest article

What’s up with our band merchandise?

As mentioned in my update, I’m about to release a new album. This has lead me down a rabbit hole of trying to figure out how to release it. The band, by the way, is not a band. It’s a recording project. I can’t rely on traditional outlets or concerts to generate exposure and sales. I also don’t want to just release it digitally and hope 10 people buy it on iTunes… which would effectively earn me a grant total of ~$50.

So, that leads me to ask, what’s the value of recorded music?

For a lot of people, including myself, that’s a wishy-washy question to answer. How about these questions: When the last time you bought music? Or, when you do purchase music, do you prefer CDs or digital downloads? Maybe you prefer streaming?

If you are a musician, there’s a good chance that you buy a lot of music. It’s like working in the restaurant/bar service industry and leaving big tips; it’s part of your job, and it’s arguably somewhat ingrained in your soul to support your peers. Most musicians go to shows and buy albums. We all know the work it takes to make them, and because of that we’re basically a support group. I buy your CD, you buy mine, etc.

However, if you’re not a musician, you probably value recorded music a little differently… and that’s totally okay.

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