The most important thing when selling your band’s merchandise is the location of the merch booth/table and also having a trusted friends run the booth during the show. Visibility is crucial at whatever venue you are playing. Hopefully, if the venue has a designated area, it is in a well-lit and easily accessible area of the club. Ideally, you want to be set near the door or near the stage. If the venue doesn’t have a good spot, see if you can work with them, or come up with a creative idea to draw attention. Make sure you always bring a few small lamps, in case the area needs more light.
Being organized and smart with the quantity of merchandise is also key. Make sure you sure you count all your items with your trusted friends before and after the show. Make sure you have adequate change, and keep the prices at well rounded numbers like $5 and/or $10. Keep all t-shirts with t-shirts, all hats with the hats, etc. Try to do your best to organize the items by size and by male/female apparel. The last thing you want is your music contact to be fumbling around looking for a specific size of shirt, especially when the show is over, the venue is closing, and time is of the essence. Be realistic about what you expect to sell. If you are planning on doing a small tour of only 15-20 shows, there is no need to print 10,000 cds or t-shirts. There would be nothing worse than having a garage full of 5,000 extra t-shirts that say “2006 US Tour Dates” on the back, so make sure not to over order.
Stay updated on current fashion trends. Have your music contacts do research on popular designs or styles of clothing people are currently wearing. When the booty-shorts craze was in, I noticed how smart it was to sell a product with your bands name in a spot where most people are looking anyway. Mind as well capitalize the prime real estate! Also, trends in hats change often, so make sure staying up to date on those especially.
Try to create as much buzz around your merch booth as possible. It is always helpful if you can find a motivated friend that doesn’t play in the band to help out. Think outside the box in order to draw more people over. Hold raffles, give away small items for free like stickers, key chains etc. Offer deals like buy a t-shirt, get a cd, etc. Really try to push the limits on this one. There is a lot you could get away with in a club, but just to be safe, double check with the venue before you try anything too outlandish.
Lastly, fans love items that are tour or album specific. Try selling a previously unreleased track from the album your promoting, and sell it exclusively at your live shows. T-shirts with the name of the city and venue on the back are great because people love to prove they were actually there (but as mentioned don’t over order these). It’s a bit tacky to sell your set list, but coupling your set list with a purchase is appealing to consumers.
A lot of these tips can be applied to selling merch online as well, just make sure your music contacts are heavily promoting the fact that you sell online too. The most important thing to remember with this is to be sure to punctual in sending out orders. No one likes to wait, and if you don’t send the item promptly, you may lose a fan.