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Festival Merch Done Right: How To Make Great Merch – And How To Sell It

The band t-shirt is a staple of every music fan’s wardrobe. In the UK, there’s even a ‘T-Shirt Day’ on one of the country’s biggest music radio stations. Whether it’s the classic Joy Division print or the Nirvana smiley face, there are some music t-shirts that are completely intertwined with the histories of the artists they represent.

But great merch isn’t just limited to t-shirts – and it’s not just the preserve of bands. Merchandise can be a valuable endeavor for festival organisers too, not only as a revenue stream but also as a great way to build an audience and generate hype. But how do you do it well – and, importantly, how do you make sure it sells?

Why is merch important?

Merchandise is a valuable revenue stream for music festivals around the world. According to a 2017 study from merch management company Venu, the average spend on merchandise at festivals over 5,000 capacity is US$421,000 per event, with an average spend per transaction of $50 – making it a significant source of supplementary income.

But while the impact on the bottom line is obvious, there’s another use for merchandise: as a marketing channel. What better advertisement could there be for your festival than real attendees wearing merch from last year’s event for the next twelve months? That’s the kind of social proof that is very difficult to buy.

For both of these reasons, festivals of every size should be thinking about merch. However, festival goers are a discerning crowd, so it’s crucial that you do it right. So where can you look for inspiration?

Full Moon’s fantastic merch: how they’ve done it

Full Moon Festival is a New York daytime festival with a lineup slanted towards dance music and experimental pop – the 2017 instalment featured artists including DJ Harvey, Kelela, and Vic Mensa.

But aside from the event itself, Full Moon is also leading the pack with their awesome merchandise. They didn’t just simply slap the festival logo on a t-shirt and ship it.

They created t-shirts around specific artists from the festival lineup, each tee featuring beautiful illustrations by John Elisle tailored to the artist, but at the same time remaining in theme with Full Moon’s brand identity.

Image Source: Full Moon Festival Facebook Page

This combination is important: for a growing event, it’s key for customers to have a favourite artist to latch onto, and ideally one that their friends will also recognise. But at the same time, the t-shirts act as a memento of the event itself – and, crucially, they’re so well designed that buyers will want to wear them after the event has finished.

This focus on the event itself is canny, and it’s also backed up by hard data. According to the Venu study, general event merch, rather than that focused on a specific artist, accounts for around 61 per cent of total sales. However, merchandise hooked on a headline artist totals about 26 per cent – a significant enough proportion to not be ignored. Combine the two in a visually arresting package that really sums up the feel of your event, and you’re onto a winner.

Image Source: www.fullmoonfest.com

So, Full Moon’s offering is an example of some of the key tenets of great festival merch:

  • It has a strong visual identity that’s in keeping with the event itself, and is consistent across all channels – but importantly, rather than just reusing the standard artwork, they’ve commissioned unique illustrations for each item
  • It acts as a clear souvenir from the festival…
  • …but it also leverages high profile artists from the lineup
  • And finally, the focus on design means that festivalgoers will want to wear the merch months after the event itself has ended – meaning that Full Moon is building a brand through merch, and enticing future attendees.

How can I sell more merch for my festival?

Convinced that your festival should be making merch? Great! You’ve now got some design inspiration – but how do you make sure you’re actually maximizing your sales?

Know the market

As always, it helps to look at some data. According to the Venu study, merch spend varies quite significantly depending on a festival’s predominating genre. ‘Alternative’ events have the highest spend, followed by rock and metal. Attendees of EDM and indie festivals tend to spend much less. However, rock and metal festivalgoers buy disproportionately more merch that carries branding for a specific artist or festival. Conversely, spend on artist merch at EDM events is skewed in favour of the festival itself. Think about where your event fits in these categories, and build your merch offering accordingly.

Go multi-channel

Your merch should feel like an integral part of the festival. Don’t relegate it to a single tent at the event. Instead, make sure that it’s seen across all of your marketing channels, in advance of the festival, during it, and in the follow-up – for example in wrap-up videos. Your merch should feel meant, and, like Full Moon, you should be aiming to make sure that it fits seamlessly with all of your other branding efforts.

Find partners

The last few years have seen a host of great collaborations between brands and events. Do you already have links with a designer, or have you admired a brand from afar? Now’s the time to hit them up. A great collaboration can be even more valuable to fans than merch produced on your own, and it can help to give the items a life beyond the festival.

Identify your most valuable fans

Finally, what better way to boost your merch sales than by leveraging your fan base? Using Audience Republic, you can identify your most influential fans, and work with them to build merch and marketing campaigns that truly go viral. Get started with Audience Republic.

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