Making sure your merch stands out is more important than ever!
There are millions of talented musicians all over the globe vying for an audience.
Creative merchandise will help you reach new listeners. And also keep the attention of your current fans.
To help you set up shop, we’ve created this list of 11 truly unique band merch ideas. After that, we’ll help you brainstorm some of your own.
But if you just want to learn about merch specifically, keep reading.
Heads Up: Most People Just Want Shirts
In my experience, the majority of artists’ sales are shirts.
Even in the age of streaming, CDs and vinyl still sell pretty well at the merch table. And stickers are a must-have for many fans.
These are the fundamentals. So before you worry about getting unique merch, stock up on at least one or two of these fundamentals.
You can get all of those printed and shipped to you from online. But I recommend you search for a local shop!
If there’s a nearby business (with good reviews) selling custom shirts or CDs, buy from them.
If anything goes wrong with your order, you’ll be able to fix it more easily. And you’ll be helping a local business thrive!
Now that that’s out of the way…
11 Creative Merch Ideas
Let’s be honest, tons of merch goes straight into the garbage. That’s because a lot of merch is made with immediate gratification in mind, not lasting impact.
Sure, making a quick buck can help you pay for gas on your way home from a show. But the real goal is to develop a meaningful relationship with your audience.
That’s why the ideas on this list aren’t just unique. They’re intended to last a while and provide real value to your listeners.
Here’s a list of 11 creative merch ideas. I’ve also included a few tips to help you brainstorm new ones!
So if you want to find the perfect merch for your fans, make sure you read through to the end!
This might seem like a weird one, but hear me out. Socks are swiftly changing. Instead of being purely practical, socks are becoming a feature of many outfits.
And that’s not just an assumption! GlobeNewswire, which is run by Nasdaq, reports this:
“The global socks market was valued around USD 11.7 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach around USD 24.16 billion by 2025.”
Interest in socks is growing.
Shops selling novelty socks are popping up all over the place. Both online and in physical retailers.
So if you’ve got interesting designs that could easily translate onto a sock, you may want to get some made!
If your listeners are also big sneakerheads, they might be especially interested in cool socks.
2: Tote Bags
Tote bags are also growing in popularity. Aside from being stylish, they’re better for the environment than plastic alternatives.
California and New York have even gone so far as to ban plastic bags, with others following suit. So we can expect to see a lot more reusable bags in use.
By making your own tote bags, you give your listeners a chance to express themselves while doing mundane tasks like buying groceries.
3: Custom Coffee Beans
As a former barista, this is my personal favorite.
There are a handful of companies out there that will let you buy coffee beans with custom packaging.
So come up with a clever name for the roast that speaks to your style.
Better yet, draw from imagery you use in your lyrics. This personal touch will make it way more endearing to your fans!
4: Custom Mugs
You can’t have coffee without a mug. And it might as well have your logo on it.
Countless people start every day with a cup of coffee or tea. Custom mugs give them a fun way to show off their personality while they get ready for work.
So if your audience is mostly 20+ years old, custom mugs may be the perfect item for you!
Have you been making music for a while? Chances are you have tons of promotional art strewn about various hard drives.
Instead of leaving them to gather dust, combine them into an artbook.
Posters for shows, tour photos, and early versions of album art are all perfect for this.
Add commentary about the creative process. That’s a great way to give your fans some more insight into your work.
Make sure to contact any artists and photographers who contributed first!
You’ll want permission to use their work. Make sure you credit them in the book, as well!
Hats are always in style. Which makes them a perfect addition for your merch shop!
You probably don’t need a ton of them. Keep stocked with just a handful of hats for any headwear connoisseurs in the audience.
7: Lyric Book
If you’re a strong lyricist, this one’s for you! Take photocopies of your lyric notebook(s) and compile them with photos and notes.
Really active listeners will love the insight into your creative process!
You can also include other notes you think are interesting, a-la Kurt Cobain’s Journals.
Any musically inclined philosophers out there might want to write some aphorisms for this!
Pens are without a doubt the most losable item on this list. But they may be worth getting anyway.
About a year ago, I went to a show at a local dive. The bands were terrific, the energy was off the charts, and all in all, it was a great night.
While visiting the merch table, one of the touring bands gave me a pen with their name on it.
Fast-forward to now.
While signing some papers, I grabbed the first pen I saw on my desk. It happened to be the pen from that show.
I hadn’t listened to that band in a bit. Finding that pen made me remember how much fun that night was and brought me back to their music.
9: Custom Earplug Cases
Make sure your audience is safe by providing earplugs for them as well! You can get custom cases made that have your logo on them.
Put a couple of foam earplugs in each case and keep them at your merch table. Because nothing is more punk than promoting healthy habits.
Similar to hats, you probably don’t need to have a ton of these in stock. But a few bandanas are a great addition to your table.
Plus, people love getting accessories for their animals.
Snap some pics of your favorite four-legged friend wearing your bandana! The pet lovers in your audience will be thrilled.
Sure, patches have been a little out of fashion for the past 15 years. But that just means they’re ripe for a comeback!
DIY bands have been sporting patches for decades. And I could totally see that branching out into other genres.
Hip Hop and Punk have some shared DNA.
And the new generation of rappers know that. Which is why they’re bringing some punk aesthetics into their art.
Who knows, maybe we’ll see Lil Uzi Vert rocking a Black Flag or Fugazi patch at the Grammys.
Some Tips for Brainstorming Your Own Ideas
There are plenty of other possibilities! If none of these suggestions are quite fitting, there are tons of other options out there.
Here are a few tips to think up your own creative merch ideas.
Craft Your Own Signature Style
Do you have a piece of clothing you wear at all of your shows? If so, that’s a signature item.
If it’s one of a kind, you can sell copies of it. Think about Chance the Rapper’s hat.
It may not have his name on it, but anytime people see this hat, they know it’s Chance’s.
So if you have a similar signature item, make more and sell them to your audience!
Pay Attention to What Your Fans Wear
At your next show, pay attention to the fashion choices of the crowd. Take a mental note of any recurring trends, especially in the people who really seem to dig your music.
If your audience wears a lot of bright colors, you may want to focus on brightly colored merch.
Or you could make a statement by going the complete opposite direction. After all, people like stuff that feels new.
Obviously, you don’t want to be creepy while doing this.
Avoid staring people down. You’re just trying to be observant of fashion trends that suit your music.
Browse Etsy and Redbubble
Etsy and Redbubble are online storefronts where people sell custom designs. They’re great places to figure out what kinds of merch people want that aren’t readily available.
Are you a Hip Hop artist? Search “hip hop” in Etsy to find out what people wish artists were selling.
Same thing for any other genre.
DIY Merch: What Are You Already Good At?
If you’re good at crafting, you may be able to make your own merch!
For example, the frontwoman for my band knows how to screenprint. So we screenprint our own T-shirts.
It’s cost-effective, and we get to say we made the shirts ourselves!
So if you’ve already got another artistic skill, use it! This is also the perfect excuse to pick up a new hobby.
I love painting. I’m not good at painting.
But I still decided to use my hobby to my advantage.
When I released my first album of instrumentals, I decided to sell a limited run of handpainted canvases featuring the album art.
Here’s how they turned out:
As I said, I’m not good at painting. But my listeners don’t mind!
In fact, the mediocrity of the canvas is part of the fun.
So you don’t already have to be a master to make your own merch.
Consider your artistic strengths (or lack thereof). It’ll help you dream up some super creative merchandise.
But Be Careful!
You don’t need to have all of these! Too many options will actually make people less likely to buy your stuff..
I recommend you have just one or two really unique items at your merch table.
Finally, don’t just get what you think is cool. Think about what your audience likes and cater to it.
Even better, run a survey on social media to see what they’d like!
Here are 11 creative merch ideas you can use to deck out your music store:
- Tote bags
- Custom coffee beans
- Custom mugs
- Lyric book
- Custom earplug cases
Figure out what your audience is looking for, and add one or two of these creative items to your merch shop.