In the past I have been a merch girl and I have also been responsible for ordering merchandise for a tour, but I thought it would be good to speak with one of Australia’s leading metal bands to see how they run their merch.
I spoke with Andy Dowling, bass player for LORD and host of The Andy Social Podcast.
MMM: Who handles the merchandise for Lord? Who designs it and do you print your shirts locally?
Andy: I handle the majority of the ordering, stocking, and selling of our merchandise. The merchandise is designed by a multitude of people from within the band as well as Australian and international artists, depending on the product itself. T-shirts are printed both locally and internationally, depending on the number of colours, style and exchange rate.
MMM: I loved the Mork and Andee shirts, do you find that the funnier designs sell better or is it just a case of printing something you guys think is hilarious and hope fans also like them?
Andy: It’s a combination of both. We find that firstly a variety of merchandise works quite well from an online perspective (not as much at live shows) and having some more humorous simple t-shirts helps balance out the range and attract more people to the store. We find that a lot of people come to the store to buy a ‘mork & andee’ or ‘Do You Even Riff’ shirt and also pick up a CD while they are there. I almost look at them as baits to get people to the store. Of course, they also make us laugh so even if a particular design doesn’t do well, we still get a kick out of printing a few for our own enjoyment.
MMM: You can buy the shirt here if you like it! There are only 9 left!
MMM: Over the years, what merchandise items have been best sellers?
Andy: CDs are our biggest seller, by far. We’re lucky that we have a large number of releases and have various bundle discount deals. People either come back multiple times to slowly buy each title or come in and buy one of the bigger bundles to grab them all in one hit. After CDs, our t-shirts sell quite well also with the variety that we have. All of the other more niche items (hip flasks, drink holders, posters, patches, etc) sell alright but they work more as complimentary items to our main CD/T-shirt stock.
MMM: Do you find that your presentation of merchandise at gigs and in online shops affect sales?
Andy: Absolutely. Presentation is everything. You need to attract people first visually before you can feed them any information on the product itself and convince them that it’s a good idea to purchase. At shows, we try and sell our own merch if possible as it attracts people to the table to talk and historically we have turned over far more than having a merchandise person work the table for us. Online we have invested money upfront to make our webstore as user friendly and intergraded into social media (Ie: logging in) as much as possible. This alone has made retention so much easier.
With that being said, however, it’s far from perfect. There’s still a lot of improvements to the webstore that we would like to make and a number of interactive features to help attract new buyers to the store. Lots of ideas, but it’s more finding the appropriate time to do it. The positive to this is that we already have a lot of success with what we’re doing now, so any improvements we do make in the future will make things even better.
MMM: Do you have any tips for new bands printing their first run of merchandise?
Andy: Two pieces of advice to new bands.
1) It’s natural to be excited, however don’t go and print large runs up front thinking that you’ll sell them all out. The cost per unit might be a bit higher, but always start out with a small run. Besides, it will sound better if your small run sells out quickly, rather than you desperately trying to sell the remaining stock.
2) Listen to your fans, but take their feedback with a grain of salt and don’t rely solely on their feedback when it comes to printing different types of merch. There’s been a few instances where fans of ours were screaming out for a particular merch item, we printed them and then no one bothered to buy them! Always weigh up the pro’s and con’s to everything new you’re looking to get printed. Take fan feedback but also feedback from peers (ie: other bands), your band mates and close friends. Only then will you have a balanced opinion and clarity to make a call!