Image copyright: Marcello Koster.
I recently added a new income stream to my music business: print-on-demand. Print-on-demand takes little to no investment upfront and, based on the income it has generated in the first 6 weeks, I already see it has great potential!
In this blog I will tell you all about it.
Multiple income streams
If you’ve been following me for a while you know it’s my mission to help artists build a successful, sustainable music career. By sustainable I mean: a career that has longevity and that allows you to make a decent income from your music.
And let me tell you, thanks to the internet the times where having mainstream success is the only way to do so are over! What you do need is a loyal fanbase, as well as… multiple income streams!
In all honesty, for the majority of artists, income from streaming alone isn’t enough. And while touring is a great way of making money, it is not attainable for everyone. Especially at this moment in time. Due to the pandemic most live events are cancelled until further notice and a lot of artists who had touring as their main source of income are now in deep trouble.
Of course no one could have anticipated this would happen, but it does show more than ever the importance of growing multiple income streams for the longevity and stability of your music business.
Besides royalties, streaming, touring, teaching, sound engineering etc, another way for artists to make money is: selling merchandise!
Now of course this idea in itself isn’t revolutionary or anything. But there’s still a lot of artists who neglect this form of income. They think it’s complicated and that they have to invest in a website. They worry about costly designer fees and stocking up on inventory that might not sell. Not to mention the time it will cost them to package and ship the orders.
Well, a couple years ago I discovered a way to sell merchandise without having to worry about all of the above. And that is: print on demand, otherwise known as POD.
What exactly is print on demand?
Print on demand means you work with a supplier who will customize white-label products such as t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, pillows etc with your own designs, that you upload to their website. Once an order for one of your t-shirts comes in the supplier will print your design on the product, package it and ship it to your customer, usually within a couple working days.
Because the products are made on a per order basis, there is no need for you to invest in inventory and they only charge you the production costs of products that have been paid for by your customers.
Besides that the supplier handles pretty much everything at the back end, from product fulfillment to customer service. Making print on demand a low to no risk way to get your feet wet with selling merchandise.
How I started selling merchandise
Print on demand was first introduced to me by a friend of mine in 2017. Together we designed and launched my first t-shirt, hoodies and tank top collection on Teespring, one of many print on demand services out there.
After we had some success at the beginning of the launch we both became absorbed by other work and it never really lifted off. I mean, just because you make something available online, doesn’t mean people will automatically buy it. You do have to promote it ofcourse!
Even though our experiment lasted only a short time back then, it did open my eyes to the possibilities of selling merchandise using print on demand. And finally last year, I decided it was time to get back into it and do it properly this time.
The result: last November I launched my own webshop The Susana Shop, built with e-commerce platform Shopify, integrated with print on demand service Printful.
Now I’ll be honest with you, creating and launching my own shop with Shopify was quite a beast and took more work than I had anticipated!
After my experiment with Teespring proved to me that there is a market for my merch, I decided to go all out and build my own shop with Shopify because of its advanced features such as re-targeting shop visitors, email list building, automated abandoned checkout emails etc. Besides that I needed my own store because I wanted to start selling a few products myself as well, such as a Susana15 Bundle with leftover merchandise from my own concert.
But now that the shop is up and running and the first 20 orders have been placed (just from two organic posts, a few Stories and two emails to my mailing list) I can already see it’s potential!
Keep it simple
Now, if you are listening to this and are new to selling merchandise I would recommend to keep it simple and start the same way my friend and I did back in 2017. Instead of using Shopify, start with a print on demand service that lets you host a free shop page on their platform.
This way you are killing two birds with one stone: a website to sell your products on, as well as a factory to produce, package and ship those products. All under one roof! Examples of print on demand services with an online marketplace that require no upfront investment are Teespring and RedBubble.
Now I can hear you thinking, that’s all great and all, but where do I get designs for my merchandise? There are various ways to go about this: I made my own designs using a free trial of the Canva.com Pro subscription, but you can also look for an affordable graphic designer on a site like Fiverr.com.
Key factors to sell merch successfully
Last but not least there are two key factors that determine the success of your merch sales:
- Defining and understanding your ideal fan and the niche of your music. You want to create unique designs that speak to your audience and the community and culture your music represents.
- Having a fanbase of loyal super fans. You don’t need millions or thousands of followers to make a profit selling merch. What you do need is enough loyal super fans willing to buy from you. To give you an example: one of my superfans ordered 8 items from my shop!
I hope you found this blog insightful! If you want to take a look at the designs I made for my fans in the Trance music niche, then check out The Susana Shop here.
Join my ‘Business Coaching for Artists’ Instagram Community. A private Instagram account with inspiration, tips and tricks to help you share your music with the world and grow a sustainable career. You can request access here.