How to Make Money Selling Merch

When you’re ready to start making money selling music merchandise, here’s how to get started.


One of the best ways to make money as a music artist is by peddling merchandise, or “merch,” as it’s called. It’s a great way to advertise music, especially for studio musicians who can’t sell tickets to live performances. If you’ve got creativity, a computer, and just a little starting cashola, you can start selling merch inside of a week. Here are some tips to help get your merch started.

The age-old merch staple is the tee-shirt. We’ll use that as our main example.


The easy part is simple economics. Go online and shop around. See how many shirts you can buy for as little as possible, but stay honest with yourself about how many people are likely to buy a shirt from you in a certain amount of time. Let’s say a month. How many people purchased your music last month? That can give you a decent idea of how many people might buy a shirt if it were available.


But your music doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the merch equation if your merch is marketable. If it features a logo, theme, or style that is attractive to people regardless of the fact that it’s a band tee-shirt, you can sell it to people who’ve never heard your music, and advertise your music at the same time, which is of course the whole point of band merchandise to begin with.


Look at this merch from heavy-metal crew All Shall Perish:

How many Bernie supporters do you think bought this shirt without ever having heard the band? Some.


The idea is to get a logo or theme together that will appeal to as many people as possible. That’s the hard part. Once you’ve got the idea, sketch it out on a pad of paper or, even better, using a computer. You’re going to need to put it in digital form for the best bang for your buck, anyhow, so you may as well start there if you’re comfy being creative on your laptop, desktop or smartphone.


You’re going for a catchy logo, phrase or cool-looking image. Some of the best-selling and best-recognized music logos include the Wu-Tang ‘W’:the Grateful Dead “Jerry Bears:” and the Bad Religion “Crossbuster:” 

That last one’s a doozy. It’s too controversial for most musicians to flaunt, but controversy does sell records. If you don’t think that logo got all kinds of attention in the 1980s (and continues to do so today) then you’re crazy. For artists trying to get people talking about their music, there’s no such thing as bad press.


Once you’ve got a logo, printed phrase, or other image you think will sell, you can get to work doing the actual business side of merch. You’re going to have to invest in your brand before people can buy your shirts, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. There are companies who will sell you large, black, cotton tee-shirts at about $7 per shirt, complete with an embroidered logo, and ship it to your house for free if you buy $200 worth of them. That works out to just under 30 shirts. You can price those at an even 10 bucks per shirt and make almost 50% profit. Not bad.


But you don’t have to sell shirts.


Everyone sells shirts. Why not get custom embroidered straw hats for summertime? Beanies for winter? Cigarette lighters with your band name on them? Beer koozies? Umbrellas? Coffee mugs? You get the picture.


There’s an item for every musician’s bank account and fan base. If you’ve got the imagination, the world will supply the buyers.


Happy merchandising, and have fun telling the world about your music!


–Sean McCauley