• Jim Lo

How Do You Sell Merch Without Concerts?

Updated: Sep 7

When quarantine first started, most of us still had a glimpse of hope that maybe, just maybe we could still attend festivals once summer came. As COVID cases surged through the U.S. gatherings of more than 100 - even 50 were not allowed, and that hope slowly became despair.


As the music industry began to realize the severity of the pandemic around early March, Ultra, Tomorrowland, and Coachella began announcing their cancellations. Artists soon followed suit, indefinitely postponing all events till 2021, leaving the rest of the 2020 concert season show-less.


Production and merchandise companies are among those who felt a significant decline in their revenue stream. Without concerts, how are they supposed to sell merchandise? Though most companies have their own online retail store, it doesn’t compare to the foot traffic, timing, and purchasing opportunity that a physical merchandise tent presents at a festival.


Luckily for merchandisers, this pandemic has generated the acceleration and acceptance of e-commerce as the default method of shopping for a lot of households.


The “Global Shopping Index”, published by Salesforce, suggested that unique digital shoppers have risen by 40% YoY. Even older generations are adapting to online shopping amid the pandemic, driving global digital revenue in Q2 by an increase of 71%. E-commerce of total retail purchases was only at 5.1% just a decade ago, but pandemic guidelines have redirected consumer behaviors where online shopping soon became a staple for most people. Brands and retail stores who survived rose to the occasion with digitalization, including an overall larger focus on their online presence and advertising as well.


The move away from traditional retail to e-commerce has been regarded as the “norm”, especially amongst millennial and Gen Z consumers. Now that consumer behavior, values, and expectations have changed; stakeholders should take note, capitalize on the trend, and make this part of your revenue streams. Here are a few ways to do it:


Spotify

In 2016, Spotify teamed up with Merchbar to create a platform where artists and merch companies could then promote their products alongside their music. This new feature generated huge marketing revenue especially for artists who already had an adequate following on Spotify, and attracted new users who see value in a dedicated and engaged music streaming service. Spotify’s true marketing power lies in their discovery algorithm and user behavior preferences data, which helps overall traffic to artist’s profiles where their merch is displayed.


Twitch

With Twitch’s massive audience base and its investment in the music industry, they’ve become a major platform for artists who wish to monetize their product.


A great example is T-Pain’s channel. As one of the top streaming services, Twitch’s user-friendly interface creates a genuine and direct communication between audience and broadcasters that allows live feed interaction like never before.


Right underneath each live stream is free reign for artists to post information and self-promote. Meanwhile, Twitch has also made it extremely easy for users to support their favorite streamers with points/in-app purchases, which could contribute to a stable income.

YouTube


YouTube is undoubtedly still leading the charge in music video streaming, though competitors such as Facebook and Instagram have steadily risen in recent years. Similarly to Twitch, including links to your merch and products in video descriptions is a no brainer. As with Spotify, with a verified channel you’ll get to utilize the merch shelf and display your products even in videos as well.(See here for the requirements) Another feature YouTube offers is the ability to promote merchandise at the top of your live feed during a performance. This allows more exposure and chances to convert active viewers into active consumers.


Instagram


Instagram, especially recently, has made pushing their IG shopping features a major priority. Though previously unavailable to most content creators, in early July, Instagram announced the “New Commerce Eligibility Requirements” to diversify Instagram Shopping into more businesses including content creators (with artists) and providing small business owners a chance to monetize their merchandise. It’s now easier than ever for artists and creators alike to tag products in organic or paid posts as well as display all available merch on the IG Shopping tab of your profile.


Friends/Collaborators

The music industry is all about collaboration. You see it every day from song features to cross-promoting other artists. When artists want to reach new audiences, collaboration with peers is a must to grow their fanbase. It’s a strategy to be used in tandem with your paid advertising to amplify your promotion. Reach out to your network, ask for them to post or wear your merch, do limited-edition collaborations together, cross-promote each other's items, and remember, always get creative.


Quick self-promo - We were fortunate enough to quickly pivot into e-commerce during the pandemic. Since April, we’ve been working closely with a couple of clothing brands with their digital transition. A switch from B2B (Business to Boutique) to DTC (Direct to Consumer) marketing has resulted in six-figure revenues, a successful shift in today’s marketing trend.


If you want to see how we did it, you can check out our blog post here.


As of this week, the U.S. surpassed 6 million confirmed coronavirus cases. It’s hard to say when we’ll truly be able to enjoy shows again safely. With uncertainty comes opportunity, most artists and merch companies have fully transitioned their marketing strategy and revenue stream through online platforms such as Spotify, Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram. One thing’s for certain, even when shows come back, marketing your merchandise online will still be just as important if not even more than it is right now.


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