Merchandise is the key to optimizing your sales and getting your band noticed when you're playing local venues. Having physical copies of your music gives you the ability to promote your band before appearances, and you can make more money on gig night if you've got CDs and t-shirts to sell while everyone is still amped up from the performance and wants a little memento from the evening.
You don't need to have any design skills to create your merchandise, and you can get the ball rolling from the comfort of your own home.
Hire a Great Artist
Submit your proposal to a graphics platform like 99 designs. You need to give a description of the kind of design that you're looking for and then artists from all over the world will produce designs for you. Next, you give some feedback, look over any revised artwork, then pick the design that you like the best.
Get a design that you can use for your album cover, t-shirts and baseball caps, backpacks, coasters, bumper stickers, flyers and posters. You'll own full copyright to the design, and the image files that you're given to download will be production ready quality.
Once you've finalized your designs, you'll need to find companies that can print your t-shirts and run off some copies of your CDs. When it comes to CDs you have a few choices to make. You can simply order bulk copies of your music, or you can get printed paper or cardboard sleeves, or jewel cases with full artwork.
If you're handing out promotional copies of your music, or you're on a really tight budget but want some CDs to sell at your next gig, then adding paper sleeves to your order would be a good choice, but if you want to sell a physical copy of your music from your Bandcamp store, then opt for the more professional looking jewel case.
Don't order huge quantities to begin with, you'll tie up your money unnecessarily and you can always resupply when you run low on stock. Some CD duplicators will insist on minimum runs of 1000 discs, but companies like Copycats Media allow you to get started with just 100 copies.
Sell Your Merchandise
Be creative when it comes to selling your merchandise, you aren't limited to the table at your gig or your Bandcamp store. Potential customers are everywhere, so get your hustle on and place your products into as many venues as you can. If you're hitting the road for a local tour, do a pre tour run to scout out some potential marketing opportunities.
Drop into coffee shops, let the owners know that you're playing in town soon, offer them some free tickets and ask if they would like a copy of your CD to play in the shop. You can leave them a bundle of CDs that they can sell on the counter, and split the profit with them. Do the same thing at fitness clubs and any other place that you can think of that plays music and is open to the public.
If you've got a bunch of complimentary tickets, you could even use them as an incentive to buy the CD, by including a couple of free tickets with each purchase.
Having some professionally designed merchandise gives you the opportunity to make some extra sales and to market your band effectively and find new fans. It does require some upfront investment but you should be able to easily make your money back and more.