To Increase Your Artist Income you Must Multiply Purchase Frequency

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room — very few people still buy an artists music.

If you’re waiting to make a palpable artist income you probably should not be relying solely on the amount of money from Spotify, Apple, or Pandora streams… you are sadly going to be waiting a long time.
To Increase your artist income, you will need a much deeper plan.
This 3-part series provides tips that help you to put money in your pocket.

The reality is your music acts as a hook, pulling fans in, only then can you start to sell them things that fit with your style and your brand.

First Make Sure You Have Fans…

 This is why building your list and two-way conversations with fans and having direct pathways to communicate with them is CRUCIAL.

It’s okay if you only currently have fewer than 1000 fans – start small and go from there. After all, we all know the thousand true fans theory

Remember not to put the cart before the horse.

If you don’t have a fanbase to sell to, there’s no reason to build a series of products. If you haven’t already make a plan that helps you to focus on getting some ENGAGED fans first.

If you think you’re ready to start making products, here are some suggestions to make sure you’re selling what your fans want to buy.

If you are still growing your audience and you are beginning to make a toe-hold I suggest your first step be crowdfunding.

You can do this with a pre-sale on Pledge music or a full-blown campaign (if you have enough fans).

If you feel ready to move on here, how to start building a merch funnel….

Survey Your Fans

Expert marketers never release products without testing the demand first.

Maybe you think you know what your fans want, but people always find ways to surprise you. It’s much better to test the waters before investing all your time and money into releasing something you’re not sure if people want.

Understanding who your fans are and what they like/ want is critical. So ask them!

I have said this many times – music is a feeling, not a product, and its hard to get fans to tell you exactly how they feel about new music. But its EASY to find out what products they like.

  • Fan experiences (backstage tours, etc.)
  • Limited edition hoodies
  • Something highly brand specific (see more on that below)

There is a practically ENDLESS array of products and experiences you can offer to your fans. How do you know what they want? If you don’t ask, they wont tell you…  This guide is a few years old but it is still one of the best guides to help get your brain firing about what merch to make and where and how to source it.

Hint: Talk to your fans, build based off your brand, and test, test, test!

Coming up with brand-specific merch ideas

Brainstorming brand-specific merch ideas is an opportunity to connect with fans beyond the music. It’s also a fun way to get creative and offer fans a piece of your identity, while helping them feel seen. Remember, they’re not just listening to your music or buying your merch because they love what you do, it’s because they feel seen in your work. Their wants and needs are reflected in what you offer.

Whether it’s designing unique clothing that reflects your band’s aesthetic, or creating custom accessories inspired by song lyrics or album artwork, there are so many possibilities. Let’s take a look at a few:

deCollage Media does this extremely well with an array of merch that speaks to the quirkiness of their music and fans. 

An offshoot of that, Moon Magnet, offers extremely niche (and brilliant) merch like mylar blankets, which show up frequently in band videos, live sets, and photo shoots.

They even sell Moon Water and created an entire website for it. (Don’t forget to read the description!)


You don’t have to quite this far, but hopefully this provides a bit of inspiration!

Survey Your Email List

Set up a survey online and use your email newsletter list or Facebook page to circulate it. Survey Monkey will allow you to create a free survey that you can send to your fans. Ask them specifically what they might like to buy from you and how much they might be willing to pay.  You can also ask if they might enjoy special events, music lessons, or house concerts.

Survey Using Facebook

Or you can survey right on your Facebook Page using Survey Monkey for Facebook or Simple Surveys.

Survey Using Instagram

Create a This or That Image or a 15-second video asking fans what they might enjoy – then follow up with additional ideas.

Announce Your Merch Drop

If you want people to actually buy the merch you’re putting out there, you have to announce that it exists. Over and over again. It’s not enough to do this once and forget about it. You must spend time promoting it.

Tips for Merchandise

Having great merch is key! And pretty much no one wants another t-shirt (especially one that doesn’t even fit properly)

Merchandise is not a topic that we blog about often as we focus on Marketing and PR here on this blog, but there are many amazing articles we refer to and suggest often and they are included here for your reference.

First, Know Where to Buy Merch

For all your practical questions (where can I buy t-shirts in bulk?, how much should I charge?, etc.), I recommend this guide from Sonicbids and even though its a wee bit older, this article on Music Think Tank. It is an absolute goldmine of information, and it will help you immensely.

On-Demand printing

As a summary, you can either do print on demand, which is what online platforms like Printful or ReBubble do allow you to do. The pros are you only order pay when someone orders. IE you are never out of money.

The downside is if you do have a large volume of orders, you won’t make as much as you could by printing larger quantities. You’ll have to charge say, $38 for a tshirt and only make a $7 profit. Good for starting out, not great for long term.

Physical merch

The other option is to have physical merch in bulk. Something produced in large quantities like stickers or keychains, small items that fans can buy to support you even when they don’t have a ton of cash to spend. You can also do this with shirts, hoodies, buttons, and so on. The idea is that you have something for everyone, at every price point.

A few sites you can use for this are Rush Order Tees and Custom Ink for clothing, Vistaprint and StickerMule for stickers or keychains, and Canva or Fiverr for custom merch like logos and anything requiring graphic design

Next, Know How To Sell it & How Much to Charge

Ultimately, you want to strike the balance between making a profit and not out pricing your customers. This is why having things at different price points is so important. Here are a few suggestions:

T-shirts: $25-$30

Stickers: $2-$4 per sticker

Vinyls: $30-$40

Beanies: $18-$25

Hats: $25-$30

Hoodies: $35-$50

Make sure you’re including a catchy description for each piece of merch, along with a few high quality photos (ideally including one of it in use) for your store.

Sell Merch On Spotify

Before I get all “Spotify” on you please know something very important!  In case you didn’t know Merchbar is Spotify’s official merchandise partner.  This is straight from their site:

Once your merch is on Merchbar they automatically bring it to your fans on Spotify. Every product listing is optimized for sharing and discovery on social networks. If your fans are looking for it, we make sure they’ll find it on all the major search engines.

Tips For Asking For The Sale

And now that you have it you can’t be shy about asking for the sale.  This is why understanding how to use your newsletter is so crucial.  In one of my most popular articles, I talk about “GETTING” (what I am talking about is the sale).

Here is an excerpt:

Getting – Puts Fans Into Action

This is the most critical part of the email newsletter as it is what you are leaving your readers with. This section is known to marketers and savvy business people as a Call to Action or a CTA. I have read countless newsletters that left me cold without asking me to do something. Don’t let this be you!

Examples of Calls to Action For Money 

• Invite them to an upcoming appearance with a ticket link

• Invite them to purchase your products, music, and merch

• Direct them to your crowdfunding campaign

• Send them to your Patreon page

• Sell a special event or pre-event before your show

• Try a pay what you want approach with BandCamp

Of course, you can also put these CTA out on socials and in your live shows.

There should only be one Call To Action (CTA) 

Readers will get confused and choose nothing if they have more than one choice. This is why having only ONE CTA per newsletter or social post is key and why to increase purchase frequency you need a strategy for not only newsletters but also for social media that carefully plans out the “asks.”

Next up, in the final section of Increasing your Income, I’ll go in-depth about strategies you can employ to make a sustainable living as a musician.

In the meantime – download this checksheet that will help you organize your long-term marketing strategy.

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