Bands That Take Selling Seriously

from the don't-forget-the-merch dept

We recently wrote about how bands are (successfully) experimenting with different models to sell more merchandise at shows, and Ian Rogers of Topspin (who I also — finally — got to meet at the Leadership Music Digital Summit) writes about two bands he recently saw who clearly understand the value of selling (and, as he notes, neither band is using Topspin, so he’s not promoting his own partners here) by actually realizing that selling merchandise is part of their job. He describes how one band, Halestorm, was opening for another band, but rather than being just a typical opening band that fades into the background, they made sure that people knew about them, first by putting on a great show and then by making it clear that (a) they have affordable merchandise for sale and (b) the band itself will be hanging out with the crowd and wants to meet everyone. From Ian’s post:

  • Lzzy starts solo with a guitar around her neck and a mic, just singing acapella. Long notes, killer voice. She has people cheering for her before the rest of the band even walks out on stage. Before her voice gets hidden behind the rock, she lets ’em know she can sing and you can see people are impressed straight away.
  • The rest of the band appears and they tear through a few songs. It’s straight-ahead rock, on the heavy side but ready for pop radio. Everyone in the band is high-energy and engaging, even Lzzy’s brother Arejay on drums is standing up for parts of the songs and just generally being a showman.
  • Mid-way through the set Lzzy announces they have a new record coming out in a few weeks but you can buy a pre-release of it now for $5 at the merch stand.
  • There’s a drum solo-y part that doesn’t go on long and ends with the entire band at the front of the stage playing drums and the crowd cheering as they go crazy with it.
  • During the last song Lzzy reminds them that they have their own merch stand upstairs and CDs for only $5. She also says the whole band is going to be up there after their set and that she wants to meet everyone.
  • I head over to the merch stand after the show and watch their tour manager relieve the woman who runs the merch table so she can disappear into the crowd below with a box of CDs with “Halestorm CDs $5” written on it.
  • The merch stand is mobbed. It’s surrounded by people and they are selling merch literally as fast as their tour manager can manage.
  • The band appears (after breaking down their own stage setup) and meets and talks to as many people as possible, while helping to sell their merch.
  • Free stickers list their MySpace page, etc.

As Ian notes: “I’m not worried about these guys at all. Even if the record doesn’t work at radio (it may) they’re going to do just fine building their audience one show at a time.” The band is doing everything right. They’re using every opportunity to connect with fans, while also giving them a real reason to buy. They’re not waiting for their record label to get them on the radio or MTV. They’re doing everything they can to actually build up a rabid supporting fanbase from the bottom up.

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Comments on “Bands That Take Selling Seriously”

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Ryan says:

Re: Re: nothing new

Weird, I don’t think I’ve been to a single concert in the last two years where the band sold merchandise from the stage or hung out with fans in a non-VIP area. Most of the bar bands advertise their name and maybe a website/MySpace, but I haven’t seen much beyond that. Maybe I’m going to the wrong concerts or something.

But if $5 CDs are flying off the shelves at these concerts, without any help from promoters, it certainly indicates that promotion is easier and more valuable than labels would have you think.

kirillian (profile) says:

Good Shows

It all just shows how mainstream your music choices are, or how quality of shows you are attending. As someone who attends all sorts of shows, I can tell you that there are definitely a number of shows that I have been to where this is not the case, ESPECIALLY for the opening acts…they aren’t always quality. There are always the groupies and the hardcore fans that came to see the band anyway, but you can ALWAYS tell when a crowd just is totally pumped for a band they’ve never seen or HEARD of before.

Eric C says:

Not new, but still good

It’s true this is just normal showmanship, and most of the bands I go to see (indie and punk bands) remind people frequently during the show that they have merch, especially if they have anything new. Meeting people is less common, and is also a GREAT promotional vehicle. Sadly, I think a lot of bands head for the bar hoping for fans to buy them drinks rather than trying to attract people to their merch table.

I think most bands understand that putting on a good show is good for business, but many simply lack the skills of showmanship. On the other hand, you have bands like the Phenomenauts who never mention their merch (it would be out of character), but sell TONS because almost everyone who attends their shows is a fan at the end. Plus, they have an image that promotes togetherness, which is a hard thing to pull off in a punk scene that tends to promote NOT looking like everyone else. If nothing else, I can’t think of another band that can convince fans of punk music to pay $100+ for a fancy jacket, but they sell their custom jackets out almost immediately after they produce a batch.

Mark Rosedale (profile) says:

Live shows

I went to a live show here in Boston. The group I wanted to see was second to last. After the show they came out into the audience and hung out with us listening to the music. You felt a little awkward trying to start a conversation…but even if you didn’t do that it was neat to see them hanging out and enjoying the music. It was very memorable. I thought, “this is the way to do it.” They connected…now had they been the closer, I am not sure if we would have gotten the same thing, and if the venue hadn’t have been a small club (probably fewer than 150) it would have been different, but still.

Big Mike (profile) says:


I have met some pretty talented musicians that never made it to the stage other then local band war type shows and they all seemed to feel the same way. They want to play their music, they want to get on stage and have an audience and they want to quit their day jobs. None of them ever say I want to make a hit and live off the royalties. I’ll bet if you talk to the bands out there and ask the right questions they will say the same thing. Money will be made if they tour and more people will want to see them live if they hear music they like. CDs are not for Bands to make money, they are for record labels to make money. record labels need to change there focus.

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