by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
bands, merchandise, music

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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Weird Harold's former #5 fan, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    Cue the "It won't work for other bands / they're devaluing their merchandising too much / you're all in gradeschool" comment in...





    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Matt, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:04pm

    nothing new

    As someone who goes to A LOT of concerts (big and small) I must say this really isn't anything new.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Just Another Moron in a Hurry, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:09pm


    Weird Harold gets more press around here than the actual stories.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Don'tWannaDisappoint, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:15pm


    It won't work for other bands!

    They're devaluing their merch!!

    You're all in gradeschool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Jamo, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    Re: nothing new

    Agreed.... I couldn't tell you a show I've been to where bands weren't selling merch from the stage and hanging out after there set.
    This story is a def waste of time. What's next, a story telling us how water is wet?!?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Chillout | Lounge | Liedschatten, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:31pm

    that's the only way make money by making music at the moment...
    but hey - if u can make a living with being musician it is fantastic!
    Today's musicians have to be open for new strategies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    Re: Re: nothing new

    This just in. Late breaking news. Scientist demonstrated how salt water can actually make you drier...well dehydrated at least.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Weird Harold, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:44pm

    10,000 bar bands called and said they already patent this idea 30 years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Ryan, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    SteveD, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 3:05pm

    Good promotion isn't just doing a thing, its doing it well.

    Who cares if its an old trick? If a band can work it into a contemporary strategy that helps build them as a brand, it works.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    kirillian (profile), Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 3:21pm

    Re: nothing new

    As someone who goes to A LOT of concerts (big and small) I must say this really isn't anything new.

    The general concept isn't all that new, but actually making a true effort to connect with the fans? That's pretty rare...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Mike (profile), Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: nothing new

    Actually, I should clarify: there are lots of bands that *think* they're doing this. There are very few that actually do.

    We've already been told by lots of folks that bands hate merchandising. Yet, when we find a band that does it well, suddenly everyone complains that it's nothing new?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Eric C, Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 3:54pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    kirillian (profile), Apr 3rd, 2009 @ 3:55pm

    grammer correction

    My previous comment should read more like this: It all just shows how mainstream your music choices are, or it shows the higher quality of the shows you are attending.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Mark Rosedale (profile), Apr 6th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    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 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    bawb kristgaw, Apr 6th, 2009 @ 4:00pm


    No need for radio play - they would disappear into the diaspora of mediocrity that is 'arena rawk' radio.

    If they don't sound like every other faux metal band.

    Flash the sign of the horns doods!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Big Mike (profile), Apr 7th, 2009 @ 8:08am


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Music2Enjoy, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:16am


    It's obvious that most of the new media newbies have not clue about the music business. Sorry writer, but you have lots to learn. Music Vet here...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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