Selling your band’s merchandise is vitally important. And an average gig can soon be made to feel like a great one if you manage to sell a whole bunch of merch afterwards! But, like any business, you really need a shop window to showcase your wares, without which it’s much harder to sell. The singer announcing “don’t forget to come and see us after the show to grab some merch” is not a successful marketing strategy, but sometimes it’s all you’ve got.
Some venues simply don’t have a handy spot where you can set up an inviting display of items for sale, in which case you have no choice but to stick a bunch of CDs in a bag and wander around the bar hopefully after the gig. But many venues will have a handy spot by the door where you can set up shop.
The problem that then arises is who will be shopkeeper? If you’re a young band, this is not too tricky, as you’ll have any number of hangers-on/girlfriends/boyfriends who you can rope in to do the job – a couple of free drinks is usually enough to seal the deal. But once you’re past this stage, things become slightly trickier.
If you’re very lucky, as I once was for a few years, you’ll have someone associated with the band who takes on the job themselves and does it superbly. We had a member’s girlfriend do this for us, and what a blessed relief it was too. You literally can’t buy that sort of assistance. Or rather you could – but not without money. Which you don’t have.
Like a good roadie, this person becomes an integral part of your organisation and, like a good roadie, you realise just how valuable they are when they’re not there and you have to try and do it all yourself. You’ll sell most of the merch in perhaps a twenty-minute window that will generally open up towards the end of the show, and close not too long afterwards.
Which makes it a very tricky job to do for someone who is actually in the band. The drummer won’t do it – he takes far longer to pack up his gear than anyone else, on the account of playing the drums. This is no big deal, as most drummers are not the sort of person you want as your shopkeeper.
The bassist probably won’t do it because for some reason bass players never do this sort of thing. The guitarist will look down their nose at such menial work and, well, what it comes down to is that the person who ends up doing it will be the same person who runs the band and who already does everything else – because they have the most to gain by doing it and the most to lose by not doing it.
And what better way could there be of enjoying yourself post-gig, drenched in sweat, with adrenalin coursing through your veins, than trying to calculate the correct change for someone buying two CDs and a t-shirt, and then trying unsuccessfully to find the correct change in your wallet, giving up and then queuing at the bar to try and get the correct change, before returning to your merchandise and finding all the other customers have given up waiting for you and gone home?