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Monday, November 14, 2011

More than Music: Creative Merch and Promotions

There's no doubt that the tunes bring the fans to shows, but what keeps them coming back for more? How can bands ensure their fans will share their latest rockin' discovery with all of their friends? Sometimes it takes a little more than music. Here's where a bit of creativity and some great merch can make all the difference!

After choosing a name, recording a few songs, and playing a couple of shows, most bands take the next logical step and arm themselves with EPs and t-shirts to sell to the masses. Many even give out something small, like a button or a sticker, to potential fans for free to keep their name fresh in fans' minds. This is, indeed, one of the best ways to get your name out there! But some bands have forged their own path with regards to merch and advertising. Putting their creativity and ingenuity to good use, they've thrown a whole new spin on the idea.

My first true experience with merch tables and band promotions was at this year's Summer Side Show in Columbus, GA where I was lucky enough to be traveling with a band who were masters at the art. The very first thing Misfortune500 did when they arrived at the festival was set up a professional-looking merch tent complete with nicely arranged tables and well-displayed items for sale. After all, you've got to think big to make it big! Displays like these lend bands the illusion of great fame, and that really does wonders when you're playing for an unfamiliar crowd. They also took account of their audience for the festival. Hot weather? Well, then there's no better idea than selling water bottles with the band name on them! Other bands around the park also embraced the festival layout, guiding potential fans to their tents with signs and even writing messages on their friends' chests. Definitely eye-catching!

Here in Athens, I've seen some amazing promotional ideas as well. Several years ago, the Warm Fuzzies released their tunes on a bubblegum-scented CD. No fan is ever going to forget a band like that! I can vouch for the fact that, even weeks later, my friends and I could't get enough of telling our pals about them and letting them get a whiff of that sweet song-filled goodness.

Reptar, on the other hand, mixed it up in the early days with their t-shirts, making handmade pieces of one-of-a-kind art using just fabric paint and old clothes they'd found. Back when Allison Weiss lived here, she opted to go for printed t-shirts instead, but they certainly weren't any less memorable with sayings like "Allison Weiss is ok I guess." Ye Olde Sub Shoppe even went so far as to print headshots of one of their unwilling friends on their shirts. Having a sense of humor about their merch is an awesome way to keep the fans amused and excited!

Some bands step even further outside of the box when making their merch. Screamin Eagle, a soft indie pop band from Florida, sold small, hand-drawn books filled with the notions and themes they'd shared in their songs. It was such a unique move that you can bet I've never forgotten their show!

And hey, a band can even stand out in the way they sell their merch. Bambara and Misfortune500, among several other bands I've seen, have begun accepting credit cards at their shows as well. How is this possible? Well, all you need is an iPhone, a small addition to swipe cards, and an app to make your merch table into a legitimate portable business! You can't deny it. That is pretty cool!

Just remember, whether a band is selling sunglasses and beer koozies or earrings and bracelets, they should always make sure their fans leave with their minds full of unforgettable memories and their hands full of incredibly creative merch!

To read about all of the ingredients that make up a live show to top all others, click here!

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