Making Merch with Print-On-Demand Services
If you’re primarily a performer, physical goods may seem like just a side business. Maybe you’re a drag queen who gets hired to host events, or you’re a wrestler who focuses on live matches. But touring musicians can tell you better than many: merch can be big business.
Performing can be a tough way to make a living. Live performances are part of what makes life great, but between the costs of costumes, instruments, and travel and the low payouts after the venue takes their cut, the profits can be low. Merch, aka physical merchandise, is a great way to boost your bank account and spread the word about your act. Plus repping merch is a great way for fans to deepen their relationship with you and each other (aww!).
But what if you’re looking for a way to sell merch without storing a whole lot of stuff in your space?
Enter: Print on Demand
Print-on-demand services charge a little more per item than traditional printers (so do the math carefully as you set your prices), but they only produce items as customers place orders, so nothing’s wasted, and your coat closet won’t fill up with shirts and posters as you prep for launch.
Big Cartel integrates with two print-on-demand services: Printful and Art of Where. They plug right into your shop, so they can start producing items as soon as an order comes in, and they can ship directly to your fans. That’ll save you some time, too.
Product images straight from the source
If you didn’t get into the game to become an expert about physical goods, these services have your back. Both Printful and Art of Where have a process where you can upload a logo or other image, place it on a product and size it till you like how it looks. And once you’re ready to list it in your shop, Printful will generate a mockup of your design on a model and Art of Where has a 3D generator to give you and your customers a clear understanding of what will be made.
Learn what sells
When weighing in on what a starter shop should sell, I often lean towards items with wide appeal: items that don’t need to be produced in an entire size run, or that are a great keepsake for someone regardless of gender, etc. But what’s great about print-on-demand is that you can try out different products, without having to order every style or size upfront from your manufacturer. So start with an item or two, and then consider how you can expand on the options that people like. If a show poster is taking off, try that graphic on a tote. If your fans are always buying black tees, include a new design in your next drop. And if you design a product that just isn’t selling, you can retire it without guilt.
A few headliners
Big Cartel started as a platform for bands, so while there are more performers in our community than can be named here, I thought a few examples might help you make plans of your own.
If you’ve watched Ru Paul’s Drag Race, you’re probably already familiar with Bob the Drag Queen, the winner of Season 8. In addition to her work as a drag queen, Bob has released songs and comedy specials, hosts a podcast, and occasionally guest-hosts a tv show. Bob uses Big Cartel to sell shirts and other products featuring signature looks and album artwork.
Elder is a metal band based in Germany. They partner with artists to create the designs for their albums and other items, and fans can use the Notes field on the checkout page to request that the band sign the merch.
As a previous WWE wrestler, Matt Cardona has a whole lot of professionally made merch. By adding his signature to these items, he makes them more exclusive and can charge a higher price. He’s filled out his shop with a few additional items like a headband and mask that feature his taglines.