Physical Products: Surprised By a Sudden Interest in Merch

One past failure with my music business involved not understanding the nature of true fans. These are people who came to my shows and bought every CD I had, then asked if I had T-shirts or water bottles or key chains or… pens. 

At the time, I operated in a very simplistic way. 

I make music. I sell music. Why on earth would I sell anything else or litter the planet with trinkets?

Basically, I was a minimalist shy about the upfront costs of making quality albums, let alone the cost of making hats or buttons.

What if I didn’t sell them and ended up with a closet full of merch? (Nothing makes you feel like more of a failure than finding boxes and boxes of your old inventory.)

But now? Physical Products Sound Fun

I’m not sure if it’s a shift in interests, excessive daydreaming in lock down, business maturity, inspiration after watching the lives of other people on social media, or informative interviews like this about graphic design - but I have dreamed up several merch items lately. 

I would be genuinely excited to design them, market them, experiment with them, and find online shops for them - if I had an audience. (I suppose the common advice would be to grow an audience before making them? I have some work to do. And some money to save because several of these take money to make.)

I’ve always been up in my head - producing write-ups, songs, podcast ideas, and things in the ether. Below - for the first time - are some physical products I would enjoy producing (in the order I would probably start making them).

  • Bibliotherapy Bookmarks

More people should know about the four-stage process of bibliotherapy. I would like to simplify the instructions and make bibliotherapy available on printables.

Researching "with heart" is what I use for my history song-writing process, and in general to facilitate living. If you think about it, bibliotherapy is even what I am doing with the First Creative Dollar Series (employing the stories of others to learn and expand the mind). 

  • Quotable Chapsticks

Who doesn’t want quotes from beauty mavens like James Dean, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Hedy Lamarr, James Stewart, etc. literally right on their own lips? (Well, the quotes would be on the wrapper.) But I would want an imprint of the stars’ initials on the chapstick itself.

  • Ponchos/hats/bags

Basically, I wouldn’t want to sell regular band T-shirts. While doing wholly unscientific market research for this, I searched #bandmerch and couldn’t believe how ugly most of the stuff was (harsh judgement coming out). 

For merch, I would want old-time style ponchos (definitely ugly to some, but not to me). Same with hats and bags. I’m always seeking a history vibe - not because it’s a brand gimmick, but because it’s what I actually like! 

When I’m looking into vintage clothes to overhaul my closet (see this post), I will look for inspiration leading to a signature style to design in, maybe learn some knitting, etc. Once again, this could take years. But I’m excited to plant the seeds now. 

  • Organic Candles (With a Fitting Name TBA)

Back the horse up. I don’t even buy candles. Why would I make them? Well, I don’t buy them because most of the time they are synthetic and they make me sneeze. Plus, I have young children = no fires please. 

The candles I am dreaming up have a unique idea tied to them that I won’t share publicly until they are made and they are mine! I hold the idea close to my heart and don’t want it to leak (I hear the candle market is competitive:) Trade secrets!

Also, I think I will enjoy making them with my children in about five years time… It will take that long to design them anyway. I need time to research. 

Keep on Dreaming!

Well, once again I’m dreaming up things but not making any concrete plans as of yet. For me, massive idea generation is what young motherhood is for. 

The product line would be called Savvy History Essentials or Savvy Essentials. 

Adam - ever reflecting on the news and economic realities - chimed in to say the items better be essential because no one is going to buy them otherwise. (I love having my husband as a sounding board.)

Since I haven’t grown the Savvy History audience very much in relation to music yet, I will probably be moving slow in my approach to the merch. However, I really like how designing it occupies my mind. 

What do you think of band merch? Did you (or do you) actually buy it?

In a fictional world, which one of the above products would you actually want? 

DISCLAIMER: AS ALWAYS, IF YOU NEED PSYCHOLOGICAL OR FINANCIAL ADVICE PLEASE SEEK A PROFESSIONAL FOR YOUR SPECIFIC SITUATION.

6 Replies to “Physical Products: Surprised By a Sudden Interest in Merch”

    1. Thanks for visiting the blog J. Money! Merch is certainly a creative side endeavor to dabble with. I’ll have to check out the site. Good luck with the project!

  1. do you know anything about print on demand products? that’s where we make our freddysmidlap.com shirts. dave from accidental fire sells a ton of merch that way and you don’t need to carry a lot of inventory except maybe a prototype or two if you want them. you can get all sorts of stuff made.

    making your own candles could be fun in a few years as you’re right when you say most commercial ones kinda suck.

    1. I’ve heard about print on demand products in a few podcasts. I haven’t taken the leap to seek out any one company or anything, but I’ll certainly see where you and Dave do yours through. I love the idea of not having inventory on hand and simply having a middle man do it.

      Glad you support the candle idea. No one seems excited about the ponchos yet… ha ha.

  2. I have always been big on band merch. If I’m a fan of your band, I’m in. As a musician and collector I have always had lots of merch for my bands and would even hand-make super limited tees, pins, art prints, etc just so I could collect it myself. We are now working on a high-quality, big ‘coffee table’ photo book to coincide with the alt-remix/live/video set that’s (allegedly) coming out early next year.

    I agree with Freddy and Dave on doing the print on demand model, it’s way easier and not capital intensive. Put me down for bookmarks and candles! Awesome ideas and hope we get to see some of them realized.

    1. Wow! Hand-making things is being pretty devoted. I bet your fans enjoyed that. Best wishes with the big coffee table book. Sounds interesting.

      Thanks also for the encouragement. That’s what I like about blogging – putting ideas out there just to see what people are into.

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