Chip Mom’s Kitchen #49: Cookin’ up MERCH!

- Posted September 20th, 2018 by

In the early years of ChipWIN, I knew very little about chiptune, but I knew I loved the community, the shows, and my soon-to-be-hubby, so I wanted to help! I’ve sold a few Girl Scout cookies in my day and I’ll talk to anything that sits still long enough; not to mention that I have an unhealthy adoration for spreadsheets and data, so I decided to dive in and become Maven of the Merch Booth!

And that’s what we’re talking about today, chip children; Brandon and I want to pass on our knowledge about…

MERCH!

Photo by Aspyn Oakes at ‘Freq.Fest’ in Los Angeles, CA.


Difficulty level:
Newb           |         Apprentice        |         Journeyman         |         Master

Creating and selling merch is not as difficult as it may seem. And if you’re performing live, I highly recommend having something – anything – to throw on the merch table!

Quest Items:

  • Something with your name/artwork/music on it
  • A person to produce it 🧚‍♀️
  • Somebody(s) to sell the goods

Musical Accompaniment:

Illustrated Guide:

Photo by Tommy Severt at ‘Chiptunes in AR?!?’ event in Fayetteville, AR.

Start Simple, but have SOME merch

Even if it’s just some Bandcamp download codes of your music, it’s worth having! Those look really nice printed out on card stock with the album art in full color. They can be sold relatively cheaply or as “name your price” (you’d be surprised how often folks will pay something rather than nothing). It’s a quick and easy way to get your music out there to the world! It also prevents the single saddest thing I have to do as a Merch Manager: turn people away with nothing. It happens at least once an event and is easily prevented.

A couple other simple and inexpensive merch items include stickers and small buttons. They cost pennies each to produce and people love them! They go great on shirts, guitar cases, laptops, car bumpers, etc. Stickers & buttons are fabulous!

And while they’re not really merch, make some business cardsThey may be your single most important item to have starting out. Simple, but eye catching is good; we utilize a two sided style, with artwork only on one side and concise information on the other. We’ve always made ours through FedEx Office, but there are lots of quality options to choose from nowadays and regular deals going on. Do a little searching and see what you find!

Most recent ChipWIN business card.

Tabling

Photo by Brandon Hood at the ‘Retro Ex’ event in Warrensburg, MO.

If you’re on your own to table, then things can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. Regardless of what merch you have, though, there are some steps that you can take to make your life infinitely more manageable.

First and foremost, take inventory before the event. You need to know exactly how much you’re bringing. This is especially helpful if you are handing off your merch to someone else. It allows you to double check your payout by knowing exactly what you got back vs what you put in. And we merch folks do sometimes make mistakes! I’d much rather have someone let me know they are missing something or $10 short rather than lose out on what they earned with their hard work. If you’re working your own table, find a simple way to track what you’re selling. I use a basic graph paper method that is simple enough that anyone who is assisting at the booth can use it.

This form has been in use at Chipspace since 2015.

Second, make sure there is proper signage. Is your booth well identified? Can people tell who you are? For items on the table, brightly colored index cards with prices, item names, and perhaps the briefest of descriptions is more than enough. Information is good, but too much information can’t be taken in at a glance. Folks can always ask more questions! If you’re passing off your merch to others, you don’t know how things will be identified, so having small signage to be sure things are visible and priced correctly is a great idea for something to prep in advance!

Advanced Merch-ing

We’ve made some upgrades at ChipWIN that has made tabling easier and more enjoyable over the years. If you’re in a position to pimp your table, there are some things that come in really handy.

  • A USB Hub with wall adapter to keep digital devices charged and ready for action. Plus, you could be somebody’s hero for charging their phone!
  • A tablet to use as a P.O.S. If you are tabling regularly and/or can afford it, a dedicated Point-of-Sale device is rather fabulous. Not having your phone tied to the booth is very nice. Save money by buying a refurb-ed tablet or one without a data plan (although then you are at the mercy of the event’s WiFi, so be mindful of that!)
  • Print a colorful banner! It’s a great way to draw attention to your table from a distance.
  • Bring a bluetooth speaker to play some tunes! This is obviously very handy if you’re selling music or music related merch. We often play our compilations through a phone, or stream our ChipRADIO station on an open laptop for extra visual effect!

COOKIES!

Photo by Aspyn Oakes at “Freq.Fest” in Los Angeles, CA.

No lie, all of our early merch tables were also supplied with cookies. ChipWIN was still building a name and a reputation, so by offering a snack, I was able to entice folks over that might not’ve stopped by our table otherwise, and engage them in conversation.  Find something unique that fits you to tempt the timid or unfamiliar your way!

Big or small, selling merch can be fun and fulfilling. It allows you to interact with people and talk to them about what you enjoy and love. And Chip Mom luvs all of you!

Dig this article? Then consider supporting us on Patreon!