Make more money with merch, gigs, and your tour
People often ask us how we transformed our band Marbin into a sustainable business, playing 250 music gigs a year. This video helps explain what we’ve learned in our time on the road in the hopes that it will help you learn how to get better gigs and put more good acts like yours out on the road.
Making money at your gigs
When dealing with money at your shows, the most important thing to do is write everything down. There are apps and programs out there to help, or you can keep all the info in an Excel spreadsheet. For instance, we label our line items with the date and categorize them with tags like food, gas, lodging, pay (from the venue), salary (how much we pay our musicians), merch sales (by item), tips, etc. At the end of each day, we total it up.
In our experience, there are two main ways to make money on the road.
1. Your guarantee, door money, or percentage of the bar.
Understand what you’re worth to the venue. Most venues will pay you between 10-30 percent of what they made that night. Before you negotiate, make an estimate of how much the venue makes on tickets, food, and liquor sales, and you can get a handle on how much to ask. A dive bar that holds 50 people and sells $2 PBRs won’t pay you $500, even if you fill up the place with your fans.
2. Merch sales
There are two main elements to focus on with mech sales: maximizing the number of people you sell merch to, and maximizing the amount of merch you sell to each person.
Maximizie the number of people you sell merch to.
Even if people loved your show and like your music, it doesn’t mean they’re going to buy your albums without a little nudge. To increase sales, let them know you have merchandise for sale, what it is, where it is, and when it’s available for sale.
- Take credit cards and let people know you do beforehand.
- Make a personal connection during your show. Talk to the audience between songs; tell them stories about the band, about the songs, about anything that will help bring them into your world.
- Have something free you give away at the merch table (even if it's just a business card).
- Place the merch table in an accessible and non-threatening place. If it’s too close to the stage, the audience will feel nervous about going there.
- Break the ice. It can be hard for people to approach artists. Be very outgoing and friendly. Making the personal connection I mentioned and starting a conversation will often lead to selling merch. A good icebreaker is handing out those business cards or a sticker.
Maximize the amount of merch you sell to each person.
Let's make a deal!
- Some things we did to increase our sales include one album for $15, two for $20 (instead of what most bands do, which is selling each one for $10). I use the line, “Five bucks more double the pleasure.” Or, one album for $15, three for $30 (if someone asks for one I sell them two for $20).
- If I'm negotiating with a fan who already purchased one of the previous albums, I suggest they get another copy and give it to someone who would appreciate it.
See more videos about how to get gigs on Marbin’s YouTube page.
MARBIN is a progressive jazz-rock band based in Chicago, IL, with a unique story that stands out in today's music world. With a do-it-yourself approach, Marbin started touring extensively in 2011, bringing their original instrumental music to every part of the United States. Through word of mouth, Marbin has gained tens of thousands of devoted fans all over the world, and has sold tens of thousands of albums. Marbin has released six albums: Marbin (2009), Breaking the Cycle (2011), Last Chapter of Dreaming (2013), The Third Set (2014), Aggressive Hippies (2015), and Goatman and the House of the Dead (2016). Marbin regularly plays in clubs all over the US and in jam and jazz festivals around the world.