9 Mar 2018

Why Print-on-Demand Merchandise is a No-Brainer for Bands and Musicians

Freddie Mercury once said, “We don’t do it for the money…we do it for the music.” He was at least half-right – but most musos would probably agree that you’d rather have both!

Unfortunately, the past couple of decades have not been a great time when it comes to the former, as the global recording industry has struggled to adapt to the digital age. From 1999 to 2014, the industry lost nearly 40% in revenues in what seemed to be the beginning of a terminal decline.

The industry is slowly starting to recover some of that lost ground, with technology actually helping supplement musicians’ incomes via streaming, downloads and other innovations.

Plugging the Gap

In the meantime, some musicians have looked to ‘plug the gap’ and make money in other ways.

Merchandise such as band tees, buttons, posters and stickers have proved to be enduringly successful among artists who have sold them. According to FMA research, although only 12% of musicians reported selling merchandise – those who do, say that it makes up a whopping 16% of their total average income (which is more than sound recordings and compositions combined!) The message here is simple: where bands and musicians sell merchandise, it really works.

Of course, traditional merchandising is notoriously hard work. You’re a musician, not a retailer, and you want to focus on making music – not buying, printing and shipping t-shirts all over the place, and certainly not incurring the usual up-front cost and not insubstantial financial risk of getting started.

Of course, if you’re selling merchandise at your gigs or events, you’ll still probably need to have physical product on your hands. But selling online – that’s where things get interesting.

Because, just as technology has transformed the way we listen to our favourite music – it’s transforming the way bands and musicians can sell merchandise, too.


Print-on-demand is a merchandising model, which, in very simple terms, works like this:

  • You setup an online store, upload your designs and drag-and-drop them onto a range of different products.
  • Your products are added to your store in a matter of minutes.
  • Your fans head to your store and (hopefully!) order those items.
  • These orders are printed and fulfilled by a third party, print-on-demand partner, without you needing to even look at the product.
  • You only pay the wholesale price for the product after your customer has purchased and you charge your customer enough to make a profit on every sale. All you’re responsible for is uploading the design and marketing the products to your fans. Of course, you remain the face of your brand – and your customer never needs to know that a third party was involved!

The Benefits of Print-on-demand

A global audience

Selling online gives you a huge advantage in terms of potential audience. Whereas you’re selling to a handful of your most committed fans at gigs, taking your products online exposes you to a potential audience of millions.


Even better, there are lots of highly granular and very powerful ad targeting tactics you can use to push your products to your fans where they hang out online.

Growing your existing audience revenue

It’s one of the most commonly repeated marketing soundbites, but it’s true: selling to existing customers/fans is much easier than discovering new ones.

Flexibility over design

With no up-front or setup costs, you can be totally experimental in terms of the designs you choose. You can roll out new designs almost instantaneously – and, should that design not be quite as successful as you hoped, there’s no harm done! You simply try, and try again.

Merchandise reimagined

The products we mentioned earlier in this article – t-shirts, pins, stickers, posters – have been the staple of band merchandising for years. But print-on-demand merchandise opens the door to other products you’ve probably never even thought of. Yes, you can still fall back on those staples, but you can also get phone cases, gym towels, cups, bags and more. (You can check out the full range of Kite products here.)

Closing Thoughts

If you’re interested in an additional revenue stream that has less of the usual pitfalls you’d associate with traditional merchandising, then print-on-demand is definitely worth considering. It lets you concentrate on doing what you love, and what you do best – being creative, making great music and sharing it with your audience.

If you’d like to learn more then check out our Ultimate Guide to Print-on-demand merchandising for bands and musicians.

If you're interested in setting up print-on-demand merch for your band - take a look at the KITE Shopify Merch Plugin.

Shopify Merch Plugin

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