Sell Yourself At Gigs (And Elsewhere)

Nobody’s Gonna Do It For Ya

By Tim Ziegler for

Once you have something to sell – a CD, T-shirts, upcoming gigs – you’ll get a hell of a lot more bang if you sell yourself. It’s not hard, it’s just basic self-promotion.

Of course, this is a case of “do as I say, not as I do” because my band is unbelievably lame at doing this. We can’t even remember to bring CDs to our gigs half the time. More on that later.

Selling yourself at gigs entails a few basic principles.

Tell them what you’ve got

You might feel cheesy doing it, but announce what you have for sale from the stage. Wait until the audience digs a song, then say what you have for sale in any way that doesn’t make you not feel like a prostitute. Be sure to announce upcoming gigs too. Repeat this info a couple times during the performance, and make sure they know where your merch is set up. (Announce your Web site address too, for kicks.)

The Display Kit

You’ll need to display your wares if they’re physical, and you’ll need to make the display beforehand (or at least have the materials – tape, Sharpie, paper – on hand).

Say you have a CD, a T-shirt, and bumper stickers for sale (always good to have merch in all price ranges). You can make an elaborate stand-up cardboard display case if you want, but all you really need is a sign for each item saying what it is and how much it costs and some way of displaying the whole thing. We played with San Marcos, Tex., band Richardson Seeds the other night and they just taped their T-shirt and CD to the club wall along with a sign that had prices. Or you can lay it all out on a table in the club. If you have a T-shirt or poster, put it up somewhere the audience can see it while you’re playing.

Get Help

It’s key that somebody does the selling during breaks and after the show. As I mentioned, my band is lame at selling merch. That’s because we all love playing and drinking, and not a single one of us can concentrate on more than two things at a time. So there’s no one left to man (or woman) the merch display (if we had one). If we were smart, we’d GET HELP!

Help comes in the form of one single person who is willing to sit at the merch display and sell stuff. It helps if that person can speak the native language and is not a felon. Sex sells, of course, so hot girlfriends and boyfriends at the merch booth will increase sales. If you can get friends to do this for free, all the better. If not, try giving somebody a cut (10 percent?) of everything they sell.

Price Well

Finally, it’s important to set your prices well. My band’s theory is that the more of your band stuff you get out in circulation, the more you’ll sell in the long run, so we sell our CDs and T-shirts for an affordable $8-$10, and give away bumper stickers free. There are many theories of pricing, however, so figure that out yourself, but don’t forget that the more CDs you sell, the more people might come see your shows later on and buy later releases.

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