As we continue to work on the release of Merch, we’ve been spending time talking to bands, tour managers, labels, and anyone else who will let us pick their brain about their experiences managing merch. This week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Brad Ferguson, tour and production manager for bands like Lights, Tokyo Police Club and Mother Mother. He’s one of those people who has been a part of some serious merch operations and can certainly pass along a few words of wisdom to bands both starting out and established. The roster of artists he works with is impressive (the few we mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg), but like anyone who has been in the industry for a while, he knows that a little bit of organization goes a long way. Without further ado, here’s what Brad Ferguson has to say about creating and managing merch.
Merch: Do you think that merch is important for bands, today?
Brad Ferguson: Merch is very important for artist these days. In fact, some tours rely on that revenue in order to stay on the road. When managed properly, it can really be a great asset; however, when mismanaged, it can be a disaster and you’ll end up with a storage space full of dead stock.
M: Which bands do you think use their merch well?
BF: Of the artists that I’ve worked with, Lights and Arkells do a great job with their merch.
M: Why do you think that what they’re doing works?
BF: Lights does well because she always has things that you’ll never see on any other merch table. Sure she has black t-shirts, but there’s also a lot of unusual items that she sells – and sells well. Arkells just have great designs that are always in line with what kids want to wear. Merch designs are so crucial when it comes to selling.
M: How do you think that bands often miss out on merch sales?
BF: A lot of bands miss out on sales because they can’t accept credit cards or they have bad inventory management.
M: What could they do differently to help?
BF: Square is a great option and costs next to nothing to set up. There’s simply a nominal fee per transaction that’s in-line with all credit card services. Every band should use it. In terms of inventory management, that’s a trickier problem. First off is having the inventory and properly projecting what you might sell over a tour. You don’t want to run out halfway through the tour, but you also don’t want to have 20 boxes of XL hoodies left over either.
M: You’re obviously working with bands who are beyond the stage of managing their own merch, but what tip could you give to bands who are either doing it themselves or who have friends jumping in to help while they’re on stage?
BF: The biggest tip I can suggest is to do a proper inventory before and after each show. Trying to keep track of sales as you are selling often results in having your numbers off at the end of the night. Some people prefer to just count at the end of each night and use those numbers as their next day’s count in. I like to count before and after because you can often catch your own mistakes before they become issues.
M: Finally, what’s the coolest piece of merch you own?
BF: The coolest piece of merch I own is probably my Cuff The Duke hoodie. I bought it from the band in 2004 just before I started working for them. They were my favourite band at the time and they’re the first band that took me on the road. I worked with them for six years and I still wear that hoodie once or twice a week. My cat recently adopted it as his bed, but I’ll steal it back soon.
This blog’s purpose really isn’t to get a bunch of people to tell you how much our app will help with your merch, but because we are still accepting bands who would like to tour with the app while we’re in private beta, we want to remind you that you can sign up for an invitation below or follow us on Twitter and we’ll let you know when the moment has arrived. If you’re unfamiliar with the Merch story, please take a look at our post Introducing Merch.