Something that routinely shocks me is the fact that so few bands are able to accept a variety of payment options at their merch table. Even groups who you view as savvy or put together often are unable to bend to their audiences needs and wind up screwing themselves out of a ton of money. This isn’t just having the flexibility to take credit cards, it goes a lot deeper than that, and while I do want to take a minut to talk about the importance of credit card readers I just want to emphasize – flexibility is key. In a world where you need to scrabble for every dollar that you get then why do all that scrabbling inf the other person can’t even actually pay you in the first place. This is the struggle of being in a DIY band, and while it might make bookkeeping harder, it’s also going to make your entire life run a lot more smoothly.

So yeah – first and foremost you NEED a credit card swipe. I have seen countless tours saved financially because the band was able to take credit cards. When it comes down to it, not every venue is equipped with an ATM and not every bar is able to make change for merch. Yet, most of your fans, and especially the fans who are going to have enough money to spend on merch, are going to be the kinds of people who have debit and credit cards. This is the payment option that most people use for EVERYTHING these days. I mean – don’t we all sort of view our one friend who only pays for things with cash with a little bit of disdain? Like “Why doesn’t he have a card?” It’s the sort of thing that you can’t skimp out on if you’re trying to maximize that crucial statistic of merch per head. Without it, you might as well be dead.

The other thing, and what other payment methods sort of tie into is the fact that people can see how much cash they have on them. They can not immediately see how much cash is in their bank account and that is ALWAYS going to mean they will spend more. Most folks have a vague idea of what they have banked but they won’t be able to tell you precisely how much there is. This vagueness makes them a little more confident to buy some extra merch – especially when they have a dollar or two to spare. Tied into this – when using non cash payment strategies you can be sure to get more bang for your buck simply because you can upsell more easily. If someone only has a twenty dollar bill, they only have a twenty dollar bill. If someone was buying a twenty dollar shirt but you’re trying to get them to take on a CD for only 10 more then you’re going to get a lot farther if they are only limited by a vague idea of how much money they have in their bank account.

Of course – why limit yourself to only cash and credit? Savvy bands also know to have their bands paypal easily accessible as well as their Venmo available. With more and more people running online businesses these days or at least making some part of their income through paypal a lot of fans who don’t have money available to them in their bank accounts or as cash are going to be able to get somewhere simply by tapping a few keys on their phone! This is another way to make things run a little bit more smoothly behind the booth. Other outside the box ideas that I’ve noticed are trading merch for food, which, though it makes you look a little bit desperate also means that you’re getting to eat, and some people are willing to go for this sort of thing. Trading merch for other goods and services, like weed or van repairs can be more effective than you think, simply because it’s removing other future costs you might be facing.

Something to keep in mind if you haven’t yet been swayed by the need to have alternate payment methods is the fact that if the money isn’t on your person but instead in your bank account you are a hell of a lot less likely to lose it all if you get robbed, or if your bass player gets drunk one night and loses it all. These things sound like impossible coincidences – but believe me, they do happen and you don’t want to have to suffer from them and have your once successful tour become a wash. It also gives you a much more solid idea of what your bands financial situation is at any given point, and, tied into that, ensures that you can always put stuff on your band debit card, because cash is coming in. Bands who need to go to the bank every few days know what I’m talking about. The sketch factor alone of walking into a bank with a few grand is enough to alert tellers and if you’re even a little bit weird you run the risk of getting the cops called on you. Tour is all about minimizing risk, and this is a great way to be able to do that.

When it comes down to it, if you’re not hustling to grow your brand and your band with everything you’ve got then you’re not going to have the financial success you need to survive. The band who don’t grind out with credit card swipes, band paypals and all that jazz are severely limiting the type of people who they can get money from, and worse still run the risk of alienating a wealthier fan who wants to save on a high ATM fee. You can’t expect people to go out of their way to buy your merch – you need to understand they have specific limitations and that these not only need to be met and honored but also you need to figure out the best ways for them to want to spend more money on what you are creating. It’s the only way.

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