Incentives, they are one of the big struggles bands have when trying to develop their brand. You want to be bringing a lot ot the table with your incentives. You want to be able to be creating the sort of stuff that people actively want to be involved with. Crafting the type of content that permits this and which goes to develop your brand is tricky. You need to find things that have legitimate value to offer your fans, and when you’re at a point that no one cares about your work then that’s going to be na extremely tricky thing to pull off. I wanted to spend some time looking at what can be done in order to make this possible and easy for you rather than just another terrifying clusterfuck that makes so many bands just give up the ghost. You need to establish value, but you also need to have something backing up that value. This is where it gets tricky and why you need to sit down and be very careful when launching these sorts of plans.
Essentially – you need to look at selling merch at all times like it’s sort of a glorified Kickstarter, because almost every band is in constant need of funds, even if they aren’t trying to make a record happen. So, like with a kickstarter you need to have things that work at every level and things that are going to appeal to the common fan in order to make them want to get involved. You need to have lots of bundle deals and little extra things that make people excited about investing in your band. This isn’t a question of having diverse merch, we’ve talked about that, this is a question of straight up making the concept of buying your merchandise more desirable. This means augmenting it with things that most bands wouldn’t bother with. There are a few keys though that serve to incentive merch purchases beyond just ‘cool designs’ or ‘limited editions’ you need to find what makes people want to get involved with your products and then go from there.
Now to start to give you an idea for what incentives could be, I think we should focus on the big and most prevalent one. Bonus tracks. Now you need to use these effectively and properly because bonus tracks are in high demand these days. While it certainly makes ense to have bonus tracks exclusive to certain streaming platforms, at least digitally, because that prioritizes you for playlist placement, but you should also have all the bonus tracks available on CD’s that you sell at shows. If you’re giving the fan something more than they can just hear on Spotify then suddenly they are going to be interested in what you have to offer. Most fans turn up their noses at CDs these days because they can just find the music online. However if you have songs they couldn’t access otherwise than collectors and nerds are going to freak out. Now this only really works for more obsessive music genres, but I think it starts to give you an idea of where to go.
The other key that I think a lot of bands miss out on when trying to enhance merch sales is the personal touch. That is to say, a lot of groups don’t even think about the fact that there is a deep emotional connection with music and if you don’t take advantage of that emotional connection then your fans aren’t going to feel as catered too and cared for as they should. So if you want to give people a personal touch, then why not do something to conjure this up? I know some acts like to write personalized songs for fans but I always felt that was a little bit hokey and forced. Other acts like to create unique pieces of merchandise just for their superfans, be it little tchotke’s and ornaments they craft or unique paintings. That being said – I feel like smaller personalized drawings are a great way to go if you want to make an effective statement but also give your fans something they can feel is theirs. Tied into this is personalized prints, like John Baizley does with his band Baroness. Anything to make fans feel loved.
Something you need to consider when it comes to creating incentives is adding a sense of urgency. The best way to do this on tour? Tour exclusive merch. I’m not just talking about the bonus tracks on the CD’s like we mentioned earlier. I’m talking everything. Tour dates aren’t always a great idea, not just because they make shirts cost a helluva lot more, but bands like Mothership make a point of never coming out with the same merch designs twice, or if they do it’s on a different type of merchandise. This gives the fans a sense that if they don’t get something they think is cool now it will never show up again. If someone is on the fence and you’re trying to sell that one last piece of merchandise so that you all get to eat that night, then nothing is going to come in more handy than fans having a sense that there is no other way forward than if they feel like they are buying something that is going to be extremely special and which they will never get to have again. Creating that sense of specialness is always going to lead to more sales.
Creating incentives is something that can feel very hard to do when you feel like nobody cares. Yet it’s really about conjuring up the illusion of greatness. It’s about reaching out and proving to people that you are a lot more than you are, and if you come out swinging with things like bonus tracks and unique merchandise then people are going to buy into the perception that you are a big band. Once people buy into that perception then the world is at your fingertips. You just need to keep conjuring, growing and inspiring fans to want to buy into the fantasy that you are presenting so that when the time comes to take on the world it just feels natural