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How to Handle Merchandise on a U.S. Tour


Merchandise sales boost your band’s tour income and could mean the difference between gas station hot dogs or a nice steak once in a while.

If you’re coming to tour the U.S. from outside the country, carefully plan your merchandise. Not just because it’s heavy and requires extra space—there are other factors to consider, including baggage fees, customs hassles and storage.

Have Your Merchandise Made in the U.S.A.
Most airlines charge baggage fees and those add up fast. Especially for musicians and performers, who carry all kinds of stuff. Having your merchandise manufactured in the U.S. will save an extra bag or two. Customs hassles at the border are another reason.

A good example of a company who does this is Midwest Merch. They handle processing the order to making the shirts to shipping it.

Drop Ship to Various Locations
Have a U.S. company handle your fulfillment—you can pay a small fee to have your merch drop-shipped to various locations on your route. Save time packing, avoid lugging your merch with you to every stop and stretch your legs in a roomier tour van.

Research What You Need
A classic mistake: you order 100 t-shirts in men’s size large, only to find out your audience comprises mostly women who are not interested in wearing boxy shirts that hang past the knees. Research your market, pay attention to your fans and vary the amount you get in each size. Use common sense—you likely don’t need 150 extra-small tees, but you may need a few, just in case.

Find a Place to Store for Next Time
The U.S. is known for big homes with spacious garages. If you’re planning to tour again soon, ask a friend or fan to store your merchandise. That way, you don’t have to haul it back to your home country; it will be safe and sound in your friend’s (hopefully dry) basement.

Bundle Merch with Advanced Ticketing
Many U.S. venues will give artists 10-15% of the tickets for artists to sell before they are put on sale. This is known as advance or fan club ticketing. Consider bundling these tickets with merchandise. If you “drop” a new album, offer it with tickets about two to four months before your show. You will have something to promote, even though tickets haven’t officially gone on sale. That will pique your fans’ interest and could lead to more ticket sales.