The first time I was told to get some merchandise to sell, I was befuddled. I didn’t know what to sell, or how to sell it. I still don’t. I have seen things worked and I have seen things that have failed spectacularly. I will discuss my quest to find the right thing to sell after shows and I will also go over what I have seen that has worked. Let’s get to it!
First, I am not a marketing expert. I have friends like Morgan Preston and Troy Kirby help me with that. I also feel really bad about selling stuff, which is not a good trait to have. You may then ask yourself, “Well, why would he sell merchandise then?” The answer is simple: Because you have too! At this level of comedy, where the pay is shitty and the amount of work even more so, you have to be able to maximize the amount of money coming in. If you are only getting paid a couple hundred bucks for a show, then you have to be able to eek out a little more money by selling things.
That doesn’t mean just sell anything, though. You have to be able to sell something that makes sense for your fans (or the people at the bar) and makes sense for you. I have seen a comic sell baby onesies. I can’t do that, that would look creepy as hell. I have seen guys sell buttons, bumper stickers, shirts, DVDs and CDs and I have seen them all work. Why? Because those are things that throughout time drunk people have been known to buy. For some reason, drunk people always assume they will need another shirt. So why not sell them one with something funny on it.
That is the next point. It has to be funny. You can’t just put your name on a shirt and expect it to sell. That is not how things work. You have to be able to show these people that what they are about to buy will make other people laugh when they read it. I have seen some great shirts and I have seen some that left me scratching my head. Oh! And if you are going to sell shirts please have more than just medium. I know there are a lot of slender people out there, but there are also a lot of barrel chested people out there that want your shirt!
Bumper stickers and buttons seem to be the easiest to sell. They are cheap to produce and they are cheap to sell. If you know someone with a cool design then you can just have them make the design for the button and get them made by the hundreds. No one would bat an eye to a button for a buck. I have seen bumper stickers do really well also. I have also seen people just steal really good bumper sticker sayings and sell them. If you want to make a quick buck…still don’t do that. You want people to think that everything you have is your own idea. Don’t jack people’s shit!
DVDs and CDs are the hardest to sell in my opinion. People have already seen your act. They are less likely to buy a CD or DVD because they think they have seen all you can do. That is why you have to tell them that the performances are not the same (If they aren’t…don’t lie to people for 10 bucks). I have sold mostly CDs in the time I have been doing comedy. It is a tough sell. People don’t really rock CD players like they used too. You could go with digital download cards, but then the content is complicated to get on devices. That is mainly why I have stuck with CDs. They are travel friendly, cheap to produce and I believe, the only thing that I can sell right now. What I have been doing also is instead of saying a price, I just tell them to pay what they want. I will sometimes get the guy that wants to buy a CD for 4 bucks, but most people just want to support you so they will buy it for 10 and sometimes 20 bucks.
I always have a hard time selling stuff. Probably because I love comedy so much that I feel as though I am getting too much out of it. I get to go up and tell jokes AND get paid to do so! The thing is that it is not a bad thing to sell merchandise after shows. I mean, I wouldn’t want to sell anything after a bad show, but if everything goes well you should.
I think selling things if you are a feature act (usually the second guy on stage) is a must. You already don’t get much money, you might as well try to stretch your chances as much as possible. That is what I did. I ended up making enough money sometimes that I took home what I made instead of spending that on gas and food. It won’t work like that all the time though. I have done so well in rooms most night and no one has bought a CD. Sometimes I go in, do alright and walk away with a hundred bucks. It all just depends on people’s mood. I just never assume that I am going to make a certain amount every night. I tried that and it blew up in my face almost immediately. So go get some merch and I hope to buy some from you one day…unless it sucks.