How To: Running Merch At Your Show

This is a guest post by Bandhive - get your free copy of their Master Show Log now to get more shows, so you have an opportunity sell merch!

When you're in a band, it's not easy to actually make money from your music.

Are you frustrated with the constant struggle of playing shows, but never really succeeding?

Chances are one of the first things you'll be doing once your band is playing shows is selling merch...

It should be. It’s really easy to sell merchandise for your band.. But there is a right way as well as a wrong way to do it.

Most people in local bands just take money and give change when selling merch.

This works, but it's not the best way to do it!

Even for local shows, it’s useful to count in your merch, keep track of sales that night, and then count out to make sure everything is correct.

If you don't do proper accounting, you'll find yourself cursing out your bandmates when you think the bass player comped a shirt to his girlfriend...

Then the next day you discover you had fewer shirts to start with than you though... And an awkward apology to the bassist...

Proper merchandise accounting is a good habit to get into for when you're selling more merch down the road (pun intended).

It’s a good habit to get into for when you're selling more merch down the road (pun intended).

The easy, old school way to track merch... Not recommended if you're playing more than one show!

If you end up doing a tour, I recommend keeping track of your sales with an Excel or Google spreadsheet (just make a new tab for each show) on a laptop or tablet.

Using a band merchandise spreadsheet is a lot easier in the long run than writing it all down by hand.

The better/easier way (in the long run) to tracking merch sales

The best way to track your band's merchandise would be to use one of the many merch inventory apps that are available. My favorite is Merch Cat, but alternatives include AtVenu, Merch, and several others.

Here’s my typical workflow if I’m working merch:

Count my cash at the start of the night - especially if the band is supplying cash/change, not myself.
Write it down.
Count the tshirts, CDs, and anything else available.
Write down the quantity of each, including the number of each size in stock.

Throughout the night when you sell something, mark it down on a tally sheet. Keep track of the sizes.

At the end of the night, count your cash and deduct the change you started with.

Then, compare your income with the tally of items sold...

You should have gained as much money as your tallied merch is collectively worth.

If your tally and cash match the counts, great! Otherwise, you have to figure out what’s wrong.

If you have too much money

Odds are you forgot to tally some things when they were sold.

Double check that this is the case by recounting your merchandise to make sure you have the correct amount of stock left over. If you have less stock than you should, and it accounts for the extra cash, just tally the extra sales that you forgot to mark earlier.

If you're missing money

Chances are you gave the wrong change or one of the band members decided to give a comp to someone without telling you.

Don't forget to account for any credit card payments you took, too!

I made that mistake once and though I was missing $60...

For any major differences in cash and inventory you should have versus what you actually have, a recount is in order.

One last thing...

To get more shows, you need to be able to show your history to promoters. The good news is our friends at Bandhive have the perfect solution - the master show log. Get your free copy now!


Written by James

James is the owner of Pinnacle Pro Sound and has a broad experience in the music industry from radio to concert production and touring. Look out for occasional posts with tips for artists to make the most of their careers in music!