5 Steps To Become a Mobile Merch Table

Peddler, 1849
I did it.  I took the plunge.  I bought a tablet.  Not the iPad, though.  I got a Samsung Galaxy Tablet.  I bought it for this post, in fact.

Why would I do such a thing?  Well, I’ve been kicking around the idea of making the merch table mobile.  I’m not saying replace the merch table entirely, but to expand on it by making each band member a walking merch stand.

I was inspired after reading Michael Brandvold’s 2000 Things to get 20,000 Fans.  The latest article was “Press The Flesh” meaning to actively network and talk with people right after a show.  But there are two conflicting things, working the room and working the merch table.

In an ideal world, everyone would flock to the band’s merch table right after the show ended.  In reality, for smaller bands, everyone immediately flocks to the bar or outside for a smoke.  Also, some clubs or house shows don’t have a place to set up a merch stand.

The solution?  Be your own merch table.  Combine networking and merch sales.  This is where the Samsung Galaxy Tab comes into play.

#1 Get A Tablet or Smart Phone

A tablet or smart phone provides an easy means of collecting e-mails and also swiping credit cards.  I chose the Samsung Galaxy because it’s bigger than a phone which makes the interface easier for people to use.

A tablet is also easy to carry and makes a fun conversation piece.  Not everyone has gone down the tablet route or even used one yet, so getting to play with one might be exciting.

I considered just using my laptop, but it’s not as easy for people to use.  The tablet has a nice, neat interface for entering text.  No need to open a laptop lid or worry about low-light conditions with the keyboard.  The tablet is just ready to go.

More importantly, I don’t want anyone messing up my laptop!  I use my laptop for writing, coding, and photo editing.  I would lose my mind if someone at a club spilt beer all over it.  I’m less concerned about this with a tablet.

#2 Sign up for Square

Square is genius.  Their service enables swiping a credit card from a mobile device.  They are completely free to sign up for.  Once you sign up, they will mail you an attachment for your phone or tablet so you can take credit card payments from anywhere.  Square charges a modest percentage on each transaction.

For musicians, Square’s service opens a whole new means of income at a show.  And for a mobile merch stand, the app is essential.  Currently, Square supports the iPhone, iPad, and multiple Android devices.

#3 Get an E-Mail Collecting Widget

Email customized icon I’m using FanBridge for my e-mail collecting.  Unfortunately, they don’t have an app for the Android.  They do have one for the iPad and iPhone, but that doesn’t help me.  Instead, I just set a link on the Galaxy that points to the sign-up page on the FanBridge site.

In cases where there’s no cellular or wi-fi service, it’s also useful to have a spreadsheet app or something simple to allow people to just type in their e-mail.

Remember:  Treat e-mails like money! What’s more important?  Getting $5 for a CD, or building a relationship with a fan for years to come?  Having an easy means of getting an e-mail is essential.

Previously, I used a paper sign-up form that I put on the merch table.  A good percentage of the people that signed up, I could not read their handwriting.  E-mail lost.  Also, the lighting conditions varied from place to place, so some people couldn’t see to write down their e-mail address.  And the damned pen was always either lost or stolen.

A tablet or smart phone eliminates those problems.  Gathering e-mails is as simple as launching the collector app and handing the device to a fan.  An added benefit is immediately submitting their e-mail right then and there.  No more crunching e-mail addresses the next day.

#4 Get a Messenger Bag

A messenger bag provides an easy means of carrying all the merchandise as well as the tablet or mobile device.  It has many pockets and folders to separate and organize any merch you are carrying.  If someone wants to buy something, just simply lift up the flap and grab the merch.

Because of the limited size, the bag should contain CDs, stickers, and just a small set of shirts.  Get one of each size.  If you sell one, go refill at the merch table.

The messenger back also helps with pockets to stash the cash.  Don’t set that messenger bag down anywhere!  Leave it on your body until you are in the van on the way home.

#5 Hustle the Room

Now that you are mobile, it’s time to make the commitment.  When you get to the club, stop and look at everyone.  Then commit yourself to get EVERYONE’s e-mail address.  Commit yourself to make sure EVERYONE gets a CD.

Hustle and don’t stop hustling.  I don’t mean rip anyone off by hustling.  I mean don’t relent on getting new fans and selling merch.  Talk to everyone there.  I know from my past that I’ve had the tendency to just go sit at the bar and talk with my friends right after playing.  This is incorrect behavior.  If you are not engaging with someone new, you’re doing it wrong.

Of course, always talk to the people that came there to see you.  That’s a given.  But, strive to talk to everyone there.  You can drink and smoke when you get home.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if you gained ten to twenty new fans simply from saying hi and getting an e-mail?  HUSTLE!

Those are my ideas for being a mobile merch stand.  Anyone else have any suggestions?  I just got my tablet so maybe there’s some more uses I’m not thinking of.

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8 Responses to 5 Steps To Become a Mobile Merch Table

  1. you write this post on the tablet too? 😉

    good info, the only problem I have with Square is how long it actually takes to get their dongle that attaches to the headphone port — took me 2 months to see mine.


  2. Chris my man, this is genius I love it.

    It would be cool if you could split test a show to see how much more income you make with the mobile merch table.

    Maybe do a case study!

    Very exciting.

    • Great idea! Leave the merch stand old-school with sign-up sheets and such. Should be fairly easy to A/B test.

      I was thinking the mobile merch stand would also be good for busking before shows. Maybe make more income. I’ve been kicking around the idea of having a separate acoustic setup for my music just for busking.

      I also read on Square that they have the means for people to also “tip” on a purchase. Might be another useful way to get some more cash.

      What’s really interesting is the whole Apple and FCC thing with mobile micro-transactions. That might eliminate the need for Square.

  3. Pingback: 5 Steps To Become a Mobile Merch Table, by Chris “Seth” Jackson | Promote Your Music

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