Many new podcast hosts ask us if and when they should sell merchandise for their show. The short answer is: Yes, and it depends. We think the more important question to ask yourself is why you want to sell merch to your audience.
If you’re looking to monetize your podcast, offering merchandise is a great way to bring in some extra cash, but don’t expect a landslide, especially if you’re new. According to Cotton Bureau’s Co-Founder, Nate Peretic, “You want to build a critical mass before monetizing. I’ve known some podcasts that have gone years before introducing ad reads and merch. The general equation is the audience’s size multiplied by the enthusiasm or loyalty of the audience.”
It comes down to simple math: the larger and more engaged your audience, the more merch purchases you can expect. If you only see a hundred downloads per episode, it may not be worth the time investment required to design, maintain, and deliver merch. On the other hand, if you see tens of thousands of downloads per episode, you needed merch yesterday!
Your loyal audience members want to support your show and want to feel closer to your podcast. A primary way to show their support is by purchasing your show’s merch. They don’t necessarily view it as a monetary exchange or transaction, but rather as a sign of loyalty – and so should you. Your fans are walking billboards when they’re sporting your t-shirts, mugs, stickers, buttons, or pins. They gave up a little coin, and they’re proudly announcing to the world that they support your creative endeavor. Now that’s a win-win and an excellent reason for offering merch.
Do you have time, and can you promote it?
You have determined your audience size is just right, and your community has the need; now what? Adding merch to your show still might not be in the cards for you. What you need to know ahead of time is that merchandising is relatively time-consuming.
First is deciding how you are going to create, produce, and deliver your merchandise. One of the most accessible and most affordable methods is Print-On-Demand, as it requires the least amount of input. There are other methods such as having a third party design and print or doing it yourself, but Print-On-Demand is a prime choice for many independent podcast hosts. There are many of these types of services out there, and you will need to review them at your discretion, but we like Tae Haahr’s recommendations for what to look for in a Print-On-Demand service:
- The base price of the products and company commission and fees
- The variety of products they have available
- How fast is their service
- How easy their service is to use for both you and your listeners
- The quality of their products
- The quality of their reviews
Here are a few Print-On-Demand platforms that are used by podcasters you can check out:
Promote. And then promote it again. And once you’ve done that, promote it some more. If you’re not willing to promote your merch store link with every last breath and on every social post, you’re wasting your time. Stop now. It’s not worth it. We can end the article right now. We should have started this article with this paragraph – it’s that important. The moment you stop promoting your merch is the exact moment your merch instantaneously stops serving you.
What type of merch?
“It’s a cliche, but the t-shirt is the canonical piece of merch. Something small like a sticker or a button can be a nice value-add for a recurring subscription platform, but people love t-shirts.” –Nate Peretic
It’s hard to go wrong with a t-shirt. But we challenge you to give it some serious thought and consideration and go beyond a tee. Think about your podcast, not in terms of your logo or cover art, but your niche, subject matter, and audience. What would your audience appreciate? What would supplement your niche? For example, the Dungeons & Dragons actual play podcast and YouTube stream, Critical Role, offers custom dice in addition to t-shirts. Pretty cool, right? It is unique; think about how many game boards worldwide those dice are advertising that podcast on!
Also, consider your audience demographics. For some, a $20 t-shirt is out of the question, but they still want to show support with a $2-$3 purchase. Will you have that option available? Will you offer something useful over a range of prices everyone in your audience can afford?
Lastly, a word about design: it’s tempting to slap your logo or cover art on a tee and call it a day. Remember, your podcast artwork is square, and torsos tend to be rectangular. In other words: it might not look so great. Recall that we referred to your merch as walking billboards earlier. This isn’t an area you want to be lazy. Do the work and hire a great graphic designer and nail your artwork here. If you’re extending beyond a t-shirt, you’ll want whatever your designs are going on to look inspired.
Adding merchandise to your podcast can add a stream of profitability to your show, but the process is time-consuming. If you need some guidance, please jump on a discovery call with us today to see how we can help.