Lunatorium Designs

Creative Promotional Products for Musicians

Let’s talk promotional products, promotional merchandise, or swag, whatever you want to call it.  Everyone trying to sell themselves or their product (and let’s be honest, as an artist, you and your mad skills are your products) needs promotional products in their marketing plan.  As an entertainer, though, you kind of luck out in that expectations for your promo products aren’t that high.  People expect to see a cool t-shirt sold at your concerts, and hope that your album art is interesting, but they’re more interested in what you do than what you give them.

That doesn’t let you off the hook, however.  In fact, it gives you an edge by breaking those expectations with some seriously awesome swag.

Dave-Matthews-Band-SPAC-Poster-2010-june-4

Dave Matthews Band always has interesting, usually illustrated posters. Source: Dave Matthews Blog

How do you do this? Well first you can start by sharpening up the standard promo, taking it a step (or two) further than your colleagues normally go.  Beautiful posters are one standard that you can easily utilize.  Having a gorgeous poster promoting your event is a must, especially to announce upcoming gigs.  If you’re touring to promote an album, it will likely match your album art.  If not, then your promo poster can be dang near whatever you think creatively and visually describes you as an artist and your music.  If you have the funds, you can take it a step further and have diecut or 3D posters made to really grab attention.  Either way, you can give away limited edition prints of your poster to really loyal fans, and/or sell them.  If they look as awesome as you sound, those posters will make for some nice collectable swag for your fans.

Sonic Youth Casset Band Vinyl Decal Sticker 02185

Sonic Youth‘s sticker is simple but very effective, and matches their “brand” well. Source: ProSportStickers.com

Stickers are another classic promo item, whether sold at the merch booth or passed out at smaller gigs, a clever sticker design can really keep the event – and your music – in your fans’ memories.  Stickers are inexpensive, printed dang near everywhere, and easy to move.  Since they’re cheap to make, they’re cheap to buy, so it’s easy to sell them.  They also make interesting alternatives to promotional flyers.  You can frequently find stickers being passed out on college campuses around the country, promoting various groups and events.  Just make sure to make them a little mysterious: think more art than marketing.  The moral? Stickers make great promotional products, especially when the design and message are unique.

Sabbathiel Morningstar - Musician's Mind

Artwork by Lunatorium for Sabbathiel Morningstar’s demo, “Musician’s Mind”

Another great way to beat the standard is in packaging for your demo CD/mixtape.  One of the most important promotional products you as a musician or band has is the music you send to agents, record labels, and anyone you want to hear it, right? So it, more than anything else, needs to get noticed, and as they’re going to experience the packaging before the sound, that packaging had better grab their attention!

So what if your demo only has a few songs or only parts of songs? Make it look like an actual album.  Even better, use a unique (but still simple) form of packaging to really stand out from the hordes of demos/mixtapes out there.  There are so many creative packaging methods; with just a little thought you can make this a truly awesome part of your marketing plan.

There are a lot of other, often overlooked promo items you can include.  T-shirts make great swag and are a staple for merch tables at every event on the planet, but have you thought of using them for more than just adding to profits? Other industries hand them out to promote events, why not do the same?

Dark Throne T-Shirt

This Dark Throne t-shirt is simple yet interesting. Source: Black Metal & Death Metal Forum

Elaborate, detailed shirts are too expensive to print to give away, but a white shirt with a simple but intriguing design is relatively inexpensive to print and work really well – especially on college campuses, where students collect t-shirts like it’s their job. You can even get away with including your band name and possibly the event date, time, & location, but the most successful approach is a cool design with your website and/or band name subtly printed below.

Similar to demo & mixtape packaging is the recent emergence of flash/thumb/USB drives as swag.  Custom USB drives are easy to come by, not overly expensive, and make a lasting impression when loaded up with music and/or music videos and sent as demos, sold at merch tables, and given as gifts to lucky fans.  There are several companies that can create these en masse that have some pretty awesome presets and can make custom designs as well.

Finally, have you considered iPod or iPhone cases? Used with or in place of iPhone apps that include your music or promotional downloads, marketing your band with the devices which your fans use to listen to music is a rarely-considered but logical step.  Of course in this case (no pun intended), you will have to avoid any obvious branding, so make sure your design is recognizable without being barefaced marketing.

Now that we’ve looked at some creative promotional products useful for musicians and bands, what other ideas do you have? What are your favorite promo items, and do you have any experience with any of the above or with others? Share in the comments!

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