Merchandise is an important revenue stream for artists, and a means to create stronger bonds with their fans. With a focus on removing the barriers of the traditional merchandise model, sustainability and maximising merch sales channels – Fanbace is aiming to become one of the go-to solutions, especially for the independent artist sector.
Fanbace is a UK-based company that launched their free on-demand merch platform in 2021. One of its key ambitions is tackling the challenges that can hold artists back from starting to sell merchandise: upfront investment for manufacturing products, storage space needed for said stock stock, as well as the daunting tasks of packing, shipping, and managing orders – or the fees associated with having a third-party fulfil these for the artist. On top of that, artists do not need an existing store to start selling.
Efficient Global Selling
Fanbace’s dashboard enables artists and their teams to create and sell print-on-demand merch to fans globally. There’s no commitment or minimum order quantity involved, which removes the barrier of entry of the traditional merchandising model.
Mark Ryan, CEO & Co-Founder of Fanbace, explains how it works:“We have a global network of partners around the world […] We use the same blank products in every territory around the world – so if a fan in the US was buying a t-shirt from an artist in the UK […] we take ownership of the order and then we print it on the ground in the US and fulfil it in the US and ship it to the fan in the US.”
From the artist’s point of view, this solution removes the upfront investment required for merch as well as the risk for overtstocking. From the fan’s point of view, shipping costs are minimised as the items will be shipped from the closest location possible. This is especially great for fans that don’t live in the major music markets where many artists have warehousing partners, as those fans often have to pay increased fees to get their items delivered.
From a broader music industry perspective, Fanbace says that choosing a print-on-demand solution is the most sustainable option of selling merchandise – something to consider while conversations about how our industry is doing their part to tackle the climate emergency are taking place. Fanbace strives to fulfil orders at the closest point to the delivery address, further reducing carbon emissions by cutting out unnecessary international transit.
The on-demand printing process also dramatically reduces water usage, and the company offers a wide range of eco-friendly products made from sustainable and biodegradable materials, meeting the demand from within the artist community, says Ryan: “There’s a massive shift towards eco and eco-premium. There’s a number of reasons for that. A lot of artists are quite conscious of where the products come from and how the people that work in those facilities are treated and how they’re paid, are they treated fairly etc. There’s a lot of emphasis on that. We lean quite heavily into eco-friendly and sustainability and ethically sourced.”
What setup do you need to use Fanbace? Signing up to the platform is free, and products are created via the dashboard. These can include bags, hoodies, sweatshirts, wall art, t-shirts, drinkware and more. The company has created artwork templates for all their products, which are saved with the minimum spec and sized to the max print area to ensure the merchandise will look as good as possible. Once created, the products can be published on the artist’s sales channels. (Here’s a short video showing how you can get started.)
And here’s another great approach of Fanbace: the platform offers a solution for any type of artist, and is constantly growing their sales channels.
- For artists without a website, they can connect their Fanbace account with their Bandcamp profile or sell their merchandise directly via Fanbace’s proprietary smart links. This enables artists to sell products from a short url without needing to have a store – they can simply build a product and promote that link, e.g. via Instagram’s Link Stickers in Stories.
- For artists with an existing D2C store, Fanbace offers integrations with e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Music Glue and WooCommerce. This means that artists can make merch available even on Spotify, through Shopify’s and Spotify’s recent partnership.
- On top of that, with social commerce becoming ever more important, artists can make their merchandise available on social sites like Facebook and Instagram.
For Ryan, this adaptability is vital: “That’s a massive growth area for us that we want to position ourselves where the fan is so that the artist can maximise the opportunities to monetise that fan engagement. We’ll continue to do integrations with the platforms where we feel the artist is connecting with the fan. And that also includes work in the metaverse, for example.”
Pricing model, and other options
As mentioned, the platform itself is free to use. Each item has a trade price, and that’s the only cost. The company doesn’t doesn’t take a percentage of the basket, nor of the profit. The artist can set their own sales price, therefore the difference between the sales price and the trade price is the profit, and Fanbace doesn’t take any additional charges.
Another cost, that the artist will potentially have to bear, is the commission of whichever platform the artist chooses to sell the merch on – e.g. an artist store, or on Bandcamp – unless the artist sells via Fanbace’s smart links.
As print-on-demand has become a popular solution in the direct-to-fan business model, there are a few other solutions on the market. Printful is one of those, and works similarly to Fanbace, with a few added integrations and optional services such as warehousing. However, the service is not bespoke to the music industry.
Amazon also has a print-on-demand option called Merch by Amazon, which allows artists to sell print-on-demand merch via Amazon and Amazon Music’s Artist Merch Shop – with orders being eligible for free Prime shipping. Here, artists earn a royalty on each product sold which is based on the product’s purchase price – less any applicable tax and Amazon costs.
Fanbace is confident about the need for its services. Ryan outlines the goals of the company for 2022: “This year we’re looking to onboard 20,000 artists on a global basis. We’re in and around 2,500 – but we’re just kicking off our road market strategy, so that’s our target. Our strategy is that we’re building tech that’s accessible to all artists, regardless of where they are in their journey as an artist. We do work with artists like Adam Lambert that are at the very top kind of level – but we see our kind of growth and scale coming from the independent artist sector.”
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