Is Artist Merch Broken? Merch Cat Wants to Tame the Space With Smarter Inventory and Metrics Management

Music Merch Manager App by Merch Cat
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Music Merch Manager App by Merch Cat
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Music Merch Manager App by Merch Cat

What happens when merch stops being an afterthought and turns into an active revenue-generator? Merch Cat says its elevated focus on technology and analytics can boost artist merch revenue by as much as 20%, while strategically crafting a more reliable process for inventory management, sales tracking, and decision-making.

For artists and managers, merchandise typically takes a backseat to music creation, releases, and touring. As a result, merch presents itself as a chaotic afterthought — ridden with routine disruptions of procurement, quality checks, inventory issues, data tracking, and fulfillment challenges.

Vanessa Ferrer, founder of Merch Cat, recently sat down with DMN to discuss how a sophisticated system of inventory management and tracking allows artists to significantly expand their merch revenue stream. In a bid to ensure merch represents a refined and reliable revenue category, Merch Cat has monumentally expanded its focus on tech to amplify merch processes for artists, managers, and labels.

“It’s all about merch strategy,” says Ferrer while adding that the industry needs to adjust its approach to merchandise and ‘place merchandise strategy at the forefront since merch is a lucrative business component.’

The company dedicates comprehensive attention to merch metrics management ‘to optimize value for artists.’ “It’s an intuitive process and streamlined workflow, with tech that does the work behind the scenes to ensure an optimized data output consisting of usable reports and analytics,” says Ferrer. Just recently, Merch Cat joined forces with DMN to further expand its merch footprint.

Merch Cat’s continuously-expanding roster includes artists and bands like The Marshall Tucker Band, George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic, Noel and Ben Haggard, Jesse Dayton, Struggle Jennings, Britnee Kellogg, and others. Also on board are industry advisors Ted Cohen (TAG Strategic), Rich Stumpf (Hawkeye Music Group), and Lou Plaia (Sentric Music) — a trio that Ferrer says ‘aims to help expand the client base, extend industry reach, and consult on business strategy.’

Ferrer believes streamlining merchandising processes with technology can generate usable insights from sales data. With user-friendly tech aimed at tackling inventory management and metrics, Merch Cat is ‘helping change the game for live show merch sales, where a vast majority of sales happen.’

With a focus on that aspect, Merch Cat’s Music Merch Manager App offers an upgraded analytics dashboard with ‘Merch Metrics’ — packed with essential insights to enable artists and their teams to easily make merch decisions.

The app places the entire merch business on one mobile device, allowing artists to quickly and easily enter inventory, import shows from Bandsintown, track sales and profits at a glance, automatically generate settlement reports with the venues’ music and merch splits, and more. Merch Cat is also integrated with Square as its payment processor, making it a seamless transition for pre-existing accounts.

Ferrer explains that artists gain a complete snapshot of essential information such as what sizes, styles, and quantities fans are purchasing. It also shows which items generated the highest sales. “It keeps all the data centralized, and the analytics in one place.”

Merch Cat analytics dashboard
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Merch Cat analytics dashboard
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“It keeps all the data centralized, and the analytics in one place.”

This data is core to optimizing revenue, Ferrer believes, as it ‘further expands your merch strategy, offers central inventory, sales tracking, and analytics.’

On the other hand, Merch Cat’s FAN app is the artists’ virtual storefront, which Ferrer says ‘allows fans to buy merchandise before, during, or after the show.’

She adds, “Fans receive a code for their purchase and can pick it up at the table. Or they can choose to have it shipped to their home.”

Merch Cat FAN – Band Merchandise App 
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Merch Cat FAN – Band Merchandise App 
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Merch Cat FAN Band Merchandise App

With an ‘artist-friendly interface,’ Merch Cat is deepening the connection between artists, their merch, and fans. Apart from the integration of the web store via a widget, the app has also added a Spotify player to the artist’s profile.

To ensure that artists can offer merchandise that they’re proud to put their name on, Merch Cat also offers merchandise procurement as a value-added service, ensuring quality merch at artist-friendly prices.

Ferrer says this will allow artists to earn higher revenues with more competitive margins — and lead to happier fans.

New York-based rock band Hollis Brown can testify to that. On their summer tour, following a ‘merch strategy’ tie-up with Merch Cat, the band witnessed a 20% increase in merch sales. According to Hollis Brown’s management company, ‘Merch Cat helped strategize to revamp the merch line,’ and provided accurately-tracked information on inventory levels that optimized organization and revenue.

Other musicians and bands have also revealed the many ways in which Merch Cat has helped them achieve their merch goals. Via Merch Cat’s Merch Metrics, Hannah Wicklund’s vinyl and CDs became top-sellers at live shows. Melissa Menago found a means to sell merch before her record release show — also during the show and after it — via Merch Cat Fan. Rock band Broke City attribute their ‘biggest merch night ever’ to Merch Cat streamlining the merch table process. And metal and classical fusion band The Breathing Process say Merch Cat has been a ‘game changer,’ enabling them to solve their merch inventory problems.

So what exactly does Merch Cat bring to the table that enables artists to have a successful merch business? Ferrer believes that apart from its technology, it’s the ‘human aspect’ and ‘personalization’ that differentiates Merch Cat from its competitors.

“Merch Cat brings the whole gamut, Ferrer relayed. “We’ll develop your merch strategy, get you the merchandise at a targeted price point, put it on Merch Cat, use Merch Cat to sell, and then look at analyses and insights to optimize the strategy even further.”

Putting together an effective ‘merch mix’ Ferrer says, requires a focus on ‘understanding your fans, maximizing your profits, and reducing waste.’

“With a robust strategy backed by data, you ensure you capitalize on every opportunity of a sale. Our technology and insights bring you the information you need so you don’t lose sales because your fans arrived at the table and left because they had to wait too long, or you don’t have the style or size they want.”

According to Ferrer, one of Merch Cat’s most prominent upsides is that it doesn’t require days of set-up time — thanks to a user-friendly workflow and interface.

“If you know your merch inventory, you can use Merch Cat after you’ve arrived at the venue,” explains Ferrer, adding, “You can do it all on a mobile device — in a pinch.”

When artists embrace a more sophisticated system spanning inventory purchase, real-time reports, and payment tracking, Merch Cat promises they can ‘merch better, increase profits, make their fans happier, and spend more time doing what they love.’