Using Podcast Merchandise to Build Your Community and Grow Your Show

Last updated on July 7th, 2021

Are you planning to make merchandise for your podcast? Looking for advice on how to use merch to grow your show?

If you listen to a lot of podcasters (and as a podcaster yourself, you probably do), you undoubtedly hear every host plugging their podcast merchandise in each episode. When they release a new product or a new design, they always spend a few minutes describing it.

So you might be wondering if you should create your own podcast merchandise. Is it worth the trouble? What are the benefits? How do you do it right?

In this article, we discuss whether you should make your own podcast merch, describe the three methods to make products, and offer some tips for success. 

Should You Offer Podcast Merchandise?

Before we explain how to make your own podcast merchandise, we should discuss whether it’s right for you and your show.

There is no right or wrong time to start creating merch. Some podcasters do it early in their show’s life, others wait until it’s popular. But you should definitely create some podcast merchandise when your fans begin to ask for it.

While podcast merchandise is one way to monetize your show, it’s unlikely to make you rich. In fact, it will never come close to other revenue streams like advertising or donations. 

Instead of worrying about price, use podcast merch to grow your community. Fans buy merch because they want to be included in the culture you’re creating. They don’t buy your T-shirt because they’re running low on clothes. They buy it because they love being part of the thing you create. It makes them feel closer to that subject or cause. 

Plus merchandise is a way for fans to identify themselves as part of a group. It’s the same reason you wear your team’s shirt to the game. You want to be noticed as a fan. 

The biggest benefit to creating your own podcast merchandise is that once you set it up, it doesn’t require much maintenance. You might decide to create a new design every once in a while, but that happens on your own schedule. And if you use a print-on-demand service (will explain more about this in a moment), you won’t have to do any extra work even as your audience size grows. 

3 Methods to Make Your Own Podcast Merchandise

When it comes to creating, selling, and distributing your own podcast merchandise, you have three options:

1. Make your own podcast merch

If you don’t mind learning new things and hard work, it’s possible to make your own podcast merchandise. Undoubtedly, you would need to pick up some equipment. For instance, if you wanted to make your own T-shirts, you would need to buy a silk screen printing machine. For most podcasters, this method is expensive, time consuming, and not worth the hassle. 

2. Buy custom merch in bulk

It’s nice to have inventory on hand that you can throw at someone or ship out quickly, which is why there are countless services that will slap your designs on different products. Their costs vary based on the intricacy of your designs, the type of materials, and the volume you’re willing to purchase. 

The major downside here is that once you buy inventory, you’re stuck with it until you sell it. And things become very complicated once you start managing products with multiple variations like sizes and colors. 

3. Use a print-on-demand service (recommended)

Print-on-demand is the best solution to sell or give out podcast merchandise. These services only create a product once you sell one. You don’t have to buy or store any inventory. The service takes care of everything for you. You simply direct your listeners to the right pages to buy the products. (Some services have integrations that will let you sell the products on your own site.)

Furthermore, you can offer as many products as the platform allows. You can even place the same design on all of them. Notice how Murder Mile offers several products with their logo.

Murder Mile podcast merchandise example.

Here are a few popular print-on-demand services: 

Tips for Your Podcast Merchandise

If you’ve decided to sell podcast merchandise, you ought to do it right. These tips will help you create quality products that your audience loves. 

1. Think beyond your logo/artwork

Your podcast artwork is recognizable to your audience, but is it really something they want on their T-shirts, mugs, and stickers? Probably not. They want to show off the meaning behind your podcast – the thing that makes them feel like they’re part of a community. 

For example, The McElroy brothers offer themed merchandise for each of their shows. Their designs go well beyond their logos. For example, The Adventure Zone is an actual play Dungeons and Dragons podcast (where the hosts really play it). In the last season, one of the characters was expelled from “Clyde Nite’s Night Knight School,” so they made this bumper sticker.

An example of a merch item used to promote a podcast show.

Girl in Space does something similar. You can buy merch with their logo and branded artwork, but you’ll also find unique designs like a #NOMURDERING T-shirt, a Mutiny With Me Mask, an Action Scientist! Phone Case, and more, all of which reference specific episodes. 

2. Focus on community, not profits

Like we mentioned earlier, podcast merchandise is about community, not revenue. Consider how your merchandise will foster engagement and growth. What would make someone laugh? What looks good in a selfie? What can be identified across a room, will start conversations, or will trigger fond memories?

3. Never forget your audience

Your audience – the people who will buy your podcast merchandise – is critical here. You shouldn’t try to sell anything they would never use or wear. Before you create merch, ask yourself what makes them love your show. What do they find interesting or innovative? What do they want to show off?

If you aren’t sure what they want, ask them directly. Mention it in your podcast newsletter. Ask them on social media or in your private community.

4. One design does not fit all products

It’s tempting to come up with a cool design and slap it on a dozen different products, especially if you’re using a print-on-demand service where you can create as much as you like. But a design doesn’t work on every medium.

For instance, your cover art may look awesome on a T-shirt, but it probably won’t be easy to read on a keychain. The keychain needs its own simpler design to look appealing. So when you think about the designs of your merch, use something that fits the size and shape of what you’re designing.

We like how the Historical AF podcast has a broad selection of designs.

T-shirts and other merchandise.

5. Come up with unique podcast merchandise

T-shirts, mugs, pens, hats, stickers, and keychains are great, but they’ve been done a million times. Do your fans want more of the same generic swag they’ve seen countless times? Probably not.

Instead, think about your niche and how you can be unique. For example, Critical Role, another Dungeons & Dragons podcast and YouTube stream, makes custom dice. Not only is this a unique type of merch, it’s also something their fans will use regularly with other potential listeners, simultaneously nurturing their community and promoting the show. 

Unique and innovative merchandise for a show.
Critical Role uses unique podcast merchandise that stands out.

6. Keep your podcast merchandise simple

You are a podcaster, not a product designer or ecommerce store owner. If you make podcast merchandise complicated, it will cost valuable time and money that is better spent on your show. Limit your merch to just a few items with well-sourced designs, at least until you have the resources to manage a bigger ecommerce operation. 

7. Don’t skimp on design quality

If you hire someone to create some podcast merchandise designs for you (even if it’s just for someone to resize your logo for T-shirts), make sure you focus on quality. Don’t hire the cheapest person available or you’ll get a poor result. 

Remember: Your podcast merchandise will represent your brand, so it should be high quality like you want people to think about you.

8. Create an attractive storefront

Your listeners will need a place to browse your products, add them to a shopping card, and check out. The print-on-demand service you decide to work with may offer a storefront, or you may have to build one on your own website.

Your storefront doesn’t need to be the next version of Amazon, but it should be simple, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing. Use high quality photos and right clear descriptions. Use a secure payment processor that everyone is comfortable with.

Online store selling merch for a show.
The Last Podcast on the Left has an attractive podcast merch storefront.

9. Promote everywhere!

Once your products are ready and your storefront is set up, promote it everywhere. If you put the effort into designing the products, you ought to make sure your audience knows about them. 

Here are some simple but effective ways to promote your podcast merchandise. 

  • Mention your products in every episode.
  • Post regularly on social media.
  • Send email newsletters whenever you have a sale.
  • Send an email whenever you create something new. 
  • Add a menu link on your podcast website.

Your Favorite Podcast Merch

Have you purchased any podcast merchandise? What was it and why do you like it? What made you buy it? Please let us know in the comments below!

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