While famous bands can earn good money at gigs, for the lesser mortals, often gigs are played for free or cover costs and not much more. For some payment might come in terms of free drinks, food and maybe accomodation.
So how can you make money at your gigs? One good way is merch, aka merchandise. If you can get someone to man a mechandise table, this is a good way to sell some extra product and help build and support your fanbase.
First thing of course is your CD’s. Even when I am playing at an open mike or bar gig, I often get asked for CD’s that people can purchase. My recordings to date are all demo’s and while they are reasonable, they are far from professional quality, for a start I don’t have a drummer on them, not by choice, I just haven’t got round to finding someone to help me with that. Nevertheless, if I had some I could sell them.
So the next thing is because they are demo’s and not of a quality that I would want to produce professionally in volume, I have decided to burn my own for now. To that end I bought a Canon PIXMA iP4500 inkjet printer which will print straight onto printable CD’s and DVD’s. SO I can burn my CD’s from my TASCAM recording unit, or from my PC. I can print labels locally and buy DVD cases, so that I can also easily print slicks to go in them. I can now produce a pretty professional disk for around $3 and sell it for $10 which I think is reasonable. I can also print quality demo’s to go with my Press Kit. If it’s a demo, you could also add other material on the CD including your EPK, lyric sheets in Word or PDF format, video’s etc.
If you have a real following, you can do things like print T Shirts, there are companies all over that can do this for you. In New Zealand, one that is possible is Closet. There are also loads of companies that sell promotional products and there are lot of things that would work for you and many of them are quite cheap, even with screenprinting. One good example is Designagift. Think about what fits with your type of music and the type of audience you have and make sure the Merch you have made is suitable and would be attractive to them.