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Beatmerch: Promoting Electronic Music Artists One T-Shirt at a Time

The merchandise table at a show or festival is a hot spot to pick up hats, CDs, t-shirts, bumper stickers and other promotional swag emblazoned with the names and logos of your favorite acts. But have you ever considered what goes into the production, distribution and sales of merchandise, especially for DJs and other independent artists?

Duncan Abdelnour has. As a former tour manager for electronic music acts, Abdelnour, who is a marketing and entrepreneurship major at the University of Tampa in Florida, is keenly aware of the merchandising needs of artists, and he’s now in a unique position to offer those services himself. This college senior is the founder of Beatmerch, a startup that provides 360-solutions for electronic music merchandising.

In addition to assisting with product design and handling production and distribution, Beatmerch designs attention-grabbing merchandise booths for touring artists that can be packed up and brought along on the bus or plane. The company also provides full-scale e-commerce solutions, including the building, designing and updating of online stores through which artists to sell their merch. Beatmerch also helps its clients navigate the intricacies of licensing and labeling as they design promotional materials.

So what sparked the Beatmerch concept?

Abdelnour, who grew up in Westchester County, New York, is a born entrepreneur. He started his first business, an online store that sold paintball guns, at just 14 years old. Later, in high school, Abdelnour ran a series of club-style events – Westchester Teen Nights – for teenagers in  his hometown to prevent them from having to go all the way to New York City to have fun. He’s also run a business called Abdelnour Marketing and his own DJ entertainment business. It wasn’t until Abdelnour started a promo company and started working as a tour manager on international tours for artists like Fedde Le Grand and Mark Knight that he got the idea to start Beatmerch.

And it looks to be Abdelnour’s biggest idea yet, as the company is rapidly gaining traction. Having just launched in the latter half 2013, Beatmerch is technically still in its infancy, yet the company managed to rake in $126,000 in sales last year and has already become one of the electronic music industry’s largest merchandising companies. Thus far, the company’s client list includes the electronic music artists Nicky Romero, Hardwell, DJ Snake, Don Diablo, DOCO and Paul Van Dyk. According to a March 2014 article from the University of Tampa, Beatmerch’s clients also include three record labels and two Miami nightclubs.

Given the company’s impressive growth and potential, Inc. Magazine has named Beatmerch one of its Coolest College Startups for the year 2014. Beatmerch was one of only 16 dorm-room startups chosen from over 100 contenders this year. Abdelnour isn’t the only college student at the company, either; several other members of the Beatmerch team are still completing their undergraduate and graduate degrees at schools that include the University of Tampa and James Madison University.

Abdelnour is set to graduate from the University of Tampa in May 2014, after which he plans to move to Los Angeles to continue growing and expanding Beatmerch.

Insight from the Founder:

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1. What was your motivation to start Beatmerch?

After being approached by DJ Nicky Romero’s manager to quickly put together a merchandise package for his tour that was starting in 2 weeks, we quickly saw the potential in electronic music merchandising.

2. How did you convince your partner(s)/financer(s) about your idea?

The company has been funded mostly through myself, a line of credit, and boot strapping. My partners do share the same expansive vision to create Beatmerch into a leading powerhouse company in the electronic music industry.

3. Did you finish college? What is the most valuable lesson you learned from there?

Almost done, I’m set to graduate in just a few weeks in May. The most important thing college has taught me is how to expand my network, meet new people, and learn to get by on your own means.

4. What is one piece of advice you would give to students who want to start a business while in school?

To just start something, figure out what people need, what they want, and what their willing to spend money for.

5. What are your future plans, both for yourself and Beatmerch?

We are growing our business by signing more artists, as well as developing a comprehensive eCommerce platform that will (hopefully) set beatmerch.com to be the house hold name for electronic music merchandise.

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