It has become the norm over the past decade for musicians to put forth merchandise collections tied to specific albums, tours, and songs, not just for concert tour merchandising at the venue but for sale through retail channels as well. These ventures have proliferated over the years and can take a number of forms, many of which straddle the line between licensing and promotion:
- Pop-ups. Guns N’ Roses launched a pop-up event in North London last month, featuring apparel, accessories, and home goods as well as experiential elements, to mark the re-release of Appetite for Destruction; as one component, fans were able to purchase a customized Guns N’ Roses leather jacket in collaboration with fashion label Schott. Kanye West has sold merchandise through pop-ups tied to several of his recent albums, including ye (in April of this year), Yeezus, and The Life of Pablo. Eminem has offered pop-ups in 2017 and 2018 under the Mom’s Spaghetti moniker, both in his hometown of Detroit and at Coachella, tied to a lyric from his song Lose Yourself.
- Limited-edition products. Zac Brown and winemaker John Killebrew released a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc tied to Brown’s Uncaged under the Z Alexander Brown label. Other examples include Justin Bieber launching a line of 11 designer iPhone cases with Cellairis, themed to his album Believe; Train partnering with Ghirardelli for a line of chocolate bars tied to Save Me San Francisco and launching a wine label called Save Me San Francisco Wine, with each release named after a Train song or album; and Coldplay pairing with Bongo for a series of six comic books based on Mylo Xyloto.
- Long-term brands. Madonna launched Hard Candy Fitness, a chain of boutique gyms named after one of her albums, and has overseen Material Girl, inspired by that 1984 song, as a long-time fashion label for junior’s apparel and accessories, available at Macy’s. Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Lovers label, which takes its name from her tour to support Love. Angel. Music. Baby., has extended beyond apparel into fragrances, footwear, and a wide variety of other products, and has generated spin-off labels for different demographics and price points.
- Shop-in-shops. Walgreens and some Duane Reade outlets supported the launch of Red with the “Taylor Swift Store at Walgreens.” It included Swift-branded t-shirts, bracelets, backpacks, tour books, posters, journals, notebooks, calendars, and iPhone and iPad accessories featuring artwork tied to the album.
This list represents only a small sampling of the album-based initiatives that have appeared over the last 10 years or so. Musicians know that creating merchandising efforts around artwork, titles, and lyrics associated with their albums, songs, and tours brings a number of advantages: It gives the fans fresh artwork to add to their collection of products based on their favorite band; it offers a brand name that is associated with the musician but can also appeal to consumers beyond the core fans; it creates excitement around the act’s music and other business ventures; and, of course, it promotes the initial release of the music.