Fan-Tailing: Tour Merchandise Pop-Ups
Once exclusive to concertgoers, tour merchandise is now entering the ‘traditional’ retail realm via artist-branded pop-ups and retail floor takeovers, capitalising on the pull of the live shows.
Coinciding with tour stops or record releases, such temporary spaces trade on the power of the ephemeral moment. They also add valuable revenue for artists in the wake of depleted music sales: since the rise of digital music distribution and illegal downloads, US sales of CDs dropped by 31.5% in 2015 alone (Recording Industry Association of America).
With tour merchandise more fashionable than ever – positioned from accessible price points through to a luxury tag – we review the most noteworthy concepts.
Power of Now: Live Experiences
- American rock band The Strokes staged a weeklong experience called No Room in May 2016 in New York, comprising a record store, coffee shop, DJ sets and a midnight release of their new EP. Echoing the lifestyle of musicians, it mimicked a hotel where fans could explore various rooms: a lobby, a multimedia gallery with video content and projections, a room with original band gear on display, and a store selling stickers and one $1,250 signed poster.
- Staged in New York in November 2015, British record producer Jamie XX’s fleeting Good Times store offered a more intimate experience. As well as broadcasting live radio shows, merchandise was sold alongside curated vintage vinyls.
- Celebrating the 20th anniversary of his debut album Reasonable Doubt, in June 2016, US hip-hop star Jay-Z’s LA pop-up sold related merchandise – ranging from $30 for hats, to $140 for jackets. Dubbed Apt. 4B, the installation was modelled after the Brooklyn apartment he was living in when he made the album.
- Similarly, in June 2016, American rapper YG opened a 10-day art installation and shop at the Known Gallery in LA to promote his second album, Still Brazy. Six listening stations were accompanied by life-sized art installations depicting events referenced in the album – such as the artist in the record studio, or in prison. It also sold new releases from YG’s three clothing lines.
- Following successful runs in NY, LA and Paris in spring 2016, US rap icon Kanye West went global in August 2016 by simultaneously launching 21 pop-up stores worldwide to promote his 2016 album, The Life of Pablo.
Located in the US, Canada, Europe, South Africa and Asia, the minimalistic stores allowed only 20 people to shop at any given time, while queuing fans received a price list of all the location-exclusive products. Each city received its own collection of 12 items, ranging from $35 beanies to $400 jackets, all featuring unique patterns, colourways and slogans. The pieces were co-created with Californian artist Cali Thornhill DeWitt. See also New ‘Glocalisation’ Strategies.
Capsule Collections & Curated Edits
- In May 2016, Canadian pop star Justin Bieber hosted a successful two-day pop-up shop in conjunction with streetwear boutique VFiles. Staged in New York, it only sold merchandise from his 2016 Purpose tour – ranging from $40 hats to $350 jackets, as well as two exclusive VFiles hoodies.
- Having established his retail pulling power, others also gave him shelf space. Barneys launched a tour-inspired capsule collection featuring $95 caps and $1,675 statement jackets, while Urban Outfitters went for a smaller collection that was more affordable, but still exclusive.
- Coinciding with US rapper Future’s NY tour stop in August 2016, e-commerce site Fancy hosted Future Hive – a gallery, VIP lounge and retail space selling a curated edit of Future’s own apparel collections.
- Promoting her new tour Anti, US RnB superstar Rihanna opened a pop-up shop at Parisian concept store Colette in July 2016. It sold a combination of tour merchandise and items from her extensive collaborations with Dior, Puma, Stance and Manolo Blahnik. See Music Meets Retail for more on her previous partnership with British fashion brand River Island.