Concerts and music festivals are growing hubs for the apparel and beauty brands, which enhance the concert experience and give artists longevity by vertically integrating the music industry.

Today, album tours and merch are the biggest sources of income for artists, while music festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo have morphed into widely shoppable events where brands and retailers come to showcase their most experience-driven retail. But whether its an iconic artist like Kanye West infusing the best of his fashion and music into merch or an H&M pop-up at Coachella that is as liveable as it is shoppable, brands are striving to embed where their audience is, adding new flourishes to a pre-existing experience, and forging a long-term relevance for a one-time event. This not only gives brands new avenues to sell products, but also provides them new expertise that they can take back to their flagship brick-and-mortar stores.

1) Kanye West translated his concert and music experience to “The Life of Pablo” merch, combining the best of streetwear and celebrity brands and capitalizing on his reputation as a leader in fashion.

In the past few years, Kanye West, a trailblazer in music and style, has begun to translate his influence into consumer products. In 2012, West founded DONDA, a creative content company inspired by Dr. Dre’s collaboration with Beats Electronics to create products with an impact. Drawing in a motley team of everyone from graphic designers and architects to app designers and DJs, one of DONDA’s first projects was West’s “Yeezus” tour set design, wardrobe and merch. According to Joe Perez, the former art director of DONDA, “The tour is a spectacle…so we look at the themes of the album and whatever inspired the music. And then we’ll look at the actual tour, the production and the stage design and the narrative, and we try to translate all that to merch.”

Since the “Yeezus” tour, West has debuted new collections of album-specific merch, distributed at concerts and limited-time-only pop-ups, much in the tradition of streetwear. “The Life of Pablo” collection debuted at West’s February 2016 Yeezy Season 3 fashion show and “The Life of Pablo” album release party at Madison Square Garden, and later was sold at 21 pop-ups around the world.

West built the album’s retail presence out of the streetwear philosophy, maximizing anticipation and capitalizing on time scarcity, which extended the life cycle of his concert beyond a one-time event. DONDA’s designs, like streetwear, also repurpose pieces from the past—“Yeezus” tour merch merged the crosses and skulls of 80s metal bands with modern-day West, hip hop and rap culture. Following the first “Life of Pablo” pop-up, which made $1 million in sales, other artists have latched on to West’s idea—Justin Bieber, for instance, asked Jerry Lorenzo, the founder of his favorite brand Fear of God, to create his tour merch, spurring massive sales at the concert and a pop-up at VFILES (Lorenzo also works with DONDA). The success of these pop-ups has led some real estate companies to include tour merch in their pop-ups, including Simon Property Group’s Long Island mall, which sold products from “The Life of Pablo” collection.

With these projects, West has also entirely disrupted the concert industry’s traditional commerce model, pulling the best of the celebrity brand building playbook. For one, West is involved at every step of DONDA’s work—the agency’s products reflect West’s own style preferences, which heightens the value of the merch for his fans. At the same time, the products stand at the intersection of luxury and accessibility: they have a lower price point, so they’re democratized, but because they can be worn like high fashion and are sold only at concerts and select pop-ups, they remain exclusive.

As a fashion trailblazer, West is disrupting the typical tour merch model to capitalize directly on his own fans and followers. Traditionally, artists and other celebrities have worked with brands or other manufacturers to create their merch, but West—like a growing number of celebrities—is creating his own brand, thereby streamlining revenue directly to DONDA and exercising more control over the entire process, from ideation to sales. Particularly as ticket sales and merch become the best route for artists to make money, West’s productization of live music events serves as both a marketing tool and a way to extend the lifeline of each concert so that the experience lives beyond it. Altogether, he is vertically integrating the music industry.

2) H&M’s capsule collection and partnership with Coachella helped transform the festival from a brand into a cultural touchstone.

H&M, a long-time sponsor for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which occurs each April in California, has taken its relationship to the event further with a men’s and women’s clothing line, available in stores, online and at a pop-up during the festival. Calling Coachella “a state of mind,” H&M strives for its capsule collection to embody the festival’s bohemian, celebratory vibe.

Much like the luxury brands Burberry and Yveline Kay, which are both utilizing new tools like live video to democratize and open up the stringent time and space constraints of seasonal runway fashion, H&M is building a collection of products related to and sold at Coachella, but making them available to anyone, anywhere and at any time. The brand is also playing with the seasonal model to its own advantage—Coachella is the first music festival of the season, allowing H&M to set the stage for other concert trends, essentially using Coachella as its runway.

With its low price points but high cultural capital, H&M’s Coachella collection also manages to remain accessible without draining itself of value. The wide availability of the clothing means that anyone can shop it regardless of whether they are attending Coachella, which both disseminates the culture surrounding the festival on a global scale and spotlights H&M as the brand selling the tools to embrace this culture. Similarly, H&M increases the value of the collection with live influencer marketing—the celebrities Sophia Bush, Diane Kruger and Kate Bosworth have worn pieces from the collection at the festival—but the pieces remain affordable (between $6 and $50). This stands in stark contrast to the cost of a ticket to Coachella—not to mention travel expenses for festival-goers who don’t live in the area.

The future success of H&M in the Coachella space depends on how it competes with the many other brands involved in festival retail, both in the fast-fashion sphere (Forever 21), the luxury sphere (Jimmy Choo and Coach), and across all industries, from Ford’s cars to Sephora’s cosmetics. This April 2018, Sephora’s tent provided makeovers and included a Fenty Beauty pop-up, in addition to a page on its site specially aimed at #SephoraCoachella festival beauty.

However, H&M is taking strides to become more than just the go-to festival fashion choice, crafting its festival presence into a standalone, highly shoppable experience. In 2017 for the H&M Loves Coachella collection, the company remodeled its festival tent after the Palm Springs House where it shot its photo campaign—a haven for concert-goers to relax, take photos and videos, write a message on a post-it to “leave their mark” at Coachella, and even order pieces from the collection on iPads. Because the festival experience is more of a sprawling, choose-your-own-adventure-like event as opposed to what fans experience at an enclosed sports arena, creating retail spaces infused with discoverability and wonder is a useful tactic for a brand like H&M—the more Instagrammable, the better.

But the bigger task for H&M will be the brand’s ability to translate the Coachella vibe and the discoverability of its pop-up tent to brick-and-mortar stores far away from the California desert. In 2017, the H&M Loves Coachella campaign included a music video by The Atomics, who performed at the festival, and who also gave a free concert at H&M’s Times Square store—on a smaller scale, H&M could easily add some time of musical experience to its stores outside of New York City that sell the Coachella collections.

Opening a passageway to allow customers to market H&M, instead of H&M marketing to customers is also easily achievable with social media. In 2017, fast-fashion competitor Forever 21 launched an advertisement campaign called “Spotted at the Festival,” showcasing different Instagram photos from influencers who wore Forever 21 pieces to Coachella on the company’s site. Users could then hover over photos to see product descriptions—for products not sold by Forever 21, the brand would recommend an in-house alternative. The shareability of social media photos could also incline more consumers to buy festival-inspired apparel and accessories even if they can’t or aren’t interested in attending the festival itself.

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