Pop-Up Stores Are the New Normal in Music Merch
The music industry is in a weird place right now. In the past, it was simple. Artists make albums, people buy those albums at the record store, then go see the artists in concert and buy merchandise while they're there.
Things aren't so simple anymore, and it's forced artists to rethink the way they market their music and merchandise. With the internet, people are streaming their music more, taking away traditional record sales and therefore, to an extent, the need for bands to put out standard LP's. As we're able to watch live concerts from the comfort of home, too, it makes it more difficult for bands to hawk their merchandise. That's why some have tried tackling both problems at once by bundling album sales and merchandise.
Others are going the route of pop-up stores.
These pop-up stores are similar to streetwear drops from brands like Supreme or Palace. They operate in temporary spaces, rather than being a full-time store, and they use that short time to create demand and entice people to buy things that will only exist for sale once. And this isn't something only small-time acts are doing. This is everyone. Ed Sheeran, arguably one of the biggest names in pop music right now, just launched pop-up shops all over the country that coincided with the release of his new album, the "No. 6 Collaborations Project."
Pop-up stores included city-centric signage and limited edition apparel, as well as "interactive experiences."
#DidYouKnow: The @edsheeran pop-up store at @SandtonCity has a different T-shirt representing each and every track on the star’s ‘No.6 Collaborations Project’ album. Do you have a favourite yet? All T-shirts cost R300! Get to the store now before they’re all gone 💙🔥 pic.twitter.com/qY92A9Z9lw
— Warner Music SA (@WarnerMusicSA) July 12, 2019
Time to break the fourth wall and speak in the first person here for a minute, because I have some actual connection to this:
The Philadelphia Ed Sheeran pop-up was in the vacant storefront on the ground floor of my apartment building. Fans were wrapped around the block to buy the album and merchandise, and the front windows of my building advertised "Ed Sheeran x Philadelphia" and "No. 6."
The security guy working told me that Sheeran himself was supposed to be there, but when I talked to him later on, he told me he never showed up. Maybe that was a marketing ploy to get more people there, but the fans seemed plenty excited just at the prospect of limited edition merchandise.
Drake had done something similar for the release of his album "Views from the 6" in New York City (maybe it's just a thing that you have to do this when your album has "6" in the title), and even Madonna, who is pretty much the personification of pop music in the late 20th century, is getting in on the trend.
Granted, Madonna has done her best to stay hip with the kids and ride any trend wave she can over the last decade or so, but this still shows the importance of new marketing approaches to stay relevant and move merchandise these days.
— Cameron L. Mitchell (@CamLMitchell) June 20, 2019
Madonna's new album "Madame X" is only for sale in CD form as a ticket bundle (we told you it was a thing now), and to make up for lower than expected ticket sales, Madge launched a "Madame X" pop-up in New York City at the end of June. It looks like it was your pretty standard merchandise fare—T-shirts, records, a few things like pillows here and there—but it shows that the pop-up merch store trend extends beyond niche musical acts all the way to superstars.
This just further solidifies our claim that branded merchandise is now totally hand-in-hand with the musical product itself. Artists often sweeten the deal by offering exclusives like apparel designs you can't get anywhere else, special colored vinyl or limited edition posters. People love exclusivity and flaunting their social currency, so this is a trend that should only keep growing.