How Music-Merch Pop-Ups Are Fostering Deeper Connections with Artists

December 15, 2016

Helping innovative brands bring pop-ups to life in some of North America’s most sought-after spaces is one of our favourite parts of this gig. And, when we get to help uber-creative talents like Kanye, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott, we are beyond pumped.

In August, we worked with Kanye’s label, Universal, and Bravado clothing to book the only Canadian pop-up for his Life of Pablo Tour. It all went down over two-days at 12 Ossington in an up and coming part of Toronto’s Queen West area. Fans showed up in droves, some waiting for than 24 hours to get their hands on the exclusive tour gear.

Inside Gallery And Event Space the location of Kanye West’s pop-up in Toronto booked through thisopenspace. Photo: Blog TO Jesse Milns

As the music industry struggles to find its identity, merch pop ups are becoming the norm, offering artists different revenue streams and a simpler, more intimate way to engage with fans. It’s a great way to build brand connectivity outside of the concert arena, while also offering people a sense of community with fellow devotees. And, the fact that they’re only there for a short blip in time makes these pop-ups the ultimate formula for FOMO.

On November 25th, The Weeknd tapped into similar buzz when we helped him launch a series of tour merch pop-ups and exclusive events for his Starboy tour. The 2x Grammy and 9x Juno Award winner’s pop-up included his limited-edition Starboy Album Collection comprising tees, a hat, a hoodie, and bomber, denim, and coaches jackets. The pop-ups were a completely immersive experience including red thunderbolt lighting, a listening party, and even an appearance by the Weeknd himself.

And then there were Travis Scott’s pop-ups, which we supported in NYC and LA. Travis used his pop up to tell his brand story, play with some new art and mediums, and expand the presence of his infamous bald eagle swag… and, it turns out, the live pet eagle he travels with. No word yet on which one is making the creative decisions.

Travis Scott's Toyota Hood Pop-Up Shop at Grand Street Pop-Up Space. Photo: Hypebeast Travis Scott’s Toyota Hood Pop-Up Shop at Grand Street Pop-Up Space. Photo: Hypebeast

The tour merch pop-up movement is only getting started. They’re an opportunity for fans to experience an artist’s brand on a deeper, more immersive level. It lets them get close to their music, their style, their creative energy, and philosophies in a highly curated space. It gives them the ability to touch and buy a little piece of an artist’s world, and in many cases, their minds.

In Vogue, Bravado’s CEO likened pop-ups to the record stores of yesteryear. “[The record store] was a place, obviously, that sold music, but it was a place that people went and they started a conversation and they’d learn something and they’d try something new. These temporary stores are really creating a very similar thing, a place to come and listen to music.”

As music moves more into digital platforms, experiential pop-ups, location-based temporary stores, and real-world activations are becoming the only place fans can come together to share an experience outside of an actual concert. And from the artist’s side, pop-ups offer a valuable business model and lucrative revenue stream outside of music sales and concerts tickets.

Most artists who have gone the pop-up route have called on their fans to drive instant traffic to their activations. You can’t receive that sort of response with a traditional retail store. These short term roll-outs have created massive responses from fans, almost acting as a means of appreciation, and the accompanying frenzy is part of the overall marketing strategy.

Music has a powerful ability to mark moments in time. It anchors itself to the chapters of our lives. And as music merch aficionados can attest, a tour shirt is about more than flaunting your love for an artist: it’s a tangible artifact that embodies who we were at the time we were listening.

But you don’t need to be Kanye West to create your own epic pop-up, nor do you need to be in the word of music. Whether you want to dabble with your own merch pop-up, host the ultimate party, or design the perfect set we have a huge collection of spaces ready to book. 

Want to pop-up like Pablo? You can book his Toronto Space.