In case you missed the hype 1.5 week ago, but you probably didn’t — Kanye West opened up several pop-up stores that were only open for three days, in 21 cities all over the world. At the same time, R&B artist Frank Ocean released his anticipated new album online and, also, in four pop-up stores. Where is this sudden interest from music artists in physical places in the city coming from?
Kanye West could be seen as one the most influential and thought-provoking public figures in the world of music, fashion and celebrity. His persona has attracted a large and loyal fan base and a big social media following. In the age of online streaming and (il)legal downloads, the music industry is constantly evolving and searching for ways to sustain revenues for the records being produced. While streaming platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music have received praise and criticism for their way of bringing music to the market, it has created chances for new experiments like never-finished albums (getting tweaked and adjusted even after being released such as Kanye’s The Life of Pablo) and visual albums like Beyoncé’s Lemonade. But while the online cloud is changing music, the physical aspect seems as important as ever and critical to an entertainer’s commercial success. Live performances and merchandise need to sell in order for this industry to survive. And this last weekend is a prime example of how modern day pop-stars are selling what they make.
Illustrating it is not all about actually selling something, was shown by artist Drake who was an early bird in the pop-up trend, opening up pop-up store’s in New York, Los Angeles and his hometown of Toronto in 2013 to celebrate the release of his newest album. Not selling anything, fans could pick up free merchandise on a first-come, first-serve basis and for one day only. The only reason — creating a hype, an exclusive, experience. Artists are apparently looking for new, physical, ways of (re-)connecting to audiences without actually having to be present themselves like during traditional live performances. It is about creating a physical space that represents them as an artist. This year the trend took off as artists like Justin Bieber in Miami and The Strokes in New York opened their pop-up stores. Drake repeated his trick again in April and August. Frank Ocean accompanied the release of his new album with handing out free copies of a one of a kind self-made magazine at pop-ups in L.A., New York, Chicago and London. Within half an hour after the announcement the line in New York filled up the street.
And then last weekend, Kanye took it to the next level by announcing on the Thursday prior that he was opening pop-ups for the third time this year, but now in no less than 21 cities all over the world. This move showed that the trend is moving from the usual suspects to more surprising locales like Cape Town, Singapore and Melbourne. Even or own city of Amsterdam was chosen as opposed to other European capitals of cool, like Stockholm, Paris or Barcelona. In this sense, cities become part of the identity of an artist, adding a new layer to the image of a city.
Last June we wrote on pop-up stores for cities, a new trend in city-marketing. Read the article here.