The recent death of David Bowie has allowed music fans, both young and old, to retrospectively view the enormous impact the star had on culture at its broadest definition. Bowie was one of life’s great innovators, who laid the foundations for many of the biggest and best bands today. His genius mixed art, music, sexuality, image, politics, and gender together in a huge melting pot, which had never been attempted before to such extreme levels.
Many older fans in the UK remember Bowie’s famous Top of the Pops performance of “Starman”, due to the daring, androgynous image, which Bowie and The Spiders From Mars famously adopted. The image was part of Bowie’s shtick and was, of course, just as important as the listening experience.
Throughout the 1990s in the UK, fashion and music were at an all-time high due to the feel-good factor of “Cool Britannia”. The fashion industry quickly became a vehicle for British indie bands to jump on the retro bandwagon. The British band, Suede, even dedicated a track to the fashion industry, with their major hit, “She’s In Fashion”. Suddenly, Fred Perry shirts were ‘in’, Parka jackets became cool, and Doc Martens were the staple footwear of choice for any rock star. Any band sporting this fine attire was soon considered to be the next big thing in the UK music!
Between the 70s and 90s, the physical listening experience was, of course, very different to today’s digital age. Record labels now have all the data under the sun to help market their bands, and this is thanks to social media and streaming sites, such as Spotify and Tidal.
Whilst Spotify has come under fire for its approach to royalties, the service requires a means of funding, which is where advertising plays its part. According to statistics, the average Spotify user spends 148 minutes a day listening to content across all platforms. This is a particularly important format for fashion brands, as it creates an incredibly high potential for production conversion through audio and video commercials. Brands can also create targeted playlists, which can act as a natural means of promotion.
Maison Kitsune, which is based in France and home to Tom Vek and Phoenix, was one of the first electronic labels to commercially combine music with a fashion label. Developed by Daft Punk manager, Gildas Loaec, and Japanese architect, Masaya Kuroki, the fashion side of the business is sold in over 300 stores across the world, while it still signs major artists to the successful record label.
The fashion and music elements combined together, as featured artists on the label wore Maison Kitsune clothing, which soon appeared in music videos and as a result, picked up considerable industry and commercial traction. Previously, electronic music was stereotyped by glow sticks and neon clothing, but Maison Kitsune showed that electronic music could be cool and fashionable.
Similar brands who have adopted a strong music marketing policy are Burberry, Superdry, and Fred Perry.
Burberry recognised the opportunity to change its brand image through social media and the Acoustic Sessions were born, thanks to Chief Creative Director, Christopher Bailey. Artists such as Jake Bugg, Roo Panes, and Jack Garratt have all been featured, and this has helped the brand merge into the music industry and promote British acts via social media. All tracks were exclusively performed for Burberry Acoustic and the material is currently still available via iTunes and Burberry’s online store. Gaining over 2 million views, Burberry Acoustic has proved to be a big hit in partnering fashion with music.
Fred Perry has also taken to social media, with its ‘Subculture’ series, in which up-and-coming bands, such as Menace Beach and PINS, have played exclusive sessions which are then posted on social media. This helps to create a level of engagement, which is beneficial to the exposure of the artist and the reputation and image of Fred Perry. Data insights can be used to find out how popular the artist is, where in the country the content was viewed, and on which device. This can form the basis for country-length tours or a further PR and social media drive.
Superdry has taken a slightly different strategy by using Soundcloud in order to generate playlists that are broadcast in their 139 stores across the UK. This helps artists to achieve widespread exposure online and offline for free, and also benefits Superdry by creating a unique shopping experience. Its playlists have included acts such as Jamie xx, Maribou State, and Wolf Alice.
For up and coming artists, this kind of promotion is priceless, and by using social media and the internet, artists can reach a wide-ranging demographic across the world. Partnerships with fashion brands are not just about product conversion, but are about nurturing talent to create an association that is beneficial to the image of the brand and the artist. Fashion and music will always continue to have an intertwining relationship and overall, we, the music fans, benefit from the fantastic music which is then freely available through social media.
Author: Matt Langham has worked in the marketing industry for four years and enjoys writing about the history of music, as well as the developments in digital media