Alex Johns discusses how the pop-up industry is changing music marketing and the future of album launches
The landscape of the music industry is constantly evolving – digital distribution is moving incredibly fast and with the rise of easily accessible social media channels such as YouTube and SoundCloud, it’s easier than ever for new talent to get noticed and grow support. So, in this forever-changing era of music marketing, how does a brand stand out? Essentially, the old rules no longer apply. Artists and their music labels have to think harder and faster to attract interest and sell records. For the savvy, more entrepreneurial few, pop-up stores are starting to become a staple in their annual marketing plans. When done right, pop-ups can be used to effectively launch, research or market new music and artists. However, for the more traditional and less experienced marketeers, pop-ups can quickly become over complicated affairs – too thought-through and over-managed, they more often than not go wrong. Whilst pop-ups may not be the obvious choice for music brands, Ebitt are at the forefront of this trend, having created and activated only the second ever UK music pop-up store. With the Rolling Stones pioneering this trend, Ebitt worked tirelessly to produce a three day pop-up store in Boxpark, Shoreditch to mark the release of the Pet Shop Boys’ latest record SUPER, contributing to the album’s incredible success in the charts. So, how should music brand owners, record labels and artists go about creating pop-ups that appeal to the new-age shopper?
Apply your experience
Applying your industry knowledge and understanding consumer behaviour is key. In this increasingly digital world, creating a physical shopping experience may seem somewhat contradictory, but consumer trends indicate otherwise. Fans love to touch, feel and buy artists’ work in physical retail environments. Since creating his first pop-up for the global super-brand Maybelline back in 2010, Ebitt’s managing director Alex Johns has been a part of the good, the bad and downright ugly of the pop-up world. Using his extensive expertise together with our in-house team of brand experience specialists, Ebitt has delivered countless successful pop-ups to an array of brands including the Pet Shop Boys, Maybelline, Nespresso and the BBC as well as Burt’s Bees.
To pull off a successful pop-up, the needs of the brand, the management companies and the sponsors all have to be considered. For the Pet Shop Boys pop-up to succeed Ebitt collaborated with Becker Brown, Kobalt and Farrow, the band’s management company, label and design agency respectively. To stay within budget Ebitt also approached and later appointed Bang&Olufsen as the title sponsor. A pop-up does not happen independently and it’s absolutely key for all parties to figure out a collaborative way of working together.
Plan in advance
As with most new ideas, the likely scenario is slightly chaotic: there’s often no brief, no fixed budget and no clear way of moving forward. Maintaining an undeterred attitude and planning as much as possible in advance, are essential factors to making a pop-up work.
Find the right space
One of the most important considerations is finding the right space – environment, footfall, demographic and timing are all key aspects to consider. However, great pop-up spaces are extremely competitive and can be very expensive. Fortunately, there is always a negotiated deal to be made – a great pop-up will attract attention, drive people to the high street and in turn, benefit nearby retailers. So, if you have the right contacts now is the time to use them and if you don’t – anchor yourself to those who do.
Prior to a pop-up launch there is always a bit of a lull, which is shortly followed by a great burst of activity when all the planning and thinking turns into complicated logistical activation. The brand assets, store design and build, till technology, product design, ranging and staffing all need to be carefully knitted together. With so many stakeholders, it is essential to have an experienced operations team, who can guarantee success before, during and after activation. The best ideas and the most scrupulous planning would be nowhere without strong teamwork.
Decide how you will measure success before activation and evaluate as soon as the project is finished. For Ebitt, the Pet Shop Boys’ pop-up was a resounding success – we knew how many shoppers to expect, how much merchandise we had, what type of press would visit and how to manage the sales. With fans queuing 500 yards around the block on opening morning, we knew that the end result was going to be a triumph. Part of the reason was our multi-faceted approach; not only were fans able to listen to the new album, they entered a shop which looked every inch the Pet Shop Boys’ brand and enabled them touch and feel the band through limited edition and signed merchandise. The other part was our financial strategy; the pop- up returned investment several times over in sales alone and contributed to SUPER achieving No.1 in the Billboard Dance Album charts. Without the careful planning, seamless activation and marketing efforts, the results would have been very different. Capturing the pop-up shop space presents significant commercial opportunities for the music industry, but this area is still somewhat unprecedented and true experts are few and far between. By understanding retail, shoppers’ habits and music marketing, Ebitt creates highly profitable and creative pop-up experiences, which promote both awareness and sales.