July 24, 2013
Musicians have long sold T-shirts to promote their music, but releasing music to sell T-shirts is a more recent development, as Fortune reports.
Since the early 1990s, a number of small, independently owned companies have been producing the “streetwear” favored by skateboarders and musicians just outside the mainstream. The clothing, such as graphic tees and jeans, was influenced by hip-hop and alternative-rock musicians and also offered them sponsorships. Now the companies are underwriting albums by unsigned artists in exchange for putting their logos on the covers.
Four years ago, the Brooklyn streetwear company Mishka started its own record label, and has since released more than 40 albums and extended-play singles, mostly by underground hip-hop and electronic music artists. Mishka gives the music away to fans for free.
Other brands, including Mountain Dew, the cable network Adult Swim and the car company Scion, all offer free music by artists popular with a young tastemaker demographic that marketers covet. Paying to record and distribute a record costs less than shooting a television ad, Fortune reports, and free music gives new brands a foot in the door with an audience that can be resistant to traditional advertising.
“All of us clearly know our customer base is the same people who are the fan base for these artists,” says Mishka’s co-owner and president, Greg Rivera, adding, “the reason we keep this going is because there’s a synergy between the two.” — Greg Beaubien