When many people think of promotional corporate gifts, their thoughts will most likely land on branded pens given away at trade shows taking place in convention centers across the country. However, promotional items can be found even where you’d least expect, and a rock ‘n’ roll concert is just one event where you’ll find them.
The music and performing arts industries actually offer branded materials of all kinds. Stop to think of the last branded concert T-shirt you bought. Merchandise booths at rock shows sell more than just CDs and vinyl. In fact, T-shirts, branded hats, pint glasses and other types of promotional drinkware with an artist’s logo are regular features found on display at music festivals and conferences such as South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive event.
Artists also sell branded USB flash drives, with The Grateful Dead being the largest and latest band to sell a pen drive with 80 CDs worth of music on it, according to Billboard.
A storied history
The technology of promotional products is changing from ink pens to tablet styluses, just as music formats evolved from the vinyl record to MP3s and streaming services. However, branded items and rock music have a long history together and a bright future as both work together to engage fans.
The origins of the branded concert T-shirt go back to the 1960s, according to The Globe and Mail, when concert promoters such as Bill Graham noticed that apparel could be treated as another souvenir along with printed posters for concertgoers.
New and durable inks and decals that could easily be applied to cotton T-shirts also herded the new trend along, The Globe and Mail reported. Nowadays, rock band logos and their branded products are some of the most recognizable designs in the world, from the Rolling Stones’ lips and tongue drawing to the lightning bolts found on every AC/DC T-shirt.
In fact, promotional products are so intertwined with rock music that marketers flood the streets of Austin, Texas every spring to spread the word about their businesses and give away items at South by Southwest. Attendees in 2014 received so many freebies that their luggage caused delays at the Austin airport by setting off scanners and X-ray machines, Entrepreneur reported.
Swag and rock
Music and promotional items boast a mutually beneficial relationship, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute. Bands aren’t the only ones that may profit from promoting themselves with T-shirts and USB drives. Marketers and companies may also use concerts to their advantage. Live events are prime opportunities to get your brand or band noticed. Giveaways including branded water bottles and bags are an effective way to reach attendees.
The Hopscotch Music Festival, held in September in Raleigh, North Carolina, is a great example of connecting with live music fans, the ASI noted. Festival organizers tailored their promotional items to the audience and environment, allowing attendees to use the products and enhance their enjoyment of the event.
Items included branded sunglasses, reusable tote bags, beer can coolers and towels – products anyone venturing out to an outdoor music festival could put to use right on the spot. Sending fans away with useful gifts is a great way for them to remember you and your company.
Everything you need
Marketers at Mysteryland USA, an exclusive electronic dance music festival held near the site of the original Woodstock festival, make an art out of promotion. According to the ASI, only 20,000 people are allowed through the gates and concertgoers must purchase items using an electronic armband on which they previously stored credit. European beverage brands handed out free samples of their drinks and gave attendees branded ponchos to stay dry when the rain came down.
Essentially, a festival goer at Mysteryland USA could show up to the event without anything and obtain everything he or she needed, from branded camping equipment and blankets to survival kits to enjoy the concert with.
Creative promotional items are also a boon for musicians by setting them off from the rest of the pack. CD sales continue to slump while music streaming websites such as Spotify and vinyl record sales are the only formats not contracting, according to Statista. With more fans choosing not to purchase tunes, it can be an uphill battle to entice customers to buy the physical product.
Artists are finding including free extras with a CD or vinyl purchase can give customers a bigger incentive to buy the album, the ASI noted. Josh Ritter, a singer-songwriter, had vintage-looking pins made up to give out to fans. Meanwhile, Diplo, a popular DJ and electronic dance music artist, mailed out holiday greeting cards to anyone who preordered his latest release.
Another benefit for promotional items is their status. While some branded products such as pens are only valued until they run out of ink, giveaways with album releases and tour T-shirts become collectibles.
After nearly 50 years together, the rock and promotional item relationship is still going strong.