The 10 pop-ups are located throughout the U.S. and will celebrate the release of Sheeran’s fourth studio album, “No.6 Collaborations Project,” due out Friday. The activations will feature six pieces made exclusively for the pop-ups, designed by Rhude, KidSuper and Chinatown Market. The collaborations mark the first time Sheeran has released co-branded apparel in the U.S.
“Ed’s always been a fan-first artist and he’s on tour right now so he can’t be in all these territories while the record’s coming out,” said Gregg Nadel, president of Elektra Records and Sheeran’s U.S. A&R marketing. “So the thought was to create some sort of events that fans can enjoy for the celebration of this album.”
Nadel was mum on the specifics of the pop-up buildouts other than to say the goal was to “make it a surprise experience for when [fans] arrive.”
Warner Music Artist Services, which handles everything from retail and fulfillment to product design and licensing on the merchandise side, led development and design of the collaborations. The division brought to Sheeran a list of buzzy brands from which the musician selected his choices.
Rhude, KidSuper and Chinatown Market were then charged with each designing two pieces that referenced the album’s name. Those pieces will roll out at different times throughout the day on Friday.
The merchandise sold at the stores will retail from $5 to $250.
Concert and artist merchandise has been evolving into more recent years to be something beyond simply a souvenir from a single event into full-on fashion looks at times and major experiences outside of a venue.
“It’s just an interesting experience for the fan to go into a location and get an experience that’s curated by that artist without being at a show,” Nadel said of why the strategy has been working among fans.
Warner Music Group last year bought from Sycamore Partners EMP Merchandising, an online retailer of music and entertainment merchandise, in a more recent move of the merch world’s increasing importance and potential.
Guess has linked with entertainers a couple times now on co-branded merchandise around their tours, the most recent of which has been with Jennifer Lopez.
Universal Music Group’s Bravado has been dabbling with it for a few years now, helping stage Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” 21-city pop-up and Justin Bieber’s “Purpose the Stadium Tour.”
It may not be part of the playbook for every artist, but it appears to be working for some.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all,” Nadel said. “We look at the overall marketing campaign. We look at the album project and the artist and we come up with a unique strategy for each one.”
Sheeran’s pop-ups go live Friday, timed with the release of the album. The activations will be located in New York on Wooster Street, Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, Newbury Street in Boston, Fisher Freeway in Detroit, Sixth Avenue in Seattle, Broad Street in Philadelphia, Main Street in Dallas, Yale Street in Houston, Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago and Marietta Street in Atlanta.