Over the years, prices for concert tickets and merchandise have gotten higher and higher. While this makes it difficult for many to buy clothes to celebrate their favorite artists, students still save up and spend $90 on a hoodie or a pair of exclusive shoes.
Celebrity merchandise started as a celebration. It was a cool piece of clothing or a poster to celebrate a live concert. Over time it started to commercialize more, withstores selling “merch” to wider audiences. Although tour merch was often still present, it could also be bought by people who had never seen an artist live. With the creation of the internet, merch only got more complex, with artists selling everything online, even merch that “once upon a time” would have been exclusive to tours.
Artists started getting into fashion too, not just limiting themselves to merch. This started with partnerships with pre-existing companies, a Nike collaboration or Louis Vuitton line, but soon branched out. Kanye West became a full-on fashion mogul with Yeezys, and Rihanna revolutionized the industry with her Fenty products. There’s example after example of celebrities, specifically musicians, branching out into fashion and makeup, but why have they been so successful?
Celebrities have long been trend starters. By wearing a single product to a red carpet, a famous person can influence an entire generation of people. There’s a form of idealization that comes with stardom. Deep down, most people just want to be famous. This influence shapes brands. High-end fashion would be nothing without its models. Even if they’re not being paid to star in an ad campaign for a brand, by just wearing an article of clothing, a celebrity can change mainstream culture.
The inherent trust that a celebrity has a good fashion sense is what has led so many to blindly buy anything an artist releases. It’s what fuels so many artist’s lifestyles, especially in the age of streaming. Artists jump on trends when streaming services pay so little per stream. This is evidenced by Lady Gaga, with her Haus Laboratories makeup line that launched this past summer. She’s hopping on the trend that Rihanna jump-started: taking advantage of her fans’ loyalty and trying to make as much money as possible. Lady Gaga never showed interest in makeup until it was at new levels of popularity. While it isn’t necessarily bad she’s trying to make money, it does seem like she’s taking advantage of her fans to do it.
Streaming services in general have changed the landscape of the music industry, but this is especially present in merch lines. Digital copies of albums are often included with clothing items, which allows for
The inherent trust … has led so many to blindly buy anything an artist releases.
higher sales. Critics of this think it’s false success, but really it’s making the best of a dire situation for music. Albums like Astroworld were critically acclaimed and immensely successful, but millions of streams needed to be split between many parties, like Travis Scott himself, his label, and any of his featuring artists. To spread the album and garner even more success, Scott sold digital albums with the Astroworld merch. While this angered people like Nicki Minaj, who’s album was pushed down on the charts as a result, it was a genius idea. In the age of streaming, previously immoral actions now seem like the smartest option.
Even though so much of merch exists for the money, there is some real care put into many brands. One of the best examples of this is Tyler, the Creator.
In 2007, Tyler created a rap collective commonly known as Odd Future. The merch blew up, and to this day, the donut hole can be seen all over clothes, backpacks, and other items. As Tyler continued to grow in popularity, he started branching out into fashion. By 2011, he had established Golf Wang, a clothing brand still going strong to this day.
Golf Wang has gone through eras along with Tyler’s albums, each era expressing creative ideas he was obsessed with at the time. Even though he charges huge prices, Tyler is proof that sometimes celebrities pursue fashion for art too.
Through and through, celebrity fashion has shown that artists do it for the money. There’s a multitude of reasons to get into the industry, but in the end, it’s for profit. It’s valid to want to buy expensive merch, but we should all know that we’re being taken advantage of.
The industry doesn’t seem to be slowing its pace, so realistically nothing will change. Instead, we’ll continue to partake, but who cares? At least we look good.