And the Brand played on…merchandise and music in several movements.

And the Brand played on…merchandise and music in several movements.




Whether composing displays or composing ditties, coordinating the blues, or singing them, the artistic side of retail life has invariably struggled to make its musical ends meet. “Art for Art’s Sake Money for God’s sake” are a relevant, if somewhat dated testament to the dilemma of coordinating creativity & commercialism, and also a timeless reminder of the long and lively relationship between the retailer industry and the music of the times. A tradition that is getting stronger, more vibrant and more imaginative as every note goes by.


The four seasons is not just a medieval concerto, or a 60s pop-group, but the perpetual lifeblood of retailing…


marking a calendar populated with timely assortment and increasingly serenaded by the sound of the season at hand. Irreversibly the coming together of music and merchandising serves to strengthen not only the creativity of each but importantly a common commerciality.

In those distant days of purely physical stores, where the internet was as remote as a rock ‘n’ roll reunion , the connection between retail and music was simple, and largely revolved around the role of music as a background and a divergence to the mundane shopping experience. Was the music appropriate; was it too loud, did it deter ladies of other 40 from shopping in your stores without the need for a dose of the vapours?


However, for those that got this part of the music maelstrom correct, the stores were buzzing..


the tills ringing in time to the rhythm of the display replenishment, and still are today. The night club atmosphere of A&F and Hollister would seem cavernous and forlorn without the teenage background beats; as unrecognizable as a nightclub without a DJ, a tube train without the anonymous beat of a thousand downloads. From the beats of Top Shop and River Island, through the tranquillity of John Lewis to the atmospheric ambience of international airports, health spas and coffee bars the activity of our outward lives is beaten in time to this holistic harmonic heartbeat.

Bring on the beginnings of the all-singing, all-dancing omni-channel marketing experience, given new prominence and prestige through the unlikely M&S seasonal campaigns, set to the various vibes of the Electric Light Orchestra and Cockney Rebel. A myriad of models marking a reality which opened the fanfare floodgates, linking high street brands to popular lifestyle soundtracks. A cacophony that has culminated in the equally unlikely but eminently likeable triumvirate of John Lewis, Lilly Allen and Keane, where the music industry is not only lending hits, but evolving them, re-mastering them and re-inventing them. The development of a symbiotic relationship that suits traditional brands and established bands alike. The retail old guard re-inventing and re-invigorating their image and modern credentials, through the resuscitation and salvation of forgotten stars and their forgotten bars.


This symbiotic relationship has evolved into an entertainment epiphany…


experienced by our re-born omni-channel  shopping emporiums where our high street brands combine product assortment with entertainment destination status, and where 24/7 social channels create the imperceptible blur, the irresistible blend between art and artefacts, between the retail brand and the retro band. Time and tide has moved on unrecognisably from the primitive pastiche of the lunch-time HMV megastore and the last-chance popular band striving for publicity for its fatal final album.

Now the best brands at hand have given another timely “Kick up the Arts” to this development of music and merchandise, entertainment and product attainment. The upstanding Burberry with its outstanding Regent Street flagship store has developed an auditorium with its own personality, its lifestyle lifeblood, its personal Facebook page, as befits a store that sells styles and sensations in equal measure, seamlessly swaying from catwalk creations to renowned recitals from selected songstresses and cool crooners. Personal shopping becomes public theatre, transferred to an adoring audience, through wires and airwaves across the globe.


Clothes may “maketh” the man, but bands will “maketh” the brand…


as different retailers are continuing to learn how to promote their point of differentiation through their particular music focus. All Saints promotes its “vive la difference” its sartorial eloquence speaking up for new bands and cutting edge names, in-line with its sharp fitting style.  Across the proverbial pond, Jon Varvatos takes a full-blooded foray into the world of Rock & Roll with its distressed stores dressed to kill in Led Zeppelin memorabilia, where its Bowry Manhattan birthplace constantly crosses the divide between store to rock venue hosting both the radical and revered names of rock. Away from the stage, the relationship becomes full circle with bands like Green Day the centrepiece of seasonal campaigns introducing band and brand to wider and receptive markets.

Going back to the future, Carnaby Street comes of second age, using retail space to promote music and sell merchandise in a most intriguing example of creative collaboration. Step forward the Jimi Hendrix Pop-up Store which for one month promotes with divine assistance the long lost Hendrix album – People, Hell & Angels. The Jimi Hendrix experience literally brought to life in a vibrant mix of rare memorabilia, and merchandise hysteria. Fender guitar workshops vibrate the basement to old standards and new riffs. Everyone can play like Jimi Hendrix, anyone can buy the album, the Tshirt and the keying. For one month only the light burns brightly again.


Entertainment doesn’t stop at music and retail is embracing the wider arts in equally imaginative and effective ways…


from Cos featuring window displays from unknown sculptors, Hackett’s heralding of its fledgling flagship with a street art extravaganza and performance promotion, to the culture creaking, thespian filled, exhibition laden blogs of the likes of Paul Smith adding creative credibility to even the most imaginative of brands. Rest on your laurels and the publics’ fickle taste and fleeting allegiance can turn any comedy into tragedy.


The world loves music and the world loves things.


The relationship between merchandise & music, store experience and creative performance seems as logical as Marks & Spencer, as Lennon & McCartney. And so the trend continues unabated as the retail and music industries strive for ever unusual and imaginative ways to bring the two genres together for their own mutual and commercial benefit and our undoubted pleasure and entertainment.


Let the brands play on…