The (relatively) brave new world of digital music consumption can arguably more than satisfy the aural needs of most music lovers, but vinyl and CD collectors also enjoy a visual feast in the shape of album art. Sure, you might get some small pixel pleasure with your MP3, and if you're lucky perhaps even a PDF booklet, but you're unlikely to get anywhere near the satisfaction you'd get from some concept art and band info on a 12 inch square of cardboard or a glossy paper flip-book in a jewel case. The high fashion house of Astrella has linked the digital and the physical with a line of t-shirts where streamed music is part of the package. Next month, shoppers at two Bloomingdale's stores will be able to get access to music and more with the help of their smartphones.
The daughter of legendary British singer/guitarist Donovan and former performer in her own right, designer Astrella Rothberg's combination of high fashion, digital music technology and album cover art launched early last year at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. The small collection of Musical Ts then made their mark at Sy Devore in Studio City, CA, and the Riviera Palm Springs. All of the t-shirts are hand-made in Hollywood from 100 percent organic fabrics and the line is currently being expanded to include rock and pop icons, with Elton John, Queen and The Who joining such jazz and blues luminaries as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and John Lee Hooker.
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The Musical Ts are based around something called Activation Technology, a platform which pairs purchased physical products with the unlocking of digital incentives. In this case it's a t-shirt that gives fans a key to unlock streaming music linked to the album art on the garment and digital information about the artist.
Each garment comes with a laminated hang tag that's designed to look like a back stage pass. At boutiques and smaller retailers, these include a key (PIN) and digital gate (NFC or QR) and are handed out at the time of purchase. At big box retailers, the digital gates are printed inside the garment itself, with the PIN key hidden under some scratch off material on the hang tag.
Upon accessing the digital gate using a connected smartphone, and opting into the system by registering a personal email address, the customer is taken to a special landing page where music can be streamed or downloaded and archival information about the artist is made available.
"Once the produce is purchased, the single or full album (depending on the brand making the offer) is owned by the consumer and free for a one time download as well as access to custom landing pages that feature the steaming music, videos, photos and much more in a secure one to one environment," Jason Rothberg told us. "These landing pages were designed to help introduce or reintroduce the music as it was originally, including press, interviews, memorabilia. Anything we can collect that a fan would find of interest."
Later this year, Astrella will introduce a mobile app to help make getting to the digital content a little smoother and easier.
"Our app will work across any operating system and across all devices," revealed Rothberg. "This will allow us to bypass the current digital gates (QR and NFC) by simply entering a unique PIN and email once the app is downloaded. Each entry point is branded with the specific artist and album title purchased, with additional doors to other artists and digital content the consumer can unlock by purchasing other t-shirts, engaging in social media competitions and other reward opportunities, based on the bands and their current promotional/release plans."
From May 24 Bloomingdale's in Manhattan and Santa Monica will be added to the exclusive roster of outlets where these high end t-shirts and digital content packages are sold (the t-shirts will also be making their way to LA's Scream Famous Clothing and a few UK boutiques in the near future too). The Musical T is aimed at the same high-end luxury market as lines from John Varvatos and James Perse and as such the price of entry is rather high, with a suggested retail price is US$82.
The video below shows some famous names posing for promotional shots and offers a quick look at the system in action.