Rock & roll had cigarettes and beer; the most influential rappers of the 2000s favored tequila and vodka. But as a health and wellness movement sweeps the millennial set, today’s musicians are striking deals and partnerships in the fitness industry – a space once considered the pinnacle of uncool.
One company rising up in that realm right now, for instance, is MatchaBar, a Brooklyn-based green tea startup in which Drake invested last year. On Tuesday, MatchaBar announced that it has completed a $8 million Series A round with the help of additional celebrity investors like producer Diplo, pop singer Billie Eilish, football player Von Miller and actor Ansel Elgort. The brand, which sells matcha-based energy drinks in New York and at nationwide stores like Whole Foods, considers itself a natural alternative to other caffeinated beverages like Monster or Red Bull, which have traditionally ruled the energy drink market.
Health is a clear emphasis – both from the brand and the artists backing it. Diplo, in a statement accompanying the company’s Tuesday announcement, praises the “clean, healthy ingredients” and “healthy lifestyle” of MatchaBar’s drinks; Billie Eilish says “it’s just tight that there’s finally an energy drink that’s actually healthier.” But while such messages would’ve sounded odd coming from chart-topping musicians a decade or two ago, it’s no longer off-brand for big artists to advertise personal care and wellness. Musicians in 2018 – rappers especially – are speaking candidly about fitness and mental health. Many are recording socially conscious music (or so-called “positive rap”) and putting their names on promotional campaigns for exercise and nutrition. Record labels are using Zumba, a health-oriented dance craze, to help break artists. When Drake was announced as a lead investor in MatchaBar last August, cofounder Graham Fortgang said the rapper embodied the startup’s key idea: that “good things come to those who hustle.”
That’s not to say that music’s traditional partnerships with liquor brands and other less health-minded industries are going out of fashion. Millennials account for almost half of the United States’ wine drinkers and musicians aren’t cashing out of the lucrative world of spirits and liquors any time soon. But even the alcohol industry is hopping on the wellness trend: At recent iterations of Governors Ball, Afropunk and other music festivals, for instance, the promoted drink of choice was a single-serve, portion-controlled wine sold in recyclable capsules – and created by none other than Interscope Records.