Meet the Startup That Wants to Turn Music Videos Into Shopping Malls - Rolling Stone
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Meet the Startup That Wants to Turn Music Videos Into Shopping Malls

“If I can get the latest Yeezys at box price in that kid’s music video, I’m going to watch that video,” says DroppTV CEO Gurps Rai

droppTV video

DroppTV lets users buy merchandise featured in music videos, like in this ASAP TyY video.

DroppTV

Ever coveted the clothes featured in a music video? A new startup wants to sell them directly to you.

Music-tech company DroppTV is trying to bring interactive videos to viewers so they can buy merchandise right away. The startup has assembled a roster of artists and influencers including Ashanti, A$AP Mob’s A$AP TyY and professional basketball player Iman Shumpert to bring content to the site, which launches out of beta on April 26th. DroppTV’s model is straightforward: The company partners with artists looking to move merchandise and gets their videos on the platform. Artists wear whatever merchandise they’re looking to sell in the video, and viewers can click on it to buy while simultaneously viewing their content and never leaving the video. Artists get 100% of the sale, but DroppTV adds an 8% fee for their own profit.

“I’ve been a sneakerhead my whole life. You have millions of these consumers that line up in the street to buy this product,” the company’s founder and CEO Gurps Rai, who has a background as a tech and cryptocurrency investor, tells Rolling Stone. “Ashanti, A$AP, they’ve got their own audience. But for the lesser known artists to create and grow, they need that X factor, and that can be music videos. If I can get the latest Yeezys at box price in that kid’s music video, I’m going to watch that video. They have to bring it to keep the viewers around, but at least we’re giving them that extra edge to be discovered.”

DroppTV also has deals with various and boutiques and resellers, which gives artists sought after clothes to wear in videos such as Kanye West’s Yeezy Supply line or limited edition Nike shoes. Having high demand items available for purchase helps with artist exposure, DroppTV founders say, as hype beasts and sneakerheads flock to the platform in the effort of getting merch deals.

For the most developing artists, Rai says, the platform is a chance to make money from videos rather than just make them for exposure. “We’ve got artists who pay $500 to make their music videos, and they make nothing from it just uploading to YouTube. But they can make $2,400 from it on Dropp.”

A$AP TyY, who can tap into A$AP Mob’s larger cult following for more potential access than upcoming performers, says he sees the platform as a larger potential for how to engage with fans and sell products, and he wanted to jump in early. “It’s killing two birds with one stone in a sense,” he says. “It’s a dope idea. It’s amazing for the simple fact that people are wanting to shop on certain websites to find merchandise. Things are changing in the culture and I think I can be one of the guys that stepped in before. I’m happy to be one of the guys that was a part of it before it went crazy.”

The concept of shoppable video — as it’s called — has been a growing trend among advertising and marketing in recent years as video content continues to skyrocket in the streaming age. Music videos are a natural space for it, as they offer star-studded draw-in for fans, and there are limitless opportunities to showcase products. Music videos have a lot of potential pull for clothing sales too; Drake’s iconic “Hotline Bling” video led to noticeable sales spikes for the now ubiquitous puffy red Moncler jacket.

Commerce-laden music videos aren’t unheard of, either; in 2012 Iggy Azalea, Diplo and FKi made one of the first shoppable music videos with Canadian retailer SSENSE for the song “I Think She Ready,” featured on FKi’s mixtape “Transformers N the Hood.” It worked, leading to $100,000 in merchandise sales in less than two weeks, according to WIREWAX, the interactive video software company that provided the tech for the video.

But the success of “I Think She Ready” didn’t springboard a shoppable video revolution in music. Various startups have since tried to more widely commercialize it, and the results have been hit or miss. The biggest challenge, says WIREWAX co-founder Dan Garraway, is that YouTube, by far the most popular online video platform, doesn’t support interactive video. “That severely limits your distribution,” he says. “You don’t really have any creative outlet for your music to be shoppable. That’s been a problem no one’s been able to solve yet.”

Music videos are expensive too, Garraway says, and adding in interactive elements like shoppable add-ins takes more thinking and cohesive creativity from the production side. “Interactivity is as creatively versatile as making video in the first place,” he says.

Then of course there’s the challenge of insuring a platform is bringing compelling enough content to keep customers coming. “You’re depending on something that’s a novelty and is a very expensive thing,” Garraway says. They’re coming for the shoe, not the platform. You have to have something that will keep them there.”

The only way to have a chance at success, Garraway says, is to focus more on specific niches and categories. DroppTV hopes to do that by honing in on street culture — and the ongoing health crisis has brought with it a new opportunity. With live music — the biggest payout for music artists as well as the largest contributor to their merchandise sales — on indefinite hiatus, artists are looking for any way to engage with fans and make some revenue, and a concept like DroppTV’s could give them the chance to do both.

Brick-and-mortar boutique retailers are hopping at the chance too. With stores closed, e-commerce is the only available option, so retailers are supplying to DroppTV, which will have hundreds of items up for sale. DroppTV wants to sell 1,000 merchandise units per video, Rai says but bigger artists will have higher target numbers.

“I was smoking a hookah in the video, and that got sold too. It’s little things you don’t realize can get sold. You can sell almost anything.” — New York rapper Manny Litt

For undiscovered artists, without live appearances and more limited chances for collaborations, both making a living as a musician and breaking through are difficult. “I’m getting cents from streaming,” says New York rapper Manny Litt, who was a tester for DroppTV and has more content for the platform on the way. He made $2,200 in the test period.

“The most expensive item sold was this Givenchy jacket I was wearing, and I had my own merchandise that sold well,”  he says. “I was smoking a hookah in the video, and that got sold too. It’s little things you don’t realize can get sold. You can sell almost anything. Dropp will make me more money, if someone buys one of my hoodies and that’s $50, I’m getting $50.”

Nigerian rapper Ycee is set to launch content featuring a new custom line of his, and he’s also sitting on about 2,500 units of merchandise from his now-postponed tour he’s hoping to move as well. “Because of the new level of restrictions, there’s no channel to provide fans with the merch through touring,” he says. “It’s important to explore other avenues of advertising.” 

“Merchandise is important as a recording artist, a touring artist,” Ycee says. You’re going to cities and it helps with fans getting on your journey. I wouldn’t say it a major part of my income, but it’s one of those avenues not too many artists have exploited.”

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