The new link between music and fashion

With the decline of music stores, artists are looking for more inventive ways of selling their albums – and many have found a fresh outlet on the high street. Elisa Bray reports

Inside Claire's Accessories, nestled between sparkly hairgrips, shiny handbags and the groups of teenagers trying on primary-coloured heart-shaped plastic sunglasses, is a poster of a pretty blonde girl. She looks like she's modelling, but on closer inspection you see the accompanying words: "Win! the chance to meet Alex and see her perform live in one of our stores". The poster is of Alex Roots, a rising pop star. Later this year, sitting alongside Claire's merchandise, will be stacks of Roots' debut album, Adrenaline Rush.

Roots is just one of several newcomers on independent labels who, without the advertising campaign of a major label behind them, are selling their music via a more creative route – in branded high-street cafés and fashion shops. Paul McCartney raised eyebrows across the music industry when he signed up with Starbucks' label to release his 21st studio album in 2007. He was the first to take the risk, leaving EMI for Starbucks' Hear Music, and paved the way for other stars, including Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. Smaller artists were also signed up – the label's first newcomer, Hilary McRae, and Zero 7's singer Sia. Until the chain shut down 600 shops last year, it was a failsafe move: that the coffee shop would sell artists' albums across their 13,500 outlets gained them a ready-made audience of millions. Starbucks set the trend that fashion stores are now following.

Gone are the days when pop musicians and their record labels could rely on selling their albums via traditional record stores. The windows of Zavvi and Woolworths may lie empty, W H Smith may no longer stock CDs, and 25 per cent of independent record shops may be lost, but if people have fallen out of the habit of visiting record shops, a new outlet for CDs is now opening up. Urban Outfitters, another American chain, have been selling CDs in-store for years, allowing customers to buy what they hear playing in the store as they browse through the high fashion and vintage clothes racks. And upmarket retailer Agnès B has also sold records by French and African artists. By playing hip new bands, customers can discover new music as they shop, with the music on sale including albums from the indie band The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Ida Maria and TV on the Radio's debut Dear Science.

If it's taken us a while to catch up with America's selling of CDs via retail outlets and coffee shops, that's because the snag to selling CDs in non traditional music shops in the UK – and where a CD purchase comes with a promotional gift – is that the sales are rendered non chart-eligible. In America all sales count. But now that artists are realising that sales and a large fanbase are just as – if not more – important than chart listings, the trend is spreading to UK stores, too.

Anyone who has walked into Topshop's flagship store in Oxford Circus, London, will be aware of their propensity for playing indie music (the fashion chain has been criticised for their indie-music favouritism). Now Topman is joining forces with the largest independent music stores, Rough Trade, which currently reside in East (Brick Lane) and West London (Portobello Road) to sell CDs in store. October should see the first Rough Trade connection within the Oxford Circus Topman, including an edited selection of the same albums of the month for sale at Rough Trade stores, allowing customers to spend less time having to look for recommended new music, and find it before it hits the mainstream. It seems strange this should be limited to their male customers (girls buy music, too), but that will surely follow.

As well as pointing customers towards buying artists' CDs, major fashion brands can raise awareness of music. And it's beneficial to both sides. Last year Scottish pop singer Paolo Nutini backed sportswear label Puma in their campaign, when he appeared in their television, mobile, and radio advertisements singing "New Shoes" from his multi-platinum debut album, These Streets. Nutini was paid for his advertisement appearances and featured in Puma stores world-wide; the collaboration was his label Warner's first push to drive alternative streams of revenue in the face of declining CD sales. "Because we're a lifestyle brand," says Lisa Lindahl, head of European entertainment marketing at Puma, "any sporting event we do, there's a music element to it".

At their recent Jamaican-themed party in Berlin, the south London rapper Roots Manuva, who has long worked alongside the label, performed live. "We look at how the artist fits in with our brand. And we're big fans of Roots Manuva's music," says Lindahl. Puma are also big supporters of African music, alongside many of the African national football teams. At the time of the 2006 World Cup, they put together a mix of African artists for sale at their world-wide stores. More recently, they have launched a collaboration with the Africa Express project, which provides a shared platform for African and Western artists. A compilation album, Africa Express Presents... , with stars such as Björk, Damon Albarn, Franz Ferdinand and V V Brown nominating favourite African songs, is going on sale in Puma stores across Europe. "Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers chose a Femi Kuti track, for example, so we are hoping that Flea's fans will bring more people to Femi Kuti's music," explains Lindahl. "We look at where we feel we can help, that's why we started work with Africa Express."

For brand new artists signed to independent labels that don't have the finances, teaming up with a fashion brand that already has thousands, or millions of followers, could be crucial. Gary Davies, managing director of Good Groove, an independent label distributed by Universal, to which Alex Roots is signed, explains: "You've got to think about everything. Gone are the days where your song goes on the radio and you say, 'yippee, I've sold loads of albums'. For an independent label such as ours, traditional forms of advertising are very expensive – you've got to look for other forms of marketing. We can do things with Claire's you can't do with traditional music outlets, like selling sunglasses with the CDs. With an artist like Alex, she'll have a wide-ranging appeal with a wide-ranging demographic. For months Claire's have played Alex's music across the stores – every hour a song of hers is being played.

"People are still buying CDs, but not in the quantities they bought them before. It's important to look at non-traditional outlets for selling CDs. Hopefully the publicity it's generated, by the time the album comes out, she's not just going to be on a cluttered shelf competing with the other artists."

As for others also partnering with fashion brands, Gary Go has joined with city workers' favourite Thomas Pink, while London band Kish Mauve are with denim brand Lee Cooper, who like to remember their rock'n'roll heritage. The 19-year-old newcomer Anna Leddra Chapman has partnered with the surf label Quiksilver to help launch their first ever range for women. The fashion brand will soon be offering a free track from Chapman plus an album sampler via a code on every Quiksilver garment tag across Europe in the build up to the album release, as well as in-store performances across Europe. The debut album will be sold in-store two weeks ahead of its actual release date in October.

Chapman's manager, Simon Hargreaves, says: "As an independent artist releasing through her own label and without the huge marketing and promotions budgets of the majors, partnering your act with the right brand can be the most essential part of any development or fanbase-building strategy. In Anna's case, what this particular relationship brings to the project is something that most record labels can't provide – immediate promotion and creative support for her career that is purely based on development with no contracts or huge pressure involved. Anna is a totally independent artist with her own label, so it's not about a major record label "hooking up" the brand tie-in to help promote their artist. It's purely about a brand nurturing an artist and helping her – not financially, but creatively – achieve what she set out to do."

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker