Life of Pablo Pop-up Shop - NYC VIA VILLAGE VOICE 

Life of Pablo Pop-up Shop - NYC

VIA VILLAGE VOICE 

MERCH WARS: HOW THE MUSIC INDUSTRY HAS INFILTRATED THE WORLD OF POP-UP SHOPS

August 24, 2016

to Pop-Up, SXSW Style

2016 has truly been the year of the music industry pop-up. We’ve heard about these highly anticipated and, many times, surprise artist events that draw staggering lines of music fans and fashion heads alike. Music has converged with fashion and retail, and created what many are calling “merch wars” between artists who are competing to do that next cool pop-up event. Artists and record labels understand more than ever the power these types of events have on consumers, enabling the industry to connect with them in another way that is both revenue driving and creatively inclined. We’ve compiled a list of some of the year’s most notable music pop-ups that are changing both industries, music and retail, as we know them.

Frank Ocean Pop-Up shop on Fairfax in Los Angeles on Aug. 20, 2016. BILLBOARD VIA LAUREN CRADDOCK 

Frank Ocean Pop-Up shop on Fairfax in Los Angeles on Aug. 20, 2016.

BILLBOARD VIA LAUREN CRADDOCK 

Frank Ocean "Boys Don't Cry" Magazine Shops

The “Boys Don’t Cry” Pop Up launched in 4 major cities (LA, NYC, Chicago, and London). The pop ups exclusively contained free copies of Frank’s highly anticipated magazine entitled, of course, “Boys Don’t Cry,” and came with a CD copy of his elusive second studio album “Blond.” The magazines were wrapped in metallic silver packaging with the name of the magazine emblazoned on them. Needless to say, lines were seen to stretch many blocks, and left people either euphoric or devastated based on whether or not they were a chosen one.

VIA ASTRID STAWIARZ/GETTY IMAGES

VIA ASTRID STAWIARZ/GETTY IMAGES

Kanye West Life of Pablo Pop-Ups

If anyone is killing the pop-up game this year, it’s Mr. West himself. Beginning in Spring of this year, Yeezy launched his first series of pop-up shops for his 7th solo studio album, Life of Pablo, carrying merchandise inspired by the album and selling $1m in just two days at the New York store alone. Hah?! Last week, Ye re-launched Life of Pablo pop-ups across the globe which have, unsurprisingly, already sold out of merch.

PHOTOGRAPHER: SEBASTIAN RUIZ/HYPEBEAST

PHOTOGRAPHER: SEBASTIAN RUIZ/HYPEBEAST

Cash Money at VFILES Pop-Up

The Cash Money Records pop-up took place in Soho’s own VFILES this summer and carried classic concert style merch of artists from one of hip hop’s most well known record labels. T-shirts, hoodies, and hats with album covers from artists like Lil Wayne, Juvenile, and Big Tymers could be purchased for under $100. The shop stood for the day as a veritable paradise for all those early 2000s hip hop heads out there.

PHOTOGRAPHER: THOMAS WELCH / HIGHSNOBIETY

PHOTOGRAPHER: THOMAS WELCH / HIGHSNOBIETY

Drake’s Views and Revenge Pop Up

Leading up to the release of his album Views, Drake launched a series of pop-up shops in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. Stores carried Drake merch and gave out free t-shirts in black or white that read “Views” to each fan lucky enough to get there in time.

Mr. Hotline bling returned to NYC (in our partner space at 208 Bowery) in August to host his Revenge Summer 16 pop- up to sell merch for his Summer Sixteen Tour.

PHOTOGRAPHER: JOHN VARVATOS VIA BILLBOARD

PHOTOGRAPHER: JOHN VARVATOS VIA BILLBOARD

Guns -N-Roses at John Varvatos Stores

The rock world has also embraced the year of the merch pop-up shop. As they wrapped up their North American tour “Not in this Lifetime,” Gun ‘n Roses opened up pop-ups in New York and LA at John Varvatos stores. The GNR merch was Varvatos designed as well, a great example of what smart partnerships between brands and artists look like.  

PHOTOGRAPHY VIA CROOKS AND CASTLES

PHOTOGRAPHY VIA CROOKS AND CASTLES

YG Still Brazy Pop-Up

In June, on the same day that his album dropped, YG’s Still Brazy art installation pop-up shop appeared on the scene in his home city of Los Angeles. The store carried his clothing lines Bompton and 4hunnid as well as his collaboration with Born x Raised called “Born x  Krazy.” Visitors could also visit six listening station installations meant to take the listener on a journey through YG’s music.

PHOTOGRAPHER MICHAEL BEZJIAN / WIRED IMAGES

PHOTOGRAPHER MICHAEL BEZJIAN / WIRED IMAGES

Roc-a-fella / Jay Z Reasonable Doubt

Taking place in a Los Angeles concept space modeled after Jay Z’s old apartment called Apt. 4B, Roc-A-Fella celebrated the 20th anniversary of Hov’s debut album Reasonable Doubt with a “throwback” pop-up store showcasing never-before-seen photos from the label’s vault and an exclusive collection of Reasonable Doubt merchandise.

VIA VFILES

VIA VFILES

Justin Bieber Purpose Pop-Up at VFILES


In May, Beliebers showed up in droves for the Justin Bieber pop up shop at VFILES in Soho. Like many artist shops before him, Bieber’s shop featured tour merch inspired by his Purpose concert tour as well as his latest album. The shop ran for two days in New York and was complete with the insane lines of fans and re-sellers that these music industry pop-ups have become known for.

PHOTOGRAPHER AARON MILLER/HYPEBEAST

PHOTOGRAPHER AARON MILLER/HYPEBEAST

A$AP Rocky and A$AP Bari VLONE Pop-Up

For the launch of his clothing line with A$AP Bari, VLONE, Rocky held a pop-up shop in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks in April. In a space covered in street art, the pop up carried VLONE’s signature line as well the brand’s collaboration with the brand Off-White. Store design and apparel design played off each other masterfully, with both being heavily influenced by rebellious counter-cultures like skating, punk, hip hop and metal.


As 2016 nears its last quarter, we see that pop-up shops have fully infiltrated the music industry, and vice versa. Artists have been using pop-ups as a venues for creative album launches, tour merchandise stores, and clothing line releases. This is a truly exciting time for both industries, and we expect to see more artists implement pop-ups into their strategy in order to reach their listeners beyond just selling them tour merch and album paraphernalia. As the sector of the industry grows, we expect artists and producers will be pushing the boundaries to create multisensory environments that reach consumers on every emotional level. We also can see this becoming a bigger trend in other industries like the visual arts and the literary world.


Although Creative CNTRL is not associated with these projects, we have recently launched a new division aimed at the emerging trends under discussion in these case studies.  Our Entertainment and Activations division is designed for pop-up needs related to and centered around artists and entertainers, including partnerships, event production, guerilla marketing, and other PR initiatives. To get started on your own activation, email us here for support.