Speculative Saturdays: Why Soundcloud Fashion Will Work, and Why Other Streaming Platforms Can’t Emulate
Written by Duncan Holzhall
In an effort to inspire creativity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Soundcloud has been making big money moves. Last month, Leon Sherman (global editorial director of Soundcloud) announced a collaboration with DC-based company GRVTY. Together, they will embark upon the first official fashion drop for the streaming service. While Soundcloud has experimented in one-off merch drops, this effort acts as their first foray into fashion. Let’s take a look at the Soundcloud drip, and why other streaming services won’t be able to genuinely release fashion of their own.
The first collection, made in partnership with GRVTY, features T-shirts, hoodies, shorts, and even a Pelican case with Southwestern-influenced psychedelic designs. Throughout the drop, there are phrases peppered in, such as “Pure and Wondrous Sounds,” “Exalted Sonically,” “Futuristic Frequencies and Advanced Vibrations,” and other inspiring phrases. Conceived during the pandemic, GRVTY co-founders Marshall Tan and Orlando Urbina leaned into Soundcloud’s ability to empower their artists, as well as music’s more general abilities to help cope and heal, to inspire this drop.
There are several reasons that this expansion works in the favor of Soundcloud. Firstly, Soundcloud has historically had issues with raising the funds necessary to support the platform. After several failed acquisition attempts, failed valuation fundraising rounds, and mass layoffs, the monetization model of the service had to be altered. That being said, having a diverse income stream through fashion drops like these can help the company stay afloat during this transitional period. Secondly, many of the artists that come from Soundcloud have cultivated a unique aesthetic and persona (unique enough to have an entire genre named after them). The aesthetic of Soundcloud rappers and musicians includes an interest in streetwear and hype-based fashion. As such, a fashion drop on behalf of the streaming service that propelled these stars to the spotlight would be in line with the aesthetic atmosphere of the Soundcloud brand.
Just because it’s in the playbook, though, doesn’t mean you should call it. Here are several other streaming services and why a fashion drop would not work.
It is impossible to separate the Apple brand from its visionary founder Steve Jobs. In addition to his brilliant approach to technological innovation, Steve Jobs wore the most iconic drip in Silicon Valley. Jobs sourced his famous black turtlenecks from Issey Miyake, a Japanese designer known for his technological influences in his design. With Jobs fashion inspiring everyone from Elizabeth Holmes to Travis Scott, an Apple Music fashion collection would be caught in a Catch-22: fall in line with Jobs and fool nobody, or distance from the founder and risk undermining the value of the brand.
Tidal is in the same predicament as Apple Music on the fashion frontier. Both the founder of Tidal (JAY-Z) as well as one of its associated artists (Kanye West) have their own fashion ventures in Rocawear and Yeezy, respectively. While Rocawear doesn’t have much sway in the streetwear world at large, Yeezy is arguably the most prominent fashion line in the music industry. Tidal’s brand hangs on the image of its founders, so any fashion rollout from the service would result in comparisons drawn to the collections of their roster. They wouldn’t attract any new customers, and hypebeast subscribers to Tidal would be more likely to purchase fashion items from another streetwear collection.
Looking at the attached image of a staff meeting at Spotify, you might notice that the style of the company is like oatmeal: plain on its own, with the ability to be spiced up. There are no bold colors, but rather a symphony of muted pastels in a business casual wrapper. The buttoned-up “adult” of streaming services, Spotify is busy pursuing larger seismic shifts in the music industry. The company would find themselves out of their element in the fashion industry, given the lack of apparent interest in style on behalf of the staff. Additionally, boasting such a large and diverse catalogue of artists leaves Spotify without a distinct artistic image. Unlike Soundcloud and Tidal, the brand aesthetic of Spotify doesn’t lie with the artists, but with the UX and the company’s business model. While world domination is certainly in the cards, fashion is not their forte.
A fashion drop for Pandora would be a failure because customers would be forced to order on shuffle and pray that they receive something they like.
Deezer drip would be the Kirkland Essentials version of a Spotify collection.