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How Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber, and other megastars build a ‘connection’ with superfans—and boost sales

5 Mar 2020

Universal Music’s Group’s merchandising division, Bravado, turns bands into brands.

After Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? debuted, in March 2019, hordes of Gen Z fans purchased hoodies, shorts, and shoelaces that came with a digital album, boosting the album’s sales and helping it top the Billboard Hot 200 list. (This so-called bundling has become so ubiquitous that Billboard recently changed how it records these sales.) But Matt Vlasic, CEO of Bravado, the merchandising division of Universal Music Group that works with Eilish and dozens of other artists, including Justin Bieber and Blackpink, sees these souvenirs as more than just a means to boost album sales. “In the past, people bought CDs or vinyl,” he says. “We want to provide something physical that they can hold onto.” To give fans that tangible connection, Bravado designs, produces, and sells artists’ own hypebeast-worthy items, from T-shirts to skateboards, and coordinates product collaborations, such as the recent Ariana Grande x H&M collection. The company even sets up artist-themed pop-ups: one celebrated the Rolling Stones’ recent No Filter tour by selling all sorts of items featuring the iconic tongue logo, from leather jackets and tees to Away suitcases and Ladurée macarons.

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