Thomas Dutronc, Shaka Ponk, Greg Zlap, Vincent Delerm, Yael Naim … for Christmas, many artists dedicate CDs, books and vinyls to sell them themselves through their official stores. Beyond finances, the phenomenon allows direct access to their fans.
Wednesday November 18 in the early morning, Greg Zlap, the harmonica player of Johnny Hallyday got behind the wheel of his car, direction Rennes. It was not a question of going to give a concert but of carrying out an unprecedented operation for his fans. “I did this out of love for them”, he said. An original road trip that he filmed on his social networks. “After 350 kilometers of road from Paris, I arrived in the industrial zone of Châteaubourg in Ile-et-Vilaine, he recounts. After getting lost a bit, I pushed open the door of an anonymous building.»
Inside, in the offices of Dify (Do it For You) Music, the French number of music derivatives, the teams work for 70% of French stars. The hundreds of thousands of fan-ordered products are manufactured and shipped here in restricted-access warehouses. From t-shirts to vinyls and posters, the range is vast. “Our 30,000 clients are international artists like Billie Eilish and 70% of French musicians via their majors from Universal, Sony, Wagram to BMG, explains the founder and CEO of the company Emmanuel Lebarbier.
At 40, he also negotiates directly with the advisers of Mylène Farmer, Maître Gims, Oxmo Puccino and … Greg Zlap. In the offices near Rennes, the latter spent two hours signing and drawing a harmonica on hundreds of copies of his beautiful book On the road with Johnny and his new album Rock it. “Dedicating is what I usually do after concerts, it’s an important meeting with the public, he said. There is a way of saying, I can’t do more but I don’t give up“. Sold on its official store at the same price as in supermarkets, the copies are snapping up. “Some fans thought I would take a tour of France to deliver them to their homes by ringing the bell. Still not”, laughs the musician heartily.
If the shelves of records will reopen Saturday, November 28, we can no longer count the artists who have followed the example of Greg Zlap. Thomas Dutronc, Shaka Ponk, Vianney, Yael Naïm, Vincent Delerm … during the confinement, all spent hours signing limited edition products like vinyls of different colors for their official stores. Touched that their favorite artist spends so much time for them, fans order. It is all the easier as the artist announces the imminence of a special operation on his social networks.
Fans who watch Instagram accounts are one click away from their favorite celebrity’s official store. “Compared to previous Christmases, sales have doubled ”, emphasizes Julie Bernard who manages products derived from the label Tôt ou Tard (Vianney, Yael Naim …). “The buying habits of fans are changing dramatically. In the 15-25 age group, 80% of purchases are generally made on e-commerce, adds Emmanuel Lebarbier. Fans know that in these official stores, they will find something more chic, more VIP than on the Fnac and Amazon sites.»
At the end of 2020, most artists have their “shop” as we say in the jargon of music. Tryo just opened one just like rapper Zola. Aya Nakamura thinks about it. Her income from streaming is so great that she’s in less of a hurry than others. Depending on his notoriety, the artist signs a more or less significant number of products. Vianney with her latest album Let’s not wait and Shaka Ponk with his anthology Apelogies I know shave limited to one hundred copies. Collector’s products which are obviously already out of stock. The dedications also vary. This Christmas, at Tôt ou Tard, they are even more personalized than in Rennes at Dify. Here, the artist signs and adds the fan’s first name. Concretely, the groupies order online and the artist dedicates by scrupulously following a list of names which scrolls on a screen. But there are limits to the requirement of groupies. Unlike a book signing on a tour, the fan can’t expect long personalized phrases. “Agreeing to add a first name takes more time and to anticipate complaints, we specify that artists sign where they want, specifies Julie Bernard. In the first years, a few people may have complained – on the front it spoils the visual or on the contrary on the back it is a pity we do not see the signature – ”. In view of the time and energy that these dedications require, one should not be naive: if 10,000 autographed copies of an album are offered, it is obvious that the artist’s signature has been pre-printed.
The fashions of all these official boutiques and collectors’ products are here to stay. Because of the pandemic, most musicians who released an album this fall have lost 80% of their sales. Sums that they will not find because in the music, one album chases the other. To make matters worse, hypermarkets are reducing the CD aisle every year and platforms like Amazon do not share customer databases. In this context, artists prefer to open their shop on the internet. The margins are higher there, the money goes straight to them and they know exactly where the orders are. But above all, they have direct access to their fans. Their email is important to then send newsletters. Their mailing address is even more crucial. It helps identify fan pools and therefore know where to organize concerts. Where is the real sinews of war.
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