Is the “Music Tee” Awesome or Idiotically Expensive?

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On paper, it’s unassailable: under LnA’s new “Music Tee” model, designers create a custom T-Shirt (something of value), and its purchase comes coupled with a download of an album (something you could find for free). Sure, it’s expensive, but if an idea like this could save the industry, would the price be worth paying? Let’s take a closer look at the pitch, and the price.

There’s no question, when we received the press release, we were over-the-moon with excitement. This idea could easily be blown out with the participation of other labels, musicians, and retail outlets:

Music innovator Invisible DJ has teamed up with fashion designer LnA to create The Music Tee, a T-shirt that is creatively designed to contain “album art” on the front, and a track list on the back. Each shirt will come with a hang tag printed with a URL and a unique code; each code will allow the owner of the shirt to download one copy of each of the tracks printed on the shirt from a newly created Music Tee Room on LnA’s website.

Awesome. Prove this model out, and just think of the possibilities. What nerd wouldn’t relish the opportunity to brandish an obscure or ultra-hip record’s album art? Drop the deets, and we’ll be all over it.

The Music Tee will go on sale May 26 at Ron Herman and Lnaclothing.com retailing at $60 and will become available nationwide at major department stores and boutiques this summer.

Whaaaa? $60? For a T-shirt and a download link? Sure fashion is a high-end industry, but band-tee guys are a different breed. Where I come from (rock n’ roll heaven) even a $20 tee is a lot (I still wear $10 shirts I got in 1996). Even if the point here is that music has become devalued to the point where it’s only selling point is as a supplement to something else, that something else still has to be reasonably priced. Sixty bucks is more than I’d pay for a CD (ha, as if!) and a T-shirt combined, and I’m a professional music appreciator.

Of course, the point could be to court the more causal consumer, one who isn’t actually interested in the music. It might work in a sense, but it’s the wrong way to go. Music may be devalued, but it isn’t an afterthought. New business models need to offer added value, not supplant or marginalize the core product. They need to bring genuine, hardcore music fans back into the box, not appeal to non-fans to make money. At that kind of price point, you’re courting to fashion folks and the most hardcore fans. You’re not creating converts.

Bottom line: at the normal cost of a T-shirt, this idea really is revolutionary. At the cost of five T-shirts and a month of preferred access to rapidshare, I’m going to stick with screen-printed tees and illegal access to the exact same album.