In tune: Bravado’s strong 2023

From The Rolling Stones to Post Malone, The 1975 to Elton John, Bravado – Universal Music Group’s brand licensing and merchandise division – is set for a great year, buoyed by an expanded roster and the continued demand for live music. LicensingSource.net checks in with md David Boyne to find out more.

David Boyne, md of Bravado, is in a buoyant mood when we catch up with him. When asked how the past 12 months have been in general for Bravado, he opens with a simple “brilliant”.

David continues: “As we saw the continued opening up of live shows in 2022/23 our touring activity is going from strength to strength and is set for a great year. Additionally, our e-commerce and retail business is very strong. Meanwhile, Matt Young, our global president, is actively leading the expansion of our already impressive roster – meaning we are working with more and more great artists. IDLES, Post Malone and Olivia Rodrigo are among some of our latest signings.”

These new signings join a roster of global superstars as diverse as The Rolling Stones, Queen, Elton John, Tupac, The Weeknd and The 1975 to name just a few. The UK team is 50-strong across all areas of the business including sales, A&R, supply chain, design and finance, with David adding: “Engagement with all the frontline labels plus our Bravado colleagues around the world, particularly in New York and Los Angeles, is crucial to provide the best possible service to the artists we represent.”

Pop-ups and experiential activity - such as this Billie Eilish store - have become key for Bravado.
Pop-ups and experiential activity - such as this Billie Eilish store - have become key for Bravado.

These services certainly extend well past the old trope that music licensing was all about t-shirts. “I think from a product perspective we are all looking to deliver a much wider offer than just t-shirts, yes,” says David. “We develop products across a multitude of categories – but it is more than just a product conversation. We are more than a merch company; we are a brand management company. So, we work with our artists to help develop their brand though product, distribution and collaborations, as well as experiences where artists and fans can engage – this is really important to us and our artists.”

The retail appetite for bands and artists has also changed. David continues: “Retailers want to buy into a ‘story’ or collection rather than individual pieces. I also see the continued move from being in distribution for music retailers such as HMV and EMP to fashion retailers such as Selfridges, Primark and Urban Outfitters.”

The Blackpink pop-up coincided with the band's appearance at BST Hyde Park in the summer.
The Blackpink pop-up coincided with the band's appearance at BST Hyde Park in the summer.

There are challenges too, of course, with David admitting that the fallout from Brexit is still being felt: “For us the movement of stock across Europe for our touring business has created a significant amount of additional work. It really has been a challenge to manage, particularly as it has been such a massive touring year for us.”

‘Massive’ is also a word that David uses to describe the new music releases coming up over the next few months. “Keep your eyes open for them and how we are supporting with exciting collaborations and creative merchandise drops,” he says.

Looking further forward, David’s goal is simple: “Continuing to grow our business! Our journey from a touring based business to one that through retail and e-commerce is taking more exciting product to market has been great to see. Looking forward, how the metaverse and possibly AI can be used to support the growth of our artists will be a very interesting story to watch,” he concludes.

RS No.9 Carnaby marked the release of The Rolling Stones' first new music for 18 years, Hackney Diamonds.
RS No.9 Carnaby marked the release of The Rolling Stones' first new music for 18 years, Hackney Diamonds.

Rolling with it

The licensing programme for The Rolling Stones continues to be a bedrock of the Bravado roster, underlined by its win at The Licensing Awards 2023 for Best Music or Celebrity Licensed Property.

“The love for the Stones continues to grow,” says David. “From our incredible store, RS No. 9 Carnaby, on London’s Carnaby Street to our retail presence and collaborations with the likes of the Royal Mail and AC Milan for example, demand for Stones’ products continues to grow.

“With the release of their first new music for 18 years, the incredible Hackney Diamonds, there is no sign of this slowing down.”

The Elton John Corner Shop at Selfridges ran for four weeks earlier this year.
The Elton John Corner Shop at Selfridges ran for four weeks earlier this year.

Rocket powered

The Elton John Corner Shop at Selfridges ran for four weeks earlier this year, tying in with the superstar’s farewell tour.

“As Elton’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour reached its climax, we wanted to do something truly memorable for Elton and his fans – we knew our friends at Selfridges would deliver,” says David. “I think our elevated product range working with incredible brands, and special music releases in the most spectacular retail landscape delivered something really special for the fans.”

David admits that installations such as pop-ups and experiential activity are very important when building a programme around Bravado’s roster of artists. “So much of a fan’s daily consumption of music is digital; our ability to engage via tangible product and experiences really makes a difference. In the past 12 months, for example, we have had pop-ups for Billie Eilish, Blackpink, Stormzy and The 1975. All have been extremely successful, not just financially but also giving the fan an unforgettable experience.”

This feature originally appeared in the autumn 2023 edition of Licensing Source Book. To read the full publication, click on this link.

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