Zinepak: A Whole New Vision of Artist Merch

By Brett Bush

WZinePakCoFounders_Brittany+Kimith their experience in advertising and marketing, the co-founders of Zinepak have taken music artist merchandising to a new level. Since opening shop in January 2011, the New York City-based company has created an opportunity for tour promoters, artist managers and artists to participate in a great way to provide unique items for fans, and for artists to be more involved with fans.

Co-founder Brittany Hodak has a background in music retail marketing, and, based on a previous business relationship, approached Walmart early on about working with Zinepak. This quickly resulted in the company teaming up with the Academy of Country Music to create a special package for exclusive sale at the retail behemoth. “We produced a 40-track CD with a special booklet insert for the 2012 ACM Awards that sold for 10 dollars,” she says. “It sold 25,000 units in less than 10 days.”

The Zinepaks sold at retail stores are oversized, shrink-wrapped packages resem-bling small books. They stand out from most traditional CD packaging, yet are designed to fit in the standard retail store CD display bins. In September, the company launched a Zinepak for Sheryl Crow’s October release, Feels Like Home, which included the CD, a 64-page insert and a package of wild seeds. Available through most music retailers, it was  priced at three dollars above the CD-only package. “We are not exclusive to Walmart,” notes Hodak. “We work with whatever distribution the client wants, at venues, at retail, via fan clubs or any other means.”

Regarding the fee structure for a Zinepak, “We work on the typical ad agency model,” says co-founder Kim Kaupe, “with an up-front fee for the complete project, which includes a certain number of items produced.” Promoters, management and labels provide input for the content, and Zinepak uses its resources to produce the design and distribution. The company utilizes a core group of freelance graphic and merchandising artists to create the specialized items, as well as a small in-house group of employees.

The projects are not limited to CD pack-aging. “Ticket printing is boring,” explains Hodak. “Nobody wants to see that six-dollar fee on their concert ticket and wonder what it's paying for. I look at my mother’s concert tickets from 20 years ago and it looks the same as what most ticket buyers receive today. So one item we created is the personalized passports and wristbands for the Mumford and Sons tour.”

The items were provided to each ticket purchaser, and included a personalized, multipage, bar-coded “passport” in lieu of a standard-issue ticket, as well as a personalized wristband, each bearing the name of ticket-holders. “This campaign was great,” Kaupe says. “The fans who had the wristbands and the passports posted photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and that accelerated ticket sales for the other dates on their tour.”

T-shirts, caps and other traditional mer-chandising are so last century. To come up with new ways to please fans, as well as the artists, the Zinepak crew taps into the usual social media networks, as well as conferring with the artists themselves, and management. “We always want input from all sides,” says Hodak. “We are not a cookie-cutter operation. The ideas come first from the artists.”

Contact Dina Rezvanipour, [email protected]