zines need love too!
What advice would you give to your younger self? @TiffanyPersons shares a letter she wrote. #womeninspire @Gapinc  →
Not Your Mama's Concert Tee Not Your Mama's Concert Tee

Not Your Mama's Concert Tee

by Rebecca McQuigg Rigal
March 24, 2010

The record labels
have missed the boat again. If these bloated behemoths had devoted the same amount of time and money to find creative in-house talent—or at least to develop innovative ways to work with, not against, technology—perhaps they would have come up with Music Tee. But they didn't. Someone else is responsible for what could be the most innovative channel for content distribution since iTunes.

Here’s how it works: Each limited edition t-shirt features album art on the front, a corresponding track list on the back, and a special code on the hang-tag, which allows the t-shirt’s owner to digitally download the music. Invisible DJ has collaborated with dozens of artists—including Mos Def, Wale, The Cold War Kids, Robin Thicke, and Devendra Banhart—since last year’s Music Tee launch and the response has been positive.

“All of our tees have definitely exceeded our expectations for the short amount of time that our company has been in business,” says Jeremy Wineberg, co-founder of Invisible DJ Records The Music Tee. “Invisible DJ started four years ago as a new way of distributing music at a time when brick and mortar [music] stores were on the decline (of course, now they’re almost completely obsolete) but at the time, we were trying to figure out how to effectively distribute music [CDs] in a [brick and mortar] fashion/retail environment,” says Wineberg.

Leveraging the symbiotic relationship between the worlds of fashion and music, Wineberg and his partner set up shop at the Los Angeles boutique Fred Siegel, where they built the Invisible DJ name by selling the newest and coolest bands’ music by pairing their CDs with different items of clothing. “So, we’d say ‘if you buy this pair of jeans, you should buy this new Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah record,” explains Wineberg. Eventually Invisible DJ was commissioned by Fred Siegel, Ron Herman, and other boutiques, to create in-store music compilations and the record label (and ultimately the idea to embed graphic tees with downloadable music) was born.

“We saw that it was becoming more difficult to move CDs, even in retail environments that were still relevant and attracting tons of traffic (like Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom’s, and so forth). At the same time, there was still a demand for our compilations, so we thought ‘If we distribute music in a digital format, which we know consumers will respond to, on a t-shirt, which we know these clothing stores can sell, then maybe we’ll have a really great product. And that was the birth of the Music Tee,” says Wineberg.

So, what’s next for Invisible DJ and The Music Tee aside from further collaborations with up-and-coming and established artists? In 2010, Music Tee will embark on a British invasion, with launches planned for Selfridges, Urban Outfitters (in the United Kingdom), and Top Shop. There are also plans in the works for a special collection of limited edition vintage Music Tee box sets (potentially featuring Jimi Hendrix). One day, there may even be a Movie Tee, “we’ve had film studios call us asking how we can do this with films … but we don’t want to over-saturate the concept,” Wineberg says.

And it appears that Invisible DJ has a stringent enough filtration process to ensure that supply doesn’t eclipse demand. In addition to good music, artists are responsible for providing cool artwork for their Music Tee, “we just can’t put out a shirt just because it’s a great band; the artwork needs to be there as well," says Wineberg.

“People [may be] buying the shirt because it’s a cool band but they’re also wearing something on their chest and on their back and it needs to look good.”

Join the discussion
  • This Tree Produces Forty Types of Fruit The living, edible art of Sam Van Aken's grafted stone fruit experiment
    Maxwell Williams
  • Dear 14-Year-Old Me The intuitive, emotional side of yourself guides your experiences and shapes how you learn. You grasp information viscerally, which can make traditional schooling a little bit harder for you.
    Tiffany Persons
  • Danish Architects Reimagine the Zoo The search for a more ethical wildlife park
    Caroline Pham
  • Learning to Farm Fish Responsibly Breakthroughs in aquaculture are winning over longtime skeptics.
    Kelly McCartney
  • Stories for Boys Sundance-winner Rich Hill picks up where Linklater left off.
    Joshua Neuman
  • The Human Side of Spam Spanish photographer Christina de Middel smudges fact and fiction with her staged images of Russian widows and Nigerian lawyers in distress.
    Caroline Pham