Interview

Lollapalooza Ups The Festival Merch Game

Last year’s 25th anniversary Lollapalooza was overall pretty solid. I saw Radiohead, and Malia Obama, and got a contact high at Flatbush Zombies. The annual Chicago event unsurprisingly has a lot to offer in an increasingly crowded festival season, but one unexpected new amenity was the elaborate, indoor merchandise store, a walk-in retail experience that took the festival merch game to a new level. The “LollaShop” held aisles of swag fans could browse in a respite from the masses (the ’92-style throwback tees were a nice touch). Crucially, it was air-conditioned. The adjacent roofed record store is probably worth mentioning too, but I’m not sure why anyone would wanna carry vinyl around at a festival.

Since interest in music merch seems to be at an all-time high — last weekend Frank Ocean fans waited in line for four hours to buy silkscreened tees at his Panorama pop-up — I reached out to C3 Presents’ Marketplace Director Stacey Rodrigues to ask about LollaShop, which begins its second iteration in Grant Park today. I’d never seen anything quite like this facility at a fest, but I imagine most of the big ones will adopt the model soon. Apparently about every third festivalgoer buys a Lollapalooza merchandise item; if one of those people will be you, here’s what to expect.

STEREOGUM: Concert merch is obviously having a moment. How did the idea for an indoor megastore come about?

RODRIGUES: We’re always pushing the envelope, trying to make the experience better for our customer. We’re lucky to have a very enthusiastic audience for the Lollapalooza merchandise, but we didn’t feel like we made it very easy for them or enjoyable for them to shop. So we wanted to do something that was more comfortable, that allowed us to display the merchandise better, gave them more time to explore. And so that’s where we decided what better than try to give them a true retail experience.

STEREOGUM: What sort of feedback did you get on last year’s?

RODRIGUES: It was uniformly high praise. With our post-festival surveys, where we measure the feedback from the fans on all of the festival’s elements, we had people just overall saying they thought it was a positive experience. And then we have open-ended questions where we ask them what they liked best about the festival and we had many people list the merchandise store as a favorite thing.

STEREOGUM: So you’ve got apparel and posters and water bottles … is there anything you’ll have this year that you’ve never had before?

RODRIGUES: Well we do design collaborations every year with the Chicago sports teams and some of our favorite fashion brands, and for the very first time we have a collaboration with the Chicago White Sox to add to our sports collection. So that will mean we’ll have the Cubs, Blackhawks, Bulls, and now the White Sox covered. And we’re also excited to have a collaboration with a brand called Camp Collection. They do those 1970s summer camp-inspired apparel for primarily women, and also for men, a very kind of Wet Hot American Summer feel. And we’re [planning to bring back] some custom screen printing on-site. We have our Glam-o-rama, with hair-braiding and body glitter and glow-in-the-dark body paint and flower crowns.

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STEREOGUM: Last year artists like Vic Mensa and the Chili Peppers had unique Lollapalooza versions of their shirt designs. You see that sort of thing a lot at festivals especially in a post-The Life Of Pablo market. Do they have to work with you in developing those?

RODRIGUES: We definitely like when the artist does Lollapalooza merchandise. We don’t restrict them [but] we just ask them to talk to us about it ahead of time. It’s not something we work closely with them on, but we definitely encourage them to do it.

Lollapalooza LollaShop

STEREOGUM: There are some off-site LollaShops too, which you’ve been doing for a few years.

RODRIGUES: Yeah we have been offering an off-site pop-up store [129 N. Wabash Ave] a full week before the festival. This will be our sixth year. We’ll do some exclusive offerings and special discounts, and this stays open the day after the festival. We get our fair share of people coming in with their suitcases on Monday, to get a souvenir before they head home.

STEREOGUM: And festivalgoers can pre-order things like Lolla skateboards now too, right?

RODRIGUES: This year we have the ability for people to pre-order and pick up at the festival. As far as I know it’s not been done at any other festival.

STEREOGUM: I think what everyone wants to know is will there be Lollapalooza fidget spinners?

RODRIGUES: Well, I tried. I really did. But there’s a safety concern with certain things that can be launched in the air…

STEREOGUM: Safety first.

RODRIGUES: I’m so sorry.

Tags: Lollapalooza