Over the last few years, fans of rock and metal music have been introduced to a wide range of beverages and brands collaborating to expand the experience of fans. Whiskeys, Bourbons, Wines and Craftbeers have sprouted from the minds of developers working closely with bands and managements to implement into the life of fans. Motörhead and Iron Maiden were frontrunners in the new market in which Bruce Dickinson launched Iron Maiden’s Trooper Ale, as where Lemmy was unmistakably connected with Jack Daniels Bourbon. Or what to think of Sammy Hagar who launched his Cabo Wabo tequila and Cabo Wabo hot sauce brands, decades ago? It glimpses the always changing currents in the market with bands and artists searching for ways to expand their reach and provide fans with products they love. Gene Simmons took things further and may likely be seen as the mastermind of music-marketing in general. His keen view on merchandise and the strength of Kiss as a brand got as far as burial caskets with the Kiss logo and artwork. From day one he managed to market the band as an image and he cracked open the market for many to follow. Soon after the strength of music and lifestyle got furthermore explored by the worldwide famous Hardrock café, uniting music and dining, and creating an environment for fans of rock music in general. The comfort of a place featuring instruments and memorabilia signed by fans’ heroes was an instant success and appealed to a wide range of music afficionados. Hardrock café as a brand slowly evolved and their brand is currently one of the strongest in music and lifestyle. With the current market shifting, bands seem more than eager to expand their range and their devoted fans dug in responding to the change. Unmistaken connections such as Lemmy with Jack Daniels, and Saxon’s Biff with red wine, already appealed to a wide array of followers. In the past many of my friends enjoying Motörhead always had a bottle of JD shelved. It was the brand that soon after, during the heydays of hairmetal and arenarock, also got entangled with the scene as a leading brand. With fans ever loyal to their heroes and lingering back to relive those days, the concept of band-brands is more than likely to evolve further, especially since record sales are under pressure. But how does one feed into a market which bands have little to no expertise with? How do you fuse music and beverages, how does one unite fans with bands on another level? We reached out to rock’s most celebrated company handling Brands For Fans…
One of the biggest and most respected companies uniting the needs of fans with the expansion of band related beverages is Swedish Brands For Fans AB, daughter of Swedish food + beverage company Umida AB. Founded in 2012, the company offers their experience fitting new raised stakes of bands as well as fans, and unites ideas with actual product. Their successful formula not only provides bands with product for fans, but also unites bands with the actual best matching producers in the field. Their phenomenal concept has proven its value and connects the high demands of bands with a range of excellent product for their following.
Their current roster consists of some of the biggest and leading names in the field, ranging from Ghost, HammerFall, In Flames, Jonas Åkerlund, Motörhead, Mustasch, Plura, Rammstein, Scorpions, Slayer and Status Quo, to the prestigious and world renowned Sweden Rock Festival. An impressive and varied roster, likely to expand monthly as more and more bands discover the power and impact of Brands For Fans matching the high demands of their fanbase. To get more insight in how Brands For Fans works, and get an idea of all complications in launching new products on the market, we speak with PR & Marketing manager Sari Wilholm, who runs Brands For Fans together with business manager Yvonne Wener. Indeed; two women in charge of Brands for Fans….
How did Brands For Fans commence in 2012?
,,Well, it basically started after working at a traditional wine/spirits importer in Sweden and we touched some bands/beverage projects. Both me and Yvonne understood that there was something special with working towards loyal fans. Imagine doing a very, very expensive single malt whisky for In Flames [almost 4000 sek / 390 Euro!] and it instantly sold out in just a couple of weeks. And no, it were NOT whisky afficionados who bought that, it were all true In Flames fans!
That has been the trigger for us..’’
Who was the initiator/founder of the company?
,,Brands For Fans is founded by me and Yvonne. I think our company name explains it all really well. We help fans coming closer to their bands.’’
What was Brands For Fans first band collaboration and how did the cooperation evolve?
,,Our first product was a wine for Slayer; “Reign in Blood Red Wine”. The wines sold really well upon its launch and also did great in export. We developed a coffin for the wine to rest in too, and that also was adding to its success. The wine is still on the market and sells mostly on export for Europe. We also did the Slayer “666 Red Ale beer” later for them, which is also mostly sold on the European market. The band loves the stuff of course, as it is an very nice complement for their traditional merchandise portfolio.’’
This is exactly what we see in todays market. Bands expanding their reach and getting aquinted with companies spreading their name and expanding their horizon by generating revenue by marketing their band name on diverse levels. Slayer adding not only the wine and ale to their merch roster, makes them interact with fans in need of expanding their loyalty. It is almost mandatory in todays market, and Brand For Fans is one of the front runners. But how does this work? Who gets in touch with who and how much do bands themselves get involved in this operation? We ask Sari.
Do bands reach out to you, or do you contact bands with ideas for possible collaboration?
For instance: I can imagine with a band like Ghost that you had the intruiging concept of Papastrello wine and brought this to them, rather than the other way around.
,,It depends… We started out with a beer for Ghost, the “Ghost Grale”. This idea came actually from Papa Ermeritis himself!
Soon after he also wanted to do a very nice and rich wine lining up with the band’s image. This eventually became the Italian Papastrello Red Wine. So yes, Papa Emeritis himself is very much involved in everything from taste to the design. As for the Ghost Grale, he actually draw the first design on a white paper at our office upon his visit, that I later handed to our designer to continue with. As for the Papastrello design, he wanted David M. Brinely to provide the artwork.’’
Who connects the band with a producer for product and how is determined what to choose?
I can imagine it is rather obvious for Motörhead to choose for Jack Daniels special casket editions, but how do you proceed with bands non related to liquor like Lemmy?
,,The process is that we meet the band and see what they want to do. We then source and do tastings with the band and sometimes someone from the management go thru and decide the design ideas. When everything is ready and we agreed on the product, taste and design, we start producing. Brands For Fans takes care of the holistic from idea to a final product.’’
I noticed the wide array of products Motörhead launched in the last couple of months. Their collection reaches from Vodka to white and red wine, as well as Rum and several styles of Beers. Can you tell us how this collaboration came about and how this intensified with such wide range of products?
,,The band Motörhead was always interested in developing new beverages. There was a lot of ideas that we did not fulfill either. So it is basically because the band wanted to do vodka, beers, wines, whisky etc. Motörhead was one of the first bands doing brand wine and it was an instant success.’’
In all honesty; don’t bands and fans astray, when Rum and Vodka are released under the Motörhead Monniker? [Everyone expects Bourbon rather than these products.]
,,The fact is that we do what the bands wants to do, and also that the bands stands totally behind their products. It makes the fans more interested and willing to try their beverage. It is no different doing a t-shirt or a beverage as we see them both as band-merchandise.’’
Sari is right with her statement. Not only do bands set off with a wide array of different designs to appeal to specific fans’ perferences and needs when they hit the road, they also widened their merchandise with a diversity of atrtributes branded with their name and trademark to supply fans with a wide variety of merchandise adding up to the experience. By creating a wide variety of beverages products will appeal to a broader audience of fans and die-hards will also be sourced with collectibles to fulfill their needs. Thus product doesn’t only serve all fans with their personal needs, it also attracts collectors wanting to complete their collection.
How much input do you have in the actual selection of a product [line] picked by specific band?
,,Often the artist has an idea of what they want to do, so it’s not been an issue for us. For example Jonas Åkerlund [former Bathory drummer and now acclaimed video director]; He wanted to do an absinthe, and specifically asked for a black version. We had to ask a brewmaster to help us doing this and create this by hand personally. That was a bit special, but we managed to work this special request work...’’
Jonas, Yvonne, Sari
Personally I love the experience of enjoying a good single malt whisky while listening to HammerFall or a Bourbon when I listen to Motörhead. How is the response of the scene in general?
,,The fans love it, otherwise we could close down. We also introduced fans to a variety of new drinks they possibly would not have discovered. For example; take a nice sip of the Motörhead Single Malt whisky before a concert, or even pour a fine glass of HammerFall Champagne to celebrate something or a special moment and achievement. The experience widens and fans are introduced to different tastes introduced by their loyalty towards their beloved band and music.’’
It indeed opens up to a wider and more varied experience as a loyal fan, being introduced to different beverages and getting introduced to new tastes. It adds up to the cellebrational moments in life without discarding your loyalty and eventually fans will also be exposed to something entirely new. Less pilseners, more high quality liquor and craftbeers or ales…
This being said, the company has launched a brand new brand for German rockers Scorpions. It is one of few reasons for touching base with Sari and Brands For Fans, to not say the biggest. It is time to touch base upon this brand new single malt whisky entitled Rock ‘n Roll Star!
Your most recent collaboration is that with Scorpions, launching their single malt Rock ‘n Roll Star whiskey. A brand new, perhaps unexpected, collaboration with one of the biggest rock bands in history. How did this come about?
,,Well, as Mikkey Dee is very much used to work with us as a company exploring beverages, it was a natural step for Scorpions to also explore this market. We met them one year ago when they played in Sweden and now their first single malt whisky is here!’’
[For your notice, when it is a single malt whisky it is spelled “whisky”, if it is an Amercian whiskey or Irish whiskey it is spelld “Whisky”.]
Indeed Sari; I stand corrected. My knowledge of the both should have prevented me from this mishap. On the other side: I can only applaud the knowledge of a company’s spokeswoman pointing out these mishaps. If I wasn’t won over by the companies’ strategy and high end products, I would have been now. Keen eye for quality and keen eye for detail proven, I decide to keep my unfortunate error in place and pledge to never make the mistake again.
I read the band had firm standings in to what they expect of the product. They specifically asked for a German influence in the whiskey, the German sherry caskets.
How do you manage a collaboration of the producer with the band and make it work?
,,As they are from Germany and Mackmyra was involved, their brewmaster Angela DÓrazio suggested the whisky that has been in “Cherry” wine casks [not sherry, that is something else..haha]
Angela mixed a couple of different whisky samples and the band choose their favourite one. They also asked for some changes to be made on assembly of taste, and soon we were ready to go.’’
The concept was launched last week and was kept secret from the start. How are the reactions when the news broke?
,,Amazing! We have a lot of respons coming in from all over the world!’’
How does the band respond to the actual launch?
,,Very exited as we!’’
You also have Rolling Stones and The Police featured in your storefront. Do you handle their product [or just sell as online store] also, and how involved are they?
,,We do not sell them anymore, and these were all products we just distributed through us, exclusive for Sweden, through sub company Wines that Rock.’’
Who comes up with the designs and logos of your brands?
Do you have your own design team, or do the bands and their managements provide this artwork and possible ideas?
,,We work together with the band and our designer mostly. If the band has a preferred designer brought to us, we obviously will work with them. We first discuss how the packaging and beverage should look, and what album to cover, and then start working.’’
Names for the brands, who is in charge of that and do bands gave influence in this process also?
[Rammstein’s Feuer Wasser and Slayer’s Reign in Blood Red Cabernet Sauvignon are examples of playful twists with song names and a brand.]
,,It´s the same as I mentioned earlier… both, us as well as the bands.’’
What was your most challenging collaboration?
,,None were challenging rather than very inspiring in developing!’’
With bands being a key factor in their roster, we make a side step and touch the festival also being featured on their pages prominently: Sweden Rock Festival.
The annual hardrock and heavy metal festival has grown to be one of Europe’s most leading brands in music and unexpectedly also expended their reach. With people from all over the globe heading to Sweden annually to experience the music and atmosphere, they became a household name. Though I was surprised to see them featured on the Brands For Fans website, Sari adds it isn’t that unexpected after all. And with the festival becoming one of the most familiar names among festivals, and a strong brand for fans appealing widely, it is indeed more than obvious [and wise] to explore the beverages merchandise…
Aside bands and brands, you also added Sweden Rock Festival to your roster.
How did that come about?
,,They contacted us back in 2013, and we have worked with them eversince, leading to this wide and varied array of beverages released under their Sweden Rock banner.’’
The festivals’ name is now connected with no less than 9 specific liquors and lagers. There are different agings in Rhum as well as whisky, and you feature Sweden Rock lager. How did Brands For Fans set up this concept and what input did you have from the organization of Sweden Rock?
,,There is a team at Sweden Rock Festival [SRF] we work with, and we have tried different beverages with them, but it has proven that our selection of spirits is what their audience demands, rather than beers and ales. Fans seem to prefer spirits over beers at Sweden Rock. We would love to work, like we do with Sweden Rock Festival, with other festivals in and around Europe. Our liquors and beers are all very appreciated product among their festivalvisitors and add up to the experience of the festival!’’
Running Brands For Fans are two women [Sari and Yvonne]; do you encounter a threshold with bands and the genre, as it has always been rumored to be a men’s world in general?
,,We never had problems with anyone, we work professionally and are experts in what we do.’’
How many people work at Brands For Fans in total?
,,In fact it is only 2 people! It’s just us: Me and Yvonne, but with backup from the Umida Group.’’
Any options of widening your reach and expand to other countries with the webstore?
,,We are expanding all the time via distributors. Our products are available in most countries within Europe directly, as well as Canada, Scandinavia, and very soon also in Japan. We are currently working on distribution for the USA also.
It is not possible to run a webshop from Sweden but many of our distributors have their own online stores. Check our website for retailers and shops.’’
Looking from the outside in, what is your take on the scene and lifestyle of headbangers and heavy metal fans?
,,We love the metalheads so much, they are so dedicated to their bands!’’
Their devotion is often praised and loyalty reaches beyond regular expectations. Does this also contribute to the success of Brands For Fans?
,,Yes, as fans likes to buy merchandise with their band, beverages are just another type of merch. So this is a natural connection overall.’’
Any concepts or bands you personally would love to see as future collaboration?
,,We would love to have some strong females included in our catalogue for the future.’’
What kind of music do you listen to yourself and how do you experience music and bands?
,,I love for example Amy Winehouse, LP, GHOST, In Flames, Slayer and all sorts of music, my spotifylist is so mixed..haha!’’
So, what’s in the box for the next couple of months?
,,We try to think outside our inner box. Trying to find new markets/brands, etc. that are not typical for us..’’
It concludes our interview initiated by the new Scorpions whisky. By getting in touch with the biggest company in the field, we learn that they provide the missing link between bands and their fanbase. Brands For Fans have proven to be a loyal partner for many and provide only the best. Being on target with their releases the company will only maintain to grow over the next few years, and I wish both Sari and Yvonne the very best as they are two of the most devoted people I have met in music today. They are driven beyond imagination and provide you a different taste in music.
For those interested in previous reviews posted, visit the provided links below. And above all: make sure to find out where to find your cherished beverage from your most beloved band[s] on their website, which also provides current lists of distributors all over Europe.
I can only advise to experience…
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