Rock Bands and Coffee Brands
Musicians with their own blend, or sometimes their own coffee company, is a small but growing niche. What's that about?
If there’s one type of coffee influencer guaranteed to grab my attention, it’s a rock musician.
Something about the constant travel and assumed hard living makes them seem like they know their way around a coffee pot. And lately, more and more of them seem to be launching their own brands or blends.
As I skim the most recent coffee news (as I am wont to do), a regular occurrence has been to see a headline announcing the release of a new coffee in collaboration with a rock band or musician. Sometimes, such as in the case of Green Day or to a lesser extent Coheed and Cambria, it’s an actual coffee company formed by the band.
More commonly, a band teams up with an existing coffee company to release a specific themed blend. In fact, for some companies this has become a productive niche, offering an interesting new market for their coffees while allowing them to experiment with different artists and audiences.
“We’re rock and roll fans, we’re horror fans,” says Mike Thorwart, co-owner and Chief Operating Officer of Pennsylvania-based Dead Sled Coffee. “Our goal was always to work with bands in the beginning, we just didn’t know how to go about it. But luckily a friend had introduced me to this hardcore band, Wisdom in Chains, and it just grew from there.”
What started out as a one-off collaboration turned into a lineup that now includes coffees with Rob Zombie, Disturbed, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, KISS, and Cypress Hill. For Thorwart, it’s important to have an actual partnership, instead of just licensing the name and slapping it on a bag of beans. “The artists themselves are the ones that taste test the coffee. We work hand-in-hand with every single person that we work with.”
At Dark Matter Coffee in Chicago, the team’s backgrounds and interest in music drove their desire to link up with artists. “The company is composed of a lot of artists of all mediums, musicians & DJs being heavily represented in our culture,” says Kyle Hodges, Minister of Propaganda for Dark Matter. This also inspires the types of musicians they team up with: “The intention is to have a plethora of genres represented, much like a record store; we want everyone to feel that they can connect with a DMC collaboration,” Hodges says.
Dark Matter has worked with many renowned bands and artists over the years, including Judas Priest, Refused, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Mastodon, Charlie Benante of Anthrax, and lots more. Like with Dead Sled, it’s important to Hodges that the musicians are directly involved: “We have a relationship with all the artists that we work with, it's the only way to really do it. The relationships are of varying degrees of closeness, but a direct connection is necessary to have the collaboration be successful. From the artwork to the selection of coffee, the collaboration partner is involved in the process of making the project come to life.”
So what could the musicians get out of these co-branding moves? In Hodges’ view, it’s a combination of opportunity and, well, liking coffee: “Coffee is a necessity for musicians for obvious reasons, helping to fuel creativity and productivity while they do their thing. Musicians also need something to connect with fans, sell on tour, etc. Coffee is a great option.”
Deadsled’s Thorwart sees it as a low risk way to try out a passion project: “They have all the say in the tasting and the artwork, but they don't have to do the roasting. Rob [Zombie] has always wanted his own line of coffee, but he was always looking for the right person to work with.”
And it seems as though the fans aren’t the only ones enjoying the coffee. “Rob will just send a message personally,” Thorwart says, “and he’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m almost out, I can't drink any other coffee now. Can you please send some more out to me?’”