Coffee and music have a deep rooted connection. If you walk into a coffee shop anywhere in the world, you’re likely to hear some kind of music playing.
However, the relationship between coffee and music extends beyond this. Collaborations between musicians and coffee companies are common in the industry, with some musical artists even launching their own coffee brands as well. Most recently, for example, The Weeknd partnered with Blue Bottle on the Ethiopia-focused Samra Origins range.
So, what makes a musician want to create their own coffee products? And what is the market potential for these coffees?
To find out, I spoke to Tim Wenzel, Creative Producer at Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and legendary musician Mick Fleetwood, who also recently launched his own coffee line. Read on to find out more.
The relationship between coffee and music
Although it’s not one of the most popular song topics, musicians have been singing about coffee for years. Some famous songs include:
- Cigarettes and Coffee by Otis Redding
- One Cup of Coffee by Bob Marley
- Coffee Song by Cream
Even classical composer J.S. Bach wrote a mini-opera entitled Coffee Cantana, which was centred around a young woman who was dependent on coffee.
Mick Fleetwood is the co-founder and drummer for legendary rock band Fleetwood Mac. He is also the founder of Mick Fleetwood Coffee Company.
“Coffee has always been a staple of the musician’s life,” he tells me. “We spend a lot of time waiting – whether in recording studios, backstage, at the airport, in the tour bus, in TV studios, or hotel rooms – so coffee helps us to stay awake.”
Tim (who is also a musician) agrees, saying: “I used to write many songs in the morning while I was drinking coffee.
“I would get a coffee before a show I was playing, or I would drink coffee in the studio while recording,” he adds.
The relationship between coffee and music, however, goes even further beyond this. In fact, research has found that music and other sounds have a significant impact on your sense of taste.
For instance, high-pitched sounds can help you to identify sweeter flavours, while lower sounds can emphasise more bitter notes. Music that is too loud, meanwhile, can overload your senses – which generally means food and beverages taste more bland.
Music can also affect how we consume things. Slower music, for example, makes people eat and drink at a slower pace – which is why music plays such a key role in coffee shops.
Why are musician-branded coffee companies becoming more popular?
Celebrity endorsements are nothing new to the coffee industry – even when talking specifically about musicians. Along with The Weeknd and Blue Bottle, some examples of musician-branded coffee companies include:
- Marley Coffee, founded by Rohan Marley (son of reggae singer Bob Marley)
- US rap artist Snoop Dogg and Indonesian coffee entrepreneur Michael Riady who launched the INDOxyz coffee brand
- Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt of rock band Green Day, who launched the Oakland Coffee Works brand
Mick explains how he launched his own coffee company.
“During the pandemic, I found myself with a lot of free time,” he says. “A friend of mine came up with the idea of creating a coffee line, and I loved the idea of having my own brand and sharing my love for coffee with others.”
He adds that his coffee offerings are inspired by his travels, as well as where he currently lives in Maui, Hawaii – where one of his friends owns a nearby coffee farm.
“Maui coffee farmers grow many different varieties on the slopes of Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains, including Typica, Catuai, Caturra, Bourbon, and Mokka,” he tells me. “I also decided on a Kenyan blend because I have spent a lot of time in Africa, including recording with local musicians.”
Tim, meanwhile, explains how Stumptown came to collaborate with punk rock icon Iggy Pop a few years ago.
“When I was first hired as the Creative Producer, my boss asked me: ‘If you could work with one person, who would it be?’,” he says. “I said Iggy Pop.
“For me, it was about his music and his legacy, but it was also about the person he was and the overall respect I have for him,” he adds. “Our passion for working with a musician like Iggy was to let people see that something like this was possible in coffee.”
Who buys these coffees?
It’s fair to say that musician-branded coffees are typically targeted towards a particular consumer demographic. But there are certainly ways to make these coffee products more appealing to a wider range of people.
Tim explains that the Iggy Pop collaboration was just as much about his music as it was about working with someone who aligns with the Stumptown brand.
“Iggy designed custom packaging for the coffee, which was an Indonesian Bies Penantan,” he adds. “This is a coffee we have purchased for many years. The farm is located in the Aceh province, and is exclusively produced for Stumptown by the woman-operated Ketiara Co-operative.”
He continues by saying that the packaging included information which you would usually find on specialty coffee bags, such as tasting notes and processing methods. Portions of sales of this coffee were also donated to the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, which encourages young women to become more involved in the arts and social justice.
Could this market grow?
While musician and celebrity-endorsed coffee brands may not be for everyone, when a partnership is executed carefully and intentionally, research shows that these products can be popular among consumers.
Similarly, research from Morning Consult concluded that 34% of adults are more likely to visit a coffee chain if their favourite musician has promoted it. When talking about Gen Z and millennial consumers, this jumps to 44% and 51%, respectively.
Ultimately, this means musician-branded or endorsed coffee companies could help boost consumption of specialty coffee – if done properly.
“Coffee culture has become more ingrained in pop culture,” Tim says. “I’m stoked that music is now an avenue for coffee companies to explore.”
Advice for roasters looking to partner with musicians
If a coffee company or roaster wants to work more closely with a musical artist to develop and sell coffee products, there are a few critical factors to consider.
First and foremost, roasters need to make sure that their business ethos and values align with those of the artist or band. If not, the partnership is more likely to be unsuccessful.
Moreover, the brand’s style and personality must match the musician’s, too. For instance, a more modern and minimalist coffee company is unlikely to partner with a grunge or punk band – simply because the visual aesthetic wouldn’t complement one another.
Mick emphasises that it can also be crucial to sell co-branded merchandise.
“T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and hoodies are all walking advertising, as well as mugs,” he says.
Remaining true to instinct
More importantly, however, Mick says that musicians need to be heavily involved in the partnership.
“Don’t just put your name or face on a coffee bag to make some money,” he tells me. “I spent two years tasting and sourcing high-quality beans before launching the company.
“I’m involved with and approve every step of the process, from selecting the beans to roasting, packing, and distributing,” he adds. “It’s important to me that every cup [is consistent in quality].”
Tim says that relying on instinct is particularly helpful when it comes to partnering with musicians.
“Don’t overthink it – if it feels right, then it probably is,” he tells me. “And remember, at the end of the day, it’s about the coffee and everyone in the supply chain.”
Collaborations with musicians are a useful marketing tool for roasters, so it’s likely that we’ll see more of them in the future.
And although not all celebrity-coffee partnerships are meaningful, they can help to amplify a message – whether it’s about sustainability, transparency, or quality. In the end, roasters and coffee companies need to make sure they work with musicians who promote their brand in the best possible way.
Enjoyed this? Then read our article on why YouTube coffee brands are becoming more popular.
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