Six years in the past the leaders of Ethika, a way of life model based mostly in San Clemente, California, realized they could have hit some type of jackpot: Turns out, the hip-hop neighborhood had an affinity for his or her boxer briefs.
"We acquired fortunate," says Matt Cook, Ethika's CEO. So they reached out some comparatively unknown rappers on the time, together with Machine Gun Kelly, Meek Mill and Kid Ink, Cook says, all of whom "had been carrying the product and liked it."
Soon, Ethika was partnering with its artist followers to create customized attire and enlisted the acts to report unique songs for a sequence of annual mixtapes that the model releases. Ethika has now collaborated with everybody from Lil Wayne to Casey Veggies, not too long ago dropping a brand new 13-song mixtape known as The Prophesy, that includes authentic tracks from NBA YoungerBoy, Ski Mask the Slump God, Mozzy and extra. The offers are mutually useful: The songs are given away at no cost, whereas artists earn royalties from the customized merchandise and the road builds its model and buyer base by way of the varied partnerships.
Ethika's first RGB mixtape was launched in 2017, that includes Meek Mill, Lil Durk, Kid Ink and extra. That was adopted by RGB 2 final May, which clocked greater than 10 million streams with tracks by Lil Wayne, Kodak Black, Lil Skies and 2 Chainz. With the current launch of The Prophesy, Ethika is planning to drop two mixtapes a 12 months shifting ahead with one other RGB installment deliberate for this summer time.
"Never thought I might be designing a pair of my very own underwear," says Yung Pinch, who contributed a observe to The Prophesy. "I'm tremendous stoked with the best way they got here out! Crazy to see how many individuals have taken eye to 'The Beach Boy' and it's dope I acquired to bless the followers with an unique report, 'Sunset,' on the Ethika mixtape that was launched with the brand new underwear."
Billboard caught up with Cook to listen to extra about Ethika's music technique and the place the corporate is headed subsequent.
What was the concept behind the music technique?
I acquired concerned within the model in 2012. At that point, they had been simply promoting product to athletes. Then we began to exit to retail. I felt like underwear was a class that could possibly be relevant to everybody -- it didn't matter in the event you're a surfer, a basketball participant otherwise you performed the piano, you continue to wore underwear. Music was the idea that was the connection for individuals. I believed if we might get a music program going that aligned with the model, in the best way that the hip-hop tradition does -- it's a little bit extra edgy and it's extra trendy -- we'd have the potential to enchantment to an enormous group of individuals. So the connection to completely different genres of individuals and athletes and musicians and so forth was the driving issue. We had numerous ambassadors that had been musicians however we thought, "Let's take it a step additional and put out a mixtape."
Do you pay the musicians?
They give us the tracks so we personal these. What we do is we design a pair of Ethikas for them. They get the royalty off the pairs that we promote; that's how they make the cash. We've acquired an honest platform to push by way of our retail channel and our [e-commerce] channel and thus the flexibility to show individuals.
Lil Wayne, for instance, did an unique observe for us. We've additionally carried out signature pairs that we've bought at retail and in every single place for him. The exclusivity's necessary as a result of if it's not unique, individuals might simply go take heed to the music some other place.
How do you get acts to create authentic songs for the model?
We put out the RGB mixtape two years in the past. Once we did the primary one, then all the pieces -- our second RGB after which The Prophesy that we simply did -- was simple as a result of we did numerous promotion across the first one. We did a celebration, we did a glance guide, we printed out catalogs. All the artists acquired presents and we flew them out. So when the subsequent venture got here up, it was simple. Lil Wayne, as an example, wasn't on the primary one however he wished to be on the second. So we didn't even need to ask a few of the guys; they wished to be on it as a result of they wished simply the model alignment and the publicity.
How do you choose the artists you wish to take part within the mixtapes?
We've had Meek Mill to Lil Wayne to 2 Chainz. We've had Kodak Black, which is extra of an up-and-comer. We've had Lil Skies, who's an up-and-comer, simply been fairly sizzling this final 12 months or so. Then we've acquired some guys which have been perhaps a little bit bit older however are nonetheless a little bit bit related, like Chevy Woods or Kid Ink or Casey Veggies or what not.
Then this final mixtape was all about us going out and discovering all these new younger artists which might be making a reputation for themselves on YouTube. They'll create music, put it up and begin to get a following by way of HotNewHipHop or Lyrical Lemonade, and all the sudden they've acquired like 20 million views on their video. So we thought, "Let's go and create a mixtape that's simply the younger, new guys and put that out" -- we'll have a rookie mixtape after which we'll have a veteran type of mixtape.
We are going to do two a 12 months. The first one's the RGB and that's simply the idea of crimson, inexperienced, blue, like an additive shade. Those colours collectively are extra highly effective than individually, in order that was an idea. Then, The Prophesy, we're going to do a type of a 12 months. That's us predicting, "Hey, these are the fellows sooner or later which might be going to be large."
How do you launch the music?
We promote and launch the music on our web site and on SoundCloud. Then we have now companions that we give particular releases with. Like final 12 months, Complex acquired Meek Mill's tune a day early. So we'll do some strategic companions to get the music out as a result of it could actually't be paid for. If it's paid for, then it violates the agreements that the artists have with the report labels. So it must be free. I believe we have now like 11 million streams on our final RGB mixtape.
We're at present constructing a music studio in our workplace constructing. We have plans to do some issues like a enterprise mannequin across the music as a result of we get fed numerous youthful artists due to the older artists that we work with. We have individuals coming to us on a regular basis. We'd love to do one thing in music however with a associate, with a Universal or with an Epic or one thing like that, the place we might work with them on doing it as a result of we're not consultants in publishing and distribution of content material in music and so forth.
How has the music program been a sport changer for the model?
We get numerous site visitors from Instagram and our e-mail lists. When we pull collectively a Meek Mill and a Lil Wayne and a 2 Chainz and a Kodak Black and a Kid Ink and a Slump God and Mozzy and NBA YoungerBoy, you then're speaking about 30, 40, 50 million individuals inside the group that's pushing out, "Hey, that is the mixtape that I'm part of. Go take heed to it." That publicity flips on a change and it drives individuals to the location. People are listening to the music however they're additionally shopping for product after which they grow to be return prospects for us.