In 2020, tour money for artists disappeared, album releases got delayed; and any other scheduled entertainment events like film soundtracks and festivals were paused indefinitely, cancelled or rerouted to digital platforms for streaming. COVID-19 has left many musicians pressed for more income. But, not Travis Scott. The Houston-born artist has continued to secure more bags through a series of strategic corporate partnerships with the likes of Nike, Sony, Epic Games, McDonald’s, and more.
Scott is no stranger to working with global companies. Since 2017, he has collaborated with Helmut Lang, General Mills, and the MLB’s Houston Astros. The key difference in 2020 is that every major deal involving the “Franchise” artist has included co-branding opportunities with his own label and imprint, Cactus Jack. The special hybrid of creative consulting, product endorsement and exclusive merchandise drops Scott has delivered with each partnership has led to greater trust with both fans and multinational companies looking to stay connected to digital youth culture.
In April, more than 12 million fans watched the first night of “Astronomical,” an event series hosted by Scott on Fortnite. In total, unique viewership for the three-day event amounted to more than 27 million users. Though Scott has never addressed or mentioned exact figures, reports estimate that he made at least $2.5 million from virtual merchandise like his performance avatar alone. Shortly after the in-game event, Scott released Cactus Jack x Fortnite, a collection of clothing and gaming accessories. Every item sold out. For his “Astroworld Tour” last year — the top grossing hip hop music tour of 2019 — he made $53.5 million in nine months. His partnership with Epic Games (the makers of Fortnite) made La Flame an estimated $20 million (gross, including merchandise) for a nine-minute performance.
Tapping into gaming audiences across multiple time zones reveals Scott’s business savvy and understanding of his core fanbase. Free performances in the virtual world are definitely more appealing than the realities of COVID-19. The rapper was one of few mainstream artists who momentarily gave fans a way to escape isolation. He solidified his “Ragers” into an even more loyal community and consumer base.
The artist’s ability to relate extends to even traditional, more established brands like McDonald’s and Nike. In February, the Travis Scott x Nike SB Dunk Low “Cactus Jack” kicks dropped alongside skating accessories and exclusive clothing merch. Nike pays Scott an estimated $10 million a year for his creative input and endorsement.
In September, McDonald’s released the Travis Scott meal. Known as the “Cactus Jack,” the meal consisted of a Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon and lettuce; a Sprite, and fries with BBQ sauce. The collaboration marked the first time McDonald’s pushed a celebrity-endorsed meal since Micheal Jordan did it in 1992, the same year Scott was born. Nationwide, orders for the $6 Cactus Jack combo meal caused a breakdown in McDonald’s ingredient supply chain.
Sony Interactive Entertainment has also chosen to team up with the artist. In October, PlayStation named Scott an official Strategic Creative Partner. To secure the deal, the Sony-owned company paid him at least $1 million upfront. The multi-year arrangement is believed to be worth $20 million. Rumors of Scott designing his own PS5 game and co-branded console have been swirling around, but in an interview with Forbes, Scott remained tight-lipped, only confirming, “It’s all going to roll out in the next couple of weeks.”
This holiday season, Scott has released TRAVX Space Rage, a limited-edition eau de parfum priced at $285 and candle for $95 through Swedish luxury fragrance house BYREDO. A day after Scott promoted it on Instagram, the collection sold out. There are no data or estimates yet on how much BYREDO paid Scott for the collaboration. The grandson of a Jazz composer, the artist stays hustling and is always looking ahead.
Next year, in collaboration with AB InBev, the world’s largest brewing company, he will launch a line of flavored hard seltzers. The “Sicko Mode” star has also announced the return of his Astroworld festival in 2021. As he says in his Netflix doc, Look Mom, I Can Fly, “At some points in life, you have to be extreme.”