A limited edition Playbutton of alt hip-hop act Chiddy Bang, produced for the UK market, sold out.
For years, many a music fan has established his or her personality through musical preference, by displaying his or her favorite artists on t-shirts, bags or by pinning small buttons onto an article of clothing.
With the slogan “the music you love tells world who you are,” New York-based company Playbutton has taken this idea of self-definition through music to the next level by creating an MP3 player that doubles as a trendy fashion accessory.
The idea is just what the company’s name implies—it’s a fashion button that you can pin to your shirt, bag or other article of clothing to display your favorite artist or band, but it also has a port to plug your headphones into and listen to a pre-made playlist downloaded onto the device.
“I had a denim jacket from grade school with pins from concerts all over it,” said Playbutton account manager Joshua Penn, describing how the initial idea for the Playbutton originated.“
“We don’t see ourselves as being the new iPod, but as a way for fans to have an intimate connection with the artist,” added Penn. “My iPhone sits in my pocket, and I still listen to a lot of music on it, but there’s not a lot of personality to it. People on the street don’t know what I’m listening to.”
Penn said the company started in the summer of 2010 and released its first Playbuttons to promote small, local bands in February 2011. Now, the company has gained recognition from bigger artists including Lady Gaga, Florence + the Machine and Justin Bieber, and special Playbuttons with those artists’ albums can be purchased online. Popular fashion icons including Louis Vuitton, Barney’s and Diane Von Furstenberg have also signed on to offer cover designs for Playbuttons.
Penn said the hope is that these Playbuttons can help reinforce the importance of album cover art, as downloadable music has downplayed cover graphics over the past few years.
“Album artwork historically is as important as the music itself,” said Penn. “It would be great if people could see both sides again.”
Although the pre-made, artist-specific buttons can get a little pricey (Justin Bieber’s runs for $19.99 for the ‘Believe’ button, while Lady Gaga’s special edition button—now sold out—went for $50), the custom buttons are fairly inexpensive and provide buyers with infinite possibilities to display his or her character with a flashy electronic pin.
Through the company’s website, playbutton.com, customers choose from a variety of designers and album covers for their button, or they can send the company their own image for the button and upload a custom playlist to the button. Playbuttons can store either 128MB (60 minutes of music) or 2G (36 hours of music) and the company suggests using them as wedding favors, event gifts or to help promote a new artist. The buttons only play MP3 format, but apparently there are no issues with playing files with high kbps rates.
The question now is how popular will the flashy accessories become, and what will this mean for the artist?
Because you can choose your own image and upload your own playlist, this could open the door for new artists to promote their albums in a new way: instead of handing out CDs, they can now hand out a small, pocket-sized MP3 player promoting their music.
“For a young band, handing out a wearable demo is something different and unique. It immediately puts you in a memorable position,” Penn said.