A lot has changed at The Gap since its last music initiative, "The Sound of Color," debuted in 2008.
In the past 18 months alone, the retailer has changed (then promptly changed back) its signature blue logo, seen the departure of former president Marka Hansen and shifted its marketing department from its San Francisco headquarters to New York. Declining sales have also prompted the retailer to put a new emphasis on clothes vs. splashy celebrity ad campaigns, which have included the likes of Madonna, Jason Mraz and Destiny's Child vet Michelle Williams in years past.
So "Joy It Up," a new indie-music compilation the Gap released on its Facebook page Monday, is a return to form of sorts. A "holiday mixtape" in name only (each song was selected for its ability to elicit joy, rather than any Christmas or Hanuakkah connection), "Joy It Up" was the brainchild of Gap's Jason Ferro, men's design director for the company's "1969" collection. Ferro, who does double duty as lead singer/guitarist in L.A.-based band Whitley Heights, wanted to do something that combined his life-long love of music with the Gap's rich heritage with music. The original Gap flagship store in San Francisco initially sold nothing but (Levi's) jeans and records.
"I thought, 'Man, what better way to connect back to the youth of American than with music?" Ferro told Billboard.biz. "That's what happening at all the festivals, the vibe of bringing rock 'n roll, fashion and art together." Although The Gap has partnered with A-list artists in the past, Ferro wanted to keep the focus on independent, emerging bands - several of whom he knows personally. The compilation features new and previously unreleased tracks by artists ranging from Australia's Boy and Bear to the U.K.'s Boxer Rebellion to L.A.-based country-pop singer Jackson Guthy and his own Whitley Heights. Also featured: Carolina Liar, Rival Sons, Arcadian Kicks, Black Rabbits, Tallahassee, Liam Gerner, Risers, Tony Brucco, Josh Bray, the Screening and the Lucky Lonely.
Some of the bands are on indie labels, some are unsigned, and some are so new "no one's heard any of their music yet," Ferro said. "We tried to look for bands that were not so known yet to try and bring back that rock 'n roll, 1969 feeling. Putting these artists together, it just felt really organic to get these people into this place at the Gap."
There are no current plans for the music from "Joy It Up" to be featured in Gap stores or as part of any Gap TV spots, primarily due to scheduling and long lead times, but Ferro is confident music will soon be a key part of the Gap's broader strategy in the near future. "We want to integrate how music can fit into the store, and we've been talking to Seth [Farbman], our marketing president, about ideas. Getting art in the store, getting music in the store - we're pushing it as far as we can go."