What do you do when you’re a successful entrepreneur and die-hard music fan? For Brad Beckerman, who years ago founded merchandise company Trunk, which was eventually acquired by Live Nation and then liquor company Stillhouse, you keep finding ways to merge music and business.
Beckerman’s latest venture is the new company CAMOWORKS. The company yesterday (July 18) launched its first product, six 3D sculptures, featuring Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, AC/DC and Biggie.
I spoke with Beckerman about the new venture, his love of music, where the idea for the sculptures came from, the company’s future plans and much more.
Steve Baltin: Explain to me why you chose these particular artists to start with.
Brad Beckerman: Here are the six we start with: Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, AC/DC, Miles Davis, Biggie and Jimi Hendrix. We started with 10 artists when I started Trunk. And when I look back from now, there are several reasons why I chose these particular artists. At the time, remember, we were doing something very innovative and disruptive with Trunk. At that time, in 2003, there were no retail merchandise for these rock bands. And e-commerce certainly wasn’t available in the early 2000s. If you weren’t on tour, it was very hard to find any, whether it was a Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead hat or t-shirt. or any of them commercially. And there was no saving. So when I went to look for these artists, I looked at them from all cultural and artistic aspects. This time, flash forward, I can’t even believe it, 18 years old. We have a witness test or a different filter, if you will. And for us, we obviously looked at who the artists were, they had to be iconic, and I define icons as timeless.
Baltin: What was the additional filter?
Beckerman: The added filter now was all the digital and social media reach that each of them had. And that’s really what changed the game for me. Take Bob Marley as an example. He has 77 million followers across all his channels. Mainly Instagram and Facebook, but between all its others you are talking about a base of 77 million. All of our stuff revolves around the fan. And when I had Trunk, we couldn’t connect directly to the fan. We went through a traditional wholesale channel at that time in terms of selling the product. Here we are 18 years later with CAMO, we are talking about DTF, Direct To Fan. And we want to connect directly with them, we’re fan-centric. We want to connect with those fans who see something from the perspective of culture and art with their favorite icons and artists, who they resonate with, who they listen to and, above all, who inspire them. And aside from wearing a t-shirt, when has there ever been anything artistically or culturally that people might have in their personal spaces, whether it’s their office, their man cave or their house, or even to give you as a gift? And so looking at these, Bob Marley again being my prime example, I realize that I have the best opportunity by connecting with the fans of these icons who already have huge engagement because I wanted to make sure that we come directly to the fan. And so that’s really the main reason why I chose all of this. Where you have a Bob Marley who has 77 million engaged fans, AC/DC has around 39 million fans. Each of our artists has at least more than 5 million fans. And so because we make high-end, limited-edition pieces, there’s a layer of fans who would never spend that much money on anything. Forget the art, they wouldn’t spend it on anything, not on clothes, sneakers, anything. They could spend it on a $300 ticket to go to a show, but they won’t spend anything else. Then you have a huge number of fans who wish they could spend something, they just don’t have anything to spend it on. So we design and create things for the fan, and with the fan in mind, honoring the icons of choice.
Baltin: How would you describe the pieces?
Beckerman: So what we’re focusing on and, like Trunk, I wanted to start with an iconic piece for us. And this piece is a three-dimensional layered art form that we invented and trademarked 3DLA. It’s a 3DLA CAMO. We’ve been working on this, my team and I, for almost two years, we started in August 2020. And so it’s been quite a journey so far. And these are physical sculptures. It’s not NFTs, where everyone in the world continued last year, pushing digital, digital NFTs. And obviously NFTs came out of nowhere and certainly Blockchain and everything. And people are spending tens of thousands of dollars on something virtual. They don’t even have a way to show it, share it, or display it. We are back to old school art, real art. And so these pieces are all hand-drawn, and then each piece is positioned in a very specific way, order, and location on a 10-inch disc. This 10-inch disc is locked into a custom base that manually activates a precision custom ball bearing system. We sometimes refer to them as a layered illusion. When you see it on the side or the back, it’s abstract and that’s part of why we call the brand CAMO. This is our version of camouflage. CAMO is for the acronym – culture, art, music, originals. And those are the essentials of our business on how we show it all. So when you see the room, we want you to interact with it. I grew up, you walk into an art gallery or a store, and people say, “Don’t touch the art. We actually want you to touch the art. We want you to engage with it. It’s funny. When you’ve even seen the room like turning it a certain way, and it’s like from every angle, you can pick up different things. We also have engravings on the back, and in some areas we call them easter eggs. There are surprise little cutouts and etchings if you find them. And that will come more and more over time as people get to know our pieces. Each is approximately 12-13″ tall, they are on a 10″ diameter base, again bespoke with a laser engraved numbered metal badge which sits inside each base which is numbered one out of 500, two out of 500. So the addition size of those are 500 in the world, that’s it, we don’t make any more.
Baltin: What is the selling price?
Beckerman: Retail price per use is US$800. They come in a collector’s box which is art in itself. It’s a beautiful packaging box, a suede linen finish with the bosses, and then each particular icon has a custom sleeve with a monochromatic image of the artist, and then a little presentation story, if you will, on the specific work of art. Each piece of art is named at the particular time that artist was doing something. So it could be Bob Marley and when he released ‘One Love’ then it was called ‘The One Love’. Jimi Hendrix is called “Are you experienced?” Biggie came from a piece of one of his songs called “Big Papa”, and so on, so we tried to address that. Now the Grateful Dead, we’ve done something unique and different that they’ve never done before, and we’re the first company they’ve allowed to do it. ” on one piece. And usually they didn’t. They didn’t mix, if you will, they have different iconography. In this case, we used the traditional lightning bolt, but we took some of their classic bears and put them together to steal your face, so we’re trying to take a unique approach to each one, but it’s very artist inspired, and then we’ll look at it and maybe we won’t. be not a traditional color. We’re developing different textures and unique ways of taking the material, and when you turn it, make it create a whole different image. So it starts like that, and it’s only going to evolve from there. ‘here. Then we’ll move on to wall hangings from next year.
Baltin: How will these be different from sculptures?
Beckerman: Our 3DLA sculptures can sit on a desk, a shelf, somewhere like that. The best view is six feet from the room, at eye level, whether you’re sitting or standing. That’s where you get this magical layered illusion, if you will, that when you’re in this right corner vision, you get this amazing aha moment, this surprise. And then we’ll do the same for a 3DLA wall hanging. And so we will have, again, a lot inspired by [Andy] Warhol, a square frame, and this frame is going to contain all these pieces. Instead of being on the desktop, it will be in the frame, and so when you move away from the wall, you’ll see an image of these icons appear to you. And so it should be very unique and the wall hangings will be released in the middle of next year. But right now we’re focusing on what we call our individual scale or 100% of our 3DLAs. And we got such an interesting response from the artists. And in particular, some of the modern artists who would love to take a few on tour, but they’re too big. So what we’re already developing is doing a half-scale which will obviously cost less money, but also allow them to be able to tour with some of the modern artists as well.
Baltin: As you start to grow, are you going to be interested in more artists, not necessarily contemporary because, as you say, they all have to be icons, but more active artists?
Beckerman: One hundred percent. The artists we would make who are still active in their own right must be modern icons. And let these modern icons be like, for example, Wu-Tang, we are going to get ready to do something. They’re timeless, but as you mentioned Dead and Co, it’s amazing what John Mayer has done for this whole band. He completely invigorated that, not to mention the audience. But there are certainly modern-day icons, whether it’s U2 or Willie Nelson, that we do. He’s still alive, obviously he’s still part of our older population. And later this year, we’ll have Tupac coming out. And although it’s no longer around, it’s still relevant for younger audiences. But the types of artists we were touring with, like someone like Pink. Pink has 39 million fans, and she’s iconic when she has pink hair and a certain look. We can make a limited edition image with it. We’re also talking right now, for example, with 21 Savage and Nas. So I look at these cultural icons, if you will, in their own space. So Nas, when it comes to rap music, he’s one of the few hip-hop artists today with that kind of cache and following. And certainly his words and his abilities are second to none. And then you obviously have people like Dr. Dre or Jay-Z, Beyoncé, those kind of modern icons, if you will.