What do you do as a successful entrepreneur and inveterate music fan? For Brad Beckerman, who years ago founded the merchandising company Trunk, which was eventually acquired by Live Nation, then the alcohol company Stillhouse, there are always ways to fuse music and business.
The latest project for Beckerman is the new company CAMOWORKS. The company unveiled its first product yesterday (July 18) with six 3D sculpts depicting Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, AC/DC and Biggie.
I spoke to Beckerman about the new company, his love of music, where the idea for the sculptures came from, future plans for the company and much more.
Steve Baltin: Tell me why you chose these particular artists to start.
Brad Beckerman: Here are the six to start with – Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, AC/DC, Miles Davis, Biggie and Jimi Hendrix. We started with 10 artists when I started Trunk. And looking back, compared to today, there are several reasons why I chose these particular artists. Remember, we were doing something very innovative and disruptive back then with Trunk. At this point in 2003, there was no retail merchandise for these rock bands. And certainly, e-commerce wasn’t available in the early 2000s. Unless you’ve been touring it was very hard to ever find anything, whether it was a Rolling Stones hat or a Grateful Dead t-shirt or any of those retail items. And there was no econ. When I got these artists, I looked at them from all the different cultural aspects and art. This time, flash forward, I can’t believe it, 18 years. We have another witness test or filter if you will. And for us, of course, we 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 additional filter now was the total digital and social media reach that each of them has. 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 his others you’re talking about a baseline of 77 million. For us, everything revolves around the fan. And when I had Trunk, we couldn’t connect directly to the fan. We have gone through a traditional wholesale channel at this point because it is about selling the product. Here we are 18 years later with CAMO, we’re talking about DTF, Direct To Fan. And we want to get in touch with them directly, we’re fan-centric. We want to connect with these fans who see something from the perspective of culture and art with their favorite icons and artists who they resonate with, listen to and most importantly are inspired by. And aside from wearing a t-shirt, when has there ever been anything from an artistic or cultural point of view that people could have in their personal spaces, be it their office, man cave or home, or even as a gift? Gift? And looking at these, Bob Marley is again just my first example, I realize that I have the best opportunity to connect with the fans of these icons who already have a great commitment because I wanted to make sure that we come straight to the fan . And that’s really the main reason I picked all of these. Where you have a Bob Marley who has 77 million dedicated fans, AC/DC has about 39 million fans. Every single one of our artists has at least more than 5 million fans. And because we make high-end, limited-edition pieces, there’s a layer of fans who would never spend that kind of money on anything. Forget art, they wouldn’t spend it on anything, not clothes, sneakers, anything. They might spend it on a $300 ticket to go to a show, but they don’t spend it on anything else. Then there’s a huge crowd of fans that would love to spend something, but they just didn’t have anything to spend it on. So we design and create things for the fan, and with the fan in mind, we honor the icons of their choice.
Baltin: How would you describe it the pieces?
Beckerman: So that’s 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 have embossed and protected as 3DLA. It’s a CAMO 3DLA. We’ve been working on it, 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. They’re not NFTs where everyone in the world stopped pushing digital, digital NFTs last year. And obviously NFTs came out of nowhere and certainly blockchain and everything else. And people spend tens of thousands of dollars on something virtual. You don’t even have a way to show, share or view it. We’re back to old school art, real art. And so these tracks are all hand drawn, then each track is placed in a very specific way, order and position on a 10 inch disc. This 10″ disc is locked to a custom base that manually engages a precision custom ball bearing system. We sometimes refer to it as a layered illusion. If you see it on the side or back, it’s abstract and it’s part of why we call the brand CAMO. It’s our version of camouflage. CAMO stands for the acronym – Culture, Art, Music, Originals. And those are the core parts of our business, as we show all of this. So when you see the piece, 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 want you to actually touch the art. We want you to deal with it. It is fun. If you even see the piece to like it, turn it in a certain direction and it’s like you can pick up different things from each angle. We also have engravings on the back and in some areas we call them Easter Eggs. There are little surprise cut outs and engravings if you find them. And that will come more and more over time as people get to know our pieces. Each is approximately 12.5 to 13 inches tall, they sit on a 10 inch diameter, also a custom made base with a laser engraved numbered metal badge located in each base numbered 1 of 500 and 2 of 500 die so additional size of these is 500 worldwide that’s it we don’t do anymore.
Baltin: What is the selling price?
Beckerman: The retail price for use is $800. They come in a collector’s box that is art in itself. It’s a nice packaging box, a suede canvas finish with the bumps, and then each individual icon has an individual sleeve with a monochrome image of the artist and then, if you will, a little blurb story about the particular work of art. Each work of art is named at the specific point in time when the artist did something. So it could be Bob Marley and when he released “One Love” it was called “The One Love”. Jimi Hendrix means “Are You Experienced?” Biggie was off a track from one of his songs called “Big Papa” and so on, so we tried to approximate that. Well, the Grateful Dead, we’ve done something uniquely different that they’ve never done before, and we’re the first company they’ve allowed to do that. We actually market “Steal Your Face” with the “Steely Bears”. “In one piece. And usually they didn’t. They didn’t mix if you will, they have different iconographies. In this case we used the traditional flash, but we took some of their classic bears and held them up to steal your face. So we try to take a unique approach to each one, but it’s very artistically inspired, and then we look at it and maybe don’t do a traditional color. We develop different textures and unique ways to capture the footage, and when you rotate it it creates a very different image. So this is how it starts, and it’s only going to evolve from here. Then we’ll get into wall hangings from next year.
Baltin: How will these differ from the sculptures?
Beckerman: Our 3DLA sculptures can be placed on a desk, on a shelf, or whatever. The best view is two meters from the piece, at eye level, whether you are sitting or standing. That’s where you get this, if you will, magically layered illusion that when you’re in that right-hand corner, you get that amazing aha moment, that surprise. And then we do the same for a 3DLA tapestry. And so we got a lot of inspiration again [Andy] Warhol, a square frame, and this frame will hold all of those pieces. Instead of being on the desk, it will be in the frame, and if you lean back from the wall, you’ll see an image of those icons coming your way. And that should be very unique and the tapestries will come out in the middle of next year. But for now, we’re focusing on what we call our one-to-one or 100 percent scale of our 3DLAs. And we got such an interesting response from the artists. And especially some of the modern day artists who would love to take some of these on tour but they are too big. So we’re already in the process of doing a half size, which of course costs less money, but also gives the opportunity to tour with some of the modern day artists.
Baltin: As you start to expand, will you deal with more artists, not necessarily contemporary ones, because as you say they all have to be iconic, but artists who are more active?
Beckermann: One hundred percent. The artists we would do who are still active themselves must be modern day icons. And whether these modern icons are Wu-Tang, for example, we will prepare to do something. These are timeless, but as you mentioned Dead and Co, what John Mayer has done for this whole band is incredible. He completely reinvigorated that, not to mention the audience. But there are certainly modern icons, whether it’s U2 or Willie Nelson, that we do. He’s still alive, obviously he’s still a bit of our older demographic. And later this year, Tupac will come out. And while he’s no longer here, he’s still relevant to younger audiences. But the kind of artists we would tour with, like someone like Pink. Pink has 39 million fans and she is iconic when she had her pink hair and a certain look. We can take a limited edition picture with her. We’re also talking to 21 Savage and Nas right now as an example, so I’m looking at these cultural icons in their own space, if you will. So, Nas, when it comes to rap music, he’s one of the very few hip-hop artists today who has that kind of cache and following. And certainly his lyrics and skill are second to none. And then there are obviously people like Dr. Dre or Jay-Z, Beyoncé, those kinds of modern icons, if you will.