Musical T’s combine album art with a one-time download

Sales begin in May in the U.S.

A start-up husband-and-wife team has combined classic album cover art printed on a fashion line of T-shirts with an attached QR or NFC code that can be scanned to download a matching album of music to a smartphone or other device.

Fashion designer Astrella and her husband Jason Rothberg conceived of the idea for Musical T's in 2012, then began working with developers on the secure download technology. They also approached artists and record labels to license the music and cover art and will pay royalties to them from T-shirt sales.

Starting in May, the line of Musical T's, made from organic cotton, will go on sale for $82 apiece at Boomingdales in Santa Monica and Manhattan and several other high-end boutiques, Rothberg said in a telephone interview Friday. Sales will begin in the UK in June, he said.

"This is the polar opposite of streaming services, since you buy the shirt and own that album and you're not just renting it," Rothberg said. Rothberg and Astrella partnered to spend more than $100,000 on the development of the download technology, called Activation Tech.

When customers buy the T-shirt in a store, they are sold a PIN as part of the purchase price. They scan a QR code, or possibly an NFC chip, on a tag attached to the shirt, then use the PIN to access the music, he explained. QR codes are more popular in the U.S., while an NFC chip seems to be the way to go in Europe. It is a one-time download that brings a customer to a landing page that features the music as well as videos and photos.

A big part of the technology work was designed to protect consumer security as well as digital rights for music and graphic artists and record labels. "They are getting ripped off by the Internet.... We're bringing value back to music sales," Rothberg said.

Musicians on tour will be able to sell the Musical T's to get royalties for their music and original art, as well. "For a touring band, what's selling now in music is merchandise," he added.


Musical T-shirts go on sale in the U.S. in May.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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