Yes, you read that right. Kanye West sold $500,000 worth of “Wyoming” merchandise in half an hour this weekend. Even by Kanye’s standards, that’s mind-blowing, and it says lots about the man and his fans.
Let’s start by setting the scene. Thursday night, Kanye held a launch party for his new album titled Ye. It took place at the Diamond Cross Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and included a few hundred of his closest friends, music journalists, celebrities like Jonah Hill and Pusha-T, and radio personalities according to Complex. West spent much of the last few months in Jackson Hole working on his latest music, so it seemed only fitting that he have the launch/listening party there as well. Throughout the night, partygoers gathered around a huge bonfire and listened to the rapper’s seven new singles.
And then came the merchandise drop everyone knew was coming because, well, it’s Kanye. The “Wyoming” gear that was released Thursday night was created in collaboration with Bravado, the company who has worked very successfully with Kanye as well as Justin Bieber and music legends like The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, and Michael Jackson. The Ye merchandise included high-priced long-sleeve hoodies and T-shirts with a photo of the mountains of Jackson Hole emblazoned across the front with the word “Wyoming” on the front and the date of the listening party on the back. The women’s version had a hand drawn picture of the mountains and a sunset. Each item cost anywhere from $65 to $145, and every purchase won you a digital copy of Ye. Within half an hour, $500,000 worth of merchandise had been sold.
Some were surprised at the huge success of West’s latest merchandise drop. Yes, he has racked up huge numbers before. He claims that $250,000 worth of his Desert Rat 500 sneaker had been sold in one hour during Coachella and that he sold 400,000 pair of Yeezy 350s in four hours. But Kanye has said some things in recent months that have earned him lots of flak from lots of people, and some thought it would hurt sales of merchandise from this recent release. They were wrong.
There was his statement about slavery — “When you hear about slavery for 400 years… for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” And there was the time that radio personality Ebro Darden said that Kanye had told him that he “loves” Trump. And there were also the photos of West with Trump and of the rapper wearing a MAGA cap. Maybe his fans ignore or don’t care about the controversy. Or maybe the controversy is growing his base. Who knows.
Five hundred grand in half an hour is amazing by any standard, and the secret may lie in what Kanye West has managed to do with his merchandise. Many who are buying his gear are buying more than something with the name of him or one of his projects on it. For many fans, putting on a pair of Yeezy’s represents a lifestyle they like, and that extends to hoodies, T-shirts, and anything else they buy from Kanye. He represents a lifestyle they want, and wearing something he’s selling makes them feel like they have a piece of that lifestyle.