NFC Enables Band to Engage With Fans Who Buy Their Merchandise

By Claire Swedberg

The group Airspoken is among a handful of musical performers using Near Field Communication technology from Innercell to provide content to those who buy their T-shirts or other products at concerts.

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A handful of bands and musicians, including California band Airspoken, are applying Near Field Communication (NFC) technology on merchandise to connect with fans who buy their T-shirts or access to download their music. The technology is provided by Innercell, a California startup owned by Twych Innovation. The company’s goal is to create a network for universal NFC-enabled connections, linking phone users to specific content.

Innercell has been developing the technology during the past 18 months as a simple and relatively low-cost solution that companies can use to access customers. “We’ve been quietly doing development and testing,” says Daniel Jordan, Innercell’s president, CEO and co-founder. The result, he says, is an easy way for brands and manufacturers to provide NFC-enabled products to consumers globally.

Airspoken

The company is starting with the music industry. The Innercell platform consists of software-as-a-service (SaaS) that allows companies to easily create content on a cloud-based server that consumers will be able to access via a touch of a smartphone. The company predicts that with Apple‘s plans to provide NFC functionality in iOS 11 devices, the popularity of NFC-based systems will increase (NFC is already supported by Android-based devices).

Airspoken is among the technology’s early adopters. Innercell provided the NFC 13.56 MHz labels for T-shirts, as well as built into Flash tags—a small sticker that can be purchased to provide fans with audio distribution platform Sound Cloud, Spotify or other app-based music based downloads of music from the band. The NFC tag is attached to the left sleeve of each T-shirt, with a removable Innercell logo indicating where to tap an NFC-enabled phone.

When a user taps his or her smartphone against the logo, the phone’s built-in NFC functionality enables it to capture the unique ID number and URL in the tag, and it responds by accessing content on the cloud-based software platform. Airspoken provides information about the band, along with music samples. Once consumers take the shirt or Flash tag home, they can continue to use the NFC tag to access the changing content that the band maintains within the Innercell portal.

The system is designed for users to share content with their friends. Therefore, if a fan is wearing a T-shirt he or she bought, friends could tap their own phones against the tag in the shoulder and view information as well. The software not only provides content, but collects details regarding when and where the data is accessed.

The band or musician has full control of the content and can update it at any time to add or change the information provided, such as performance schedules, music, incentives and coupons. “For the band,” Jordan explains, “it gives them the opportunity to engage with their most loyal fans.”

Initially, Jordan says, the solution is intended simply to provide fans with content at the time of purchase and afterwards, though there will be an unlimited number of use cases for users, he adds, which could include analytics about their own fans, where they go and what interests them, “long after the coolness factor wears off.” The technology also allows them to target future promotional activities.

For instance, bands could target fans who purchased merchandise in specific regions—Southern California, for instance—and provide content specific to performances in that area, for the ID numbers of merchandise bought there. By knowing when the content was accessed and where, a band can better manage how it targets future promotional activities.

Innercell’s Daniel Jordan

“Traditional merchandise is boring and has no interaction,” says Christopher Vea, Airspoken’s manager. After consumers attend a concert or buy a T-shirt, their interaction with the band is concluded. If a consumer wants additional content regarding a particular band, he or she must typically visit a social-media page or website to access it. With Innercell, Jordan says, the merchandise carries access to content for the duration of the product’s lifetime.

“We chose this technology because it’s game-changing and one of a kind,” Vea says. Since the system was taken live at the band’s concerts, he reports, “Fans love the technology. It’s new, it’s different and it’s interactive.” He adds, “It gives them an unmeasurable bond with Airspoken.”

According to Vea, the band is currently working on new products that could incorporate the Innercell tags and related content. However, he declines to provide any details at this time.

Innercell’s plans go beyond music-based merchandise, however. The firm is also marketing the technology for promotional merchandise, such as a coffee mugs, pens or other products that promote specific companies. What’s more, the tags allow consumers to authenticate products before making a purchase. Jordan says manufacturers could use the solution to update safety information about their products—for instance, if used with toys, the technology could enable a manufacturer to provide operating instructions, safety warnings and recall notices, which could be updated at any time.