He hasn’t released an album since 2018, but Travis Scott has stayed paid by embracing the value of scarcity.
Like most things, Hype Culture isn’t a new concept in today’s world. The internet just amplifies it to unseen levels.
Jordans routinely flew off shelves in the ’90s with the help of seedy backdooring practices, where store employees sold to friends and family before making pairs available to the public. In the so-called “golden era” of sneaker culture of the early-to-mid-2000s, when SB Dunks took off and Retro Jordans became more commonplace, all of the same issues that persist today – scarce supply, resellers hiking up prices, retailers backdooring – existed then as well.
It’s all the result of a very simple concept: supply and demand. Consumers want the products that are the hardest to obtain. That come in the lowest quantities. That are the biggest flex. Look no further than the prices of re-releases of classic colorways in large volumes, like the South Beach LeBron 8s, which originally could fetch upwards of $800 on the secondary market after their initial release in 2010.
This year’s more widespread re-release, retailing at $200, struggles to sell for over $280 in secondary markets. The shoes are the exact same; they may even be of better quality now. But there definitively more widespread — and therefore less coveted.
Which brings us to Travis Scott.
Without so much as a TV commercial or a single second logged on an NBA court, Travis boasts the premier sneaker brand in the culture today. He’s done this by making every release matter, every sneaker coveted, and every item rare.
Scarcity has become his power, and a backwards swoosh on various browns makes his Jordan and Nike collaborations a staple of any fashion-forward wardrobe.
With all this in mind, it’s almost no wonder he hasn’t released an album since 2018’s multi-platinum Astroworld.
There’s no big secret or magic trick as to how Travis has turned everything he’s touched into gold. Cereal boxes, McDonald’s meals, action figures, Fortnite skins, and everything else he stamps his name (and Cactus Jack logos) on instantly garners hype, and resale prices shoot through the roof on cue. Why? Because they’re all rare.
Or at least they come off as rare when you log onto his official merch shop. Or Nike’s, or Reese’s, or anything else attached to his brand that ends up sold out before you have a chance to tap your screen and add-to-cart.
That impression of scarcity — whether real or imagined — drives consumers crazy. “I can’t have this thing? Okay, now I really want it.” Nike has capitalized on this apparent law of human psychology, releasing adjacent pairs of sneakers in similar colorways to Travis’ mockups, like the Mocha Jordan 1s not quite being the Travis Scott Jordan 1s, but close enough to generate their own hype and sell out in the process.
Now, Travis is back with another Jordan 1, the Travis Scott x Fragment 1s.
And just as we all could have predicted, they’re driving sneakerheads crazy.
They stood almost no chance of getting their hands on them through the typical retail channels, so they’re paying upwards of $4,000 a pair on the secondary market. We shouldn’t be surprised, especially after Wale rocked them on stage the night they released and Paul George was spotted in them at NBA Summer League.
Meanwhile, Travis hasn’t said a word.
The hype is screaming loud enough as it is.