Here’s how the rapper is boosting tourism in Jackson Hole with the launch of his new album, ‘Ye’
The state of Wyoming is relishing in free publicity from rapper Kanye West, who has become the ultimate hype man for the Equality State after using a backdrop of its mountainous landscape on his album cover, hawking T-shirts to match and bringing attention to the local dining scene.
“Get ready for the Montauk-ization of Jackson Hole,” marketing expert Mark Zablow, CEO of Cogent Entertainment Marketing, told Moneyish of West potentially mainstreaming the serene ski town celebrities and families have long escaped to for peace and quiet, similar to the once-sleepy turned commercialized East End. “Kanye can make anything he wants cool — from dad hats to ugly sneakers, and now bringing Wyoming to the masses.”
The rapper debuted his new album, “Ye,” on Thursday night at an invite-only listening event near Jackson Hole, where he has reportedly stayed for months to focus on his music. West recruited stars like Chris Rock, Nas, Kid Cudi and Jonah Hill to the valley located between the Teton Mountain Range and the Gros Ventre Range to celebrate the intimate album release, enlisting local eateries like Big Hole BBQ to cater, and Roadhouse Brewing Co. to keep the beer flowing. At the end of the night, Yeezy dropped new merch, including a line of T-shirts and hoodies adorned with Jackson Hole’s snow-capped mountains and “Wyoming” written across in bold, neon-green font — a walking billboard for anyone willing to cough up $65 to $145 for the touristy apparel. The rapper sold a whopping $500,000 worth of merch in just 30 minutes, his former manager, Scooter Braun, who is reportedly still consulting with Yeezy’s business decisions, said in an interview with Power 106 Los Angeles during the listening party.
Yeezy’s not-so-subtle endorsement of the Western state is only helping boost travel, locals say.
“You have an artist like Kanye West who can create music and a clothing line anywhere in the world, and he’s choosing to create those in Wyoming,” Tia Troy, a spokeswoman for the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said of the recent uptick in tourism. “That’s a testament to travelers — no matter if you’re Kanye, or a doctor in Chicago, or a retired grandfather — that there’s something that naturally exists in Wyoming that really provides inspiration from all these people.”
Wyoming welcomed 8.7 million tourists in 2017, up from 8.47 million in 2016, and travelers spent more than $3.5 billion last year. That’s up 8.9% from 2016, and the highest it’s ever been, the Wyoming Office of Tourism confirmed.
And small businesses are certainly grateful for the boom. “It’s awesome to see we’re all getting a little more exposure as result,” Julie Bynum, marketing manager at Roadhouse Brewing Co., said of the company’s beer being served at West’s listening party. “We’re a fairly new brand, so it’s exciting to see a response from that. It’s cool to see people paying attention to Jackson Hole.”
West is just the latest high-profiler to take advantage of Wyoming: Bill Gates, Sandra Bullock and Harrison Ford, to name a few, all own homes in the state.
Some locals, meanwhile, are trying preserve the serenity despite all the recent media attention.
“Jackson Hole has typically been this special, unknown magical place,” said Jaime Mehnert, a real estate agent in Jackson Hole. “I think everyone that lives here wishes we could preserve this more, but change is inevitable.”
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