Case Study: The Branding of Viva Radio

This post is by Alison McCarthy. She's an intern at Hypebot.

Eree When describing Viva Radio as the official in-store and online music network for retail giant American Apparel, it's not difficult to conjure up an image of what the station might entail. By examining the company's advertisements, store design, personal employee style, and clothing it sells, American Apparel has a very specific aesthetic – and as an extension of the brand, Viva Radio is no exception.

Streaming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the Brooklyn-based station was founded in 2006, and has over 60,000 unique listeners a month. The music is programmed by the DJs themselves (which include former Rolling Stone writers, musician, art, and fashion personalities, and unknown bedroom DJs), who play music ranging from electronic, techno, and disco, to indie and classic rock, to jazz, blues, and country.

Extending beyond radio, in 2008 the station oversaw the partnership between American Apparel and Parisian label Record Makers, and more recently, the has sponsored live screenings of "lost gems of American cinema" such as River's Edge and Cisco Pike at New York City's Walter Reade Theater, among other live music events New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin.

While the station serves as the in-store music in each of American Apparel's retail stores, it's interesting to witness how strong Viva Radio holds up on its own. For those at home streaming online, the breadth of the station's musical selection and the passion and knowledge of the DJs illustrate a sense that the station strives to offer a creative and alternative listening experience. Offline, the station's live event sponsorships correspond with the company's demographic and brand image.

Rumored to be facing bankruptcy, American Apparel as a clothing retailer may have its own set of problems – but by looking at Viva Radio, it seems they can offer a few lessons in terms of strategically building an online radio brand.


Alison McCarthy is an intern at Hypebot and a second year graduate student at New York University working towards a Master's degree in Media, Culture, and Communication. Her research focuses on the intersection of music, digital technology, and community. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.

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