During a show last month at Madison Square Garden, Stevie Nicks announced a surprise collaboration with an unlikely partner: Barbie.
The 75-year-old musician, who rose to rock icon status as a member of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo musician, told the sold-out crowd that a doll fashioned after her 27-year-old self would soon be released (she later announced the news on X). When the $55 doll was made available for pre-order hours later, it sold out almost instantly.
The tambourine-toting Stevie Nicks Barbie doll arrives to buyers on Friday (Nov. 10) as part of a limited-edition collaboration between Nicks, Barbie manufacturer Mattel and independent publisher Primary Wave. Primary Wave’s chief brand officer, Jeff Straughn, says that “all the stars aligned” for a project that’s also creating fresh opportunities for Nicks and the company.
In 2020, Primary Wave acquired a majority stake in Nicks’ publishing copyrights as well as her name and likeness (partnering with Kobalt on administration for the catalog). As part of the deal, Primary Wave represents Nicks in brand alliance and brand marketing opportunities and offers her access to its marketing, branding, Broadway, film/TV, digital strategy, licensing and synch teams. The Stevie Nicks Barbie is the first project developed under this partnership.
The company had already established a sparkling track record in such endeavors, telling Billboard last year that it had quadrupled the value of the Whitney Houston estate after assuming 50% ownership of the late icon’s assets in 2019. Other legendary clients include Smokey Robinson, portions of the estates of Prince and Bob Marley and the entire James Brown estate.
Primary Wave had already been in general discussions with Mattel about prospective collaborations when it signed the deal with Nicks. “Given that we have a lot of legendary and active artists, I felt like there had to be a match,” says Straughn. “We went into the conversation a little broader, but we also knew, through my conversations with Sheryl [Louis, Nicks’ longtime manager] that Barbie would be something Stevie is very interested in doing.”
“She doesn’t say yes to a lot of things,” Straughn continues, “but this isn’t about branding for her, this is a passion … and what we try to do a Primary Wave is go with organic opportunities that are authentic to the brand and audience.”
Nicks and her team worked directly with Mattel on the doll’s design. There were several iterations of the face and outfit, with the team ultimately styling it after Nicks’ iconic look from the cover of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 classic, Rumours. Nicks even sent the actual outfit she wore on the album cover to Mattel for accuracy.
“Sheryl told me from the beginning that when Stevie gets involved, she’s hands-on, and she wasn’t lying,” says Straughn.
The doll is thus dressed in a black velvet dress with gauzy flowing sleeves. She sports a pendant necklace and a moody gaze that seems to ponder the players who only love you when they’re playing, with Nicks overseeing details “all the way down to the tambourine,” says Straughn.
Excitement about the project was already high at Primary Wave during development, but the project was brought to a new level with the 2023 Barbie movie. The film — which was released in July and grossed $1.4 billion at the box office — fostered a renewed level of appeal and cultural relevancy for the Barbie brand, helping fuel enthusiasm around Nicks’ version of the doll.
While the doll was originally slated to come out closer to the 2023 holiday season, it was Nicks’ idea to move up the release date to capitalize on movie’s success, an opportunity Straughn calls “once in a lifetime” synergy.
The Barbie movie’s appeal also synchs with Nicks’ own broad fanbase. “Not many artists like Stevie, who’s 75, can hit multi-generations,” says Straughn. “There are seven-year-olds out there that love Stevie Nicks.” He says Mattel was aware of this broad appeal and “identified Stevie as something that would be interesting to them, based on their research.”
Mattel has previously transformed rock stars into toys with Barbie versions of Tina Turner, David Bowie, Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz. Now, Straughn says other Primary Wave artists have approached him asking for their own doll. Although he says it’s not a project every artist can do, he does hint that other Primary Wave collaborations with Mattel may be forthcoming.
The doll — already selling for more than twice its sticker price on the secondary market — isn’t likely to generate vast revenue and wasn’t intended to. (Primary Wave is not able to disclose exactly how many dolls were manufactured, although Straughn estimates it was “tens of thousands.”)
“It wasn’t as much about a financial win as much as it was about marketing,” says Straughn. The real benefit is the buzz that’s lifting all parts of Nicks’ and Primary Wave’s businesses. Straughn reports that streams of Nicks’ music have gone up since the doll’s announcement, and that it has brought multiple queries about synching her work for campaigns.
“That impact is exactly why I lead this branding team,” says Straughn. “The message here is really that these projects open up other opportunities, music-wise.”
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