He’s sold more than 24 million albums and an estimated $226 million worth of concert tickets since 1994 — all while traveling the country so much that he should have his own bus line. Still, the low-key jam-band boss Dave Matthews is an unlikely candidate for rock & roll’s next mogul-in-the-making.
But in the last few months, the 35-year-old Matthews has quietly transformed himself from arena rocker to all-media hawker. The latest additions to the Dave Matthews brand: ATO Pictures, a film company that produced the Sundance award-winning documentary ”Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony” and will help distribute its two soundtracks; a new Ben & Jerry’s flavor, One Sweet Whirled, which hit freezers this month; and even a $375, limited-edition snowboard designed by bassist Stefan Lessard.
Still, don’t expect Matthews to imitate the goofy guy in his ”Everyday” video, embracing every promotional opportunity that presents itself. (Guess that $4,500 Kiss Kasket is out.) ”They’re very, very selective,” says Richard Hart, president of the Stronghold Group, a brand-management firm that connects Matthews with corporations. (Matthews declined to comment for this story.) ”This is not about selling out or looking for dollars. This remains about finding products that fit the lifestyle they like, the image they have, the messages they want to bring to the public.”
While those messages may seem as vague as his lyrics, Matthews does project an air of anticelebrity do-goodism. Rather than choosing big-business, cred-crushing tie-ins, he leans toward politically like-minded partners á la Ben & Jerry’s. Proceeds from the DMB-inspired caramel-and-coffee pints will raise money for Matthews’ four-year-old Bama Works Foundation, which channels funds to charities like the Save Our Environment Action Center. ”We thought of the tradition of the Grateful Dead and Phish,” says Ben & Jerry’s marketing head Walt Freese, ”bands that were built by their fans as opposed to promotion.” When the company test-marketed the idea of a Matthews flavor, Freese says the group scored high on ”integrity and values.”