The past, present and future of music and gaming industry partnerships
The New Music Society - our partnership with Avakin Life - is the next development in a long line of music and gaming industry crossovers. We've taken a look back at the landmark events that have led us to this point, from Fortnite concerts to entire in-game festivals.
Thank you to everyone who came and checked out the New Music Society on Avakin Life over the past week, our first virtual residency with Leanna Firestone was a resounding success, with over 1.1 million total visits over the week!
Our partnership with Avakin Life follows years of the music industry and gaming world becoming ever more intertwined, unsurprising given the gaming industry’s continued success in the face of the pandemic and the fact that now - in the US at least - it is bigger than the sports and film industry combined.
But looking back on the history of music and gaming crossovers, there has been a sea change over the past few years that has seen a shift in the dynamic of the two industries’ collaboration. While in the past, video games have operated similarly to films in relation to the music industry, with certain games such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and FIFA featuring iconic soundtracks that shaped the listening habits of entire generations of young people, today’s music and gaming crossovers function much differently.
Indeed, the music and gaming industries are now more concerned with creating online events, especially given the lack of in real life performances due to the pandemic. We’ve rounded up a couple of the biggest music and gaming events that have happened in recent years and how they changed the landscape of virtual performances forever.
Marshmello x Fortnite
EDM producer Marshmello’s 10-minute concert in Fortnite took place in February, 2019, and allowed players a brief respite from the gunslinging action by transporting them to a virtual stage within the game’s map. With weapons disabled, players could enjoy the ten minute audiovisual delight before returning to action within the venue.
The event was preceded by a week-long build up with teaser posters scattered throughout the map, an in-construction stage continuously building itself and even a date on Marshmello’s real life tour poster. According to Fortnite developer Epic Games, 10.7 million people tuned in to watch the virtual concert, breaking their record at the time for the largest in-game event.
The success of this crossover can be attributed to a couple of factors, including the wealth of promotion that went into it and Fortnite’s stratospheric popularity at the time. But Epic Games also understood what their audience likes to hear; take a look at any gaming playlist on Spotify and you’ll see a healthy blend of hip-hop and electronic music - making a producer like Marshmello, known for his solo EDM tracks and collaborations with rappers Ty Dolla $ign and 2KBaby,a perfect fit for the event.
Travis Scott x Fortnite
If Marshmello was the opening act, Travis Scott was the headline performance, drawing close to 46 million attendees in April 2020, with 12.3 million concurrent players. For context, the most attended live concert of all time had close to 3.5 million people in the audience, making this in-game performance - dubbed Astronomial - almost 4 times as popular.
Both Travis Scott and Marshmello’s shows built on Epic Games’ innovative Fortnite events, which have included a black hole destroying the entire playing field in real time and the original rocket launch which got players talking back in 2018. Once again, Fortnite nailed their audience, with Travis Scott one of the most popular crossover rap artists in the world. They also introduced custom character skins based on Scott and his album ‘Astroworld’, making his avatar a constant reminder of the forthcoming concert on the battlefield.
Timing was also a huge factor in the success of Astronomical, arriving in the early months of lockdown, offering homebound fans their first taste of ‘live’ music in almost a month. The success of the show arguably paved the way for more digital concerts within video games, offering a rare opportunity for artists to promote directly to their fans.
Travis Scott used the in-game concert as an opportunity to tease new music, correctly predicting the opportunity for mass-exposure. ‘The Scots’, Travis Scott’s collaboration with Kid Cudi premiered during the Fortnite performance, debuted atop the Billboard 100 when it was officially released.
Observing the success of Astronomical, many smaller acts saw video games as an ideal arena to replace live concerts during lockdown - at least while the infrastructure for high quality live streams was being set up. Open world building game Minecraft proved an unlikely favourite, given its simplistic, pixelated style, but dozens of artists took to the game in 2020 to perform live.
Hyperpop outfit 100 Gecs threw their own festival in Minecraft, with performances from the likes of Charli XCX, in support of American food banks; the cleverly titled Block By Block West, featuring IDLES among other acts, was so popular that it crashed Minecraft’s servers; US indie band American Football had over 100,000 attendees to their Nether Meant festival.
Minecraft wasn’t the only game artists used as a platform to perform live; with Gorillaz and Beck taking to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and Soccer Mommy performing in the newly relaunched Club Penguin. These shows were characterised by a much more lo-fi aesthetic than any of the Fortnite collaborations, but with a much lower technical and financial barrier to entry. Plus, with 130 million monthly active users in 2020, Minecraft is among the most popular games in the world, presenting a huge opportunity for artists to find new audiences.
The New Music Society
Excuse us for tooting our own horn for a second here, but we believe our new partnership with Avakin Life presents an incredible new opportunity for independent talent to tap into the virtual reality market. While the examples we’ve mentioned up until this point were huge individual events, The New Music Society is now an ingrained part of the Avakin Life experience and a reliable source of up-and-coming music discovery; if Astronomical is a once-a-year festival, The New Music Society is your local music venue. Sure, there’s less building-sized Travis Scott avatars, but you always know there’ll be someone playing there.
Our first residency with Leanna Firestone was a resounding success, with Avakin Life users able to drop in at any point over the course of the week to check out exclusive performances from the Nashville-based artist. Our second session with Zoe Clark premieres tomorrow and promises to be a similar delight.
This partnership has allowed us to democratise the VR/music crossover experience for new and independent artists who don’t have the budget of Travis Scott or the decades-long established audience of a band like American Football. With 7 million active users, a residency on Avakin Life is a first of its kind opportunity for smaller artists; Leanna Firestone released her first track last year and already has her own custom avatar within a popular mobile game.
Permanent fixtures like The New Music Society are arguably the next stage of music and gaming crossovers, where a constant rotation of live performances are just another aspect of a virtual world experience. If the pandemic has done anything positive for the music industry, it has bred incredible innovation in the delivery of virtual performances, which are set to continue even as in-person live shows return.
Warner Music recently announced that they had acquired a stake in virtual concert platform Wave, to “develop virtual performances, experiences and monetisation opportunities” for their artists (sound familiar?). Wave combines musical performances with the opportunity to for virtual gifting and real-time audience appearances, deepening the connection between artist and fan.
Wave has already hosted more than 50 live events for massive artists like The Weeknd and John Legend, and has attracted investment from the likes of Scooter Braun and Justin Bieber. With live music set to return towards the end of 2021 (with any luck), it’s clear that the music industry is still looking to gaming and virtual reality as a future source of exciting activity alongside traditional performances, rather than instead of them.
Download Avakin Life now and select the ‘New Music Society’ in the ‘Travel’ menu to catch Zoe Clark’s exclusive performance in Avakin Life.
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29 – 04 – 2021
Introducing the New Music Society, in partnership with Avakin Life