The global esports economy will top $1 billion for the first time this year, according to research firm Newzoo. Though that might seem somewhat insignificant in comparison to the $152.1 billion the global gaming industry is projected to generate in 2019, esports is still in its infancy and growing fast. “Esports will be bigger than music and movies combined” claimed Frank Ng, CEO of Allied Esports just last week.
This burgeoning market brings with it plentiful opportunities for the music industry, and an increasing amount of music-esports deals and collaborations are now being announced on a regular basis. To delve deeper into the convergence of music and esports, we asked professionals from both industries for their insight into what the future holds for these types of partnerships…
Karol Severin – MIDiA Research
Karol Severin is an author and co-founder of MIDiA Research, where he heads up the games coverage and manages their data tool products. He is particularly focused on analysing the concepts and dynamics of the attention economy across the entertainment industries (with a current specific focus on gaming).
Live & Esports
With both music and gaming firmly embedded as mainstream entertainment activities, there is a natural behavioural overlap between esports and music. In fact some music consumer segments are even more likely to attend esports events, than certain gamer segments: 3% of consumers now attend esports events, compared to 5% of average gamers, but the rate climbs to 7% among music service subscribers. What’s more, 10% of live music event goers now attend esports events. This means that an average live gig/concert goer is twice as likely to attend an esports event than an average gamer.
This suggests that esports events appeal to a wider audience of live events in general, rather than being simply for gamers only. This means that esports are becoming largely about the overall entertainment experience. This opens up a floodgate of opportunities for music, broadcasters and brands alike.
“Esports events appeal to a wider audience of live events in general, rather than being simply for gamers only. This opens up a floodgate of opportunities for music, broadcasters and brands alike.”
– Karol Severin – MIDiA Research
We will see an increase in musically themed equivalents of ‘half-time shows’ and ‘epic intros’, which is a great platform for musicians to showcase their music. It will be important to keep in mind that these showcases need to be relevant to the main event taking place. It is not about slapping a 40 min. set of a name artist on top of a largely unrelated event. A good example of catering to the event’s characteristics was TheFatRat (the first artist signed by UMG and ESL’s joint venture Enter Records) doing a short set (several minutes) using sounds relatable to an event, such as ‘lock & load’ or ‘fire in the whole’. Another example of fitting music into live games events is a freestyle rap battle taking place between two upcoming rappers during the FIFA eWorld Cup event. The lyrics were related to what was about to happen and the freestyle battle format was a nice gamification/competitive vibe for the audience, as they got involved to vote for the winner of the battle. Again, this took 5 or so minutes right before the main event.
Furthermore, esports events are perfectly positioned to sell music merchandise at the events as, 13% (!) of music merchandise buyers attend esports events.
On the recorded side of things: There will be opportunities related to two key points:
- Is it feasible that a song synced into a game (loading menus, choosing teams, but also within actual gameplay) will ever make it to the live broadcast? Currently, it seems that music is disabled as commentary takes over during live broadcast. Having a sync in a widely popular game like FIFA has proven incredibly beneficial to aritsts and labels, but if the sync could make it into a live esports broadcast watched by millions of people, it’s a whole new dimension of added value for the artists and labels alike.
- The challenge with this will be that this type of arrangement needs to work for three parties simultaneously: a) the artist/label b) the games developer c) the esports event organiser/producer. It is yet another reason for labels to enter into joint ventures with esports organizations, and/or for some games publishers to extend their music divisions.
- Sync and music composition for highlight reels, studio analysis, background under commentary, etc. The rise of esports broadcasting will mean more audio content will be needed. This is good news for artists/labels, because there is essentially a whole new media channel emerging, which one can sync into. The challenge will be in convincing esports organizers that quality syncs can make a difference to the experience, as opposed to simply getting stock audio content. Data will play a large role in this: and it shouldn’t be too hard to obtain. 86% of console gamers deem music as an ‘important part of their life’ compared to 77% consumer average. Furthermore, 77% of console gamers say ‘music is something worth regularly paying for’, compared to 65% consumer average.
Datapoints from a MIDiA Research Consumer Survey
Toa Dunn – Head of Riot Music Group, Riot Games
Toa Dunn is Head of Riot Music Group at Riot Games, an LA-based video game developer and esports tournament organizer. His music team partners with other teams across Riot Games to create meaningful music-driven experiences for players and fans. This includes working with our game content and esports teams to create original songs, live performances, and music videos.
Our recent projects include our 2018 World Championship Anthem called “RISE” (featuring The Glitch Mob, Mako, and The Word Alive) and the debut of our virtual Pop group named K/DA (featuring Madison Beer, Jaira Burns, and (G)I-DLE). Both of these songs were accompanied by animated music videos and were performed live in front of 99.6 million live viewers at our World Finals event in Seoul. We’ve also worked with other amazing talents in the past, including Imagine Dragons, Zedd, Marshmello, and Against The Current.
There has been an overall growth in how music is being implemented and impacting the overall experience around esports. You are seeing more investment into the live music production aspect with live orchestras and big-name artists, as well as creative syncs on marquee and promo videos within the esports ecosystem. When you look at what more traditional sports do with music in their space, you get an idea of the current opportunity for esports.
“There’s an interesting point to be made about how esports is currently at the intersection of music, fashion, gaming and pop culture for a young audience. This creates a melting pot of industries and allows us to push the boundaries of all of them.”
Toa Dunn, Head of Riot Music Group
There’s an interesting point to be made about how esports is currently at the intersection of music, fashion, gaming and pop culture for a young audience. This creates a melting pot of industries and allows us to push the boundaries of all of them (K/DA – POP/STARS being a prime example). I’m personally really excited about the future of music and esports. Given the speed of progression in this new digital age and the trajectory of esports, I think we’ve only begun to see the potential impact. Music is a big part of the younger generations’ lives, and we will see new ways in which music will help build strong connections with fans.
Mathieu Lacrouts – Co-founder and CEO of Hurrah
Mathieu Lacrouts is the co-founder and CEO of Hurrah, an esports & gaming advertising agency based in Paris that bring brands and competitive gaming communities together in creative new ways.
“For years now, brands have been seizing opportunities in the global esports markets. Being a part of the $1bn a year industry by investment is no longer classed as innovation, it’s increasingly becoming a mandatory aspect of global marketing mixes and brand awareness. The esports waves are ricocheting through to music, and like the mainstream brands, the music industry is seeking to capitalise on the global reach of esports. We’re already seeing features from music to esports, Metallica’s involvement in the ELEAGUE production, for example, deals between esports endemics and music labels like that between ESL and Universal Music Group and innovation from esports and gaming endemics, by way of Riot Games’ invention of K/DA – a virtual pop band.
Through K/DA the new revenue streams between esports and music are shown – with their augmented reality musical performance at the 2018 League of Legends World Championships and the subsequent ability for fans to purchase in-game items and skins relating to the performance. In a world where revenue streams in the music industry are shrinking, esports presents a unique opportunity to diversify.
It is not a surprise to see these worlds fitting together in a profitable and manageable way, esports and music are very similar in terms of experience after all. Just like music shows, live tournaments are strongly linked to audiovisual performance. Music has also always been part of esports fans live; on one hand, streamers often use music during their live shows to boost the entertainment value, on the other hand, as players themselves, esports fans often listen to music while they play.
“Overall, it presents a win-win situation. For esports, this new trend is a channel for significant revenue and exposure. For music, this is the opportunity to reach new highly engaged audiences.”
Mathieu Lacrouts – Co-founder and CEO of Hurrah
Overall, it presents a win-win situation. For esports, this new trend is a channel for significant revenue and exposure. For music, this is the opportunity to reach new highly engaged audiences. And just like for brands, the abundance of unique esports audiences with unique tastes and identities allow all kind of music to find the perfect fit.
While finding the perfect fit is always easier than it sounds, esports is still a young industry – this allows those willing to invest a ground for experimentation. As what we define entertainment as changes and expands, music must find its fit in new esports trends – as it did for gaming. Years on, it’s impossible to think of gaming without music – now the music industry must be proactive in its approach to esports.”
Daniel Turcotte – Commercial Director, Monstercat
Daniel Turcotte oversees the commercial team here at Canadian independent dance music label Monstercat, which is ~15 people spanning the following departments: Digital (Distribution, Payments, Monstercat Gold, Analytics), PR & Promo (Editorial, Radio, DSP), Licensing & Publishing, Live Programming (Monstercat: Call Of The Wild + live-streaming platforms), Sync, and International.
“Monstercat endeavours to provide accessible music in the gaming space. We supply music to all sectors of the gaming ecosystem, including content creators, video games, live events, eSports broadcasts, and hardware manufacturers. We supply music to thousands of content creators through our Monstercat Gold program and placed more than 150 records in video games last year. Through our partnerships with games like Rocket League and Beat Saber, we provide unique and creative opportunities for our artists to get in front of new audiences. We’ve always been supporters of livestreaming platforms as well, with highly engaged channels on Twitch, Mixer and Huya.
Recently, we’ve partnered with Sansar VR to create the Monstercat: Call of the Wild Experience. Launched on our 8 year anniversary, we hosted a virtual concert with 10+ artists which drew in tens of thousands of concurrent viewers. Between events, the space is accessible for fans, artists and Monstercat staff to interact and listen to our music. Our weekly radio show, Call of the Wild, plays every week in the VR environment.
“As the industry grows, we’re noticing the seamless integration of both industries through live events, cameos, and in-game content. We’re seeing that the need for developers to have music that’s available not only in-game, but also cleared for re-broadcast via content creators, is becoming increasingly standard.”
– Daniel Turcotte – Commercial Director, Monstercat
As the industry grows, we’re noticing the seamless integration of both industries through live events, cameos, and in-game content. We’re seeing that the need for developers to have music that’s available not only in-game, but also cleared for re-broadcast via content creators, is becoming increasingly standard. This is why we’ve built up the Monstercat Gold catalogue, as licensing a song in-game is only half the battle. You’re limiting the potential impact of the placement and hindering its lifecycle. By extending that license to include UGC, you’re amplifying the impact that placement can have on a record, and ultimately driving more eyes back to the artist.”