How Gaming can Help People Discover New Music
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The growth in the video game market has been nothing less than astounding. In 2018, the global video game industry generated a record $138 billion in revenue, with territories like China, India and the U.S. showing double-digit revenue growth, according to the consulting firm NewZoo. What’s even more impressive is that this growth in the category is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2019, Pew Research estimated that there are now more than 5 billion people globally that have smartphones, and as the Internet and 5G are further introduced in Eastern territories like China and India, there will be millions of more people who will be able to leverage smartphones and the Internet to tap into the global gaming ecosystem.
As video games have become a critical part of the global media landscape, both brands and music artists are asking very similar questions around the best strategies to tap into the gaming community. This is where William Morris, head of gaming at Red Light Management, comes in. With over 10 years of gaming and e-sport experience, Morris has been a pioneer in bringing together brands, video games and music to territories all across the world. His early entrance into the gaming industry positioned him to broker some of the most important deals in gaming with brands like Twitch and artists including MurdaBeatz, Zedd and more.
I got a chance to sit with Morris in his Los Angeles office where we talked about his first experiences in entertainment and why he and his team are betting big on Eastern growth in smartphones to drive the gaming industry to new heights.
Walk us through your first experience in the gaming world. How did you recognize so early in the age of Esports and online gaming that this was going to be a space that the music industry and brands alike needed to tap into?
I had some very close friends of mine introduce me to Twitch during its conception and immediately saw how the younger generations were interacting on this platform. It really sparked my interest and made me think of the realm of possibilities behind bridging the world of music into a live stream, interactive platform that was all about gaming.
Around the same time, I met the founders of Esports Arena in Orange County and heard about the many events they were putting on and how they wanted to throw an after-party type of series. We eventually partnered to launch a gaming/lifestyle vertical to support a business model we called “EMX” (Esports Music Experience), which brought together entertainment and music to celebrate Esports. This was also the first time where I saw the impact we could make culturally by plugging in music into a brand new ecosystem and community. For reference, our first couple of live-streamed events to the Smash community drew 150,000 viewers on the first couple of events, which at the time was unprecedented.
Before Marshmello did his deal with Fortnite, you were a part of Deadmau5’s team, where you ran his gaming partnerships and brokered some of the earliest music gaming activations with brands like E3 to Twitch Prime. Walk us through how those deals with Deadmau5 came to be and the impact they had on your perspective of the gaming landscape.
We had the opportunity to really start building a vehicle to help drive Joel’s (Deadmau5) passion between music and gaming through a partnership with Twitch Prime. While building Twitch Prime’s Prime Day with Deadmau5 as a strategic partner, we ended up developing in-game skins for PUBG – Joel's favorite game at the time– which helped tell an organic story to his fans and the PUBG Community. We also ended up allowing fans to grab these for a limited time during Prime Day if you were a Prime member.
At the same time, Deadmau5 was releasing a series of new music called Mau5ville which we plugged into Twitch Prime Day commercials and segments of the livestream. This was all followed up by him performing a 45-minute live show to close out Prime Day, all while live streaming to hundreds of thousands of concurrent viewers.
By injecting Deadmau5 into these gaming activations, we saw tangible growth in his fanbase and the consumption of his music. This really set the groundwork for how I approach deals in the gaming space moving forward.
Speaking of Marshmello, after he did his deal with Fortnite, it seems like every artist is now looking to get into the gaming space: Post Malone, Major Lazer, etc. What in your mind allows an artist to successfully enter the gaming world, especially when it seems like the gamers themselves can sniff out inauthentic partnerships in a heartbeat?
I think generally speaking, like anything, you have to be authentic to the gaming space. Marshmello, Post, and all these artists have a huge passion for gaming since many if not all grew up in the era of Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation.
With platforms like Twitch, it’s an opportunity to give artists and brands a new digital touchpoint while creating a vehicle to help drive initiatives around music releases. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, it gives brands and artists an opportunity to connect with fans in new foreign and domestic markets. It’s an incredibly exciting time for any artist or young kid to get into gaming.
I will say, artists like Deadmau5, Marshmello and Post have certainly helped pave a path when it comes to music and gaming, but at the end of the day though, it's still about being organic and authentic to the community because gamers will sniff you out very quickly.
The Asia-Pacific region is now the world’s highest-spending app market, ahead of North and South America. For instance, it was reported that by 2021, the Asia-Pacific region will be home to 250 million mobile gamers and bring in $2.4 billion in revenue. What is your take on the importance of this region in the gaming world, and how can artists, labels, managers and brands successfully navigate it and tap into this exponential growth?
I think it's incredibly important. The Asia-Pacific region was home to e-sports well before North America, and the reach in that region is arguably the biggest in the world. With that said, these regions have multiple live streaming platforms, some with huge territorial control over users. That is why one must have institutional knowledge of the culture and the gaming market for this territory to work for an artist rather than against them. If done right, there is no doubt that the next global superstars could build their fanbase through gaming in these high growth music and entertainment markets.
What are trends you are watching in the gaming ecosystem right now that labels, managers, and brands should be aware of?
I think a huge question people in the industry are asking is how the younger generation is discovering music.
If you take a quick poll yourself, you’d find that one of the top three answers will likely be through video games. Live streaming platforms like Twitch are playing a major role in the way Gen Z and millennials discover content, so much so, that they are now adapting their consumption habits to merge these platforms with their favorite activities such as watching sports, playing video games and even streaming music.
From here, the industry needs to recognize the power gaming has in live as well. Esports teams are filling up arenas and there are so many new ways to inject music and entertainment that have yet to be explored. This also opens so many avenues for brands to be the first in certain games or try certain activations. This is truly an exciting time for global brands to tap into a medium that is growing exponentially. I am personally very excited to see this space grow.
Walk us through what a typical day may look like at Red Light and how you are using your years of experience in gaming, music and entertainment to help such a variety of artists that touch multiple types of genres successfully tap into the gaming ecosystem.
In terms of my day to day, when I’m not taking meetings, I’m strategizing on how to create a bigger pulse for our artist’s in the gaming space. We look for crossover opportunities to move tickets, licensing music, place new releases into Esports events and create strategic partnerships that help tell the story of musicians who have a passion for gaming.
On the brand side, I have also had the pleasure of working with incredible companies like Twitch Prime, SCUF, AK Racing and even non-profit organizations to help with some amazing causes such as "Gamers Outreach" and many more that we will be public soon.