Partnerships between gaming and music brands have been on the upswing for the past year, as marketers become increasingly aware of the convergence of these two forms of entertainment into a single attention economy.
To appeal to gamers’ desire for authenticity, recent partnerships between gaming and music brands have largely been designed around original, branded songs and content.
As musicians become more comfortable operating inside virtual environments, their interest in working with gaming companies has increased considerably. “I’d say the start of the boom was probably around the start of COVID,” said Marvin Resende, the cultural brand partnerships lead at The Defiant Collective and a former UTA agent. “It just became a time where people were trying to find different synergies, and around that time was when the Fortnite and Travis Scott concert had launched, and everyone began to ask, ‘how do we merge these two worlds?’”
One way to merge gaming and music is through the production of original, branded music and content. This is a notable aspect of the recently announced partnership between HyperX and prominent DJ and songwriter Anton “Zedd” Zaslavski, which marked the peripheral manufacturer’s first partnership with a musician in nearly three years, after an agreement with Post Malone wrapped up in 2019.
The deal with Zaslavski is multi-year and “handsomely rewarded,” according to HyperX head of influencers and esports Dustin Illingworth, who hinted that the musician might produce an original song for HyperX in the partnership’s second year. “With electronic music and Zedd just being a massively popular DJ and producer, we do feel like there’s a significant percentage of his audience that are playing both PC games and more casual console and mobile games,” he said.
In addition to appealing to musicians’ organic fan bases, partnering with them to produce original songs can also help support gaming companies’ other brand or influencer partnerships. This was part of the strategy behind Tundra Esports’ recent partnership with footballer Virgil van Dijk, which the company promoted by releasing “Outplayed,” an original track by grime genre artist and Tundra ambassador Paris “P Money” Moore-Williams.
As was the case for the partnership between HyperX and Zaslavski, Tundra chose to partner with Moore-Williams due to what it perceives as a considerable overlap between the gaming scene and his grime fan base, according to Tundra CEO Evgeniy Roshchupkin. “If you look at gamers’ top interests outside of gaming, music will be one or two, always,” Roshchupkin said. “More and more, we see music artists also gaming themselves and participating in content around the top titles. So, for us, it all goes really hand in hand.”
The growing role of original content in music–gaming brand partnerships reflects gamers’ sensitivity to inauthenticity. As brands jockey to reach gamers in a way that doesn’t come off as overly corporate or forced, they are increasingly working with prominent individual influencers — and musicians are the original influencers. It’s much easier for a music influencer to authentically cross over to gaming than it might be for influencers from most other sectors, according to some experts, although traditional sports athletes also have a leg up.
“If you look at a lot of the artists who make an impact in the gaming world, they’re authentically gamers — they’re playing whatever they’re playing consistently, the same as we see with athletes,” Resende said. “So it’s more authentic for them to go into the gaming space, because that’s what they’re doing during their off time.”
For now, much of the crossover between music and gaming seems to be moving in one direction — from the former to the latter. Music influencers and virtual concerts are becoming a regular fixture in game worlds such as Fortnite and Roblox, but few gaming companies have tried to reach new fans by appealing to the music scene. As marketers on both sides become more familiar with the space, the next step of gaming–music partnerships could be for more musicians to take cues from Snoop Dogg and his Superbowl half-time show FaZe Clan chain.
“In fashion, for example, you see a big fusion, and it’s double-sided, in both worlds,” Resende said. “Whereas, in gaming and music, it’s all working to one side. There aren’t as many of the gaming brands figuring out how to be infused into the artists’ world.”
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