Much of Magnetic Magazine's more tenured electronic music fan readership may not even realize that modern record labels have gaming divisions, but there have been ties between electronic music and gaming culture for decades - and they've only gotten stronger.
Gavin Johnson is the head of gaming for Monstercat - which already does make arguably video gamey music. Identifying an untapped market, he found a way for the imprint to cross pollinate with prominent brands in the gaming world, which has served to expand the label's audience.
Johnson recently caught up with Magnetic Magazine for our latest installment of the Industry Focus series. Learn about how he found his way into the music industry below.
How did you start your career in the electronic music business?
Gavin Johnson: Not exactly a traditional uprising. I was right out of high school in 2011, originally a Twitch Moderator for multiple professional Starcraft players on what was a newly launched streaming platform in Twitch. While I was surfing new channels I met Ephixa through his channel when Monstercat Gaming was just launching, a spinoff of Monstercat to build aspiring gamers and content creators with the same ethos that the label was built off of.
Originally being an aspiring content creator I started my career live streaming for Monstercat which became short lived with the company wanting to shift focus to just music. I still had a strong belief in the brand being able to flourish while being involved in the gaming industry, which made me choose to shift my focus into licensing.
From there, I have been constantly building a massive partner network which allows content creators and gaming brands to utilize Monstercat’s catalog in their content and with that network has allowed other gaming verticals to flourish within Monstercat. This includes Monstercat Showcases alongside gaming events (Monstercat AFK), management for influencers, and other various projects like charity events.
What is the best part of the business?
Gavin Johnson: To me, it’s that the electronic music business is still relatively young and anyone that is hungry with extreme passion can change the industry and how we go about breaking acts. Doesn’t matter if you go by the book or not. As long as you attach an audience to a brand through any means, you have the key to the current meta.
What are the biggest challenges?
Gavin Johnson: Getting people to believe in the initial pitch of what you are trying to achieve. With no original case examples you have to push through a lot of backlash and uphill battles to show your vision to others. Once people see results, you will be flattered with those that follow suit the industry. Look at how many labels now push music through content creators, Twitch, and after parties for gaming conventions like PAX, or TwitchCon. Most artists from major labels today are even cutting their entire booking fee for gaming convention after parties just to play for this now booming demographic of gamers.
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
Gavin Johnson: Be unique; don’t try and emulate what others are doing. In addition, be humble. In the music industry, nothing is given to you. You’ll get a lot of rejection along the way, but keep grinding. It’s all about consistency and exploiting momentum.
As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
Gavin Johnson: Research of emerging markets and building on the momentum of those emerging markets. One example that certainly comes to mind is the presence of music on Twitch. With the platform booming, we found that one thing missing was the ability for easily embeddable music for the streams without risk of copyright red-tape. Our Monstercat FM 24 hour radio channel certainly helped that cause and was also a key part in Twitch launching an entire Music Category all together. This was a major shift with Twitch as a platform because music only channels were a bannable offense not too long ago. With this change it also allowed our weekly podcast to thrive which is now viewed by thousands of fans every week. I guarantee you will see us jump into more unique initiatives like this in the future, the ability to adapt and evolve is the key to longevity.
Did you start off as a fan of electronic music and then became involved on the business side, or did business bring you into the electronic music world? Describe that process.
Gavin Johnson: I have always been a fan of electronic music, but never thought I would be involved in the industry. Never thought of myself as a business savvy person until I dove straight into it through pure chance. Very glad that I was able to unlock that side of me through Monstercat.
If you weren’t in the music biz, what would you be doing?
Gavin Johnson: If I was not in the music industry, I would absolutely be in the military. I already went through Military Entrance Processing Station while in high school with all papers signed, just never swore in because of a pending waiver. During that waiver period I met Mike Darlington and many of the original artists I mentioned earlier through Twitch. While building my relationships with Monstercat, I decided that I had some potential with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help build something great. I then made a very risky decision and backed out of the Military recruitment process. Very grateful for the outlet I was given with Monstercat and will never take it for granted.