One fateful day, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins happened to play Fortnite with Drake and broke the internet. After the phenomena of video game streaming and its commercial potential made it into the mainstream spotlight, there has been steady discussion about the right way to get the two industries to work together -- and the complexities they need to be prepared to navigate.
Last month (during my Magnetic Mag music industry crash course) on Day 3 of WMC, Seth Combs (CMO - Beat Fever) led a panel on the interweaving of gaming and music with Niles Heron (CSO - Popdog), Chris White (CEO - Merlin Collective), and Afrojack.
After intros, the crowd was brought up to speed on the current state of video game streaming (IE: Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Mixer) and the immense commercial opportunity it brings to artists (case-in-point: Ninjawerks).
This lead into the needs of a record label, and the classic push-and-pull with artists in the willingness to sacrifice monetization (IE: licensing rights for their tracks) in exchange for marketing exposure. Specifically, Afrojack called out that touring artists could benefit the most from simply giving their album away to popular gaming streamers to play on their broadcasts, and make up the 'lost' licensing dollars through ticket sales.
The panelists also did a solid job setting the stage for where gaming events are - massive with a few key contrasting examples to set expectations. League of Legends World Finals attendance and viewership, and Ninja’s stream numbers are NOT the norm, but show potential for where the rest of the world can go with the right forces of nature working together.
In part, this value has seemingly been recognized by the growing numbers of sports team owners now clamoring to get into esports competitive bodies. “Traditional sports needs gaming - that’s why you’re seeing them buy these esports teams,” said Chris White.
Niles Heron believes that one of the things preventing that natural growth is that we’re still battling the negative connotation that comes along with the media’s labeling of gaming being an anti-social thing after national tragedies like Columbine. In order to truly break through, we need to continue showing the world that video games are a positive and meaningful part of society, and that gamers and the gaming industry are too influential to keep thinking they belong in the basement.
Afrojack admitted to being a serious gaming enthusiast, going so far as having Call of Duty gaming stations for attendees at his birthday party inside a club. He believes the best way to understand and care about video game streaming is simply to start watching live streams. Having been exposed to Twitch only a few short weeks ago, his immediate disbelief changed to deep understanding after watching a stream for just a few minutes. That window into a gaming streamer’s soul will give you an understanding of if you think they’re a "good guy or an asshole," (as Afrojack put it) and from there, your taste in streaming will develop.
So, how do we get gaming into the mainstream light in a positive way, and get the music industry to adopt video games authentically?
The desire from these panelists is to see it grow naturally, and the first step is to simply try new things and to have gaming present at music events. Whether or not you think these industries are ready for each other, one thing is for certain: it's time to give the music and gaming discussion more attention.