This guest column comes from Mathieu Lacrouts, co-founder and CEO of esports advertising agency Hurrah:

Gamers have always had a competitive spirit. From the very beginning they enjoyed fighting with friends over Pong.

The birth of the Internet in the 1990s changed everything. It opened a new world for gamers to compete with other players around the world. They were finally able to compare scores and strategies, and talented gamers started to rise, eventually becoming professionals in competitive teams, and performing in stadiums in front of tens of thousands of fans.

Thus esports was born, bringing with it over 250 million viewing fans that, worldwide, watch live esports matches for games like League of Legends, Counter-Strike or DoTA2.

While its star has only recently risen in the mainstream, it’s already taking the entertainment world by storm.

And yet, esports is lacking compelling music initiatives.

Metallica, Imagine Dragons and Zedd have little in common … except that they’re among the few artists that embrace esports for what it is: A unique opportunity to give gamers a richer, more engaging experience.

In early 2014, League of Legends, the biggest esports game in the world, announced its yearly championship through a dedicated video that was both the official video of the worldwide championship and the official clip for the new Imagine Dragons single, ‘Warriors’.

This YouTube offering ended up generating 80M views. And for the finale of the competition, guess who performed live in a stadium in Seoul, in front of 40 000 Korean fans and more than 36M viewers online?

YouTube video

Two years later, Zedd followed in Imagine Dragons’ footsteps by composing the original soundtrack of the 2016 League of Legends Worlds Championship and performing live for the closing ceremony.

Metallica had their esports moments as well, performing live at Blizzard’s 2014 Blizzcon and producing the soundtrack for the Counter-Strike Eleague Majors tournament.

Besides these few examples, who else in music has leveraged esports’ captive audience? Few brands and labels have taken advantage; sometimes, when they do, they pursue the understandable option of producing their own tournaments … but there’s a lot to be gained by embracing the existing culture, getting to know its base (the majority of which are around 20-25 years old on average) creating added value for esports fans.

Right. So esports is great at showcasing artists, but what else can be done?

The short answer: There’s everything to do. Imagine the sports sector with no music industry players involved. Unthinkable, right? And yet:

Pro-gamers and influencers practice their skills for a live audience

It’s called streaming, and it’s usually done on Twitch (the biggest livestreaming service for gaming and esports), YouTube Gaming or Facebook live. While doing that, they often play music for thousands of viewers, with little to no explanation of what is currently playing (and often, fans want to know).

Worse, as Twitch or streamers don’t have legal permission to use the music, most VODs are muted! What if a major label made a global deal with Twitch, allowing streamers to use their own music live and on VODs, in exchange for handy mentions of which new artist you’re listening to?

Most esports events fills entire stadiums or concert venues for two days or more

Yet only a handful of tournaments use this valuable captive time to create parallel music-discovery occasions to keep feelings high. Imagine a major label sponsoring every DreamHack festival (50k attendees each year), providing enough artists to produce as many music concerts as esports competitions during DreamHack’s weekends?

Deadmau5 sometimes streams on Twitch when composing from his studio

He’s right to do so: esports and gaming fans are often also very technical music lovers. What if every DJ were to use the gamer-focused livestreaming platform to test their newest samples to a core audience?

What if a musician used pro-gamers as ambassadors in a new clip?

Followings for some of the top pros are often in the millions, worldwide.

These are just some generic examples. A small taste of business opportunities esports could provide the music industry with, especially when you realise that 35% of esports enthusiasts in the US have a Spotify subscription.

As long as you decide to advertise your brand in the space with both authenticity and respect for gamers, the sky’s the limit in terms of what esports can bring to music – as well as what music can bring to esports.

Today, esports is to gaming as rock’n’roll was to music in the 60s. All the cool kids are doing it, but grown-ups don’t really get it. To be among the former, don’t take too much time overthinking it: You might miss future rock stars.

Hurrah is a Paris-based creative advertising agency focused on bringing mainstream brands into the esports arena. Its co-founders Mathieu Lacrouts and Angela Natividad have previously led international operations and social strategy for brands like Netflix, Red Bull, Eurosport, Warner Bros., ARTE, MTV and more.

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