sandbox summit

Travis Scott in Fortnite and Lil Nas X in Roblox bagged the biggest headlines around the latest wave of the music/gaming crossover, but there are plenty of other partnerships happening too.

At Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Global online conference yesterday, we explored the potential of games, gamification and the wider metaverse, starting with a presentation on marketing music through games by Music Ally’s Kushal Patel.

He ran through some of the key companies that labels and artists could work with to make more of this world, starting with AudioMob, which runs audio adverts within mobile games, monitoring the background music to ensure that they are placed at suitable times. Patel said its campaigns are driving “meaningful” clickthroughs for partners.

The second company he talked about was Offmeta, which is helping artists to get their music into gaming livestreams. It’s an agency with relationships with major esports partners, but also a record label which is signing artists with an interest in gaming. “The rationale is to avoid complicated and painful music licensing processes for gaming livestreams,” said Patel.

Third was The Creative Corporation, a creative and digital agency that has created browser games for Lauv and Regard, with streaming integrations and data capture. Billy Meets World, for Lauv, was a Flappy Bird-esque game that got fans to sign in using Spotify. Meanwhile, the Regard game unlocked digital treats for fans, with a league table ranking their performances.

Next up was Blockworks, an agency that has been creating experiences within the game Minecraft for nine years, including recent builds for music artists Ruth B and Disclosure. In the former case, fans were encouraged to help build the virtual venue for her performance, tying in to a campaign getting girls to use their STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills. “Fans were encouraged to create, not just consume,” said Patel.

Patel’s presentation was followed by a keynote interview with Josh Neuman and Devon Thome, president and CEO respectively of Melon. Not the South Korean music streaming service; the US company that helps brands and entertainment companies do interesting things in the metaverse. And specifically in Roblox.

“We’ve built more music initiatives and launch parties on the Roblox platform than I think anyone else to this point,” said Neuman. Ava Max, Why Don’t We and Zara Larsson included. He also talked about the growth of Roblox itself, noting that “young people are spending more time on Roblox than on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram combined”.

While it’s early days for music activations on Roblox, Neuman said that Melon and other developers are gradually building a convincing set of data to persuade more artists and labels to get involved. Part of that pitch is explaining that there is money to be made: the average Roblox user bought $13.73 of the platform’s Robux currency in 2020, up from $8.89 in 2019. That’s a virtual economy worth $1.24bn in the first nine months of 2020 alone: and the games and experiences created for music clients can aim for a piece of it.

Thome talked about why Roblox can work well for musicians. “It’s that sense of discovery and that sense of being involved in the space. You’re running around the world with your friends, you’re looking for secrets or maybe special items… it’s about creating that sort of level of engagement that makes people have more fun in the space.”

In the future, Melon thinks that music experiences on Roblox will be a mixture of high-production performances, where artists are turned into avatars to perform in the world itself, and lower-cost simulcasts, where video of a performance and/or Q&A can be shown on a big virtual screen, with other activities for fans to enjoy around it.

“I think this is really going to become another social platform that’s used in the same kind of frequency that TikTok would be used. It will become easier, the entry points will be easier. You probably won’t need as heavy-lifting a developer as us to do every activation,” said Neuman. “Our hope is we can help build what that infrastructure looks like so artists can plug in at every level, from emerging artists to superstar artists who want to break the mould every time.”

colabox

The day ended with a shift into superfans and gamification, and an interview with Richard Summers, chief scientific officer at Colabox, by Music Ally’s Marlen Hüllbrock.

Newly emerged from seven years of exclusivity with Universal Music Group, it is a tool for creating ‘superfan ignition’ campaigns around track and album launches, with a mixture of minigames, listening parties and user-generated content. It has run more than 20,000 so far, and is using the data from those to understand what makes for a successful fan activation.

Summers described it like this: when an artist launches a new track, they get a spike in streams from their baseline, before it subsides again. “If you do a really effective fan engagement, the peak is marginally higher, but what happens is you get a much slower decline, and then a slightly higher baseline is established for the artist,” he said.

“Over 60 days, for every fan that we engage with, it generates about $1.80 in streams, and if you look at six months, it’s up around four dollars… a huge amount of streams generated over time from changing behaviours.”

The point being that these campaigns really can have a significant impact on streams, and thus revenues for artists and labels. That’s why Colabox has been designed to help them run these campaigns as often as possible: weekly or bi-weekly, without becoming repetitive for fans. Summers referred back to the previous session’s mention of secrets as a good example of how games can be kept fresh.

“The purpose of games is not the game itself,” he said. “It’s Easter egging. How you embed unique bits of content within the game that generates all these sharing conversations, and this waterfall effect.”

Summers also talked about the impact of listening parties, which can be run regularly with different themes. Here, too, the impact is not just about an immediate spike in streams for an artist.

“A lot of people focus on what the revenue is generated within the party itself. Typically [for bigger artists] you might have 100,000-plus fans and they might be int here for 50-60 minutes, so there’s quite a lot of streaming that goes on… but 95% of the revenue is generated after the listening party occurs. It’s all about changing the behaviour, and it’s the 60 days after, because you’ve changed that behaviour in a group of people, that’s why it works.”

He also suggested that while the keenest fans are vital to these events, it’s not them who generate the most revenue for artists directly. Instead, it’s their sharing around the experience that does so: “If you have 100,000 fans in a listening party, you can end up with something like 10 million people getting a social impression from something they share,” said Summers. And even if only a small percentage of those people go on to listen “that generates about 60% of the revenue that gets generated by the listening party.”

He also talked about the importance of artists being on board with all these campaigns, even if they need to be convinced at the start. “If the artist sees the success of this and their ability to engage with their fans, then they will engage their socials,” he said.

Sandbox Summit Global was held in association with Linkfire, Vevo and Songfluencer and supported by Colabox.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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