This guest column comes from Phil Hübner, Chief Business Development Officer of esports platform Challengermode
The intersection of esports and music isn’t a new phenomenon. Esports has often used live acts in the opening and half time of its major live events, musicians have joined the wave of star athletes investing directly in esports teams, and both streaming services and record labels have been keen to sign deals with first gaming and, more recently, key esports stakeholders.
What we are seeing now is an acceleration of this trend, spurred on by just how astronomical esports’ industry’s growth has been in the last decade. Global esports revenues will hit $1.084bn in 2021 (a year-on-year rise of 14.5% from 2020) with esports competitions drawing in an audience of almost 500million worldwide outperforming many mainstream sports. Esports organisations are blooming into highly successful media brands, and are coming to the music industry with significant financial and cultural clout.
Organisations across the music industry are naturally keen to reach that many pairs of ears, particularly when those ears belong to audiences in a highly engaged but often hard-to-reach subculture already interested in new audiovisual experiences.
Last year Spotify partnered with Riot Games to become the exclusive audio-streaming partner for League of Legends’ global events – creating a League of Legends hub on Spotify gathering music, podcasts and playlists around the game. More recently, the Esports Player League (ESPL) partnered with record label Warner Music Asia, allowing ESPL to embed music owned by the record label into its platform.
For the ESPL, the inclusion of licensed music to its platform upscales the experience of its users. For Warner Music Asia, it gets its music in front of entirely new audiences in a way that meshes with what they already like. This is similar to how games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Grand Theft Auto and Burnout introduced whole generations of gamers to new music through their games as part of their soundtracks, but updated to integrate with one of the fastest growing spaces in modern entertainment.
Partnerships like these, between rights holders and streaming services, will continue to gain momentum as esports grows, as they deliver authentic engagement for both parties. Beyond this though, we are likely to see more investment and attention given to user generated content in and around the esports space.
“Music businesses that can successfully integrate with it will have its music reach a large audience that has been largely exposed to only stock/royalty free music, if any at all.”
Digital media networks built on livestreaming and community development have need for professional music too, but are often left grappling with the thorny issue of copyright strikes and takedowns on platforms like YouTube and Twitch. Given just how large the esports influencer and UGC space is, the music businesses that can successfully integrate with it will have its music reach a large audience that has been largely exposed to only stock/royalty free music, if any at all.
On the artist level, both industries have only just begun to scratch the surface of cultivating artists specifically for esports purposes. Given the international nature of esports, producers are trying to find a medium and musical style that is relatable to broad swathes of the esports audience, usually focusing on hip-hop and electronic music.
Artists like TheFatRat have gained from their association with esports live events, and we’re likely to see more artists follow this path further by proactively targeting the esports world with marketing initiatives in the near future.
With continued growth predicted for the decade ahead, more integration between music and esports is inevitable. Music enhances the esports space in a myriad of ways, and esports is emerging as an indispensable avenue for the music industry to reach new audiences in new and different ways.
If events like the Fortnite Travis Scott concert are anything to go by, the most interesting intersections of the two industries are yet to come, as gaming esports continue to redefine how whole generations engage with media and entertainment brands.