Zach Katz has been making waves as the co-founder of music/tech investment fund Raised In Space, but now he’s got a new job in an adjacent industry: esports.
Katz is now president and COO of FaZe Clan, one of the biggest esports teams and brands. As Variety noted, the former BMG exec will be reporting to another music industry veteran, FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink, ex of Capitol Records and Virgin.
Music Ally doesn’t write about that many job-move stories, so why this one? Partly because it’s interesting to see two former music executives leading one of the key brands in a space – esports – that has been a high priority for labels looking for new partnerships and biz-dev opportunities.
But Trink’s comments in the Variety piece are also notable, even if they’ll raise the hackles of some of the label execs who’ve been working hard on doing those kinds of deals.
“I don’t think the music industry fully appreciates how gaming drives youth culture overall. The music industry is attracted to the size of the gaming audience, [but] takes a simplistic approach to leveraging that audience,” he said. “Gamers seem to be inheriting the earth and it would serve labels well to understand and embrace this enormous, engaged and growing community. Artists on the other hand seem to have a better appreciation of the impact and importance of gaming.”
Oof. Yet the fact that Trink is talking about labels and artists hints at a willingness from FaZe Clan’s side to forge deeper relationships with the music industry. Its investors include former Apple Music and UMG exec Jimmy Iovine, and in September 2021 it signed its first music artist, DJ and producer Kaysan.
FaZe Clan went public via a SPAC merger in 2021, claiming a $1bn valuation, and a combined social media reach for its channels and esports stars of more than 350 million, with 80% of its audience aged 13-34. It’s still early-stage in terms of revenues: FaZe Clan’s investor presentation predicted $50m in 2021, growing to $91m in 2022 and – bold ambitions here – $651m in 2025.
Whatever you make of that, the fact that former music executives are running the company, who think there’s much more to be unlocked in the music/esports crossover, seems an encouraging state of affairs.
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