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GAME ON: BRANDING AND THE NEXT FRONTIER

Deprived of the revenue and the visibility afforded by touring, acts have found branding more essential than ever for boosting their status and bottom lines. Partnerships with the likes of Ocean Spray and McDonald’s became a lifeline for artists bent on connecting with fans in 2020 as they sought to fill the void left by the pandemic. 

Gaming also helped bridge the gap as launchpad and support system. With its own pandemic-proof base of engaged consumers, the new gaming landscape offers virtually unlimited opportunity and innovation—serving as a new arena for concerts and music discovery.

Travis Scott, for instance, emerged last year as an endorsement juggernaut. Deals with Fortnite, McDonald’s, Nike and PlayStation earned Cactus Jack $100m over the course of 2020. Add Netflix and a headlining gig at the next Coachella, and the Epic superstar had every medium covered. He finished the year rolling out a new canned spritzer beverage, CACTI.

Early in the pandemic, Scott's Fortnite concert event broke new ground for livestream shows, gaming’s intersection with music, and set the bar for virtual events. No other concert lived up to the “ASTRONOMICAL” experience on Fortnite.

Another key gaming partnership in 2020 was EA x Lil Wayne for Madden 2021. Weezy, a sports fanatic, jumped at the opportunity to play a role in the launch of the iconic franchise. He lent his voice to announcing 2021’s cover star, NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, and helped create excitement throughout gaming, sports and hip-hop culture. 

Facilitating the Wayne/EA deal was MTW Agency CEO and branding guru Matt Ferrigno. “Gaming represents the most authentic and engaged fan base—you can't fake it with them,” he says. “When it comes to Lil Wayne, no one questions his extreme love of football, so this was a win for both Lil Wayne and EA/Madden.”

Ferrigno explains the short and long game: “The gaming-and-music connection will continue to grow, and it has been accelerated by COVID forcing artists and managers to think outside the box more urgently for ancillary revenue and promotion to replace what has been lost for the moment: touring. Even after COVID, we will see the steady growth of virtual concerts powered by video-game companies.”

Gaming will certainly be linked to all things music. Following Scott’s Fortnite spectacle, music-and-gaming events from Diplo, Lil Nas X and Charli XCX, among others, transpired, leading up to strategic investments from Sony (in Epic Games) and WMG (in Roblox). Gaming platforms look set to continue leveling up in the music ecosystem for the foreseeable future.

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