Brands, Music, and Metaverse TechRadar

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On Wednesday, March 2, Epic Games announced its purchase of Bandcamp and sent waves of surprise and confusion into the gaming and music industries. In statements issued by the two companies, Epic and Bandcamp said that they “…share the mission of creating the most artist-friendly platform that allows creators to keep most of their hard-earned money. Bandcamp will play an important role in Epic’s vision to create an ecosystem for a creative marketplace for content, technology, games and art.” Music and more.

Ethan Diamond, CEO and co-founder of Bandcamp, explained that his company will continue to operate as an independent community but will use the resources that Epic can provide to bring more benefits to artists, brands and fans who use the platform.

The obvious link between the Epic crossover and Bandcamp is in the virtual Fortnite party series. With the live music industry responding to the pandemic, virtual concerts are becoming increasingly popular. Artists like Travis Scott, J Balvin, and Ariana Grande all played digitally in Fortnite, while Lil Nas X and Twenty One Pilots did the same in Roblox. In 2021, Fortnite launched the Soundwave concert series, which focused on showcasing the world’s best non-US pop artists. It provides these artists with a platform to reach new audiences while allowing Epic to target very specific markets and demographics.

The acquisition was surprising, but it will surely be seen as the first of many music partnerships as the industry makes strong moves toward integration into the gaming space.

So, what are the opportunities for music companies as they enter the field?

Create a clean environment

Creators are not limited to only audio versions or music videos. One of the greatest opportunities in immersive digital environments is the ability to design and control every element, from the sound scene to the artist’s interaction.

They can orchestrate exactly the emotional experience they want their audience to have. Is this a summer song? Sit the listener in the passenger seat of a convertible across Santa Monica. A deeper piece that reflects the self? Take the audience on an intimate journey with the artist as they deal with their feelings in the song. Being able to fully control the environment only deepens the narrative. Listening concerts and album releases are constantly raising the bar, so it’s an opportunity for artists who can’t afford to put on massive shows to create the emotional impact that audiences crave.

Gamify interacts with fans

In addition to highly styled environments, these activations can include interactive elements. There can be creative ways to play out the experience of listening to a new artist’s release. The listener can be dropped into the typical environments above with the ability to roam, explore, and interact directly with the venue. There are probably five hidden things around that, when you find them, open a hidden path. Or by interacting in scenes or with objects, the listener can influence the narration or even influence the music itself. By instilling a sense of discovery and incorporating video game-like Easter eggs, artists can directly reward the time spent by their most devoted fans.

Looking Forward: Leveraging Artist Partnerships

McDonald’s has already partnered with musicians with their own artist meals (Travis Scott, BTS, J Balvin) and Fortnite has already featured Ariana Grande performing as part of their concert series. Now imagine if collecting the five hidden Easter eggs in a game unlocks a path exclusive to Ariana Grande McDonald’s.

With a player base of more than 350 million registered players who can now look forward to similar events, companies like Fortnite have plenty of users and data to trade with. But there must be a logical and strategic link between brands and artist partnerships to avoid feeling that the company is too much or not authentic, which is detrimental to reputation. If an insurance company or a brand of paper towels contacted Epic for a Fortnite partnership, it would appear to be completely incompatible with the current demographics. Failure to intentionally creatively leverage the platform’s unique features will result in an expensive and poorly performing referral campaign.

The future of music, games, and interactive digital environments is rapidly changing. Many are turning to technology companies and virtual reality to pave the way for the metaverse while finding a way to follow in their footsteps. But how not to get lost in the brand shuffle? Authentic creativity, honest artistic approach and purposeful cooperation. Foster compelling work and partnerships, and be the company responsible for bringing these experiences to the public. Most people probably wouldn’t mind wearing a bulky VR headset, at least for now.

Mike Burke is COO of Made Music Studio and co-host of the Press A Key podcast.

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