It may seem like an unorthodox way to get your big break, but tapping into the music industry through video games is a growing strategy for up-and-coming artists and the companies that represent them.
Composers, sound engineers, software developers and video gamers gathered Thursday in London to reflect on the collision — what one speaker deemed “the big bang” — between music and gaming at a conference as part of the Juno Week events.
“This is a generation that grew up watching not Sesame Street, but Minecraft tutorials,” Jay Hodgson, a Western University associate professor of popular music studies. “If music is going to remain viable, it has to remain viable in the context of gaming.”
A bold statement, sure, but Hodgson, an industry expert who’s also a producer and songwriter, says that’s the reality of the digital age.
“Everyone is online and they are listening to music now because they’re being driven there from their gaming experience, and they’re listening to music now because it resonates with their gaming experience. They’ll hear something, and check for the soundtrack online,” he said.
The gaming industry is on the rise, with revenues of well over $100 billion globally last year, in contrast to declining traditional platforms like television.
That kind of explosive growth is catching the eye of artists and their managers, said Kim Temple, head of licensing and publishing for the Toronto-based Six Shooter Records.
“Labels and producers . . . are realizing this is an amazing opportunity to get exposure,” she said during a Q&A at the conference.
London is a perfect market to showcase the overlap between music and gaming industries. The city is home to nearly 15 gaming companies, and one of the largest clusters of video game productions in the country.
“On a per capita basis, we’re the largest concentration of gaming companies,” Kapil Lakhotia, head of the London Economic Development Corp., said Thursday.
The city is home to a burgeoning digital creative scene, where software development is merged with storytelling, music, film production and animation, he added. That includes 350 companies employing more than 9,000 people, plus programs at Fanshawe College and Western University to encourage the next generation.
“The talent is produced locally to enter new occupations within digital creative areas as well. Having these music and video game collision events, we’re hoping more young people would enter this kind of sector in the future,” Lakhotia said.
Fanshawe runs a video game design program at its downtown campus. Third-year students on that track showed off their games, built over the course of a semester, at Thursday’s conference.
Anthony Seeha is a member of a five-person team that built a game called BOTbot, in which a player controls three little robots teaming up to help tackle problems on a malfunctioning ship.
“This game is a lot about puzzle solving and thinking about using the ability you have,” Seeha said. The robots gain new powers as they solve tasks.”
The team also collaborated with students in Fanshawe’s music program to design the soundtrack and sound effects for BOTbot.
“In this final product, we believe we came up with something pretty cool,” Seeha said.