A lot of things come to mind when you think about music marketing, but gaming isn’t usually among them. Sure, plenty of famous artists have had their music featured in video games over the years, and a few games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have been specifically about the music. Of late, however, we seem to be seeing a trend toward musicians applying their brands to games more in an advertorial sense than anything else.
It’s hard to say exactly where this started, but it may have been with a slot arcade designed by WMS and revolving around KISS. The heavy metal group may be well past its prime, but it still inspires a massive following, and this game was a clever way for the band to appeal to younger generations. Using the always-creative imagery of the band, the game turns a regular slot gaming experience into a celebration of KISS, complete with actual music from the band. It’s tough to measure the game’s impact, but it’s certainly an interesting move by any group looking to stay relevant.
This game might seem like an outlier, but it actually preceded a full-blown rock slot trilogy by the developer NetEnt.. That trilogy included similar games for Motorhead, Jimi Hendrix, and Guns N’ Roses, the latter being the most interesting. While we can’t say it’s because of this game, Guns N’ Roses happens to have had a massive comeback in the aftermath of this partnership. It certainly hasn’t hurt matters.
Another game we’ve seen emerging in recent years that has done a lot to promote more modern artists is Magic Piano by Smule. This game is basically a mobile-based spin on Guitar Hero that asks players to tap dots to keep up with a piano melody. Boasting a library from Bruno Mars to Mozart, it has something for everybody, but excels particularly in promoting material that’s currently popular. With a significant player base, that actually makes it a valuable marketing tool for modern artists. Lending material to Smule allows fans not just to hear it, but to interact with it. It’s essentially a more frequently updated version of Guitar Hero.
We may also be on the cusp of a new trend in which artists simply design their own games, rather than lending their material to existing ones. It’s hard to say at this point how big this trend might become, but at least one of today’s most prominent musical acts has done very well with it. We learned in 2016 that DJ Steve Aoki would be getting his own mobile game, and it’s since become a success. Stevea Aoki’s BeatBomb, as the game is called, tells an amusing tale of the DJ being lost in space and asks players to solve icon-bursting puzzles to save him – all while pulsing, catchy music plays in the background of course. It could certainly be a model for other popular artists.
Through all of these examples, as well as the general popularity of gaming (which always seems to be increasing), it’s easy to see this medium becoming very important for musicians of all kinds. It’s certainly something those with an interest in music marketing should keep an eye on in the coming years.