Music and audio allow for a more immersive experience in any form of media. Games help users connect powerfully to virtual experiences, moments of social interaction and commerce.
These two elements have the potential to complement one another in new and valuable ways. The music business needs better ways to engage fans and monetize fandom, something gaming has cracked. Games need music and related products that fit the culture of specific popular games and esports events–and that don’t come with horrific licensing snags or a compromise on quality.
Five Vectors aims to solve both problems at once. Founded by a former UMG exec and an esports/gaming fan and business expert, Andres Lauer and Wasae Imran, the LA- and Berlin-based startup is acting as curator, developer, and general instigator to unlock the potential next level of cross-pollination between music and games.
“After the subscription model took over music consumption, something was missing. There’s a new generation of people who want to interact with creators on a deeper level, a whole audience of potential superfans in the making, who are ready to spend a lot more than the $120-a-year subscription cost. The problem is there’s no virtual interaction layer to convert them to superfan status. Online interaction with fans is really one dimensional and a lot of it is framed as charity,” reflects Andres. “The new generation of gamers offers a clue how to engage these fans. They are used to buying virtual items with virtual currency, to stocking up items and skins in a gaming experience. It’s an endless interaction loop, and the real lighthouse is esports.”
Imran and Lauer first came together while Andres was at UMG and Wasae at ESL, the world’s largest esports company. After a successful joint project between their employers involving music and gaming, they saw the potential for more innovative interaction around music in games and launched Five Vectors earlier this year with an initial seed fund of $1 million from esports’ biggest VC fund, Bitkraft. Not surprisingly, Bitkraft is deeply interested in building the new intersections between esports and the mainstream space, and for them, music is a high potential touch point that had not been explored enough.
Five Vectors is carefully building new infrastructure to change the way music and gaming work together. The existing mesh of licensing challenges and business models demands a multi-phase approach. In its first phase, the company is curating and creating high-quality music tailored for gaming under the 2DEX brand. 2DEX distributes to DSPs and manages traditional publishing, for example, but also builds additional, highly innovative opportunities for its artists in the gaming space. It controls both sides of the copyright, eliminating licensing nightmares.
Using this catalog, as well as others provided by select indie labels, Five Vectors’ Players Republik branch develops tools and virtual products to get this music into gaming experiences in new ways, from Twitch extensions to in-game apps that allow for custom sounds. As they evolve, these products will work as a proof of concept for the company’s more ambitious vision: transforming the way established music companies approach the gaming and other online communities to unleash new revenue streams and fan engagement.
Connecting music and games is about more than plopping a hot electronic track in the middle of a esports event, or having famous artists perform a random track to an audience of gamers looking for exciting plays, however. A deep knowledge of games’ cultures and audiences informs Five Vectors’ curatorial and development choices.
“You have to step away from the ideas of genre and style that dominate music metadata and marketing,” explains Wasae. “EDM is the go-to for some games, but that makes no sense for many others. Games are their own cultural spaces. Music has to have a game and community -specific aesthetic. To address this, we’re very data driven, as well as very passionate about games ourselves. We use data to home in on the essence of, say, League of Legends, and find artists, tracks, and catalogs that convey that essence.”
This data inspired experiments with genres that pushed the envelope in esports. “We wanted to explore how music in other genres would work for Rainbow Six Siege, a CSGO-like game that’s the fourth or fifth-biggest esport title,” says Wasae. “We found out that it made sense to move away from EDM toward a more rock-driven hip hop sound.” It is smart experiments that allow to build better and more contextualized music to connect with players and fans alike.