Video games introduced me to the Chemical Brothers – now teens are finding music through Fortnite | Music

l would like to tell you that I was first introduced to dance music in underground Berlin clubs, where mysterious resident DJs blew my teenage minds performing indescribable magic with beats and synth lines. But that would be a lie. My first foray into dance music came in the form of a 90s futuristic racing game called WipEout. Playing obsessively at a friend’s house, I was introduced to the Chemical Brothers and Orbital, both of which graced the soundtrack; not long after, the admirably chaotic sim Crazy Taxi introduced me to the Offspring, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater had me grinding to Bad Religion. I first heard Garbage on the soundtrack of an obscure PlayStation 2 DJ game, Amplitude from 2003, created by a Boston developer called Harmonix – the same developer who would later go on to create the insanely popular Guitar Hero series. Those games have sold 25 million copies, and I know I wasn’t the only college student to discover a previously undiscovered love for cheap dad rock as he tilted a plastic guitar to the sky at More Than a Feeling in Boston.

While I may be showing my age with these red-hot cultural references, video games are still a primary outlet for music discovery, especially among children and teens, as many as 90% of whom game regularly. In many ways, we are in a golden age for gaming as a discovery tool. You might find a new favorite band in CHVRCHES after hearing their moody theme to the expensive arthouse game Death Stranding, or discover Lil Nas X from his anthem for the League of Legends 2022 world championships.

Artists premiere music through Minecraft and Roblox, and DJs play sets in Grand Theft Auto Online. It’s hard to imagine anyone discovering Ariana Grande through her Fortnite concert series last year, given she was already one of the world’s biggest pop stars — but given more than 27 million people attended, it’s certainly not impossible that some of them were new to music. The influence of video games on music discovery is only increasing; Depending on what research you look at, between 25% and 30% of people are now exposed to new music through games – and the proportion is higher with Generation Z.

Most video game soundtracks are composed specifically for the game in question. In the ’80s and ’90s, these were talented musicians trying to wring characterful and evocative music from machines with three or four sound channels and negligible memory, a creative challenge that resulted in some of the most persistent earwigs in pop culture history. : Think Pac-Man, early Mario, or Pokémon’s Game Boy themes.

Today, game scores are more like movie scores, performed by full orchestras and uninhibited by technical limitations. (Video game soundtracks are some of the most-streamed albums on Spotify and have seen their own vinyl boom.) But games that use licensed music for their soundtracks — from racing game Forza to the annual FIFA soccer games — introduce millions of people to the artists. that were on it.

EA, the developer behind FIFA, likes to think of itself as a career maker for musicians. The soundtracks usually feature both established stars such as Bad Bunny and Gorillaz, both featured on the Fifa 2023 soundtrack, as well as newer artists such as Peggy Gou, who featured at Fifa 2019. Often these newer artists are the ones you can expect to hear in advertisements a few years down the line.

Steve Schnur, head of music at EA, is optimistic about the impact the soundtrack is having on the music industry: “We knew video games could become what MTV and commercial radio once were in the 80s and 90s. Every song in FIFA – be it is a new song by an established act or the debut of an unknown artist – will be heard almost 1 billion times around the world,” he told The Guardian in 2018. “Obviously there is no medium in the history of recorded music can bring such enormous and immediate worldwide exposure.”

Fifa’s soundtrack has changed as tastes changed – although it featured mostly mainstream rock in the mid-’00s, it now includes grime, EDM and pop – but it also defines the taste. It has led to the concept of “Fifa songs” – the kind of songs you would hear if you were a football-obsessed 11-year-old, the musical background of your generation. This shows why video games are a particularly powerful way to discover music: because game soundtracks find their audience at the exact age at which music has the greatest influence on the development of taste, forever associating that music with indelible, iconic images.

I first heard Flying Lotus in GTA5; a few summers later I saw him live and felt strangely transported back to those fictional California streets. Streaming music can be a throwaway item – Spotify feeds you with so many new songs all the time that few really get through to you. When you play a game, the music you hear sinks deep into your emotional memory. That’s why every time I reach for the lasers on a Chemical Brothers set, I remember being 10 years old – hearing their music for the first time while racing around the track wide-eyed in a PlayStation racing game.

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