At Music Research Consultants, we often discuss and urge acts to become more interactive and to allow audience participation.
Sometimes this translates into participation in the creation process, and other times, such as with Guitar Hero and Rock Band it means the fans can play along. Indeed good old merchandising can be viewed as a simple mechanism which allows fans to feel like they have in some way contributed to the development of an act. By buying the t-shirt they know (or hope at least) that the money which paid for the clothing will further fund and empower the act. Additionally, by being branded by the act (by wearing the t-shirt) it makes you feel like an extended member of the family, the ‘groupie’ element which has now been firmly commercialised as an experience.
Other acts go further by crossing into the audience’s world in cross product advertising, such as supporting PEPSI or a tv channel - even a charity. For example, U2 and Apple ‘worked together’ to bring out a unique IPOD. Well it was a different colour and had their signatures on it or something daft.
50 cent went one further. He had a whole computer game built around his ‘image’ and ’story’. Im sure he wasn’t the first, but in this age of big production games, it was the most recent and large scale. In many ways it completely back fired, as it was awful. Along with his failure to win the battle of the albums with some other Hip Hop act (sorry, not my scene!) it helped to create a mini implosion in the world and brand of 50 cent. Sometimes you can do too much, but in reality its not about how much you do, but the quality. Indeed when you are inviting people to live out the fantasy of being part of your world, even if its just part of your make-believe world, then that experience has to be great.
However, in the entertainment industry you are only as good as your last project, and 50 Cent looks like he is coming back with another game and this one might just be good. The story and setting are completely looney but that doesn’t matter. In the game the player becomes 50 Cent, and if the player feels good being him then there is a chance that they might just want to hear and see the real thing. Im sure his music will be embedded into the game, so if delivered right, its a whole new platform for certain acts to look into.
Certainly, 50 Cents background story has always involved action and violence, so its easier for him to slip into a videogame persona than for some other acts. However, acts have always used music videos to play characters, whether it is Robbie Williams pretending to a spy/footballer or another act being chased by a mob down a street - fantasy is not new. If this game is well received and sells well, we could see other acts become the targets for videogame developers and publishers to be the face of a new IP. Its a win, win - grow your fan base, include music and possibly even video footage of your act and help to tell the story of the act.The developers meanwhile can tap into the pre-existing fan base already out there.
How about a Gorillaz version of Little Big Planet please (or at least a Gorillaz level, specially commissioned)?!
After all, developing a story and experience around a musical act is not new and has been known to succeed. Anyone remember The Monkeys?