The enforced absence of live music and summer festivals has pushed artists to look to more experimental ways of promoting their work and one of the most successful pivots in 2020 has been the music industry's concerted efforts to move towards gaming. For context, the video game business is larger than both the movie and music industries combined.
From the Travis Scott live set in Fortnite before lockdown began, to various Minecraft e-festivals like Rave Family Block Fest and Open Pit earlier this year, it’s fascinating to see how Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) gaming platforms have been transformed into a stage or catwalk accessed simultaneously and globally by millions of fervent gamers.
Following her virtual DJ set appearance at a festival in Minecraft, LA-based pop artist Cowgirl Clue recently launched her debut fashion collection through online metaverse and social networking site IMVU.
IMVU was founded in 2004 and members use 3D avatars to meet new people, chat, create and play games. Importantly, the site currently has a virtual goods catalogue totalling a whopping 40 million purchasable items. With 4 million active monthly users spending hours a day on the site, IMVU is just one of several virtual networks that music artists are gravitating towards to reach new audiences.
So what was it like for Cowgirl Clue to launch a fashion range in the eye of the COVID storm?
“Debuting Clue Wear's DO YOU BELIEVE IN FAERIES Collection was a total rollercoaster with the current climate,” Clue tells us.
“It only made sense to create something digital and interactive for viewers to engage with. I was fortunate to become e-friends with Lizzie Klein and she helped me portray my vision of a Conspiracy Theory Farm themed fashion show for the collection and collaborate on IMVU.” The farm theme continues through kitsch ensembles featuring cow print, chaps, and cowboy hats.
These virtual looks are also available to buy from her online store to wear in real life.
Clue also recognises the limitless capabilities of avatars, which allow the user to present themselves, or a persona, in a unique way which isn’t like interacting in “real life” at all.
“There is an immense amount of room to explore with these gaming platforms. I think the possibilities are truly endless, and the best part is that if you have access to the internet you can most likely be a part of the experience.” This open accessibility is what makes the idea of using these spaces so important right now, whilst we can’t physically be with each other watching live music or fashion presentations, technically we can still be together.
Her next music performance will also be on IMVU via the Spirit World virtual festival, which will be streamed on Twitch this weekend.
It came as no surprise that Nintendo sold almost 12 million copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons within 11 days of its mid-pandemic launch and, undoubtedly, a lot of players have spent their time glued to their Switches ever since.
Tasmin Lobley and her creative team at Waste Creative recently figured out that the best way to reach a new audience in search of their next intern would be via a virtual e-creation of their office on their island in Animal Crossing.
“A lot of brands have jumped on Animal Crossing and have done really creative things like fashion shows, talk shows, KFC have jumped on there and generally it’s a really creative platform, particularly in lockdown. We’re currently working from home so I was like “why don’t we put our office on Animal Crossing?” but primarily it’s a way for us to find a bit more of a diverse talent base because they are people that are using Animal Crossing, and obviously it’s completely global. So we’re looking to find our next intern who maybe isn’t even in the industry or doesn’t know about the industry.”
But why is it that brands have previously overlooked these gaming worlds in favour of the usual social channels?
“I think it’s because a lot of brands or agencies haven’t realised the scale of games and how much they affect peoples lives,” Tasmin tells us.
“When you’ve got the mainstream media of TV, YouTube, influencers and even radio to an extent, it’s just something that’s been forgotten about and obviously with lockdown and not being able to use the big billboards outside or TV ads, it’s natural that agencies and brands are looking for new ways for promotion”.
“But also we don’t want brands just bombarding gaming worlds and stuff,” such as when Neopets had a user backlash by adding a McDonald’s shop to their explorable map.
“I think it’s just so incredibly important to research your audience and know what they want and expect from a game and know how you can naturally fit into that world. If it’s forced, you shouldn’t be doing it. It’s an interesting platform but it’s not one that should become saturated with brands.”
So if you’re an artist or creator who can naturally progress into promoting themselves in one of these virtual worlds, it's time to fire up the Nintendo!