The vice president of Warner Music UK has said the video games that musicians play forms a part of negotiating record deals.
“We’ve seen it before in TV and movies. Out of nowhere you can have this moment where your streams have doubled, and you’ve got all these new fans,” Miles said in an interview with GamesIndustry. “[Stormzy in Watch Dogs] is probably the first time in a gaming sense where we’ve seen a similar impact as the Bond movie had on Billie Eilish. It’s the same impact, if not greater.”
Miles added that, traditionally, music labels only cared about getting music into FIFA, GTA radio stations or in actual music games. He felt there was a gap in the market, and pushed for Warner Music to fill it. “We have a duty to our artists. If they want to be in the next James Bond film, they should also want to be in the next big AAA title,” he said.
As well as pushing for more involvement in games, Warner Music also had to learn which of their artists would be the best fit for gaming.
“Bearing in mind we have maybe 500 active artists, we didn’t have a clue who cares about this stuff,” Miles said. “When you sit in a room with a developer, that’s the first question: who plays games? So we built up that roster. Games are now part of the signing conversation. We ask what kind of trainers do you wear? That’s one question. And now we ask what games do you play and what consoles do you like?”
Miles also revealed that Ubisoft didn’t specifically ask for Stormzy but that it came about through Warner Music’s focus on gaming.
“I always love stressing that this didn’t fall into our laps,” Miles said. “They told us about Watch Dogs and where it was set and what it stands for. We then spoke about our aims and the artists we are signing, and Stormzy came up.”
Miles added that the extra press had been beneficial for everyone, granting Watch Dogs space on radio stations and Spotify, and bringing Stormzy’s music to a new audience.
“On the day the Stormzy news dropped, my mum in her 60s texted me because it was on the six o’clock news,” Miles said. “My nephew saw it on YouTube, and asked if I was part of that. I was in the pub before lockdown, and my friends were asking me about it.”
Watch Dogs: Legion is out now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC, although some players have reported save corruption on PC.