This week, EA Sports released the latest installment of its long-running soccer video game series, this year re-branded as EA Sports FC 24 after a long-running licensing deal with FIFA expired last year. And the demand, despite the new title, has been massive: The game debuted at No. 1 in the United Kingdom and sold 6.8 million copies worldwide in its first week, according to the Financial Times — a 25% boost over the early access sales of FIFA ’23.
That’s a big deal for the music business. Gaming and music have always been intertwined, but EA’s soccer series has sparked a closer relationship with its soundtrack songs than most; in a phenomenon called FIFA Songs, gamers form nostalgic attachments to the music they hear while playing. And because soccer is a truly global sport, the soundtracks to the games over the years have often been global affairs, with both established acts and rising artists from around the world included and exposed to audiences — many of them young — for hours each week as they play.
This year’s edition is no different, with a soundtrack that includes more than 100 tracks from artists hailing from 30-plus countries across six continents. Warner Music Group won one of EA Sports FC 24‘s biggest synchs, landing the coveted slot in the game’s official launch trailer with Royal Blood’s “Trouble’s Coming.” The company also received placements for some established hits (Myke Towers’ “LALA” from Warner Music Latin; Ninho and Central Cee’s “EuroStar” from Warner Music France) as well as up-and-coming acts, like Ezekiel’s “there she goes” (Warner Records) and an unreleased track from KING, “We Are the Ones” (Warner Music India). And that helps Warner Music Group’s executive vp of global sync and U.S. visual media licensing Ron Broitman earn the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week.
Here, Broitman — whose remit goes beyond just video games to include film and TV and advertising syncs for the label’s global roster — breaks down how the label worked with EA to include songs on the soundtrack, as well as the effect of such a huge placement on an artist’s career. “Being placed in a game like this brings a track to millions of fans worldwide and can lead to meaningful streaming and consumption spikes,” Broitman says. “For developing artists it’s also an opportunity to introduce them to a massive, captive audience that maybe wouldn’t have heard their music otherwise.”
This week, the new EA Sports soccer video game, EA Sports FC 24, was the United Kingdom’s highest-selling video game release, and Warner Music has a significant presence on its influential soundtrack, including in the main trailer. What’s the process for getting a song on the soundtrack, and how did the placements for this one come together?
This project is an amazing display of collaboration involving WMG’s recorded music repertoire from all over the world. We’re unique in the fact that we don’t operate within traditional synch borders, we’re one cohesive global synch team, so our partners have direct and open access to all of our local experts from around the globe. With EA, we’ve built a very close, trusting relationship with them over many years — a major testament to the top-notch global gaming community we have within our synch and U.S. frontline label teams. From there, it’s really a multi-layered, ongoing process, but there’s a regular dialogue and sharing of relevant new releases from our U.S. teams and our teams around the world including in the U.K., France, Sweden and LatAm, among others. Especially when dealing with a game with as much global popularity as FC 24, it’s key to involve as many teams around the world as possible so that the final soundtrack is representative of all the great, global music in the WMG family.
How do you decide what songs to put forward for the soundtrack?
Our global synch gaming experts focus on many factors, but above all, we make sure every recording is authentic and that there’s a natural connection between the artist, the game, the fans and the musical energy that our partner is looking for. Of course, we also consider artist albums and new release cycles as we know synch placements — especially in gaming — have the potential for incredible exposure. EA particularly has built a reputation for music discovery which creates a huge lane for pitching artists at any stage in their career. That’s why on this soundtrack you’ll see massive tracks like Myke Towers’ “LALA” that everyone already loves, alongside tracks like “there she goes” from newcomer Ezekiel so that we can hopefully introduce fans to what will become their next favorite song.
Soccer, more than sports like baseball or American football, is a truly global game. How does that factor into your thinking when choosing songs or artists for a game like this, vs. something like the Madden franchise?
With a game like FC 24, there’s an opportunity to showcase a diverse group of artists that cross genres and borders because we know there are fans from all over the world playing. We aim to make sure everyone listening hears something that they feel resonates with them, and it’s also a great way to introduce local talent to a global audience. At WMG, we’re lucky to have such a standout group of artists from every corner of the globe, so it makes our jobs easier — or harder, actually. Our representation on this soundtrack speaks to this approach — from India’s KING to France’s Ninho to Sweden’s Baby Mala to Puerto Rico’s Myke Towers to the U.K.’s Sam Gellaitry and many more.
What effect can a placement in a huge game like this have on a song’s success, or on an artist’s career?
The impact is undeniable. Being placed in a game like this brings a track to millions of fans worldwide and can lead to meaningful streaming and consumption spikes. For developing artists it’s also an opportunity to introduce them to a massive, captive audience that maybe wouldn’t have heard their music otherwise. We’re already seeing this happen with Ezekiel, who I’d mentioned, as well as with swim school, and many others. Players aren’t just enjoying the music in-game passively, they’re actively seeking it out and consuming it elsewhere. The ultimate goal of course is that we convert those players into fans, and they follow along on an artist’s journey. That’s one of the many benefits of a music company like ours, there’s a dedicated team exploring these types of opportunities that have the potential to be a game-changer for an artist’s career.
How does the demographic of those who regularly play video games factor into that effect?
FC 24 draws an audience of all ages, but we know there’s a large number of players in the Gen Z demographic. This group, more than any other generational cohort, reports that they discover and actively seek out music that they hear when they’re gaming. So we know we have an incredible opportunity to introduce new music and artists to this young group who may still be developing their musical tastes, and there’s a high likelihood that we can turn these players into fans.
How does a synch in a soundtrack for a game like this compare to a synch for a TV ad or a film trailer?
Music has always had a really close connection with gaming, maybe even more so than any other visual form. With gaming, you have engaged players that will play every single day and be hearing these songs over and over again. It’s an incredible amount of exposure as far as sheer number of listening hours. With this game specifically, there’s also a really interesting phenomenon called “FIFA songs” where avid players say they develop a strong, lifelong connection with the songs that they hear while they’re playing. Even years later, hearing one of these songs can bring back nostalgic, happy memories associated with playing the game. So the impact that these songs can have can really last a lifetime.
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