Q’s With Hit Command’s William Morris: How Red Light Subsidiary Is Tackling Intersection Of Music, Gaming

Courtesy of Hit Command
– Music Meets Gaming
Red Light Management subsidiary Hit Command has worked at the intersection of gaming, brands and music.

More musicians than ever are embracing livestreaming due to the coronavirus crisis and its associated social restrictions, but the sphere was already familiar to some.

In January, Red Light Management announced the formation of Hit Command, a subsidiary designed to operate at the intersection of gaming, brands and music.

Along with Red Light’s head of electronic music Steve Satterthwaite, Hit Command CEO William Morris has continued to drive the company forward during these unprecedented times. Earlier this month, Hit Command hosted “Dance Music Gives Back,” a 12-hour virtual electronic music festival benefitting the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund in conjunction with Twitch, and it announced a new partnership with Gravedancer’s EDM roster, which includes Subtronics, Boogie T, HE$H, Dubloadz and more, on April 6.

Few executives are better suited for the Hit Command job than Morris, who as VP of gaming and esports at management company Seven20 oversaw Deadmau5’s partnership with the the popular online game “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (PUBG).

With client Twitch, for instance, Morris says Hit Command is “doubling down on music on the platform to help not just artists to come onto the platform, but really to create tools to help support them.”

Morris says artists should “look at Twitch as not just a gaming platform, but also a new platform for them to build an audience and to really monetize through different ways of building their community online.”

Pollstar connected with Morris to discuss the intersection of music and gaming, what musicians have to gain from livestreaming and why younger generations naturally connect with platforms such as Twitch.

Pollstar: Music is taking advantage of some of these longstanding gaming platforms like Twitch. Why do these platforms lend themselves to musicians who want to distribute performances remotely?
William Morris: With the music industry having to look at different ways to help their artists monetize and create content, the beautiful silver lining is these platforms like Twitch that have a built-in audience and community that is used to seeing content, seeing music creators. That’s why you’re seeing such an influx of these artists moving into a digital space to continue what they’re doing. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, they’ve all been a great home.

Could you speak about the musicians who are monetizing streams on platforms like Twitch, for themselves or for charity, and what they might be able to learn from gamers who have monetized them?
One of the artists we signed onto Twitch, he’s a bass EDM artist, his name is Subtronics. Same issue: wanting to get onto a platform, wanting to share his music, wanting to see how he can keep busy. So, we created a streaming schedule for him, and once we made his page, before he went live we had 7,000 people follow his Twitch channel. We did a three-hour stream [on March 21]. We had 11,500 concurrent people tune in and watch him stream from his room and DJ with another artist on his label. We ended the stream with over a couple hundred subscriptions to his page and about 15,000 people following the page – which, for a first-time artist turning the camera on, was a really amazing experience. He monetized and had money back in his pocket from that first-time experience, and it really just echoed and validated artists coming onto the platform, and the community tuning in and loving being a part of it during this time. That’s what we’re continuing to do. We’re looking at really just creating a channel and a home for artists in the digital space to continue doing the art that they love to do and being able to monetize while doing it.

What are tools that Hit Command is offering musicians to help them amplify themselves?
The backbone of Hit Command is that we are looking to pioneer this space bridging the gap between music and gaming, because there’s so much synergy around it. We look at artists and try and help and look at how we can build strategic partnerships and build IP for them in the gaming space. We help drive endorsement deals that are around the gaming space with different brands. We’re opening the doors to new resources and different channels for artists to plug their music into places that they might not normally think of. Another way is we’re launching our Hit Command channel on Twitch. It’s going to be a 24/7 channel where we’re going to open up a library of music and continue to add music to artists who want to be affiliated with us, so that we have a space where we’re always showcasing new music to the Twitch community.

As Twitch has rapidly grown in prominence, some music industry folks have told me, “Twitch? Before three weeks ago, I barely knew Twitch. I thought it was totally a gaming platform.” We’ve had musicians on there for a while, but could you speak to what similarities might a gamer and a musician have when streaming and what differences might they have?
Twitch, its bread and butter, the backbone of what the ecosystem is, is gaming. But, it’s a livestreaming platform that through conception is evolving its communities. The similarities, I think, and why I started the Hit Command, looking at the bridge between music and gaming, is that since the conception of games, music has always been attached at the hip to different genres of games. On the gaming side, when they’re streaming, they’re usually playing some element of music as a part of their stream. On the flip side, the artists who are on the platform, they are very endemic to sitting in a chair for eight hours in the studio and making music. That behavior between an artist and a gamer is super similar, and it’s no different when they turn the camera on to share a DJ set or them creating music or even sitting down for six hours because they’re passionate about stepping away from the studio to play some games. I think that crossover and that user behavior between gamers and producers are not far from each other.

Whether it’s a gamer or a musician, you aren’t just pressing play and watching the stream, there’s a social component, with comment feeds. How does that contribute to the experience and why we’re seeing this really catch fire with musicians?
Especially with the younger generations, they were born into technology. They were born into interactive communication between different platforms: TikTok, Instagram, you name it. That social component is in the DNA of these young kids. Gen Z, if you ask them where they find their music or where they enjoy watching sports or watching gameplay, it’s on an interactive platform. It’s either Twitch for these young kids to watch football or, if they’re seeking new music, their answer is probably TikTok. It’s not the ESPNs of the world, it’s not AM/FM radio. It’s an interactive tech platform that’s driving community and social engagement.

Could you tell me about your work with Steve Satterthwaite at the intersection of gaming and music and streaming?
Red Light is a future-facing company. Steve, in his own lane, is a legend, with some of the acts that he manages [including Duke Dumont, Gramatik and Bob Moses]. He’s done a lot of work in the gaming space as far as licensing music from his artists into games, and through doing that and seeing some of his artists being a part of video games and going to play music live to that community when they launch a game sparked an interest and Steve said, “How do we involve our artists in gaming more?”