Game Changer: How Travis Scott’s Astronomical Fortnite Performance Could Be The Year’s Biggest

Out Of This World
Courtesy Epic Games
– Out Of This World
Travis Scott’s ‘Astronomical’ in-game Fortnite “tour dates” were viewed by more than 27.7 million unique players.
What young music fan wouldn’t love to soar through space alongside their favorite musical artist? Or swim with them in the briny deep? Or dance together madly in a glow-in-the-dark island paradise? In the midst of a global coronavirus pandemic, Travis Scott gave his fans just that and so much more in the wildly popular online video game Fortnite. The massive success of this event, and its coordination with the release of his latest single, is turning heads throughout the music industry. 
The “Astronomical” shows took place at different times on different servers from April 23 to 25, with two showings in The Americas. The electrifying 10-minute in-game experience joined 100 players per lobby with a titanic Travis Scott graphic, who arrived by giant asteroid and took over the game completely, disrupting the game’s physics and transporting players to alternate worlds with him. 
The in-game concert also premiered the track “The Scotts,” featuring Kid Cudi – which subsequently topped the charts and broke Spotify’s 2020 record for most streamed track in its first day of release in 2020 with 7.45 million streams and the gaming event reportedly generated 45 million views. 
The concert was livestreamed online across platforms like Twitch and YouTube and the Travis Scott Twitch livestream showed the artist and his friends enjoying the experience with everyone else.
“Our main goal was to translate Travis’ larger than life aesthetic and dynamic live performances to a digital, global audience while simultaneously launching new verticals,” David Stromberg, Scott’s manager at Cactus Jack told Pollstar. “Basically we wanted to create an opportunity for millions of kids around the world to experience possibly their first concert and for core fans to participate in a new, innovative format. Debuting a song in the game and releasing it day and date was another aspect that hasn’t really been done before at this level. To see ‘THE SCOTTS’ debut at #1 was amazing proof of concept.  We also got a lot of really interesting data from the whole initiative.”

And many around the industry noticed the major impact the event had. 
“What happened with Travis Scott and Fortnite was a good case study for an industry that is hurting right now to look at the silver lining, to see artists who are able to continue creating art and reach an audience that is global,” Will Morris of Red Light Management’s sister company Hit Command told Pollstar. “My hat goes off to Fortnite and the Epic Games team. They are evolving this space – they offer a free game and a social space for gamers to hang out with backdrop of playing an fps/shooter/friendly-type game.”
Flame On
Taylor Hill / Getty Images
– Flame On
Touring powerhouse (and Fortnite phenomenon) Travis Scott played Madison Square Garden in New York March 2, 2019.
Travis Scott is a major player in the live game as well, as he filled arenas around North America during his “Astroworld: Wish You Were Here” tour in 2018-19. That run earned him industry-wide recognition when he topped the 2019 Q1 Top 100 Tours ticket sales chart with a total of 438,982 tickets sold and $32 million grossed in three months. 
Now, Scott is once again making tsunami waves, as the “Astronomical” event drew a staggering 27.7 million unique participants. Those fans showed up a total of 45.8 million times during the three-day series of shows.
The numbers, in comparison to a ticketed show, are obviously not “apples to apples.” Fortnite is a free online game while the IRL concert required one to purchase arena-priced tickets, but the numbers are impossible to ignore. One industry veteran told Pollstar the reason many are taking note of this is because there is few other live events could bring together 27 million people over three days. Even Desert Trip, the largest event ever reported in Pollstar Boxoffice, sold 150,000 tickets and grossed $160.1 million. That might be the ultimate standard for any live event, but the reach of digital event rivals that of the Super Bowl (which averages 100 million viewers annually, according to Reuters), only the concert is all about the artist.
And rest assured, while Fortnite is free-to-play, there is still lots of money being made. In fact, Fortnite is one of the most profitable games according to research firm SuperData, as the game brought in a massive $1.8 billion in 2019, though that was less than its $2.4 billion haul in 2018. The game allows players to purchase V-Bucks – in-game currency that can be used on in-game items, dance moves, and customizations for their character. Players can also purchase Battle Passes to unlock rewards, and before playing the game for the first time to see the Travis Scott concert, players were presented with a high-quality cinematic advertising the benefits of the Battle Pass. There are also alternate Fortnite game modes that can be purchased. 
And Scott no doubt earned a pretty penny from the event himself with millions in merch sales surrounding the event. Additionally, Scott was involved in the in-game merch aspect, with a character available for purchase that mirrored his likeness, unique dances for his “ragers,” and even an in-game roller coaster cart from his “Astroworld” tour. 
Stromberg told Pollstar Scott’s team had been working on the collaboration for awhile, but they really put the thing together in about a week, as things really accelerated as the live business shut down. The biggest challenge, he said, was adapting to working from home and collaborating with team members from around the world, including China. 
Scott’s agent, Cara Lewis, was thoroughly pleased with the showing, saying this was just the latest example of the artist’s uncanny ability to connect with his audience.
“It comes as no surprise that Travis is once again the Trailblazer redefining even the concept of a streamed event,” Lewis told Pollstar. “His ASTRONOMICAL performance was the coolest and one of the most visually stunning presentations, allowing him to feed his fans in such a creative way, without compromising on quality or engagement.”
This only further proves the point Lewis has been making since Q1 2019 – that the 28-year-old Travis Scott is a rockstar in every sense of the word. Scott, who co-parents with Gen Z icon (and, according to Forbes, the world’s youngest self-made billionaire) Kylie Jenner and is a fashion and merch king in his own right, continues to establish himself as a leader amongst artists of his generation. He has demonstrated the ability to sell tickets, to broaden his influence in the digital space like few others, and, on top of all of this, he has drawn eyeballs and earbuds to his music.
“The Scotts,” the single premiered during the online concert, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 1, the third time Travis Scott has achieved the feat. The artist also debuted at No. 1 on Apple Music and Spotify in the U.S. 
Cover Pollstar for May 11
– Cover Pollstar for May 11

“Consumers of hip-hop and gaming continue to overlap – countless artists reference it in their lyrics – and given Travis Scott’s enormous fanbase on Spotify, it was a no-brainer to help amplify his virtual concert on Fortnite,” Sydney Lopes, Spotify’s Head of Hip-Hop and R&B, Artist & Label Marketing, told Pollstar. “Between New Music Friday, our many hip hop and gaming-focused playlists, and Travis’ 44 million monthly listeners, there were significant opportunities to reach a wide array of fans, and they engaged in a big way: ‘The Scotts’ set the record for most first-day streams of 2020.”
Researchers at Pandora informed Pollstar that in the week following the Fortnite concerts he became the service’s second-most added artist station (jumping 163 spots), his streams increased 124% and his artist station adds increased 540%. 
Scott’s Fortnite concert was also the largest music-video game crossover streaming event ever, according to Stream Hatchet, with a peak of 2.8 million viewers on Twitch, YouTube, Mixer and Facebook. 
And one can’t help but feel Scott knew the event would have this impact, as the track, a collaboration with Kid Cudi, was clearly close to his heart. Travis Scott’s actual name is Jacques Berman Webster II, and the stage name Travis Scott is derived from his two biggest influences: his late uncle, whose first name is Travis, and Kid Cudi, whose given name is Scott. “The Scotts” is a reference to the artist performing with one of his biggest inspirations.
“Astronomical” is not the first time Fortnite has done in-game concerts, as in 2019 Marshmello performed the first ever in-game Fortnite concert for an estimated 10 million attendees at the time. After that gig Marshmello’s song “Check This Out” lept 24,000% in on-demand video streams, according to Forbes. “Chasing Colors” also jumped 22,547% at the time. 
“I think the people who are looking at streaming platforms like Twitch or Caffeine as distribution networks are incorporating into their business model this global audience that is endemic, that wants to be interactive with the content creators,” Morris told Pollstar. “Now, when we’re looking at how are we going to release a new song, we can design a campaign that utilizes these platforms with built-in audiences that are interactive. I think it is the future of the music industry, many more activations like this.”
Morris, whose clients include Twitch and Caffeine, said he is already having conversations with a major game developer about future events and that the industry is finally taking notice of the synergies between gaming and music, a welcome advance from the conversation several years ago only being about esports.
Not to say that esports are lagging in the music category. Fortnite itself is a competitive esport, as the company just hosted the inaugural Fortnite World Cup in 2019 and the “Pro-Am” tournament paired professional gamers with celebrities, many of whom are musical artists. Some of the pairings included streamer Ninja with Marshmello, streamer Airwaks with RL Grime, streamer Tfue with Nav, and streamer Dr. Lupo with Sigala.  
And Fortnite isn’t the only game getting into a more serious relationship with the music industry. Other major esports leagues have all kinds of music performances at their championship events. League Of Legends’ 2019 World Championships featured a custom song from Soyeon of (G)I-dle, Keke Palmer, Becky G, DUCKWRTH and Thutmose, with complex onstage effects to complement their performance. 

DJ Khaled at Overwatch Finals
Bryan Bedder / Getty Images / Blizzard Entertainment
– DJ Khaled at Overwatch Finals
DJ Khaled greets the Overwatch League Grand Finals at Barclays Center on July 28, 2018, in New York City.
Game developer Riot Games recently released a 22-minute documentary on April 28 about the intricate planning, production and rehearsal that went into its event at AccorHotels Arena in Paris. The documentary was approaching 1 million views on YouTube and the official video performance itself had surpassed 3 million views at press time. 
While the live industry grapples with the effects of COVID-19, the digital space continues to open to new possibilities. In terms of streaming Spotify recently shared its financial results for Q1 of 2020 had met or exceeded all major metrics, most notably with 22% growth in revenue year-over-year. 
Video games on the whole are one digital arena the music industry continues to make inroads into, the Astronomical concerts being the most obvious example. The recent partnership between gaming hardware powerhouse HyperX and Hit Command was forged with the intention of continuing to bridge the gap between music and games.
Hit Command, which cites bridging that gap as a core function of its existence, recently livestreamed Insomniac’s New Year’s Eve event Countdown on Twitch to more than 1 million unique viewers. During that event DJs from the music side would come down and play games on the livestream, interacting with the live and digital audience in multiple ways. For that event DJ Nitti Gritti debuted a track that was only available during the live stream. 
An earlier incarnation of the company was also helped deadmau5 participate in Twitch Prime Day in 2018 when the artist designed exclusive content for the game and released a track around the platform’s celebration. 
HyperX is a heavyweight itself in the gaming world through its long-standing sponsorships with orgs like Team Liquid, its support of major streamers like Pokimane, and its activations with artists like Post Malone and athletes like Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics and JuJu Smith Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers. 
The company is a division of Kingston Technology Corporation, a major hardware company, and today it produces quality hardware from headsets to keyboards to mousepads to microphones. 
“I think what Fortnite is doing right now – and what Travis Scott has done – is game changing,” Dan Kelley, Corporate Marketing Manager for HyperX, told Pollstar. “It’s a very exciting time for gaming to be such a medium for all these different experiences unlike anything we’ve seen before.”
“If you think about how gaming as a community continues to grow – the graphics will get better, broadband will get faster, and crossover will only become more common. There will be all kinds of new ways to introduce a new element of culture via gaming. I think Fortnite is the trailblazer here, as they’ve continuously been. Even though they didn’t invent the battle royale-style game, they put it on the map and now you see others following suit.”
Kelley could not disclose dollar figures being spent in the video games and esports spaces these days, but he shared that the number has “hockey stick-ed” upwards, incrementally growing year over year. 
What Kelley and Morris agreed on while discussing the business of music and videogames is that fans and artists connect through the medium when there is a real shared passion for games. If that passion translates into these unique activations and events, it is often well-received.  
“I think this partnership is striking at a really important time,” Stephanie Winkler of HyperX told Pollstar. “Right now, during this pandemic, people are looking for a connection to others, for some sense of unity. Massive Multiplayer Gaming games, FPS games, battle royale games are helping them to find that.”
“What we see with Travis Scott is that gaming can be a unifying force that transcends subgenres, and bringing together music and gaming can create something special.”