Weezer debuts new Black Album on Fortnite
Image: YouTube Weezer

For contemporary musical acts, promoting new work within today’s stratified and digitized marketplace is a challenge. With so many different platforms available and so many artists vying for attention, it can be difficult for even established artists to cut through all the noise. However, alt-rock band Weezer found a clever way to connect with the masses; the group teamed with the makers of “Fortnite” to preview its new album.

On Feb. 28, Epic Games released the eighth season of its hugely successful Battle Royale game “Fortnite.” In addition to a slew of new pirate-themed skins and tools, the update also introduced a new map called Weezer World. The new zone features a skate park, a few indoor maze races and several songs from Weezer’s latest self-titled record, also known as the “Black Album,” which was released on March 1.

Fortnite’s Burgeoning Interest in the Music Industry

As videogame and EDM fans know, creating a Weezer-themed island isn’t Epic’s first foray into the music world. Last month, “Fortnite” hosted a special concert by superstar music producer Marshmello. The 10-minute event drew an audience of players that is estimated to be within the millions.

On the surface, collaborating with an aging rock act seems like an odd follow up to staging a concert with an electronic artist who has only been active since 2015.

But the team up actually makes sense given Weezer’s connection to Internet culture. In 2008, the band released a music video for its track “Pork and Beans” that featured a slew of viral video stars. And the group’s 2019 12th studio album, a self-titled release called the “Teal Album,” was made up entirely of meme-worthy cover songs.

If the “Black Album” receives a sales bump from its “Fortnite” exposure, this might be the start of a new trend. It’s easy to imagine the likes of gamer-friendly acts like Imagine Dragons or Logic establishing their own branded islands. And putting on virtual concerts that pull in massive audiences without the overhead costs associated with real-life shows might also be appealing.

Turning “Fortnite” Into a Music Platform is Smart Business

Working with big-name musicians isn’t just a fun brand building exercise for Epic. Though it once dominated the battle royale genre, “Fortnite’s” position was recently challenged by EA’s “Apex Legends.” In less than two weeks, “Apex” racked up 25 million registered users. As such, it’s already shattered “Fortnite’s” sign up record.

To its credit, Epic has not taken EA’s encroachment into its territory lightly. It’s been reported that the company is plotting to give “Fortnite” a respawn mechanic, a key feature that helped “Apex Legends’’ set itself apart from the competition. But while being responsive to popular trends is a good way to stay relevant, it’s not enough to make any company a market leader.

However, Epic’s partnerships with big-name musicians might be the difference maker the company needs. If it can popularize virtual live music experiences, its competitors might be forced to follow its lead. Plus, in light of recent events, it’s probably good for the company to work with, rather than against, the musicians whose work inspires the latest viral dance crazes.

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