Business

Sony and Roblox Strike Strategic Partnership to Bring More Artists Into Games

lil nas x, roblox
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LIL NAS X ROBLOX CONCERT

An ongoing music copyright infringement lawsuit isn't stopping gaming platform Roblox from solidifying its partnership with the second-biggest recording company in the business. Today (July 6), Roblox and Sony Music Entertainment announced a strategic partnership to bring more Sony artists into the Roblox universe, after collaborating on several in-game events with artists like Lil Nas X and Zara Larsson.

The two companies will work together to develop more music experiences for Roblox's 42 million active daily users, including concerts, release parties and the creation of in-game artist worlds. Sony gets to reach new audiences and generate new revenue streams (such as peddling virtual merchandise for players' avatars), while Roblox gets to offer its players new ways to connect with some of the world's biggest superstars.

"With this new agreement, we look forward to expanding our successful partnership with the Roblox team to further unlock commercial opportunities at the intersection of music and gaming," Sony Music Entertainment president of global digital business and U.S. sales Dennis Kooker said. "Immersive online environments represent a meaningful opportunity for reaching a growing number of fans who want to use virtual communities to enjoy shared music experiences."

The music and gaming industries have increasingly converged over the past two years, and while Fortnite led the way with in-game performances by Travis Scott and Marshmello, Roblox -- where players don't just play games, but create their own -- has recently grown its profile as well.

Lil Nas X performed the first-ever live virtual concert in Roblox in December, where he debuted new track "Holiday," sold virtual merchandise like a cowboy hat and offered a behind-the-scenes interview, and Roblox says the experience drew 36 million visits. In May, Larsson drew 4 million visitors to the Roblox launch party for an expanded edition of her album Poster Girl, which was set in a virtual rendering of her Swedish lake house. A major selling point for these music-gaming partnerships is the "metaverse" -- the concept of a shared virtual space where people interact as avatars that has become the music industry's latest buzzword.

"[Sony Music] truly understand the massive opportunity that the metaverse presents for their artists and we are committed to helping them unlock new creative and commercial opportunities on Roblox," Roblox vice president and global head of music Jon Vlassopulos said. "We are just scratching the surface of what Roblox can deliver to the music industry and to music fans around the world."

The partnership news comes as Roblox continues to battle a $200 million copyright infringement lawsuit brought against it last month by the National Music Publisher's Association, which claims -- on behalf of leading publishers including Universal Music Group -- that Roblox is hosting a massive library of unlicensed music for players to incorporate into games. The music industry tends to pounce on emerging digital platforms (like Twitch and TikTok) for music licensing revenue as soon as those platforms grow to a certain scale, often putting the music industry in the odd position of partnering with those platforms in one respect, but fiercely negotiating with them in another. Roblox continues to rack up music industry support: Warner Music Group participated in Roblox's $520 million funding round in January and put on a Why Don't We Roblox launch party in March, while BMG reached a strategic agreement with Roblox last month.

Roblox continues to push its point in today's press release, which notes that Roblox "respects the rights of all creators and uses advanced technology to screen all uploaded music" for copyright infringement.