Drai's Las Vegas vice president of sales and hospitality Philip Loomis tells Billboard that he connected with XSET chief merchandising and licensing officer Wil Eddins after participating in a virtual panel together and recognizing "the synergy that already exists between our two spaces," Loomis says. "We view nightlife and gaming as cultural hubs that not only touch fashion, art and entertainment, but are often at the forefront of what's next."
Eddins agrees, adding that hip-hop in particular has had ties to gaming for years. "It’s artists on the tour bus, green rooms, playing NBA 2K, Madden and Call of Duty," he says. "XSET is highlighting it and actually involving the personalities in hip-hop culture to be the front-facing personalities to gaming and esports." The collaboration was "like bringing all the tables at the school lunchroom together," adds XSET chief business development officer Clinton Sparks. "Everyone starts to recognize that we have similar desires and dreams and can work together to do dope shit."
Founded in July 2020 by a group of former executives at esports organization FaZe Clan, XSET aims to disrupt the esports and gaming industry by making it more diverse, inclusive and interwoven with pop culture. The Boston-based company has forged a path in the music industry, so far securing investments from and partnerships with Swae Lee, Ozuna and Lil Baby's label Quality Control Music.
XSET CEO Greg Selkoe says that the collaborative live performances at Drai's will begin with Rae Sremmurd, and that XSET is in "active discussions" with Ozuna and Quality Control to see what they can bring to the residency. The partnership also includes a collaborative merchandise line, sold on-premises and online, and fan fly-aways and VIP entrance prizes to Drai's for XSET contest winners.
Drai's currently requires patrons to wear a mask inside the venue, regardless of vaccination status, according to a spokesperson. Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, is deemed a high transmission area for COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reporting 712 cases per day according to the New York Times, about the same as the average two weeks ago.
The music and gaming industries have increasingly converged over the past two years, with games and platforms like Fortnite and Roblox drawing millions of fans to virtual, in-game performances. As the world begins to reopen, the now-entwined music and gaming industries will likely look to in-person activations as a next step. Sparks says that XSET has other in-person experiences in the works, from an activation at Ozuna's upcoming Ozuna Fest in The Bahamas in December to charitable campaigns, health and wellness retreats and tournaments.
"This partnership is just the beginning of XSET’s plans to completely build a global understanding of what gaming culture can be," he says.