Will Theakston, Warp

Will Theakston, Warp’s head of licensing, on the blossoming relationship between the music and gaming worlds, and where the opportunities are for switched on publishers and composers…

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 26 Sep 2016
  • min read
There’s little doubt that, in 2016, the gaming industry is a cultural and commercial behemoth – taking over music in terms of coinage, perhaps even clout.

The British gaming trade body UKIE recently forecast global revenues will lift from a healthy $91.8bn in 2015 to $118.6bn in 2019. By comparison, the global recorded music industry was sized at $15bn in 2014 by international record music body IFPI.

With these enormous numbers sloshing around, it’s no wonder composers, songwriters and their publishers have been eyeing the games business with increasing interest.

A publisher with perhaps one of the strongest links to this sector is Warp.

Earlier this year, five artists on the roster (Patten, Plaid, Darkstar, Autechre, Bibio) remixed Giorgio Moroder tracks from the TRON RUN/r soundtrack.

Elsewhere, Warp electronic heavyweight Flying Lotus composed tracks and curated a radio station in Grand Theft Auto V.

The publisher also licensed tracks from Mount Kimbie, Jackson & his Computerband, Aphex Twin and Chk Chk Chk into the game.

Here, we chat to Will Theakston, Warp’s head of licensing, to learn more about the blossoming relationship between the music and gaming worlds, and discover where the opportunities are for switched on publishers and composers…

How important is the gaming industry to Warp Records and Warp Publishing?
It's an area that we're very active in. A lot of our artists are both fans of videogames and have done a lot of work in games. Rustie is a great example, and we’ve worked closed with Rockstar Games on Grand Theft Auto V. That's probably one of the recent examples that comes up a lot – Flying Lotus wrote new music and had his own radio station within the game.

Another example that springs to mind was the TRON RUN/r game, where we had five artists working on remixes of Giorgio Moroder. It was an amazing project to work on as it was something much more than just licensing music. We really worked with these artists to come up with something new and interesting.

Why do you think the medium appeals to your artists and writers?
I guess a lot of them have grown up with videogames and are influenced by their soundtracks. They want to work in the field and it's a really fantastic arena to write new music, to create something compelling and to work outside of what they might normally be doing.

Warp has been actively working with games developers since the nineties – how have things changed since then?
It’s so much broader now. There are promotional campaigns around games trailers, there are a lot of music needs around any game that's being made.

It’s an increasingly creative area. We work hard to try to be completely up to speed with all the projects in development and production, so we can be in the conversation if there's something that might work for one of our artists.

Like any sync area, there's more content than ever. With videogames, you've got console games, you've got mobile games. The virtual reality side of things is really coming on now. There are more opportunities than ever to get music into projects and to work with songwriters and artists, to write scores for games and bespoke use.

I think it's an amazing place to be and there's no lack of opportunity to find placements, which for us is fantastic and for our artists. It's really important for us to be in the mix with everything that's going on and meet those needs.

Do you find games developers more open to different types of music than traditional media creators in TV and film?
There’s definitely a lot of ambition with videogames - but there is in film and TV as well. We’ve been fortunate enough to license music from a wide variety of artists into games. There are definitely Warp fans out there working at games companies! So, yes, I think across the board people are very ambitious with musical choices and that can only be a good thing.

How much do the gaming and music worlds influence each other?
In a big way. There’s a documentary called Diggin' In the Carts, which is about the composers working on videogames in Japan in the early days and how that music has influenced modern artists and writers.

I think you can definitely hear that influence in certain artists' music. And it’s had a huge impact on pop culture and music culture. I suppose the artists wanting to write scores or have their music used in videogames have seen that coming full circle. They are fans themselves. It's something that they want to be involved in.

Do you think the gaming and music industries are coming at it from completely different angles or do you think that there's a greater understanding these days than in the past?
In my experience, all the people that we work with in the games industry are huge music fans. They know it inside out. They have fantastic taste in music. I think they're often very sensitive to working with interesting artists and putting the artists first as well.

How important is the games sector to your overall publishing business?
It's very important. It offers a lot of value for us. There are so many opportunities to license our music and for our artists to work with scores. It’s a huge industry and it’s great that people playing games are engaging with our music. We want to be a part of it - so it's very important for us to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.