How the ‘FIFA’ video game franchise became one of music’s most sought-after syncs

After Small pools“Dreaming” appeared in FIFA 14 football video game, singer Sean Scanlon noticed something had changed: his Los Angeles electro-pop band started booking more college gigs. The fans also reacted differently. “We’d come to the sound check and we’d have students who didn’t even know what our band was called saying ‘Yo, FIFA is here!'” says Scanlon. “We’d be branded with it. It was huge for popularity on the younger front.”

As the FIFA World Cup opens on Sunday (November 21) in Qatar, the 29-year-old video game franchise based on the international sport, which allows Playstation and Xbox users and others to simulate tens of thousands of real-life soccer stars, maintains its global popularity. The 2023 version is at No. 8 on The NPD Group’s list of the year’s global bestsellersand FIFA the series has collectively achieved 325 million sales according to Electronic Arts. This sales force has been a unique opportunity to break songs for artists going way back FIFA: The Road to World Cup 98which has a license Veil‘s courting “Song 2.”

Over the years, the game has used music syncs from Kasabian (whose “LSF” appeared in the 2004 game, the first of many for the band) to Billie Eilish (“you should see me in a crown” was included FIFA 19) that Glass animal (if “Heat Waves” were in the 2021 game, hit then Billboard‘s Hot 100, where it rose to No. 1 in March). “You see a noticeable increase in flows,” he says Adam Fairesleader of the British electronic music duo Junglewhose “Busy Earnin'” featured FIFA 15 and has since been streamed nearly 120 million times on Spotify and has 30 million YouTube plays. “You can almost pinpoint it to the exact moment the game comes out.”

The game provides different appearances for syncs – some artists hit the soundtrack, appear prominently throughout the game, some are in marketing trailers, and certain stars, such as Jack Harlow and Rosalia, design custom uniforms as kits to be unlocked during the game. “It’s a bit ahead of the curve. They’ve done a fantastic job of cracking artists over the years,” he says David NiemannInterscope Geffen A&M Records’ senior vice president of sports and gaming, which has placed Tierra Whack, Louis the child and other synchronizations FIFA. “We see more followers, we see more streams, then we see other people wanting to license that song afterwards FIFA taking that risk.”

Gaming giant EA Sports launched FIFA in 1993 as an international counterpart to its US-focused Madden NFL franchise, but the football game didn’t become a song-breaking game until the early 2000s. That was then Steve Schnur, an early MTV programmer who had been a promotion, marketing and A&R executive for Elektra and other labels, took over the music. Schnur’s vision was to turn FIFA into its own music company, scouting and breaking new numbers.

“The producer at the time wanted to record a symphony to make an orchestral score,” Schnur recalls. He had bigger visions. He instructed EA’s music staff: “We’re going to do real estate FIFA really important property where people discover their next favorite band without global barriers.” After that, FIFA soundtracks extended, breaking tracks by artists old and new, including Ms. Dynamite, Avril LavigneDandy Warhols, Junior Senior and even Radiohead.

“All the artists got it,” says Schnur, Electronic Arts’ worldwide director and president of music. “They knew that not only were they playing games, but their audience was playing games.” Artists participated in FIFA often expanded their touring business, reaching “a large part of the world that potentially terrestrial radio and streaming services don’t have the same impact,” says A/J Jackson, frontman for the pop-rock band Saint Motelwhich landed “My Type” in FIFA 15. “We noticed in our shows, especially in the UK, that we got football fans and hooligans jumping around and chanting their team name. It exposed us to a lot of new people.”

That FIFA game sound, as defined by Schnur and Electronic Arts’ music guides such as Cybele Pettushas a “special mix of that DNA,” including world, electronic, hip-hop and pop, he says Jonathan Palmer, BMG’s US Senior Vice President of Creative Sync, who has placed many tracks in the game over the years. Looking at artists on this year’s soundtrack, i.a Yes Yes YesBig Big Big, Black tank and Danger mousehe adds, “It’s a great day at Lollapalooza.”

When Palmer worked on synchs for Columbia ten years ago, he placed Promote the People‘Call It What You Want’ in FIFA, which helped extend the band’s run after “Pumped Up Kicks”. “This just felt like a good fit – not only for the tone and style of the music, but also for the fact that they’re massive football fanatics. It made cultural sense,” he says. “People would show up to shows and say to the band, ‘ I heard your song in the game’. This made a difference.”

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