Roblox’s head of music partnerships, Karibi Dagogo-Jack, has outlined the platform’s potential to break artists and songs.
In recent years, Roblox has become a key destination for artists entering the metaverse, with high-profile avatar performances by David Guetta, Bebe Rexha and Lil Nas X.
Just over a year on from his appointment, LA-based Dagogo-Jack has spoken to Music Week about Roblox’s strategy for music and its industry relationships, including licensing arrangements.
“We encourage everyone to think about Roblox as a space where they can connect directly to their fans,” said the former Spotify exec. “Sixty-six million people come to Roblox every day, they spend almost two-and-a-half hours on Roblox – it’s a really deeply engaged space.”
Given the reach of the gaming platform, Dagogo-Jack is confident that it will become a launchpad for new music.
“We’re seeing labels thinking about how they can use Roblox to break songs,” he said. “I’m expecting that, in the very near future, we’ll see a song or artist generate their initial flight trajectory from Roblox.
“We are very invested in that becoming a reality. We’re seeing more forward thinking and more innovative experiments around that work.”
Although it has formed long-term partnerships with major labels and BMG, Roblox has previously run into legal issues. In 2021, it settled a copyright infringement lawsuit with the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA).
The developer has struck some deals for comprehensive music licensing for its audio library for game creators, including EDM label Monstercat. It also has agreements with some performance rights organisations.
On the whole, though, Roblox continues to license music directly based on specific activations.
“It’s still dependent on the artist and label, we ask them to clear anything they want to bring on to the platform,” said Dagogo-Jack.
“It can be a bit of a hurdle,” he added. “We’ve seen that the master [recording owner] and publisher can be at odds sometimes about how they want music to proliferate.
“It does sometimes create a bit of friction between the record label and publisher. But we’ve had so many music activations over the course of my time at the company, so it’s not insurmountable.”
Prior to leaving his role as Spotify head of music business development, Dagogo-Jack was closely involved in the roll-out of Spotify Island. It was the first interactive presence on Roblox by a DSP brand and has since had 34m visits.
“Spotify keeps a close eye on where audiences are shifting,” said Dagogo-Jack. “They were noticing more and more that Gen Z audiences are spending time on these really deep, rich engagement platforms, whether that’s TikTok, Roblox or gaming in general.”
In the near future, we’ll see a song or artist generate their initial flight trajectory from Roblox
Alongside avatar performances, activations include listening and watch parties, as well as permanent social hubs.
The platform is now drawing more established acts with the aim of introducing their catalogue to a new generation, including Metallica, Mariah Carey and Imagine Dragons, who launched the first ever documentary watch party on Roblox.
Working with UMG, Rocket Entertainment and community creators, Elton John also established an ambitious artist experience.
“Music discovery is one of the biggest benefits and attributes of Roblox as a platform,” said Dagogo-Jack. “You’re dealing with Gen Z fans, and I try to tell record labels, artists and music brands to think about this as a lifetime value play. Very often the fans that you make between the ages of 13 to 25 end up being eternal artists attachments.
“Music discovery is about the brand new artists but it can also be an artist that is brand new to you. So for a 13-year-old, Elton John and his sterling catalogue is music discovery.”
To mark his farewell tour, Elton John Presents: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road featured a virtual Roblox performance. In total, there have been more than 2.5m visitors to the interactive hub, which includes a digital fashion collection with virtual merchandise.
“There were Roblox avatars on stage and the merch created was really cool – a lot of the animations and emotes were some of the best sellers [in the Avatar Shop],” added Dagogo-Jack. “It was a very thoughtful, well-developed experience.”
The latest hub to launch is Blackpink The Palace, which allows fans to socialise, access exclusive content, visit spaces inspired by music video scenes, and try out digital outfits and choreography.
It follows K-pop act Twice’s Roblox activation, which had more than 53m visitors – the platform’s biggest music brand experience.
“K-pop is such an interesting amalgam of fandom and music, it feels like that’s a sweet spot for Roblox,” said Dagogo-Jack.
Labels are now staffing up with team members who can oversee artist experiences on the platform.
“Major labels, more and more, are having Roblox experts or teams emerge in their digital marketing departments, who we speak to every day,” said Dagogo-Jack.
The music industry focus for the company is now driving discovery and fandom for artists and labels at all levels.
“We started off with these huge concerts, that’s how we made a splash,” he said. “[But] those are multi-month experiences and relatively higher cost than some of the other things that you can do.
“There’s a much lower cost for creating individual merch and putting that into our avatar marketplace. Avatar items are one of the number one ways for people to express themselves on Roblox.”
While high-profile avatar performances remain a key element of their industry engagement, Dagogo-Jack suggested that other event types and new approaches are potentially “more innovative and more exciting to labels and artists”.
As Roblox evolves with new opportunities for music, he is confident that more artists will establish permanent social hubs to build connections and increase engagement with fans.
“Roblox is built on community and connection,” he told Music Week. “People think of us as a gaming platform, whereas I think of us as a next-generation social medium.
“It is just a natural environment for that fandom and those connections to happen.”