For over a decade, the music of EA Games has been directed by a tight-knit team of three music execs: Steve Schnur, Cybele Pettus, and Raphaella Lima. Together, they have transformed EA into a massive platform for music discovery and experiential gaming. Franchises like Need For Speed, FIFA, NBA Live, and more all feature music in ways few other games do. Consumers have come to anticipate carefully curated soundtracks for titles such as these, and even artists look to the games as a powerful means of reaching new audiences.
A key component of Raphi Lima’s job is to build global music partnerships and marketing opportunities for EA’s games, a revolutionary role that demonstrates how far music in video games has come over the years.
Raphi recently spoke with Music Dealers in an exclusive interview on global music partnerships and marketing at EA, an edited portion of which is provided here to share Raphi’s detailed insight on the marketing power of music in video games.
Music Dealers: Could you discuss your current position at EA?
Raphi Lima: I started as [Steve Schnur’s] assistant, but I was already doing [music supervision] prior to being here. I remember one day the guys were wrapping up FIFA 2003 at the time I started, and I was looking at the list. It was all British bands, and I was like, “Man, this is these people’s idea of soccer and football music. This is crazy!” So I made a little mixtape and I brought it in. I had shit from Brazil, Japan, Colombia, and I was like, “This is what football sounds like around the world. This is the sound of football.” They looked at that and they were like, “OK, cool.” And six months down the road, a few of those bands broke really big. One out of Japan, the Brazilian one was in an American movie all of a sudden, and they were like, “OK, there’s something here.” So, I ended up getting my chance at supervising my very first game, which was FIFA 2004, the year after.
MD: What impact do video games have on the music industry?
Raphi: When I look at the music space, we used to go and educate these people on what we can do for them. Now, every major label, major publisher, major artist management, and everybody in between comes to us early on and we’re a part of that marketing plan and we’re a part of the launch plan. We’ve become really ingrained as one of those tools for an artist to get into a certain market and roll out new music and break into new audiences.
MD: How are you looking at music as a marketing vehicle for video games?
RL: I think that music allows you to have a personal connection with the consumers that you will not always get through other marketing avenues. In that way, you are enhancing that entertainment experience there, while you are also using music to further your relevance in that cultural space. […] You really use music in that sense to create the identity [of a video game], and you’re also using music to then get to a consumer that you might not have yet and you know that music is the way to get to their heart.
MD: A lot of times we see the music for commercials handled very separately from the game’s music team. How is working on the music for a commercial for a game similar and different than working on the music for the game itself?
RL: Completely different. When it comes to the in-game music, the supervisor will have so much control, so you’re able to keep so much more of that creative integrity in there. You work with a point person or two on the development side of things and it’s very connected. The focus there is to really come up with, depending on the title you’re working with, a soundtrack that’s going to build the story that you want to tell, or trigger the emotions that you’re trying to get across. I think from the creative standpoint it’s a much more rewarding process in a way, just because there’s so much more of you that I feel goes into the final product.
When you’re working with marketing and advertising, there’s just so many variables. […] These past three years, since I’ve moved from being an in-game music supervisor and now really focus on these global music partnership and marketing opportunities, I try to find how I can influence what the agencies are feeling and how that correlates back to what we’re doing with the actual in-game part of it.
MD: There always seems to be a balance between what’s best for the marketing and what’s best for the content. How you do you see getting the best of both worlds? Really maximizing the reach and power of that song, but then also really supporting the content with the music that you need?
RL: Right. I think in order for you to be successful, I think the music needs to fit and needs to be good in the first place. I do not believe in putting something in there just because the artist is big or because there’s a big reach or if the reasons are not taken into consideration what the piece really needs to elevate it and bring it to the next level. So I’m a believer that the music needs to come first; but, if you were working on a spot that is going to be global and you’re trying to get across a certain demo or communicate a certain message, that’s when you need to take those variables into consideration to then deliver something that is across everybody’s needs.
So you need to address the integrity of what that product is, and find the music that is going to deliver that next level for you; but you are looking to find something that will ideally fit those marketing needs, i.e., if they’re looking to find something that’s going to spread and help bring views to something.
MD: “Global music partnerships and marketing” seems to be at the intersection of so many facets of the industry. How did that position came about?
RL: As we evolved here and we started to get feedback from artists and partners directly, as to the impact that those placements were having in those artists’ career, we started to realize that we just weren’t having the time to connect the dots from when you were placing the tracks in the game to when you were having to move on and program the next game. Also when we started here, we were doing sixty titles a year, whether that was original songs or licensing, and it was just a lot of work. So, over the years, EA has focused on bigger and better titles; so we’re no longer putting out sixty titles a year. Maybe we’re working out fifteen or twenty titles that really need to have that music assistance, and more of a deeper integration there.
So, with that, I think we really saw an opportunity to look at having one person dedicated to bringing that music in-game, and then having a person to look at what that person is doing in-game and how they can build on top of that and do more than just that in-game placement, and also go around and figure out what those marketing needs are, what are the retail needs, what are all of those things cross-functionally that tap into music, and go deliver. So, it just really made a lot of sense and it’s been good. It’s been three years, it’s in transition, we’re still growing in that space, but this is an exciting year.
[We’re] bringing music back to Madden in the way that we used to do three years ago, and have an opportunity to partner with Live Nation to [give] $15 towards concert cash or merchandising under Live Nation World if you [pre-order] Madden at GameStop, and now we have our Spotify channel and we’re going to have 22 weeks of weekly curation of playlists that will be attached to teams or athletes to really push out new music to Madden audiences that we really didn’t have a chance to cover in-game[.] […] So, [working in global music partnerships and marketing] just really allows us to create more. At first, I would finish FIFA and I would move on to programming the next title; I couldn’t think about what I could do with those artists now with this FIFA. Now I can go in and do content with these guys.[…] It really allowed us to be more thorough with the work that we were doing and, in a way, now provide the music industry with even more opportunities with the music that we do here.
We can’t thank Raphi Lima enough for taking the time to speak with us. The innovations of the music team at EA have galvanized the industry of music in video games and helped build an era of creative partnerships between games and artists. We were so impressed by Raphi’s insight, we researched a bit further to explore the cultural domination of EA Sports through gaming and music. Peep our infographic below to discover how music helped transform these video game franchises into longstanding legacies. Keep up with the music of EA games through the EA Sports Madden NFL Spotify account, which features playlists like “EA TRAX: History of Madden”spotify:user:maddennfl_easports:playlist:3xrKpaj6zHhgcSA49cruXy.
By: Zach Miller, Music Dealers