Gamification – The Music Industry, Fan Clubs & Thinking Like A Game Designer

image from www.google.com As the music industry embraces gaming, from licensing to games featuring musician, it's easy to think of games as simply offering new revenue streams and marketing tools. Given the explosion of games on the open web, on Facebook and on mobile platforms, more money is a comforting concept in an industry struggling to survive decreasing sales. But the game industry also offers new perspectives and the emergent concept of gamification provides the opportunity to reaccess business in a digital environment. 

Before you get turned off by yet another new term, consider that many in music have long applied aspects of gamification in such efforts as the fan club, both off and online. Gamification in its most obvious form involves "adding simple game mechanics like points, badges and leaderboards to websites and apps." But gamification is more a perspective than a checklist of things to add to one's site.

As Albin Serviant put it, "Today's fan wants more than just a track. They want a participative, personalised experience in a social environment." Serviant's examples of how such ideas translate to music, all inspired by specific developments in video gaming, don't require the creation of games but do require understanding the underlying dynamics of what makes games so satisfying.

Amy Jo Kim of Shuffle Brain recently provided a way to think beyond the obvious gamification moves with her presentation at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, Beyond Gamification: 7 Core Concepts to Create Compelling Products. In her presentation, viewable on YouTube or in slideshow form, Kim immediately jettisons the word gamification as a bit too trendy and confusing and then goes on to consider "game thinking", aka thinking like a game designer, and how that perspective might be applied to product development. Her presentation focused on the following concepts:

1. Know your players: design for their personal & social needs
2. Build fun/pleasure/satisfaction into your core activity loop
3. Design for 3 key stages of your player lifecycle
4. Build a system that's easy to learn and hard to master
5. Use game mechanics to "light the way" towards mastery
6. As players progress, increase the challenge & complexity
7. Embrace intrinsic motivators like power, autonomy & belonging

There's a lot here worth considering but if one focuses on the idea of designing for 3 key stages of player lifecycles, one can see that the old-fashioned fan club is a great example of this concept in action.

Kim labels the 3 stages as Novice, Regular and Enthusiast.

She states that the "Novice needs onboarding (welcome + goals + progress + achievable rewards)."

If we take the example of the fan club, we know that entry into a traditional fan club is typically quite easy. One signs up and is welcomed. The process is straightforward and simply requires one to identify themselves as a fan.

"Regulars need fresh content/activities/challenges."

Fan clubs communicate regularly with their members sending out news, purchasing opportunities and requests for action. Clear requests and rewards help Novices become Regulars and keep Regulars interested.

"Enthusiasts need exclusivity, recognition, impact."

Hardcore Enthusiasts can work their way to positions of honor or even start their own chapters of fan clubs. Leadership is rewarded through public acknowledgement and special rewards such as a backstage visit with the artist.

Though Amy Jo Kim speaks of going beyond gamification, a survey of current thinking reveals that what she describes is exactly the kind of thinking that leading practitioners would consider a form of gamification.

So when one steps back and considers ways in which gamification concepts have already been successfully applied in the music industry, it leads to a couple of obvious conclusions:

A) There's no need to be intimidated by new terms and seemingly new ideas. We don't have to get stuck in the belief that just because something's old that it can't be part of the brave new digital world. Fan clubs are a great example of a solid idea that translates quite well to a digital environment.

B) The emergent digital environment which is decimating so many of the old ways of doing things actually enables the things we do that align with such concepts as gamification. Fan clubs are a lot easier to create now because they don't have to rely on local chapters. A lone fan can now be part of a geographically dispersed group who share a focus on a particular artist.

See? You were already practicing gamification before the word even existed.

Hypebot contributor Clyde Smith is a freelance writer and blogger whose current projects include Weekly Hip Hop Albums and All World Dance.

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