Gaming Industry Lessons for the Music Biz #1: Season Pass Subscriptions
Bas Grasmayer

Building Attention-Holding Habits — Gaming Industry Lessons for the Music Biz #2

The currency of the web is attention. Not because so much of the web is ad-funded, but because attention is its scarcest good and the first step towards monetization. In the networked age, the basis of success in music is the ability to grab people’s attention and hold it.

The digital masters of holding attention? Game designers, who tap into the most effective strategy for holding attention: building habits.


Many games have concepts of daily resetting quests that will reward the user for completing the quest every day. It may be as simple as just logging in, or it might give you a specific task. Fitness apps employ this concept, too. As does Seinfeld.

💡 If you run a service or have a fanbase, consider: with what frequency do you want people to engage with you? How do you get them to return to you with that frequency?

Progress and completion

Classic video games employ the concept of ‘levels’ to give people a sense of progress and completion. Nowadays, in the age of more open-ended games, completion is often indicated in absolute numbers (eg. quests completed) or percentages (eg. amount of world explored). We hate leaving things unfinished and game designers are not alone in knowing this. Companies like Facebook and LinkedIn are using completeness to encourage people to add more information or perform specific tasks.

You can combine completion with dailies, making it necessary to perform dailies in order to get to completion.

💡 Help fans visualize how much of your music collection they’ve already listened to, or bought. Adding a buy button to missing releases will drive sales. Imagine rewards for people with certain levels of completion. What can you do for people who’ve completed all dailies within a certain time period?

Expiring goods and content

Another easy way to get people to come back is by adding expiring content. This could come in the form of points or leaderboards that reset each week, certain virtual goods that can only be bought or won for a certain duration, or alternative rule sets that are only available for a limited time. This is an area the music business has traditionally been good at, from flash merch sales, to ‘early bird’ ticketing schemes. There’s a big difference though: in games, expiring goods exist to drive habit-forming behaviour, so that people get hooked. The way you need to think about it is as designing someone’s experience, rather than simple tricks to extract money from them.

Two music examples
Main Course, a label specialising in underground dance music, lets people download new releases for free from their Soundcloud within the first week of release. After that, you can only purchase them through stores like Beatport or you have to go through the inconvenience of piracy. Result: people will check their Soundcloud at least once a week.

Spotify has also managed to get people to shape habits around expiring content: the Spotify Weekly playlist of songs specially recommended for you. They see upticks in traffic on Monday, when it’s pushed to all users, and on Sunday when users save music they discovered to new playlists before the playlist expires.

💡 How can you excite your fans or users with expiring goods? How can you utilize expiring content to drive behaviours and relationships that last?


Play around and try new things. See what happens. If you get interesting results, get in touch and I’ll help you spread the word more widely.

Further reading:

Written for my weekly newsletter MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE. If you enjoyed reading this, please consider sharing and subscribing.

Follow on Twitter.
Follow on Facebook.

Hire me.