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

If you want to know the future of music, look at the gaming business. They got into the same mess at the same time, but have found incredible ways to deal with today’s networked reality. I’ll be exploring successful concepts from the gaming industry and explaining how they can be applied to music. Starting off with the Season Pass.

What’s a Season Pass in gaming?

By default, most gamers now play games from ‘connected devices’ meaning smartphones, PCs or consoles with an internet connection. This has made it easier, and more lucrative, for gaming companies to ship updates and expansions. During the game’s creation process, the companies around it will talk about what the game is going to include and what the ideas for future expansions are. These expansions are sold on a per-piece basis with varying prices although they mostly fall in the $10-40 range.

A Season Pass will get you all of the expansions for a fixed price. Pre-ordering the game, prior to release, might get you a Season Pass included in the standard price of the game. Buying a Season Pass before the first expansion comes out might only cost $20, whereas the planned expansions will total $80. Buying a Season Pass later will cost you $40, etc. Prices here are made-up, but have a look at the Steam store if you want to get a sense of price points. Notable examples of games using this strategy are Fallout 4 and the Call of Duty series.

How can a Season Pass be applied to music?

Game studios realize that games are never finished. For one, they may contain bugs, however they’ve also realized that selling expansions to a popular game is more lucrative than creating a completely new game.

I am not sure if he’s the first to do so, but Kanye has adopted a similar strategy with his newest album. Kanye’s label, Def Jam:

An innovative, continuous process, the album will be a living, evolving art project.

Works of music or art no longer need to be static or finished, they may be updated and expanded. This creates new opportunities for a lot of players in the digital ecosystem.

Music streaming services
Let’s look at some of the potential models. You can have all the music you want, ad-supported, or for a premium, but if you want to access the latest updates to releases you should:

  • Buy a Season Pass on a per-release basis
  • Buy a Season Pass on an per-artist basis (this probably ties in best with the current ‘follow’ functionality on Spotify, Apple Music / Connect and other services)
  • Buy a Season Pass on a per-label basis (probably too abstract for most music consumers)
  • Buy a global Season Pass at an extra premium, allowing you to access all updated releases

Direct-to-fan
More interesting are the opportunities this gives artists to directly connect with and monetize their audience. You could release an album inside your own artist / fan club app and then:

  • Make it free for all fans
  • Let fans buy a Season Pass to be able to hear updates or expansions
  • Free Season Pass included for those who buy physical copies, like vinyl, or merch
  • Let the top fans hear new versions for free, or ahead of the official updates
  • Give Season Pass holders discounts on merch
  • Involve Season Pass holders in the creation process — perhaps give them ways to influence your decision-making

The list could go on and on.

I’m very eager to see responses to this article. Let’s see you come up with some cool examples of applying the Season Pass to the music business!

Continue the brainstorm! I’ll be featuring the best responses in Monday’s MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE mailing.


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