“It’s almost like the gold rush in Alaska – grab a shovel and start digging”
Once he was one of the best World of Warcraft players of the world. Today Gustav Käll from Sweden is responsible for the strategic approach on games and eSports of the world’s biggest music label.
Hej Gustav, what exactly is your job at Universal Music Sweden?
Gustav Käll My operating title is Global Head of Partnerships Gaming. That means I develop Universal Music Groups’s overall strategy and execution in the mission to get UMG closer to the gaming and eSports industry.
What makes you the right man for this?
I have a long history with gaming and eSports, all the way back since ’99. But today my passion is to develop the eSports and gaming market. It all started after my professional career ended in 2008. Back then we were the world’s most successful World of Warcraft guild in the history of the game called “Nihilum”. We had big name sponsors on our jerseys and our website. But essentially we got paid in hardware, mice and keyboards. This is how the market worked back then. After I stopped playing I decided to dedicate my life to create a better industry and work to make eSports the greatest sporting industry in the world. And right now is the perfect time for the music industry to forge with eSports and gaming. The timing is perfect and values can be created both ways. It’s meant to be and I’m glad Universal Music Group is taking this step with me.
Why are games and gamers – out of the blue – so interesting for the music industry?
It’s a matter of reach and homogeneity of the target group and that eSports and gaming bring something new to the table, in contrast to other ”old” industries. The fact that eSports and gaming are all digital and the music industry has been in a digital revolution the past 10 years makes it a perfect match.
What development can we expect in the next three years?
There will be more mainstream and outside industries trying to move into the market. Now we see major investments being made around the globe from essentially everyone. VC-firms, mainstream media and”regular sports” team owners buying slots in the Overwatch league for 20$ million dollars. Amazon buying Twitch a couple of years ago. It’s almost like the gold rush in Alaska, grab a shovel and start digging.
Despite its relatively low number of citizens, Sweden is famous not only for its music, but also for its games. A reason why this job was heaven made for a Swede?
I get this question a lot – I believe there are a few key factors. First we have a long winter, almost 10 months long of complete darkness and cold weather. It’s nice to stay indoors and play games. Then there’s broadband penetration. Sweden has the best broadband capacity in the world. You can get 10gb/s line into your house for a very cheap buck. Another thing: computer penetration. Back in the 90’s the government enforced a bill, where all households got a home computer, sanctioned by the state. So basically everyone has had access to computers since early age. And last but not least…there’s magic in the water.
What kind of music is it that „gamers“ prefer, and what kind of artists will become big because of their preferences?
I think gamers listen to all types of music, the target group is so big and diverse, over a billion people play games on a regular basis around the world. But my gut feeling says that electronic music is more common than, let’s say rock music. But I’ve seen for example Metallica, headlining a Major CS:GO event earlier this year. So I think all music is appreciated.
This interview was first published in the BerlinBalticNordic.net newsletter