Marketing or promoting a project is difficult for anyone working creatively, including musicians and bands. With the power of social media within the digital age we’re living in, the floodgates are open for anyone to put their music out there. In the sea of artists vying for attention, how do you stand out from the crowd and get noticed? For UK-based metal band Schemata Theory, they utilised the community of a hit VR game.

To help promote the release of their single New Vision, and in affect the upcoming full album Unity in Time, Schemata Theory adapted the track into a custom map for the musical, lightsaber-swinging game Beat Saber. It’s been downloaded by hundreds of players from across the globe and even streamed by some of the top Beat Saber players in the world. Myles Dyer, one of two vocalists in the band, was the driving force behind the idea, using his knowledge as a Digital Content Strategist and passion as a VR gamer.

I sat down with Myles to talk about how the idea materialised, the response from the Beat Saber community and whether there is a future for music promotion through gaming.

Where did the idea of promoting your new single through Beat Saber come from, and how did the project initially get off the ground?

I always irritate the rest of the band with my wacky ideas. I think Luke used to call me ‘Captain Social Media’, just because that was my background in the work that I do. I’ve worked as a digital content strategist for about 15 years. But I’m also, like a lot of the band, a huge gamer. I’m personally a huge VR gamer.

The dream is when you do music, is to get onto a computer game. We think of like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. That was such a mind-blowing time because you had actual tracks. There’s been a lot of articles written about how bands like The Offspring and Papa Roach, they got their music into every teenager’s bedroom across America and then across the world. You see it a bit more softly done now with FIFA games every year. But if you’re on a main menu, and it’s getting repeated, you’re getting put into people’s heads. It’s a much more immersive way of media. It was an idea I’ve had for many, many years and it was going to have to be when the time was right. So when we were putting together this album, the song New Vision was the one we did this idea for. The song has fast bits, slow bits. It’s relentless. I thought, as a Beat Saber player, I could really imagine it.

What was the most challenging aspect of turning the track into a Beat Saber map?

I think it was just that I’m not a custom Beat Saber mapper. I was saying, “So how does it work? Do people have to download a file and then put it in?” I didn’t realise there was a website where you type in the code, and then it automatically downloads it onto their VR screens, so they can literally take requests, and it’s added to the timeline. So for me the tricky bit was just understanding how it works. But the mapper (modder that_narwhal) was just absolutely amazing. He really walked us through it and was really, really helpful. I think he was also surprised how well it did. Because for him, it was just a commission. But for us, it was like, “No, it was actually something very intrinsic to the album.” So something I’m now doing is editing together players from around the world slicing to the song and making a new music video with it. It’s just going to be another example of what unity is and the power of the internet and virtual reality, and obviously the foreseeable future with the metaverse.

You can see how many people have downloaded it and you’ve had over 250 people worldwide download your track across Hard, Expert, Expert+.

And that’s just the people that have rated it and added their rankings, which is phenomenal. I’d like to think that everyone who had played it had rated it but yeah, it’s mind-blowing. It means they’ve played to the end, and they’ve said, “That’s a score.” I’ve seen some streamers get to the end and say, “Actually, I’ll come back to that later,” or they didn’t really dig it and that was fine. I have no qualms, it’s not for everyone’s taste. But with our music appealing to a lot of non-metal fans, I think this pushed that further as well. When streamers realised that I was in the band, they were like, “Wow, what, this is you?!” and it was just a great conversation and a great way to connect.

Was there a particular moment in a stream that really stood out to you?

Well, there was two. There was one where a guy was playing as Master Chief from Halo and he got to the end, and it’s like the end break down, and then there’s a tunnel where you don’t play and he’s literally like leant over. “Fucking God, like this is so…” and then he plays the end bit, and he was like, “That was brutal.” You see his heart rate on it and like that was another thing that I was worried about is, if this song kills anyone playing Beat Saber, this is not going to be good publicity for the band… But he got to the end, he was like, “I’m going to do it again.”

But the other one was one of the best players in the world, millions of subscribers. I went into his room not knowing who he was. I was just searching Twitch streamers who were playing Beat Saber at the time and requested the track. He played it, and he was playing another song. And then in the chat, I say, “Hope you don’t mind me requesting my own band’s track. We just got it commissioned. Hope you like it.” He stops the track, whatever he was playing, loads our track up, he plays it, 100% perfection. Not one mistake, he gets the end. And he goes, “Those bombs were scary.” And then he goes on to the next track. He got the top ranking at the time, I think. And it was just like the effortlessness of it put a shiver down my spine as a fellow Beat Saber player.

Talking thematically with the album, it’s very much about this connectivity but you explore themes of technology as well. Did that have any kind of influence on this particular promotional campaign with the track and the album?

When the music was done, we started talking as a band of, “How are we going to put ourselves out there?” You have to have conversations about, “What is our tribe? How are people represented?” Our opening main track, the song is called Voices. It’s about how we all have a voice, and we can use it for good and for bad. But we want to be non-hierarchical in the sense of everyone has a voice, take what you want from this and run with it. That’s always been at the heart of my activism.

But Beat Saber has always been at the back of my mind. A dream is Beat Saber creates the Schemata Theory DLC. A realistic dream I do have is they have like the Other or Extras playlist on Beat Saber, which is like individual tracks. I would love it if Beat Saber said, “Actually, the thing you’ve done, Schemata Theory, is amazing. Could we actually use this track in that Extras playlist?” That is a dream and a realistic one I have, but we just have to wait and see.

The response has been absolutely incredible for the track. But what has it actually done for the band as a whole?

It’s built our confidence as a band and makes us want to look further down the path with this idea. I still speak with a lot of people in the community, a lot of them still engage with our content. The more support they’ve given this the more of a case it is for us to do it again because we have a limited budget. We have to decide where we’re going to spend it. Is it on merchandise, is it on touring? Is it on paid promotion on our content? Or is it commissioning Beat Saber tracks?

But actually, I think it’s been one of the best bang for bucks because of the way that it’s had such organic appeal. As a digital strategist, for years I’ve always talked about the best kind of marketing isn’t just taking a bit of content and putting pay behind it, it is creating stuff that is organically shareable and stuff that people will get enthusiastic for. Because you want people to see content, get enthusiastic, and then become ambassadors.

Between your Beat Saber collaboration and indie band OFK’s biopic video game coming soon, do you think there’s a future where more artists and bands utilise the interactivity of gaming to promote their music?

Yeah, absolutely. I just think the democratisation of gaming is just really powerful. Like when we think of games like Dreams by Media Molecule. I mean, that’s basically Pro Tools, their own music creator. You’ve obviously got stuff like No Man’s Sky, and all these open worlds where people have been very, very creative.

People want connection, people want to exchange things. If you can make a living out of it, obviously, that’s the dream. But I do think that… Something I’ve said for a very long time, and it has upset a few of my musician friends, is “You have to stop your business model where music is what makes the money.” You need to have revenue streams that come from things that you can’t pirate, which is live experiences, it’s merchandise, it’s things like that. Music, just get it out there. Just share it with the world because then when people like it, they’ll become ambassadors, and that’s what’s happening with the Beat Saber stuff. There’s no sinister tone to it. We did it from a place of love, because we are gamers. We know how awesome gamers are, how awesome Beat Saber is. And having done it and seen it work, that’s not us going, “Oh, there’s a money opportunity here.” It really is, “This is an amazing community and we want to be a part of it.” If they’re asking for us to do it with more of our songs, then why the hell not?

It’s a really exciting time in terms of the creative mediums and the democratisation of it, free technology. Because there are an increasingly number of games where it allows people to create their own worlds. They’re going to want music, they want things to bring it to life. Music has had a long standing history… music has always been an important part of gaming. And I think even though it’s more saturated now, it’s still as important as ever.

Unity in Time releases on February 25. You can download the custom Beat Saber map for New Vision here.

By Gavin Spoors

Gavin is a Freelance Writer, budding Screenwriter and Narrative Designer, and Gaming Editor for Filmhounds. He's particularly interested in story and narrative design, be it for a film, TV series or a game. His written work can be found at outlets such as Flip Screen, New Game+ and JumpCut PLAY.