Each month, more than 120 million people sign onto Minecraft, an expansive, free-wheeling computer game that allows users to build and defend towns, communities, and inventions with digital bricks. Minecraft is also one of the most-vlogged-about games on YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook. (This user-generated video of gameplay, for example, has accumulated 25 million views in three weeks.) That immense popularity is one reason Disclosure decided to heighten anticipation around the release of their forthcoming album, Energy, through an in-game experience.
Guy and Howard Lawrence — the pair of British musicians and brothers who make up Disclosure — announced the Minecraft partnership early Tuesday morning, three days before the album’s drop. Their home label of Island Records U.K. spearheaded the initiative, but Capitol Records is responsible for the album’s release in the U.S. According to reps from Disclosure’s team, this is the largest musical activation to happen within Minecraft yet. It’s also way more work than hosting a one-off virtual concert or festival.
“Nature and the patterns within it have hugely influenced us in the making of this record and to see our vision of it recreated in Minecraft is truly amazing,” Disclosure tells Rolling Stone. “Make sure you dig deep as we’ve included some surprises for you to discover including some hidden musical gems and… Guy’s kitchen.”
The fictional universe (or “metaverse”), which will be live for a week, was designed to look like Energy‘s album cover from an aerial perspective. It spans a mile in each direction and is filled with mountain ranges, streams, oceans, forests, and caves. By exploring, users are likely to stumble upon clues and assets (or “easter eggs”) that can help them unlock three underground clubs — one of which is designed to look like Guy Lawrence’s kitchen, where Disclosure was livestreaming DJ sets earlier in quarantine. The other two clubs appear to be based on London’s Printworks, which was the last place Disclosure played before lockdown, and Ibiza’s DC10, one of their favorite spots.
In the real world, brick-and-mortar clubs are supremely important to generating exposure for new electronic music. So, since the fans can’t go to the club, Disclosure wanted to bring a version of the club to the fans. To stand out from the onslaught of livestreams overwhelming music fans, the Lawrences designed a treasure-hunt model that makes fans work for club access — and keeps them highly engaged, so that the game isn’t just a one-and-done moment. There’s also a crate-digging challenge that specifically requires users to find 13 hidden records, including eight-bit reworks of some of beloved tracks.
Disclosure has soundtracked the entire experience with a mix of material from Energy as well as the Lawrence brothers’ discography. (Together, their two biggest hits to date, “Talk” and “Latch,” have more than a billion streams on Spotify alone.)
During the week that the Disclosure metaverse is live, the landscape will evolve and change, Disclosure’s team says. That feature is supposed to reflect some of the environmentalist themes found on Energy — ones of reforestation and ocean repopulation, for example. A version of the map will become available for download after the week.
Environmental responsibility was also a key factor in Disclosure’s creation of the physical products involved in Energy‘s release. The duo ditched plastic hard-cases for both CDs and cassettes and used vegetable and water-based inks and varnishes. And they opted for a mixture of recycled and FSC-approved cardboard in putting together two of the three vinyl options. The third vinyl option comes in a “Superecovinyl” format, which “uses re-granulated PVC pellets to press the vinyl” and “a fully 100% recycled Bargesse board derived from sugarcane for the sleeve,” according to a statement earlier this year. Apparently, even the shrink-wrap is made of sustainable sugarcane-based plastic.
As far as the Minecraft initiative goes, the duo says they owe huge thanks to Blockworks — a world-building company that is, according to its website, solely focused on coming up with “creative Minecraft solutions.” Blockworks Managing Director James Delaney told Rolling Stone that the project is unique for bringing together music, Minecraft, and the natural world. He adds that the partnership is, at heart, about “creating a new and totally immersive way of experiencing music.”