Latin superstar Ozuna is the latest artist to join esports company XSET, the singer and company tell Rolling Stone on Wednesday — marking another affirmation of the music industry’s rapidly growing appetite for video-game partnerships.
XSET and Ozuna’s team declined to give financial details on the new partnership — which has Ozuna joining the company as an investor and managing partner as well as a content creator — but XSET’s CEO Greg Selkoe says it’s the most substantial partnership the company’s made with an individual artist to date.
“Ozuna is going to be part of the management team as well as Edgar and the rest of his team,” Selkoe says. “He’s an incredible entrepreneur and a really sharp guy, and we’re going to have him as part of the brain trust of XSET in terms of how we build our strategy in music, and in fashion, and obviously in the Latin and global music market. Not only is he a significant owner and investor and personality for the team, but he’s part of the group of people helping make decisions on the direction of the future of XSET.”
Through the new partnership, Ozuna will be streaming games like FIFA and Fortnite for XSET, but his biggest contributions will be broader than gaming content. Ozuna and XSET will drop merchandise together along with NFTs (a booming market in which Ozuna has already been active). XSET will also run the video gaming activation at November’s Ozuna Fest in Cancun, bringing gaming lounges and a gaming VIP area, while Ozuna will game at the event.
“Ozuna has been a gamer for a while, and we understand that the gaming community is a huge community that has not been serviced on the music side,” says Ozuna’s manager Edgar Andino. “When we started looking at this and the way XSET wanted to do the program, doing something that is bilingual, bicultural, we saw an opportunity [to] bring what we do with music to the gaming side, not just in the United States, but Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico — which are all in the early stages of building the gaming audience.”
In an email to Rolling Stone, Ozuna adds that he found it important to be “one of the first movers” in the “worldwide explosion of gaming culture.” The “mixture of music and gaming is only going to get bigger and together with XSET, I’m happy to be leading the way,” he says.
As the pandemic wiped out many in-person financial opportunities for music, artists began hopping into the gaming industry. Tavis Scott, J Balvin and Kaskade all put on elaborate and attention-catching concerts in Fortnite in the past year while Lil Nas X took to Roblox. Warner Music Group was part of a multimillion-dollar funding round for the latter game earlier this year.
Swae Lee joined the XSET team last October; prolific rap label Quality Control invested in XSET during a $10 million round the company closed earlier this year. XSET itself launched less than a year ago, after several executives from the popular esports organization FaZe Clan — which itself courted investments from artists including Offset along with longtime music executive Jimmy Iovine — left to found the competing company.
“There’s no better combination than music and gaming,” record producer and XSET’s chief business development officer Clinton Sparks told Rolling Stone last year. “They’d always sort of had a relationship, but they never really committed to one another until more recently. You could say they were loosely dating, but not anymore.”