The soundtrack to FIFA is almost as important as the game on the field. We spoke with Steve Schnur, president of music, Electronic Arts, about how the soundtrack comes together.
How do you begin the selection process for the soundtrack?
Because EA SPORTS FIFA is considered to be the world’s most important annual soundtrack, we usually begin the selection process at least a year in advance. But for the first time in franchise history, we’ve curated two separate soundtracks for the game – regular play as well as the brand-new VOLTA Mode – that had us focused as far back as early spring ’18. For FIFA 20, we’ve raised the bar like never before with an unprecedented 110+ tracks representing more than 20 countries.
With such a global audience, do you have reps in local territories who recommend tracks?
While we work with labels, publishers and EA offices in every territory, our soundtrack team’s ears have been global from the very beginning. We follow no genre restrictions and obey no regional quotas. With regards to the Australian acts featured on FIFA 20, certainly Flume has been on our radar for quite some time, as have Alison Wonderland, Anna Lunoe, Ivan Ooze and Sampa The Great. All of who, by the way, sound amazing in this year’s game.
Given the mass exposure there must be a lot of competition from record companies to get their artists involved?
Our EA SPORTS FIFA soundtracks are the foremost annual showcase for international artists today. And because we’re talking over 15 million games localized in 18 languages and available in more than 50 countries, FIFA 20represents globalised music as it has never been done before. It’s where Britpop fans can discover Australian EDM, where American hip-hop heads can be exposed to Brazilian DJs, where Nigerian fans can hear Norwegian R&B for the first time in their lives. The diversity of the music absolutely matters, as does how it enhances the game, as well as representing what we believe to be emerging artists, genres and international music scenes. Every record company – and more than 30 million gamers – would agree: FIFA 20is the World Cup of game soundtracks.
How has the selection process changed over the years?
My first EA SPORTS FIFA soundtrack was FIFA 2003, which had 14 songs by then-unknown artists I believed in, including Avril Lavigne, Timo Maas and Ms. Dynamite. The next year in FIFA 2004,we introduced Kasabian, The Raveonettes and Kings of Leon. It was also the year that Radiohead – who were notoriously reluctant to license their music to anyone – wanted to be part of EA SPORTS FIFA simply because they had become such huge fans of what we were doing.
Over the years, our EA SPORTS FIFA soundtracks have introduced artists like Fatboy Slim, Aviici, Muse, The Black Keys, Franz Ferdinand, Foster The People, Ladytron, Robyn, Shiny Toy Guns, Calvin Harris, Damian Marley, K’naan, Chromeo, MGMT, Two Door Cinema Club, Lykke Li, Foster The People, Grouplove, Imagine Dragons, CHVRCHES and plenty more. Introducing new bands via EA SPORTS FIFA – and watching them become huge acts in large part from their exposure in the game – is an ongoing legacy that my team and I are extremely proud of.
As for the selection process itself, the ears, skills and gut instincts of my team and I will always guide it. And we’re enormously proud of that, too.
What can we expect from the FIFA 20soundtrack?
Again, we’re incredibly excited to have curated two separate soundtracks for FIFA 20: The game’s 42-song soundtrack features marquee names like UK grime icon Skepta; American neo-soul hitmaker BJ The Chicago Kid; Spanish vocalists – and VMA showstoppers – Rosalia & Ozuna; Israeli singer/songwriter Dennis Lloyd; hot Philly female rapper Tierra Whack; London indie rockers Another Sky; DC breakout rapper GoldLink; Norwegian R&B stars Fieh; Brooklyn singer-songwriter Cautious Clay; UK rock favourites Foals; Florida rapper/singer Dominic Fike; UK hip-hop musician and Mercury Prize nominee Loyle Carner; and The S.L.P., the solo project of Serge Pissorno from Kasabian featuring London rapper/singer Little Simz.
The 70-song VOLTA Mode soundtrack is packed with all-new buzz tracks from artists that include Diplo’s electronic trio Major Lazer; Norwegian viral sensation JB Scofield; reunited Cash Money icons Birdman & Juvenile; legendary Italian DJ Benny Benassi; the Heavy Baile sounds of Brazilian DJ Leo Justi; hot Chicago duo Louis The Child; the Mexico/U.S. hip-hop/EDM collaboration Don Elektron; underground L.A. producer Hoodboi; Harlem rapper Skizzy Mars; Guernsey electronic phenom Mura Masa; and Grammy nominated soul/funk/hip-hop innovator Anderson .Paak.
Originally, EA SPORTS FIFA soundtracks reflected world culture. Then they began to influence culture. Today, EA SPORTS FIFA soundtracks have become culture. This means FIFA 20 not only captures the global spirit of the game from the stadiums to the streets, but also elevates it like never before.