Music Mogul: Where Worlds Collide

On Friday, November 28th, the Purdy Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business Studies launched its educational game Music Mogul at the opening of the In.Business — A Business Network for Indigenous Youth program. Developed in partnership with Revolve and Twisted Oak Studios of Halifax, Music Mogul puts the player in the role of manager for a Canadian Aboriginal musical group. As the group tours across Canada, the player chooses the communities that are visited on each tour, selects and purchases merchandise for sale at shows, and arranges for advertising campaigns. The player also negotiates the cost of venue rental, sets the ticket prices for each show and the mark-up for merchandise, and takes out and repays loans throughout the game. The manager may also decide to record a new single to gain new fans. The success of the tours is determined by all of the choices the player makes and how well the band plays during shows through fun mini games that test the agility and rhythm of players! Through a logbook, the player tracks the growth of their fan base, as well as their income and expenses. The ultimate goal is to become a Music Mogul by making $1 million dollars or playing in 39 towns or cities from coast to coast to coast.

When we first called for proposals to develop an educational business game for Aboriginal students in our mentorship program, I'm sure music was the furthest thing from our minds — ironic given that my graduate studies were in Aboriginal music and culture. As we discussed possible maps of game play, we were thinking about a corporate structure, with students beginning as interns and working their way up the ladder. But it was Jonny Stevens of Revolve who realized that we needed something to hook Aboriginal youth and make them want to play the game. That hook was music. His idea had immediate buy-in from A Tribe Called Red and the concept made sense. I was convinced and so was our team.

And so over about seven months, Jonny and I worked closely together on the project, along with our respective team members. After three years working on Aboriginal business, I enjoyed having a reason to focus on Aboriginal music again, reviewing and selecting First Nation, Métis, and Inuit artists for inclusion in the game with Jonny. We wrote content, selected towns and cities, and developed "Easter eggs" that will surprise players. I enjoyed reviewing artwork and logo designs. And when I finally got to play the game, I loved it! This is not praise for my own work, but for the brilliance of Revolve and Twisted Oak Studios! The concert mini game — a sort of DDR for your fingers on a touch screen — is nothing short of addictive. And throughout, business concepts and skills, such as supply and demand, mark-up, negotiation, and strategy, are integrated so that learning occurs and problem-solving abilities are developed without the player really noticing it.

It's been fun to have two worlds collide in this project, to have my life as an ethnomusicologist and my life as a researcher of Aboriginal business meld together in such an unexpected way. I can't wait to see where this road takes me next!