Spectating at a professional sporting event is about much more than the game itself—it’s the atmosphere. The hype is half the fun, whether you’re walking up to an arena or gathering with friends on the couch. That’s why every sports game comes with a custom soundtrack that starts playing as soon as you boot up: to let you know it’s time to Get Hyped.
But a more recent trend wants you to get hyped not only for the game, but for the soundtrack too. Marquee artists are being invited to curate soundtracks for sports games, with their names prominently featured on box art. One of the first, and splashiest, artists to contribute in this manner was Jay-Z, who was named an Executive Producer when he handpicked the soundtrack on 2012’s NBA 2K13. This year’s crop of basketball games continues the trend, but with a new wrinkle: while the soundtrack for the currently-available NBA 2K15 features picks from Grammy-winning artist Pharrell Williams, the upcoming competing title NBA Live 2015 is turning to DJ and entrepreneur MICK (formerly Mick Boogie) for its soundtrack.
“I think it’s something that’s bigger than actual sports games,” says MICK when asked about the current trend in curated playlists. “The society we live in now, as far as music and entertainment consumption goes—point blank, there’s just too much stuff out there. Every day there’s a million new songs, and it’s overwhelming to the average person.”
According to MICK, our current emphasis on curation is a direct result of this overwhelming flood of stuff. When there’s too much to choose from, having someone tell you what’s good becomes increasingly desirable.
“People try to find people who not only know what they’re talking about, but the audience trusts to know it,” says MICK. “Because you can put somebody out and say ‘this guy knows everything about everything,’ but if you’ve never heard of the guy and there’s no facts to back that up, well then why would I trust that? There’s a million other video games, and a million other things you can do with your life.”
To that end, MICK’s goal with this year’s Live soundtrack is identical to his goal as a DJ: finding tracks from artists he thinks everyone will be listening to in the near future, and introducing players to music they wouldn’t hear anywhere else. “There’s so much good stuff out there that people don’t know about,” says MICK. ” If people were able to hear it through the correct ‘goggles,’ if you will, they would have a much bigger appreciation for it … so rather than saying ‘oh, we’re gonna get 22 Jay-Z songs’—that would be awesome, although we’d probably go bankrupt—why do it when we can do something cooler? Our audience is progressive, and they know what’s going on. So let’s give them the new thing that people are going to be talking about next year.”
Those artists include some of MICK’s favorites, like Bishop Nehru, Bas, and Phantogram—and thanks to the connected nature of modern game consoles, soundtracks aren’t set in stone, either. MICK plans to revisit this one halfway through the season, in hopes of keeping it just as current as it is now.
“Growing up, it was always about two things: music and basketball,” says MICK. “So for me it’s not like, what somebody who’s into this wants to listen to, but it’s more like what would I want to listen to and how I would approach it. Because not only am I in a unique position to help choose this stuff, but I’m also a key member of the demographic as well. So it comes pretty naturally.”