Grand Theft Auto is Changing How we Discover Music

Beatportal talks to three gamers about how Grand Theft Auto’s in-game club, The Music Locker, has expanded their music taste, and for some, exposed them to house and techno for the first time

9 min
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Jan 22, 2021
Ben Jolley

28-year-old gamer Ruben, who lives in Spain and is a fan of EDM and Tomorrowland, said going to GTA’s in-game clubs has been a much-welcome alternative while real-life clubs remain closed because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Music is one of the most important aspects of the game, according to Ruben. “Since its inception, specifically in the 3D era, GTA has given us masterpieces from well-known artists around the world. But with GTA Online I think they have definitely found another interesting approach.”

Ruben thinks that it’s also given a platform to artists who “perhaps would not have reached such an audience otherwise,” which he thinks helps GTA stand out. “I think it’s brilliant. We can all go to any music platform and listen to the same old artists!”

Having played GTA since its early days, Ruben goes on to reflect on the game’s music legacy. “In Vice City I remember feeling the sensation of being in the 1970s and ‘80s with that soundtrack, and in San Andreas in the ‘90s… somehow they have always succeeded with the musical choice and the radio stations. They have turned classic and not so classic songs into iconic ones worldwide. It’s like, you hear a song that was part of one of the titles, and you link it directly to the game. And that is unique — few games achieve that impact.”

Since the arrival of After Hours, Ruben says he has discovered new music and genres that he wasn’t aware of. “I ended up spending hours dancing, driving or simply watching videos — for example Solomun playing Tomorrowland.” He was equally as impressed with the latest GTA Online update, Cayo Perico, saying that it more than lived up to the hype. “It’s been incredible, they have given what they promised.

“The Music Locker has been a great addition, with a great cast of artists, because not only do you feel that the DJ’s seem to have evolved their behavior (from After Hours), you feel how they interact with the audience, (in addition to their phrases on the radio station) and it gives you the feeling that they are really mixing a live session, even though in your head you know it’s a recorded session.”

Ruben says he’s also been impressed by the lifelike physicality of the in-game club experience. “You can also dance in sync with other players, and if you play with the controller you literally feel the music in the vibration of the controller. The closer you get to the speakers, the stronger the impact on the vibration, which in After Hours did not happen. So they have definitely gone one step further. The club has its own management and design, too, which is really impressive. And the beach party is amazing with Keinemusik — they’re my new favourite.”

More than anything, though, he’s impressed with how the developer team managed to pull the new update together both while the team was working from home and during a global pandemic. “Traveling without restrictions (to the island of Cayo Perico), and listening to dance music (at The Music Locker), it’s ironic — everything you can’t do in real life, you can experience it in virtual life. I only see it as something positive: encouraging interaction and communication between players.”

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20-year-old Alex Lavendar from Northern Ireland spends the majority of his time playing video games. He’s been a Grand Theft Auto fan for the last five years, and says that playing GTA since he was a teenager has expanded his music taste. “At the start, the radios mostly had genres that I’m not really into, but they have expanded, and with new radios added such as LSUR and iFruit Radio, it’s helped me find new songs that I’m into. I just get in the car and a random station plays; sometimes a song that I like starts playing and that’s how I get into new artists and tracks.”

For the self-confessed pop music fan, playing the After Hours and Music Locker updates was what got him into house and techno music for the first time. “I basically knew nothing about dance music before the After Hours update, but playing the downloadable content has slightly changed my perception on clubs.”

The new Payo Cerico update in particular, he says, has broadened the range of music he listens to even more. “Before playing, I had never heard of Adam Port, &ME, Rampa, Moodymann or even Palms Trax. And Music Locker Radio, for example, has helped me discover Keinemusik who, from my few weeks of listening to them, have become one of my favourites.”

Having also played 2018’s After Hours content, he describes The Music Locker as a “fantastic update. I go there every once in a while to listen to bangers from Palms Trax.” Visiting the in-game clubs has also helped him to find new friends within GTA’s online community. “I have had a few nice interactions from people in the Music Locker. And, although I’m not a big clubber myself, I do believe that implementing a free club makes people that regularly go to clubs very happy.”

As for what he thinks Rockstar should do next to improve the experience for GTA players like himself, Alexander has a fully mapped-out concept in mind. “I think they should add a radio station broadcaster business. You should be able to choose your own songs or songs from a particular list, and then broadcast them. And the more you upgrade the business, the more songs you have access to and the farther it broadcasts to — maybe even Cayo Perico!”

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41-year-old Disco FM founder Filippo Mursia, who lives in Italy and started playing video games again because of the Covid-19 lockdown, has been a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series “since the very very first version.”

“It’s incredible to see how the game has changed and improved,” he says, describing the music within GTA as “an essential feature — considering the open world that allows you to really just drive and enjoy the city, the music is a must-have, as it is in real life.”

He says that “the addition of more genres and styles gives users like me the opportunity to discover new music, and find the perfect soundtrack for the moment they’re living in — driving at sunset listening to FlyLo radio station… perfection!”

Incorporating a club — The Music Locker — into the game, has taken things one step further, he says: “I’ve been watching the Moodymann show, and the whole idea of having DJs playing around venues in the game is an incredible idea and also a good opportunity for DJs to get new exposure.”

As someone who used to DJ at venues and parties, Filippo says he has been impressed with how the developers have managed to recreate a club vibe in-game. “The vibe with Moodymann was cool, the set was incredible, the lighting was great — everything looked so real. [Even] how the avatar was moving, changing records, mixing, speaking! Sure, it’s not a real party, but as of now, it’s a fun experience.”

If you missed Beatport’s GTA Online livestream with Palms Trax, watch it on YouTube here.

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