Virtually Rich: What Snoop Dogg Could Be Teaching the Industry

Is the music industry simply ignoring hugely profitable platforms, and sacrificing lots of money in the process?

Artists and startups have been dabbling in virtual goods and worlds for a few years – perhaps Lala is the first to spring to mind.  Artists like Lady Gaga and Elvis are also notable, and recent successes in the virtual world involving Snoop Dogg could be the beginning of something seriously real – or, virtually real.

Already, the virtual goods economy is estimated at more than $3.1 billion.  But an emerging “Branded Virtual Goods” market was recently singled-out by social gaming company Viximo and virtual goods platform Virtual Greats.  This sector has been valued at more than $16 million, just for starters.

Simply stated, branded virtual goods combine a real item – like artist merchandise – with some gaming or novelty element.  Or, outside of music, a generic item like a FarmVille crop gets tied to a brand – like Cascadian Farms’ wildly successful in-game positioning of organic blueberries.

This is the virtual playground that Snoop Dogg has recently tapped to mint nearly $200,000, according to the research.  The action is happening on environments like Gaia Online, Zwinky, and WeeWorld, where Snoop has smartly positioned virtual boom boxes, sweatshirts, and other items for avatars.  Many of these items actually exist in reality, and the research group noted that the attachment of a celebrity or brand helps to boost virtual sales by 2.5x.  A bump can also happen in the real world.  And, the “BVG” market is expected to reach $318 million by 2015, a huge and open invitation for the right artists.