Videogames and the music industry

November 18, 2008

[embedded YouTube video; if you can’t see it, click here]

Nice guest post in the Freakonomics blog by gaming maestro David Edery about the positive impact of music-based video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band on the music industry. He does have something of a vested interest, since he works for Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade, but he does provide some compelling bits of data: for example, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith earned the band more money than any of their individual albums. Edery’s posting focuses on major-label artists, but of course, where this really gets interesting is as a path out of obscurity for lesser-known bands (such as Freezepop, as in the video above, and Bang Camaro, both of whom have songs on Rock Band).

Read the full essay: “Can Guitar Hero Help Save the Music Industry?”

MP3: Bang Camaro – Pleasure (Pleasure)


  1. One of the interesting things that this article failed to touch on is just how the bands make money on each individual game. While GH:Aerosmith likely raked in a ton of money for the band in licensing money, Rock Band is a different story. I assume that the expansion packs could work in a different fashion, but I know that none of the bands in either version of the stock Rock Band game received any compensation for the use of their song. What they did recieve, however, is a huge boost to their exposure which is better than a flat fee almost any day of the week. It’s especially true for smaller bands like Anarchy Club (woo! Boston band!) or The Libyans (woo! My friend’s band, and also a Boston band!) who greatly benefit from a new, broader fanbase. The real benefit of this may be that a broader fanbase gives you a viable means to do a longer tour and still have a good turnout in each city, thus ensuring a fresh supply of Ramen and guitar strings for months to come.

    Right, so there’s a pile of info to chew over. I don’t think it affects the base message of the article. I do, however, think it’s interesting to see how the two games differ in their approach to helping out their stars. I’ll do my best to find the source articles if you’d really like to read them.

    Also, Aerosmith is no stranger to making bales of money off of video games. Do you remember Revolution X? If you don’t, count yourself among the lucky.

  2. That’s an excellent point, Erich. Edery focuses on how Rock Band drastically increases sales of songs by bands that are well-known, but that kind of exposure is arguably much more valuable for unknown bands. For them, it’s not just an increment in their sales volume – it might be what it takes to bootstrap them out of obscurity and be a viable band.

    However, I suspect that the licensing terms for music in video games are in still in transition, as all the different players start figuring out who’s making money, and how.

  3. […] With the ability to download content to music-centered games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, musicians have a new channel to connect with their fanbase. Less-established musicians are getting more exposure through these games, and more established musicians are using these games to increase marketing opportunities. [previously: Videogames and the music industry] […]

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