Big­ger than MTV

Can video games save the mu­sic in­dus­try?

Vocable (All English) - - Sommaire - MAT OMBLER

The mu­sic in­dus­try has been in cri­sis for many years. The In­ter­net has had a big im­pact, com­pletely trans­form­ing the mar­ket, with sales for ac­tual discs in free fall since 2002. Of­fers for ac­cess to le­gal stream­ing and up­load­ing have not made up for the de­cline in sales. And now, one solution for mu­si­cians and pro­duc­ers has emerged in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent in­dus­try…video games!

Vgames have not only helped the mu­sic in­dus­try sur­vive, but thrive on en­tirely new lev­els,” Steve Sch­nur tells me. As the world­wide ex­ec­u­tive and pres­i­dent of mu­sic at game pub­lisher EA, his team – many of whom have been pro­fes­sional mu­si­cians and singer/song­writ­ers – work with some of the big­gest mu­sic acts in the world, li­cens­ing mu­sic for video game se­ries like Fifa, Mad­den NFL, Need for Speed and NHL.

2. Since the 90s, when li­censed mu­sic be­came preva­lent in games, se­ries such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Grand Theft Auto and Wipe­out have be­come just as well-known for their sound­tracks as they are for their game­play. For mil­lions of peo­ple, video games have been a way to dis­cover new favourite bands or dive into other mu­si­cal gen­res. And be­cause peo­ple dis­cover this mu­sic while play­ing a game they love, they de­velop a strong emo­tional at­tach­ment to it.


3. Video games are now an es­sen­tial part of mar­ket­ing plans for mu­si­cians and man­agers. The Fifa sound­tracks, for in­stance, are viewed as one of the fore­most an­nual show­cases for in­ter­na­tional artists to­day. “We of­ten be­gin work­ing on a sound­track al­most a year in ad­vance, try­ing to iden­tify new mu­sic we be­lieve will de­fine the sound of the com­ing sea­son,” Sch­nur says.

4. “We knew that video games could be­come what MTV and com­mer­cial radio had once been in the 80s and 90s. Any given song in Fifa 19 – whether it’s a new track by an es­tab­lished act or the de­but of an un­known artist – will be heard around the world nearly 1bn times.

Clearly, no medium in the his­tory of recorded mu­sic can de­liver such mas­sive and in­stan­ta­neous global ex­po­sure.”

5. While stream­ing is cred­ited for help­ing to save the mu­sic in­dus­try from its stran­gle­hold of il­le­gal down­loads and piracy, video games were help­ing it sur­vive through the dark times of the late 00s. The Aero­smith-themed ver­sion of Gui­tar Hero made the band more money than any of their al­bums.

6. The hey­day of mu­sic games like Gui­tar Hero has passed, but now games in­te­grate with ser­vices like Spo­tify. Beat Fever is a mo­bile game help­ing to gen­er­ate bet­ter en­gage­ment be­tween play­ers and mu­si­cians: play­ers tap along to their favourite mu­sic and are then in­vited to stream the tracks in full on plat­forms like Spo­tify and Ap­ple Mu­sic. When Steve Aoki’s track Azukita was fea­tured in the game for two weeks, its streams in­creased by 2.3m.

7. “If you want a re­ally, re­ally in­ter­est­ing, jet­pro­pelled ca­reer as a com­poser you prob­a­bly wouldn’t go into film any­more; you would go into video games,” says Charles Ha­zle­wood, an in­ter­na­tional con­duc­tor and ad­vo­cate for the wider ap­pre­ci­a­tion of or­ches­tral mu­sic.


8. The vinyl resur­gence is also help­ing to cre­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for both video game com­posers and record la­bels. Data Discs is a record la­bel solely ded­i­cated to re­leas­ing video game mu­sic. Work­ing along­side part­ners such as Sega, Cap­com and Kon­ami, they’ve re­mas­tered a va­ri­ety of game sound­tracks from their stu­dio in Lon­don, in­clud­ing Streets of Rage, Shi­nobi, and Me­tal Slug. Their founder, Jamie Crook, tells me this is another way for com­posers to be paid for their work.

9. “There has been a shift where com­posers of in­die games are re­tain­ing the rights to their mu­sic much more of­ten, which is ob­vi­ously a pos­i­tive thing,” he says. “Pub­lish­ers see­ing that mu­sic isn’t a dis­pos­able com­mod­ity associated with the game in the back­ground, but a valu­able as­set in its own right – that is sat­is­fy­ing.” 10. It’s no longer rare to see some of the world’s big­gest mu­si­cians com­pos­ing mu­sic for video games. Trent Reznor, Paul McCart­ney, Amon Tobin, Hans Zim­mer, Health, Neil Davidge, Skrillex, So­lar Fields and many more have all done so. “I think, 10 years ago es­pe­cially, mak­ing mu­sic for a video game wasn’t seen as a cool thing – but the whole per­cep­tion has changed now. It’s a very cre­ative form,” says Dwyer. “It’s seen as a new world to start div­ing into.”

(Martin Meissner/AP/SIPA)

The Fifa sound­tracks are viewed as one of the fore­most an­nual show­cases for in­ter­na­tional artists to­day.

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