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Music Media Entertainment Games

Music Industry Conflicted On Guitar Hero, Rock Band 140

Wired is running a story about the friction between the music industry and music-based games, such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Despite the fact that these games are very successful and are drawing a great deal of attention to the music represented in the games, the industry is not pleased with the licensing arrangements that allow the games to use their songs. Quoting: "Putting the brakes on music gaming would hurt everyone in the ailing music industry. Instead of demanding greater profit participation, Warner should be angling for creative participation. Thirty years ago, Hollywood took a similar threat — the VCR — and turned it into a new source of revenue, building customer loyalty in the process. The music industry could use new games the same way — but its track record suggests that it won't."
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Music Industry Conflicted On Guitar Hero, Rock Band

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  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah... (Score:3, Informative)

    by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:06AM (#26980075)

    Indeed they are and one of it's members is a producer for Harmonix.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:49AM (#26980491)

    The music that is used in games like that is rarely the original version. What it is instead is a cover. A cover is where another band redoes a song. They are quite common. Sometimes they feature stylistic changes, like a rock band might cover a jazz tune in rock style, sometimes they are just a different band doing the same song. In the case of these games, the bands are doing their very best to imitate the original sound, and doing a rather good job at it. Not as hard as you might think these days given the amazing things you can do with a digital audio workstation.

    Ok, so why does this matter? Well many moons ago the recording industry lobbied for, and got, a law that established statutory cover fees. See they wanted their popular artists to be able to cover old songs. However it wasn't always easy or possible to track down the original artists and secure licensing rights, but the songs were still copyrighted thanks to industry's lobbying for copyright extensions. So their plan was that a statutory fee would be established. Thus you pay a fixed rate for covers. This allowed them to have their popular artists cover songs as they pleased, and they never had to worry about what they payout would be, it was defined in advance.

    Well now that same shit is working against them. A game company wants to use a famous song. The recording industry decides since it's famous, they want $10 million dollars. Ok no way the game company is paying that, especially if you are talking many songs. Instead they hire a cover band and a good recording engineer for much less, probably under a million. They cover those songs, and then pay the statutory fee of 8.5 cents per song per copy sold.

    This little loophole that they created for themselves is now becoming a real problem. Back in the day there was probably no worry. After all recording was real expensive, not the sort of thing you did outside the recording industry much. Now, heck a few grand gets you all you need to get started. Also the technology out there allows you to adjust things in amazing ways, and thus more easily replicate the sound another band gets.

    This would have to stop at games. It would be possible for bands to cover popular bands and sell their work. So music industry band A releases a popular song. Cover band B makes a cover that sounds almost identical. Cover band B then sells that cover for less than the music industry does, but enough to cover the statutory fees and make money.

  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ambiguous Puzuma ( 1134017 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @07:49AM (#26980493)

    Freezepop was one of the highest profile groups to give blanket permission to Flash Flash Revolution to use their songs, granted back in 2006: []
    (FFR is, as you might expect, a rhythm game written in Flash patterned after Dance Dance Revolution, except you use arrow keys instead of your feet. It's more fun than it sounds.)

    Full list of artists (mostly independent, to go along with the GGP's point) that have given blanket permission to use their songs to FFR: []

  • by Luveno ( 575425 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:00AM (#26981161)
    You haven't played in awhile, I see. This was true in GH1 and GH2. Virtually all tracks in RB/RB2 are originals.
  • by RemoWilliams84 ( 1348761 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:05AM (#26981207)

    This is very informative as far as the laws about covering a song goes. But, except for the first two Guitar Hero games, almost every song in Guitar Hero and Rock Band are original recordings. Only the songs that they cannot find master tracks for are covered now.

  • Nitpick (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:22AM (#26981357)

    This article is about the RECORDING industry, not the music industry. The music industry is companies like Fender and Guitar Center.

  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah... (Score:2, Informative)

    by BoredAtWorkWhatElse ( 936972 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @02:49PM (#26984747)

    This is true, actually. I believe the first two guitar hero games came with bonus tracks from some of the developers themselves (I couldn't reliably name names, but I think "Freezepop" was one of them) and they were just as fun to play (if not more) as the rest of the songs on the game.

    You clearly never played the bonus "song" made by one of Rock Band 2 artist.

    It's called Visions [] and IMO should never have been part of the default songs. As a free DLC maybe, but not something you need to play to complete the last sets.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger