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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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  • Stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @04:17AM (#26979641)
    If they had any creativity (music industry) or software acumen, they'd be better off now than ever. Yeah, copying songs for free is probably just going to be the way things are, but incorporating them into activities or games is not as easy as clicking a button. Maybe they'll get a clue one day?
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @04:25AM (#26979677) Journal

    That's their job, though. They're supposed to make the most money they can for their shareholders, not run a charity. If they think they can sell something for more money, well, they're _supposed_ to ask for more money.

    Now whether they're smart about it, is a whole other question. (E.g., too often I see companies shooting themselves in the foot for millions so some department can save cents or so the CEO's shares rise 2 cents in the very short term.) Whether their means are acceptable is another good question. (E.g., the RIAA lawsuit carpet bombing) But acting as if wanting money was a by itself a capital sin is kinda missing the point.

  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @04:26AM (#26979681)

    This is great though, for the public. The reason is, because the RIAA is treading on *dangerously* thin ice here, and apparently they aren't aware. These games work every bit as well and are every bit as fun even if every single song is from an indie group that no one has heard of before. If they don't watch it, they might just get what they're asking for, and they're going to suddenly find the masses discovering whole new sources of indie music that can be had legitimately at a fair market price without hassle, and the RIAA will start to die sooner rather than later. I really hope they do try to push the music game developers. The only people they can possibly hurt are themselves.

  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neokushan ( 932374 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @04:33AM (#26979717)

    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.

  • by koinu ( 472851 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @04:52AM (#26979795)

    The music that comes from the music industry on DDR games or Hottest Party is the boring part of the game (well, not all of them, but most). Why not eliminate these tracks and put more native JPOP stuff on it that really makes fun? I would buy the games also without the music of the people who complain here. I've already ask Konami about it before. And now I'm even a bit happy that the music industry wants more money. This will perhaps minimize the impact of them on the music style. NAOKI and others, make more music for DDR!!

    Also... I haven't bought any music CDs for more than a decade, because I am very picky (I cannot really find what I need) and I don't like the greed. Some few licensed music tracks from the games (that also are sold by the music industry) are really good and I have actually considered to buy them. But I am seeing this greed again and I have enough for another decade. They cannot offer almost anything for me and complain.

    And let's not forget. On DDR/HP (I don't know guitar hero and stuff like that) the licensed songs are only covers, because the originals sound poor to me.

  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @04:53AM (#26979797)

    Sure, and I'm not saying that's not the case. But if you think the next Rock Band and Guitar Hero games won't sell millions of copies because they didn't use any RIAA songs, you're lying to yourself. People will discover that there's damn good music out there that's not from the RIAA, and that's a genie that is impossible to stuff back into the bottle. Plenty of school kids will buy and play the games regardless of where the music comes from, and word-of-mouth will do the rest.

  • by Atario ( 673917 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @05:51AM (#26980031) Homepage

    To my mind, the base of the problem with the recording industry is that the labels are seen as some kind of conferrer of magical "blessed" status -- that if you work really hard, maybe some label will come and "sign you": sweep you off your feet to a wondrous world of superstardom, like you're Cinderella or something (not the band).

    They should be thought of (and hired as) service providers: consulting, recording, reproduction, distribution, marketing. These are services they should simply charge set rates for to anyone who wants them and forget about controlling artists or enforcing (or holding) copyright. They (and we) would have a lot fewer headaches this way, I'm sure.

  • by rcoxdav ( 648172 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:04AM (#26980069)
    Or, they could do what has been done with more than one song in the game, have the original artist record a new version of the song for the game. Hello There by Cheap Trick on... I don't remember which game, is a newer recorder version of the original song. That version was never released by a record company, just the band. I think that is a great way for the artist to actually get compensated also, cut out the middle man. If that band still has it's chops it is an awesome solution. And as far as the Cheap Trick song goes, the newer version totally rocks out in comparison to the original.
  • Re:Yeah yeah yeah... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:05AM (#26980073)

    There are a bunch of Harmonix bands" [] that feature in the first two Guitar Hero games and Rock Band with some great songs, I picked up an album from Honest Bob And The Factory-To-Dealer Incentives off the back of "Hey" in Guitar Hero.

    You've got to have a balance, though. I didn't get Guitar Hero to press coloured buttons in time to songs I'd never heard of, I got it to play Smoke on the Water and Crossroads to a screaming crowd (yes, I'm perfectly aware this is a delusional fantasy; no, I don't care that it's not playing a real guitar and chicks aren't impressed). The beauty of the system was the way it interspersed those songs with others, introducing the player to new stuff from both established bands they hadn't listened to before and the indie bands of the bonus tracks (oblig. xkcd []).

  • by digitalchinky ( 650880 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @06:10AM (#26980099)

    For better or worse this is exactly what happens. The one musician that sticks his or her hand up and says "Hang on a minute, lets negotiate this contract a little bit" gets quickly shown the door. The big labels really don't care, there's another thousand hopefuls in the queue ready to sell their soul for their 15 minutes.

    Here in Asia a similar thing can be said for your typical call centre job, or rather, it was this area of employment that kick started the draconian employment contracts which are now rapidly spreading throughout all spheres.

    I blame HR.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @08:39AM (#26980661)

    Over the objections of its tech-savvy students, the morons leading Houston's School of Communication actually renamed their college after that technophobe.

    It makes me exceptionally embarassed to be one of their graduates. Here I am trying to work to make the world BETTER for copyrighted works, and there they are enshrining someone whose entire point of view was "fuck the consumer."

  • by Steauengeglase ( 512315 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @09:44AM (#26981025)

    I was thinking the same thing. Why is it the "Music Industries" music, not the song writer's or artist's music?

    For bonus points, did anyone watch the Academy Awards this year? Generally they trot out that that piracy takes food off of tables or that Hollywood produced film keeps the tired, depressed masses from putting a bullet in their collective heads. This year it was that movies are produced by professionals. Even though it wasn't stated explicitly, it seemed to imply that non-cartel produced material was somehow dangerous. Creepy direction to go; public health fear mongering I mean. I'm just waiting to hear that it is the cartels who keep backwards masking our or properly controlled so that little Jimmy doesn't get addicted to meth.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @10:41AM (#26981559)
    Napster did the same thing with the music industry 20 years later. Without something like Napster, the music industry would have never realized "You mean we can sell our songs in some other format besides: 'Go down to the store and buy a $15 disc'?" The threat of piracy or the consumer simply bypassing their established model is the only thing that ever gets studios off their lazy asses.
  • by feldicus ( 1367687 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @11:11AM (#26981907)

    I've always gotten the feeling that the music industry is pissed because they can't strongarm the market price for their commodity anymore. Until the rise of file-sharing, they had a much greater hold on the channels of distribution of their goods, which gave them the ability to artificially inflate the price. There were always people copying songs from the radio, or dubbing from one tape to another, but the loss in quality (and the processes involved) made it more attractive to just buy the music from dealers.

    Once CDs became a more mainstream method of music distribution, the quality loss pretty much dropped out of the equation, and the relentless march of technology reduced the complexity of the process and lowered the cost of the necessary hardware, thereby lowering the bar for and increasing the attractiveness of copying music.

    Hindsight, being 20/20, paints a fairly clear picture of the way the market adapts to artificially restrictive conditions. In this case, it took several decades, but that isn't always the case.


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

    by omris ( 1211900 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @11:18AM (#26981981)

    Granted I'm not a school kid. But I have disposable income, and I didn't buy Rock Band or Guitar Hero for a big market band.

    In fact, I got my mom (who will be 60 this year) into Buckethead by getting her to play Jorden on Guitar Hero II.

    The majority of these games are not purchased by school age kids, even if they are FOR school age kids. You know you'd steal the Wii from your kid to play Rock Band. And after you're hooked, you'll buy the next one even if your kid doesn't ask you for it.

  • Re:Stupid (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chih ( 1284150 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @11:43AM (#26982339)
    Wait, what? I live in the fricken midwest, and CD's from "label" stores cost $20. I have to get the Walmart version or buy it secondhand to get it for under $15. Not that I've actually bought a $15 CD in the past few years, and the last couple were utterly disappointing
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2009 @03:18PM (#26985143)

    Yes, exactly! (posting anon because I just modded you up)

    I only recently got into the Guitar Hero scene (V-day gift for the wife; we've been having a blast!). I can already see the enormous potential this has for the music industry - if the industry chooses to unleash that potential. They've already benefitted from my having bought the game in multiple ways:

    • Licensing fees from the sale of the game itself - yeah, they complain that their cut is too low, but they still got something!
    • Licensing from downloads of additional tracks at $2 a pop
    • Exposure to music that I otherwise would have skipped in the CD/iTunes/Amazon store
    • I have used iTunes to pay for and download multiple songs from the game so I could listen to them outside the living room and improve my play. That's tangible extra money they weren't getting otherwise!

    Ideally, I'd like to see GH and RB become a generic iTunes-like platform for distribution of music - with extra value added that it's interactive for playing along. This could be a huge long-term cash cow for the music industry if they don't get too greedy and choke it off before it gets going.

    • I'd like to see a common format used for this - multi-track audio + midi for the notes.
    • Ideally both games will support the common format, so you can use whichever you like best to play the songs you buy. Third parties would undoubtedly add their own player software to the mix as well.
    • I'd like to see massive back catalogs of music added and available via this new distribution platform, plus new releases (like Metallica did). I've been having so much fun with the game, it's a big disappointment that the vast majority of my music library isn't playable in the game. So many songs would be so perfect for it and so fun!
    • $2 a song is fair because you're getting multiple tracks, plus the note data - more than twice what you get for an iTunes or MP3 download.

    Unfortunately, this dream will probably never happen. Roadblocks I see include:

    • Music industry greed. They want all the profits and are willing to kill a massive long-term revenue stream to avoid making any concessions in this area.
    • Despite the death of DRM on digital music downloads (yay!), I'm certain it would rear its ugly head here. Even if we got a viable platform, DRM would undoubtedly limit it (sorry, you can't play that Warner Music song in the Sony Music player software, which is a better app than the piece of crap Warner player, etc).
    • Harmonix and Neversoft have no interest in giving up their current level of control over their competing platforms. Having a truly open platform with a common format means a massive loss of revenue for them, so they'll fight to keep things the way they are now.
    • Certain artists have expressed discomfort with the idea of distributing their music in multi-track format. Their loss!
    • Finally, the market for play-along music is undoubtedly far smaller than the market for music in general. Some will see it as too small to be worthwhile going after.

    So I'm not holding my breath. But just think how cool it would be to have a play-along music store with its catalog a significant fraction of what iTunes or Amazon has. How cool would that be? It's a nice dream, anyway.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson