Video games save the radio star

It may be true that “video killed the radio star” back in the early ’80s, but it looks like video games are coming the rescue here in  the late ’00s.  From the AP story Boom in music video games helps original artists:

Artists from Nirvana to the Red Hot Chili Peppers have seen sales of their music more than double after being released on the games [Rock Band and Guitar Hero].  Some bands are featured on special editions — like Aerosmith on “Guitar Hero” this year and, soon, The Beatles with MTV Games — and last month, The Killers released two new songs on “Guitar Hero” the same time their latest album came out.

Aerosmith made more money off the June release of “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith” than either of its last two albums, according to Kai Huang, co-founder of RedOctane, which first developed “Guitar Hero.”

And yes, in case you are wondering, we do have Rock Band in the house and I can tell you it is a blast to play.  What’s really great, at least to me, is the ability to download and play all that good classic rock I grew up on – like, for instance, the entire Moving Pictures album from Rush!  The kids have been introduced to all that good old stuff, and I’ve actually picked up a few new things, too.

Interestingly, this turn of events is actually helping the artists more than it is the record companies:

Although labels get some royalties from the play-along games’ makers, they are often bypassed on image and likeness licensing deals, which the bands control and which account for a rising proportion of musicians’ income. Meanwhile, the Recording Industry Association of America pegged its U.S. members’ sales at $10.4 billion in 2007, down 11.8 percent from the year before, with a further drop expected for 2008. By comparison, sales of music video games more than doubled this year, hitting $1.9 billion in the past 12 months, according to NPD Group. And they’re expected to keep growing.

Though Warner Music Group Corp. Chief Executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. bemoaned the “very paltry” licensing fees record labels get from game makers in August, the labels haven’t stopped sending their music to game makers.

That’s partly because they lack leverage. Even the largest label, Universal Music Group, controls just a third of the U.S. market, said Wedbush Morgan entertainment analyst Michael Pachter.

“There are literally probably 2 million songs out there, and fewer than a 1,000 were used in these two games combined in these last two years,” Pachter said. “If Warner wants to say we’ll take our 20 percent of the market and go away, a lot of bands are going to leave the label if they think they can get better exposure by being on these games.”

Amazing to me, after all this time, that the record labels still don’t seem to get it.  They are still trying to make a buck selling product, when what people want to buy is content.