The “Guitar Hero” People Don’t Think Much Of The Music Biz

Sure, Edgar Bronfman Jr. would like to figure out a way for the music business to make a little more cash from that Guitar Hero all the kids are talking about. The man running the company that makes the plastic-guitar-powered game must sympathize with the Warner Music Group head’s plight, right? Um, no.

In a delightful moment of frankness, Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick decided to tell the Wall Street Journal what he really thinks of the labels’ whining about not getting their fair share of the game’s windfall.

WSJ: How do you feel about the criticism from Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman that Activision and others aren’t paying enough for the use of artists in Guitar Hero and other music games?

BK: We compensate artists and publishers extremely well. There are millions and millions of dollars that are being made and paid. There’s a misunderstanding of the value we bring to the catalog. What happens to your catalog in digital downloads? What happens to your merchandise? What happens to your ticket sales? When you look at the impact it can have on an Aerosmith, Van Halen or Metallica, it’s really significant, so much so that you sort of question whether or not, in the case of those kinds of products, you should be paying any money at all and whether it should be the reverse.

WSJ: Traditionally, music in videogames has been seen as a good promotional tool for artists. But aren’t you a little more sympathetic to the idea that songs in music games like Guitar Hero are actually selling the games?

Mr. Kotick: No. We have lots of music to choose from, lots of artists to choose from. A 12-year-old kid has no idea who Steven Tyler is or who Aerosmith is. The bulk of our consumers will tell you they’re not purchasing the products based on the songs that are included. They’re purchasing based on how fun the songs are to play when they’re playing them.

You do not know the pure delight I experienced at reading Kotick’s complete dismissal of Bronfman. But it’s also worth pointing out that Kotick is probably right when he points out that the game’s consumers aren’t all that concerned about which artists are included on the game’s roster; what matters is that the game’s fun to play, (It’s not like Dragonforce’s existing fanbase bolstered sales of the original game; the band has certainly benefited from the association, though.) That being said, I’m still a little upset that we were apparently so close to eradicating public awareness of Aerosmith within our lifetime, but we didn’t seize the opportunity. So sad.

The Future of Videogames, According to Activision CEO [WSJ]

  • doublewhiskycokenoice

    anybody else think that GH should incorporate a touchpad on the neck of the guitar so you could rock some serious fretboard fingertapping? could make some of those metal jams way more fun to play. sayin’

  • Halfwit

    That makes… what, three generations that Aerosmith has now tainted?

  • El Zilcho!

    @doublewhiskycokenoice: The guitar for the new GH does have a touchpad for just that purpose.


  • Jasonbob7

    Every time the labels have an opportunity to move forward into the future, they shoot themselves in the foot. What makes Bronfman think WMG has any power over Activision?
    1) As the article says, kids don’t buy GH for the bands on the tracklist, they buy it because the game itself is fun to play. Even shitty and unknown songs are a worthwhile challenge.
    2) There’s nothing stopping Activision from replacing WMG tracks with spot-on covers by their house band. GH 1 and 2 sold millions of copies with very few original masters. Having authentic audio doesn’t make or break the game.
    3) Shit, there’s nothing stoping THE BANDS THEMSELVES from re-recording their song and selling the track directly to Activision for the game. Living Colour and the Sex Pistols already did it.

    Bronfman is lucky that this phenomenon has given him a new source of revenue. It’s practically “found money” and requires minimal investment on WMG’s part. Stop grubbing for pennies and appreciate a good thing while it lasts, Ed.

  • Eugene Langley

    @Halfwit: Tainted is a good word. Steven Tyler’s mouth scared me very much as a child.

  • doublewhiskycokenoice

    @El-Zilcho: LAWWD HAVE MERCY!

  • Captain Wrong

    I keep waiting for the first music game to go pay to play. And, as someone in a band, I gotta admit, the exposure being in one of those games would make me seriously consider it.

    And yeah, it would be so easy to take WMG bands out of the equation either through covers or using other tracks from folks dying to get in. The smart CEO should shut up and ride this trend as long as it moves, as video gamers can be a fickle bunch.

  • Anonymous

    Thank god I got a real guitar back in the day instead of this cheesy shit.

  • King of Pants

    @juiceandgin: You’re right. How else would you get a job at Guitar Center, then?

    (I am so fucking sick and tired of the “why don’t you just play a real guitar” argument. Why don’t you learn how to code software instead of using an HTML form box?)

    It’s interesting that this is all coming through Activision; I wonder how EA/Harmonix is dealing with all this. But it’s absolutely right that it doesn’t matter how familiar or popular the song is; if it’s fun to play, it’ll get played. “When You Were Young” by the Killers is a crap song, but there’s something kinda awesome about it in Rock Band.