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

Dan Gibson | September 26, 2008 4:00 am

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]