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Musically Speaking: Guitar Hero Metallica, Radiohead to iTunes

metallica guitar hero editionUsually when a company makes a positive announcement about their product pipeline, it is with a glitzy PR campaign, or at the least, a press release.  Bucking tradition, Activision went the modest route this week and (intentionally or inadvertently) slipped news into an SEC filing.

According to the regulatory document, one of the next titles planned for their popular and lucrative Guitar Hero franchise will be built around heavy metal rockers, Metallica.

The Metallica Hero edition will be the 2nd installment built around the career and songbook of a single band.  Earlier this year the company revealed Guitar Hero: Aerosmith as the first version. That game is due in stores later this month.

On the Metallica edition, Activision has made no formal announcement, nor offered any detail on whether the game will include a story format (Aerosmith Hero will follow the bands career).  Still, the inclusion in the filing not only appears to confirm the editions existence for a Fiscal 2009 (now through March 2009) launch, it also would seem to lay to rest rumors about possible DJ Hero, Van Halen Hero or Beatles Hero additions being upcoming in the cue.   (More on the Beatles rumor can be found here on Metue.)

According to the filing, in Fiscal 2009, Activision will “Publish Guitar Hero: On Tour for the NDS, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, Guitar Hero: Metallica and Guitar Hero IV across multiple platforms.”

Lack of information isn’t stopping people from speculating.  Some are theorizing that the edition will include special edition guitars and other band related paraphernalia.  Others are forecasting the delivery date will come sometime after the release of Guitar Hero IV, the multi instrument version of the game aimed at matching Electronic Arts and MTV’s rival Rock Band franchise.   Both ideas are surely possible.

An earlier release of the game is also within reason.  Currently, Metallica is at work on their 9th studio album.  In May, 11 songs were confirmed recorded.  A September release is anticipated. 

Given Metallica’s large and loyal fan base, and coupled with the fact that they have not released a studio album since 2003, there is some basis for believing Warner Music (the band’s label), and Activision, might use the opportunity presented by the album rollout to jointly market both the game and the record.

NOTE:  Interestingly, as a side note, MTV Sr. VP of Home Entertainment Paul Degooyer was on record in the press as far back as November 2007 saying the first single from the new Metallica album would premier on Rock Band.   There is nothing about Activation’s news that negates this earlier claim.  On the other hand, the language used in Rock Band related comments was that “they’ve [Metallica] reserved the right to give us the first single.”   That, semantically, suggests the decision remained with the band and its possible that they may have changed. It also possible they’re going with both competing titles. As a matter of fact: older Metallica music is already featured on Rock Band.

Tuesday, Apple used their regular “iTunes Tuesday” announcement as opportunity to check one of the few remaining superstar holdouts off the iTunes-A.W.O.L list.

Effective immediately, Radiohead’s back catalog including six studio albums and this year’s “In Rainbows” release are available. 

EMI, the band’s former label, made the music available for download as singles, or albums.  They are also DRM free. 

Before choosing iTunes, Radiohead experimented with several online sales offerings including a name-your-price roll out of their most recent album.

With Radiohead signed, now, the Beatles are the only major British band still missing from the digital store.  Of course, they’ve been promised and rumored for ages and will, eventually, end up there. All the band members are, in fact, there already as solo artists.

Counting superstars across the music world, in addition to the Beatles, only AC/DC and Garth Brooks remain iTunes A.W.O.L.   AC/DC is offering their music exclusively through Verizon. Garth Brooks, who controls his catalog personal without a label to interfere, used to have an exclusive relationship with Wal-Mart. That has passed but he continues to avoid digital offerings on the grounds that his music was meant to be offered as albums, not the single song sales favored in most online stores.

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