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Gaming and Music Convergence: Guitar Hero Aerosmith Debuts

gh-up.jpgAerosmith has sold more than 150 million albums (66m + in the U.S.) over four decades of Rock but they haven’t released a new one since 2001.  In today’s music world, that may not matter much when it comes time to receive royalty checks.   Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, the first single-band specific version of Activision’s bestselling video game, released Sunday.  If it does well, the band stands to draw a sizable income without having to hit the studio anew.

In 2007, Guitar Hero was the top selling video game in the US by dollar sales.  It grossed more than $820 million at retail.  Nearly 11 million copies were sold.   Over its life, the franchise has generated well over a billion in sales.

The opportunity represents a new frontier and is the result of a deepening collaboration between the music and gaming industries. 

With CD sales in a consistent state of decline, and most labels struggling to recoup the revenue, some see the partnership as a prospect of salvation and the seed of a new business model for music sales.  Others are also quick to point out the value is tremendous as a marketing tool to introduce  a band to new generations of fans.

Evidence of that can be seen in sales results from last October.  At the time, Aerosmith’s hit “Same Old Song and Dance” got high profile billing in the newest installment of Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.   Following the publicity, sales of the song increased substantially, as much as 5 times normal (via Nielsen SoundScan).

“After [the October result] we thought ‘Maybe we ought to do something here’” Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler told the New York Times.

Irving Azoff from Aerosmith’s management company, Front Line Management, echoed the sentiment telling the Wall Street Journal, “[videogames can be] much more lucrative than anything you can do in the record business.”   Bands stand to receive as much as seven figure upfront payments along with per unit (or per song download) royalties.

GH: Aerosmith will be one of the first tests to see if a single band can carry a game franchise title as the sole headline.  

To help insure success, game maker Neversoft worked extensively to make the title unique and not just a clone of the rest of the franchise.   Motion capture studios were used to help animate everything from band member’s body movements to facial expressions.  A “career mode” of game play will follow the band from high school beginnings to Arena rockers.   The game also intersperses historical footage and interview content to add to the experience.

If the title catches on, and the music of one band (and a handful of others that were early influences)is enough to capture fan interest, Aerosmith won’t be alone headlining a gaming tour.  Activision has already greenlighted an apparent Metallica edition.  They are also rumored to be in extensive discussions with the Beatles and other major bands over future versions.

Rival game Rock Band, which is published by MTV Networks and Electronic Arts, will be in the fray too. On Monday, MTV’s Harmonix subsidiary announced a  second installment to the game will release in September for the Xbox 360.  Like the prior version it will feature a full cadre of instruments (and not just guitars).   80 songs recorded from the original masters will be available to start.  Extra song tracks will be downloadable at $1.99 per song. PS3 and Wii versions will follow.

When Aerosmith released their song "Toys in the Attic," they probably never would have imagined, toys might be a big part of their future. It looks like they could be.


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