“I am in the music 2.0 business.” That declaration came in 2007 from Steve Schnur, the head of music and marketing for gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA).
He was patting himself on the back for helping create Artwerk, a music company that partnered with Nettwerk One Music to sign musicians to feature their tunes in video games. A year later, Schnur is living up to his own self-made pressure: Artwerk has signed seven acts so far, including Junkie XL and Norway’s Datarock.
“With Artwerk, we can now directly sign, develop and launch artists for publishing, master recordings, sync deals and beyond,” Schnur was recently reported as saying. EA is in the business of making video games, but it looks like it also wants to wade into the music waters.
Consider the numbers Schnur offers: one copy of a major game like Madden NFL will be played for 100 hours by about 2.5 people on average. The players will hear each song on the game’s soundtrack twice an hour. Multiply that figure by the millions of copies sold and that translates into billions of song impressions during the game’s lifetime.
Schnur and EA realize this is the latest mode of music delivery that pleases the bottom line and artists: most often, artists on Artwerk receive 50 per cent of net profits. Artwerk takes 12.5 per cent.
Adapt or die, Schnur says. He told Fast Company: “It is odd and ridiculous that my friends in the record industry expect young people to discover and listen to music the same way they did. Radio and TV are mediums we grew up in. Video games and the Internet are today.”
Bringing musicians to video games is nothing new (remember Trent Reznor’s song for Quake?), but it’s big business in an era when the music industry is desperate for new ideas.
The Guitar Hero franchise and Rock Band can revive a long-lost career (Mötley Crüe) or shine the light on an indie upstart (OK Go). A recent survey found that one-third of U.S. respondents who played Guitar Hero or Rock Band bought songs featured on those games.
Artwerk wants to capture that demographic with games like Need For Speed, featuring Junkie XL’s More. They want gamers to find out about new bands, like Australia’s Airbourne, on Madden 2008 and Skate.
Artwerk aims to sell the rights of that music for use in TV shows, films and ads. Schnur relates a success story about an ad agency contacting Artwerk about signing a deal with Jupiter One, the label’s latest act.
For Terry McBride, CEO of Nettwerk, the initiative makes sense. “Music that some of our artists create fits into games nicely,” he tells NOW. “It’s estimated that millions of eyeballs per day spend time in the video game space.”
For bands looking to get noticed, a video game partnership means instant exposure. Avril Lavigne was first introduced to European audiences through FIFA 2003. Fabolous won over fans in the U.S. with his debut on NBA Live. And popular bands like Green Day, via its inclusion in Madden 2005, enjoy unveiling new music in video games.
Have you noticed how most of the music-friendly video games cater to sports fans? On the other hand, there’s no Weezer in Halo 3 or Common in Grand Theft Auto IV. For war games like Medal Of Honor or the Sims series, game companies are eager to contract Hollywood film composers to write appropriate soundtracks.
Video game pop lives and breathes by sports games, which consistently sell well despite their repetitiveness. And sports games are played primarily by that coveted young male demographic, a segment the music industry has been trying to reach for decades.
Schnur said something interesting recently about the goal of music in video games: “Each song must make you want to drive faster, score higher, hit harder.” If Artwerk’s formula begins to gather even more momentum, expect gamers to not only score better but also to help musicians rank high on leaderboards.