Viacom To Record Labels: If You Want More Money For Music In Video Games, We'll Find Other Music

from the when-giants-fight dept

You may remember that Warner Music Group's CEO, Edgar Bronfman Jr., has been beating the drum for a while that video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band should be paying more to use songs in those games. This, despite the fact that having a song in those games helps sell more albums. It's the typical fallacy of the record labels: overvaluing the content and undervaluing the platform or the context. So, what happens when two entertainment industry giants collide in such a debate?

Viacom, owners of MTV, which own Harmonix, who own Rock Band (and originally created Guitar Hero), seems to feel differently about all this than Warner Music -- recently declaring that it wants to pay less for the music in video games, and if the record labels don't like it, Viacom will find cheaper music elsewhere:
As we go forward, we are continuing to focus more on software than hardware, looking to reduce the cost structure associated with Rock Band, being selective in the music titles that we choose for Rock Band based on their cost. The music industry will assist with this category to make sure that it can continue on a profitable basis in the future and then finally we think we have the best games in the category, we'll continue to rollout exciting products.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:23am

    "The internet is a fad." - RIAA

    "Music licensing in video games is the future!" - RIAA

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:27am

    Uh... Go Viacom?

    I'm sure there are thousands of bands out there just begging for a chance to be in something like Rock Band. I'm sure out of those thousands Harmonix could find 70 or so good songs for cheap, if not free.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    A Dan (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:31am

    Re: Uh... Go Viacom?

    That's what I was going to say. I bet that a lot of smaller bands would be willing to participate for free, for the promotional boost it would give them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:33am

    A trend everyone is missing is flash gaming among kids. My daughter and son (age 7 and 8) and all their friends spend more time playing flash games (e.g., Poptropica) than they do playing their consoles. (We have a 360, PS3, Wii, Dreamcast, and an N64.)

    And what's really amazing that my daughter actually plays these games, because she rarely plays any console game.

    These kids are glued to these games until we pull them off.

    So, here's my point. These games always have very repetitive and cheesy background music. The kids are basically glued to the computer while this music is playing in the background over and over again.

    Why the frick aren't the labels using this as an opportunity to get their songs into the ears of kids?! This is about 100 times better than radio or MTV!

    I'm not saying that each game should have its own song pushed down the kids' throat. I'm saying that the songs should rotate while the kids are playing. The kids will become familiar with the songs and might actually want to buy them! Heck, include links to iTunes and Amazon so the kids or parents can buy them!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:41am

    Re: Re: Uh... Go Viacom?

    By any sense of logic and decency, the band Survivor and their one hit Eye of the Tiger should have long been forgotten. But the song was included in both Rock Band 2 and in Guitar Hero World Tour. My 7 and 8 year old kids, and all their friends, know that song inside and out.

    This exposure must have helped the band in some sense. I know I ended up buying the song from Amazon to put on my kids' players. I couldn't have been the only one.

    And when today's generations of kids have grown up and are working in the real world, when they have to decide on some cheesy song from their past to put in a commercial or a movie, they'll choose Eye of the Tiger and give it an entirely new life.

    All because it was included in a video game. F#ck Warner and its shortsighted greed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:43am

    Re:

    Psshaaw. You'll never be a record executive with those kinds of ideas. Figuring out a way to passively advertise to large numbers of people at virtually no cost is a fool's errand.

    The obvious answer is to release pay versions of flash games with RIAA music. Then the money will roll in! If we can just get 35% of the people who play those games to pay, we'll make millions!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    brokeastunes, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:48am

    Bronfman-always good for a laugh

    Remember this is the guy who, when complaining about MTV, said that they had "created a multi-billion dollar industry on their (the record companies) backs with free content..." Ha ha ha... Love it! Keep 'em coming Edgar-until you go under completely.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:54am

    Re: Re:

    God, you really have to apply for a job with the RIAA. They'd hire your BS in heartbeat!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    sehlat (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 8:55am

    Ahhh. The Bloomsbury Approach to Marketing

    Anybody remember the classic remark by the publisher of the Harry Potter series in regard to eBooks?

    “I think they’d understand that if we don’t provide it they can’t have it.”

    I suppose ol' Edgar is looking at that and saying "It didn't hurt Harry Potter sales." Of course, one has to wonder whether he noticed the fact that FANS went out and created a complete, fully-proofed and corrected set all on their own, or that the necessity of actually buying a reading electronic copy of the books has evaporated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:08am

    How much should Guitar Hero charge the labels?

    If the fee were set to the real value, the labels would be paying Guitar Hero to get "product placement" in their games.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Jeff Rooks, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re:

    Best comment of the day. Bonus points for the sarcastic use of big business logic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    anti-mike fanclub member #1, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:32am

    What you're forgetting is that the recording industry wishes they were (and tries to make themselves) a cartel. You think you might be able to demand that they give you the songs for free because they get so much promotion out of it, but they know that your game won't sell unless you get SOME recognizeable music on it, and if they can clamp down their operations and keep the supply tight and the suppliers in line, then they can wrestle some money out of the game as ICING by keeping recognizeable songs out of the game altogether.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Brian (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re:

    Wow you really gave my sarcasm detector a run for its money but it held in there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Re:

    >>but they know that your game won't sell unless you get SOME recognizeable music on it,

    I question whether that was ever the case, but it certainly didn't apply once the GH franchise got established. I still wonder why we are not hearing the labels whining about how much they have to pay to get their songs placed in the games.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Tom Landry (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:38am

    Re: Re: Re: Uh... Go Viacom?

    This post is win.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Tom Landry (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:47am

    One of the first titles to ship with the Original Xbox was a snowboarding game whose name escapes me. Instead of licensing popular tracks MS went with something like over 100 indie bands who contributed their music for free. It still remains one of my favorite soundtracks of any entertainment media (ie; movies, games etc). Maybe it wouldn't work for Rock Band/Guitar Hero (though I'd love to see an all indie RB/GH) but I'd love to see more game companies avail themselves of the current generation of indie music for more standard games.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Hulser (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    Clash of the Titans

    So, what happens when two entertainment industry giants collide in such a debate?

    I've often thought that true IP reform will only come about from clashes between big content companies. Sure, I like reading TechDirt and believe that I've learned more about IP law and issues because of it, but most of my friends aren't aware of these issues, much less have a strong opinion of it. Not to downplay the effect of reform groups and the dramatic increase of people interested in the topic, but I think that IP reform will only truly go mainstream when the total lockdown mode of our current IP system starts to (visibly) hurt the profits of big companies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re:

    It certainly is the case. When my friends and I are playing Rock Band, we don't say "Oh, lets play these random songs from bands nobody's ever heard of before." We pick songs from Queen, The Who, Grateful Dead, and all the other classic rock ballads that come with the game or as DLC. We see Rock Band as socializing, and a major aspect of that is enjoying the songs we (and, when we get them to play, our parents) grew up with.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    DocMenach (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re:

    I question whether that was ever the case, but it certainly didn't apply once the GH franchise got established.

    It didn't apply when they first got started either. The first Guitar Hero game used almost no mainstream/easily recognizable bands, and was praised as one of the best game soundtracks ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:03am

    I don't really see why everyone is bashing the record industry so much in the comments. Viacom does the same thing to its clients. Look at the Viacom vs DirecTV/Cable company deal a few years ago. Viacom wanted more money from them for content distribution rights. Isn't this the same scenario with the tables turned? Both companies are just trying to make more money. Neither look good in this case.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Yakko Warner, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    Re: How much should Guitar Hero charge the labels?

    What, have the music companies pay for promotion of their artists?

    What do you think Guitar Hero is, a radio station?

    *sheesh* "Paying for advertising", what crazy ideas will they dream up next?

    </sarc>

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    someone who actually knows what he's talking about, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:06am

    Re:

    the game is called "amped." the music in it was pretty decent, and even if you didn't like it, the game had the feature where you could play the game to any playlist from any songs you had ripped to the box. of course, since you'd have to rip songs to the box, and you couldn't play it from a network drive, the playlisting was still limited.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:13am

    Re: Uh... Go Viacom?

    I'm sure there are thousands of bands out there just begging for a chance to be in something like Rock Band.
    They could put their songs into Ultrastar or Performous - that would be a start....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Michial Thompson, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:22am

    At the same time

    The Game Maker is also undervaluing the value of the music. Noone wants to play along to a band they've never heard of before, so it will increase Marketing costs considerable because not only will they have to market the game, but the content as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It didn't apply when they first got started either. The first Guitar Hero game used almost no mainstream/easily recognizable bands, and was praised as one of the best game soundtracks ever.

    Bands no songs yes the original GH had plenty of recognisable songs but not in the original versions.- and here is the Achilles heel of the record industry. You can use the songs in cover versions on a compulsory licence from the songwriter and the record company is out of the loop. Even if they own the composition rights the compulsory mechanical licence means that the get only around 10 cents per song and can't stop you. Ironically this compulsory licence was lobbied for by the early recording industry against the then dominant sheet music publishers (wonder what happened to them?)
    The compulsory licence is not all good news however it allowed Rolf Harris to record Stairway to Heaven and Bohemian Rhapsody.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 11:58am

    The Game Maker is also undervaluing the value of the music. Noone wants to play along to a band they've never heard of before,

    Correction - no one wants to play along to a song they've never heard before. Like the original GH all you need is some good session musicians and the compulsory mechanical licence (see my comment above) and away you go.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    Overcast (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 12:06pm

    You know, the music in GTA was cool and all - but I really did like the custom stuff done in GTAIII, to be honest.. :)

    Heck, could even make cash off a good tune if they do it right!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 12:38pm

    Coming Soon ...

    Guitar Hero: Local Editions
    New York, LA, and every major city in between get's it's local musicians to make guitar hero tracks which are released as downloadable content for the Guitar Hero game.

    Free music for the game makers, free promotion for the bands, and music fans get a sampling of local music they might not have heard before

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 12:41pm

    Re:

    Encourage the good, shun the bad. It's the same way you would raise a child.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm not familiar with quite a bit of the music on the GH game I've played, and I played it and enjoyed it anyway. So my anecdote cancels out yours.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Coming Soon ...

    Say, that's not stupid at all...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Luci, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:28pm

    Re: At the same time

    >> Noone wants to play along to a band they've never heard of before

    Don't know where you got THAT bit of info. Lots of bands on some of those games I'd not heard of, before. Didn't make them any less attractive. Besides, the 'value' of that music is different from person to person. Lots of big names I could care less about, so they have zero value. To me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Luci, Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:29pm

    Re: Coming Soon ...

    Now THAT is a great idea. There are some truly great college bands out there.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    DanVan (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 3:37pm

    They can try their best to get money wherever they can....and piracy will continue to thrive More people are downloading off iTunes and more are downloading torrents I do both as well Them wanting to charge for things like this....is laughable but not surprising with these people

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    DJRazor (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 5:13pm

    Gives the little guys and gals a chance

    I know a ton of bands who would supply music for almost nothing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    toddski (profile), Feb 16th, 2010 @ 10:21pm

    This is very good to hear from Viacom.
    I can think of many bands where the exposure alone would offset the need for much more than a nominal fee.

    This is one of the obvious knock on effects for record labels with large overheads, they need much larger revenue streams to survive than an independent publishing company or band.

    These are exciting times indeed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    Joe Perry (profile), Feb 17th, 2010 @ 12:43am

    I don't understand where some people are coming from saying that no one wants to play songs they've never heard before. I've discovered some great music through Rock Band, especially the free bonus tracks that came with Rock Band 2. I'd never heard of a lot of those bands, but they turned out to be some really great songs. if you don't listen to, or in this case play, new songs how would you ever find new things to like?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Jeff Rife, Feb 22nd, 2010 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Uh... Go Viacom?

    Although I agree with you on the "might be forgotten" for older songs, Survivor was a lot more than a one-hit wonder. From the Billboard Hot 100 chart:

    #1 - Eye of the Tiger (1982)
    #13 - I Can't Hold Back (1984)
    #2 - Burning Heart (1985)
    #8 - Eye on You (1985)
    #4 - The Search Is Over (1985)
    #9 - Is This Love (1986)

    They had 3 other top-40 singles, as well.

    But, "Eye of the Tiger" was back on some of the charts as high as #9 (but not the Hot 100) in 2006 and 2009, almost certainly because of the video game exposure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This