ElectricArtists is a New York-based strategic marketing services agency whose clients have included Universal Music Group, Infogames, BMG and WEA. After surveying "hard-core video game tastemakers" on a series of questions relating to the intersection of the music and gaming industries, 40 percent of the respondents said that after hearing a song they like in a video game, they have bought it on a CD. If I were a record label executive, a light would certainly go off in my head. If I was a replicator, I'd be doing more than putting the feelers out on that business.
Seventy-four percent of ElectricArtists respondents agreed that soundtracks help sell video games. Forty percent of those responding learned of a new song or band from a game, and then 27 percent of them went out and bought the CD. The age of respondents ranged from 13- to 32-year-olds. But the average gamer is 28 years old. Hey…those are people with jobs who can actually buy products.
It's surprising that there hasn't been more marketing of soundtracks with the games. Music helps to sell a game. It should be especially easy to market the two products together, particularly in today's climate where replicators are offering all kinds of services that bridge the gaps between different types of content. For example, while writing this column, I came across a new agreement between Warner Music Canada and Cinram International, a large independent media manufacturer. Cinram will provide distribution services for Warner Music's physical product throughout Canada, enhancing their long-term manufacturing relationship. How perfect is that?
Electronic Arts (EA) is among the content providers really in tune with what consumers want on their games in terms of music, and the company developed the EA Trax program last year. It's basically a partnership between the music labels and EA aimed at breaking new bands through EA's video games. "We programmed no catalog music in the last year. We only programmed new and upcoming songs from emerging or established artists," says Steve Schnur, worldwide executive of music for EA. Sony Music's Epic Records Group has had tremendous success with the band Good Charlotte, whose song "The Anthem" was featured on Electronic Arts' Madden NFL 2003. Good Charlotte did that song ahead of time and mixed it especially for EA, according to Schnur.
Lori Lambert, vice president of strategic marketing and development for Epic Records Group, sees the value in the Madden placement, but is hesitant to give the video game all of the credit for Good Charlotte's success. "A lot of factors contributed to that album's success. Certainly I don't think that the gaming portion can take tremendous credit, although it helped us when we went to radio because kids were already familiar with it via Madden. It also gave us entry into a lot of sports arenas to have that music played at football games because they were excited by the whole Madden connection. Being featured on the game provided a lot of value."
Schnur admits it's tough to quantify how many music CDs are sold because of game exposure. "But I can tell you, our research for NBA Live 2003 showed that music was the number 2 reason consumers gave for purchasing the title," he said. "Also, over the course of the year, we've been credited by Capitol Records for the first 10,000 units sold of the OK Go album." "Get Over It," the first single from OK Go's self-titled debut, appeared on the Madden NFL 2003 soundtrack, along with tracks such as Andrew WK's "Party Hard," Bon Jovi's "Everyday," and a rock remix of rappers Nappy Roots' "Awnaw." The NBA Live 2003 soundtrack features a hip-hop heavy mix of artists like Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, and B-Rich, while the tunes in another sports title, NHL 2003 emphasize hard rock sounds with artists such as Papa Roach and Queens of the Stone Age.
The connection between video games and music is strong enough that in May, video games music composer and producer Tommy Tallarico will be putting on a live concert at the Hollywood Bowl the last day of Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the biggest conference and trade show for the gaming industry. It will feature a 90-piece orchestra, 40-person choir, fireworks, and it will be on Pay-Per-View. (There's another hidden factor here. Tallarico is mixing game music in 5.1. Surround Sound. Could this help the DVD-A push? That's a whole other column.)
Admittedly, the video game market is a bit tight. Sony Disc Manufacturing makes all Playstation discs, Nintendo discs are done by Panasonic, and Microsoft's Xbox discs are handled by Technicolor, JVC, and Sonopress. While some manufacturers I spoke with think the connection between video game and music sales is being overstated, I say that it's time they explore the possibilities, especially if they claim to be manufacturers that can do it all.
As a mother of two, I can tell you that even in the new millennium where there is more competition for the dollar than ever before, music still means a heck of a lot to kids. I'm a real fan of Trust Company, a band I discovered when my nephew was playing AKA Acclaim's BMX XXX. And, I'm even older than 28…ever so slightly, of course.