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How to Earn Money in Music Using Video Games

Aerosmith’s best-selling album is Get a Grip which was released in 1993 and has sold over 20 million copies. According to Activision’s CEO (Bill Kopick) Aerosmith actually made more money as a result of having their music featured on a video game than selling records.


Surprisingly, musicians don’t make much money from album sales. What they do make money from is touring and live concerts. This is great for artists like Jay-Z, who can make $1000 per minute on stage, but smaller bands usually can’t afford large scale tours. When an £8 album only makes the artist £1 profit, other ways to bring in the cash are often welcome. This is where video games come in.


Everyone seems to remember the Tetris theme and the epic chanting orchestral theme for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It goes to show that the two industries, music and video games, are actually pretty close to each other. Interestingly, until now no big band has been associated with creating epic video game music. Well, that was until music video games like Guitar Hero changed the way the music industry thought about gaming.


Music video games are games where you play along and keep a rhythm with the music. You can actually play along to the songs you love. These games are hugely popular titles and hundreds of artists from The Beatles to Oasis have been featured. Whilst having such bands associated with gaming seems impressive, its actually just as beneficial for the musicians themselves. Within eight weeks of Rock Band’s release around 2.5 million songs featured on the game were downloaded by players and it’s in this type of game where Aerosmith made a killing.


Guitar Hero


Aerosmith actually generated more revenue from Guitar Hero than they did from any of their individual album sales. Not just from the royalties they got from the game which sold over 3.6 million copies in its first two years of release, but also from the touring they did after the game was released (and the merchandise and albums which the game’s success helped them sell).


Recently, though, games have been less about playing music and singing along. The last DLC for Guitar Hero hit the markets in 2011. So it might at first seem like this spells an end to bands getting any opportunity in games. But luckily, that’s not at all true. Grand Theft Auto has always been known for its radio station style soundtracks. GTA: V’s radio stations play songs from Queen, Britney Spears, Stevie Wonder and Johnny Cash. But there are loads of other artists, smaller ones who don’t yet even have Wikipedia pages who are also featured on GTA: V. Sho-Nuff is such a band and they are featured on the same radio station as Stevie Wonder. They may not be as well-known as Stevie Wonder, but they are gaining great exposure and recognition for being on the same radio station.


How to make money in GamingBut it’s not just games helping bands, bands can help games out too. One such example is ‘Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.’ By Cage the Elephantwhich was the iconic theme for Borderlands. Their music set the tone for a game which became massively popular. Borderlands was an completely untested title being released at the same time as a load of popular sequels. But this song helped make it stand out and Borderlands started to take centre stage.


Games are becoming a fantastic opportunity for starting artists to get their names into the public. Suprisingly, even Classic FM regularly play excerpts from several video game scores including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Uncharted and The Legend of Zelda. So, composers are getting fantastic opportunities through gaming as well.


In the future the two industries could come together even closer. Gaming makes more money than music, and that’s not just by a tiny bit. The games industry is worth $50 Billion more than the music industry (which is only worth $16.5 Billion). Musicians can have a piece of this. The video gaming business is growing extremely fast with more and more games being released, meaning that there are more and more opportunities for musicians to be featured in games. Imagine the exposure that can be won from being in an industry so loved by its fans. The increased album sales, the increased attendance at gigs and increased sales of merchandise are all benefits seen by the likes of Aerosmith.


Independent games are simply increasing the number of opportunities for musicians to get involved within the incredible gaming industry and as shown, the opportunity can be very worthwhile.

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  • Jack - August 18, 2014 reply

    Always loved the SKATE and FIFA soundtracks myself, gave a lot of smaller artists huge exposure!

  • Aimee - August 19, 2014 reply

    The Sims games too have “real” music in-game, including popular bands from various genres and classical music. The only difference is that the popular music has been rerecorded with “simlish” lyrics to help immerse it into the game. Needless to say, I’ve discovered a lot of bands from that game!

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