The Guitar Hero/Rock Band Music Distribution Machine

I was at a friend’s place a few weekends ago for some much needed Rock Band, Sushi, and a car wash.  As with many of our get togethers, music was at the forefront of our entertainment and discussion.  As part of our listening enjoyment, I got introduced to a band called Flyleaf.  I heard about them before, but never really got a good listen to them.  My first impression was what would the love child of Avril Lavigne (cousin Avril as we call her jokingly in my family) and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park sound like.  I was clearly impressed enough and proceeded to listen more of the band afterward.

What actually got my interest more after thinking about it was how it was with Rock Band that I first really heard this band.  In an age where the music industry is being challenged in more ways then one, I was immediately impressed that a video game could expand my music selection more than it already was.  Not only from an awareness point of view, but also as a distribution method.  This brought back recent memories of Metallica’s latest album Death Magnetic.

My Thoughts Enclosed…Rb

I have followed Metallica since the death of Cliff Burton (still tragic to me to this day).  I have had to endure the entire Napstergate and the following impact it has had on me buying Metallica products.  I still own all their albums (and then some), but the purchase has always left a bitter taste to me.  Keep in mind that the first time I heard Metallica was their No Life till Leather bootleg tape having been copied over and over and over and over to the point where the quality was negatively affected.  This is when Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) was still in the band before they released their first album for those that are unfamiliar with the tape and the pre-history of the band. This was a band that prided itself initially on the distribution of their tape through the underground to get word of mouth about themselves.  I am not at this time however going into the mundane details and pros and cons about the initial distribution they used and their new stance against it.

The point though, is that I can honestly say that I have purchased Death Magnetic and yet (at the time) had not purchased their CD or LP release.  I purchased the album as a PS3 Guitar Hero III album release.  To my knowledge the only other album released this way was AC/DC and that was after the fact for their live album.  Metallica released Death Magnetic to Guitar Hero in real time with its other media.  This fascinated me so much that I could not purchase it fast enough on-line whereas I probably would have waited a while before buying it to see if it was truly the album that they said it would be.  The jury for me is out on that, but suffice to say Metallica has not been the same to me since Master of Puppets.  Although,  I gotta say their new song Broken Beat and Scarred is the song that helped me get through my last job and those scars have only made me a stronger person inside (Per Metallica – You rise, you fall, your down, then you rise again / What don’t kill you make you more strong /Breaking your life / Broken, beat and scarred /But we die hard).  Thanks Mike for reminding me of that song when I needed it the most, you are a true friend.

So for the first time in my life, my first exposure to an album and new songs was via a video game that I was in full control of in regards to the playing of the song.  For those not familiar with Rock Band/Guitar Hero, the basic premise is that all the songs are broken down into 5 frets and chords made up from these and you follow the notes and rhythm to make the song play for you.  Many people poke fun at it, but let us consider that modern music is made up primarily of seven notes so it is not that far off from what we term traditional pitch classes.  Standard musical concepts such as duration and beats are found in the game at a much simpler implementation.  Octaves are obviously missing as are complex chords.  I do play real guitar and bass but would never call myself a musician and I struggle huge on Expert (massive fail).  So without fueling the anger of real musicians with this comparison I will resume my point.

Not only had Metallic made use of a clever distribution mechanism that worked and actually made me excited again about one of their releases, but the first time I ever heard the songs was as a direct result of my ability and inability to play the song/game.  Now I started on a lower level in the game to ensure that I didn’t butcher the song the first time I heard it, but imagine how fun it was to experience something truly new again and having a direct impact on how it sounded.  This was air guitar taken to the next level mixed in with a distribution method that ensured that I had a close and intimate relationship with the song the first time I heard it.  As much as I can say things about Metallica, their music, their view on Napster.  I will say that for the first time in a very long time, I can appreciate Metallica distributing their media in a way that brings me back to the day of listening to No Life till Leather for the first time.

PS3 is being fired up as I write this.  Death Magnetic awaits.

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6 thoughts on “The Guitar Hero/Rock Band Music Distribution Machine

  1. Rob – as a “lapsed musician” (graduate of Berklee College of Music, but no longer active [much] in music creation), I have to say that the Guitar Hero and Rock Band phenomenon has been an unexpected joy in my household. My wife, kids and I all frequently play together as a family (not Metallica, necessarily), and I’ve found many bands or tracks via GH/RB that I would’ve been unlikely to find elsewhere.

    It’s social, it’s interactive, it’s not (quite) really playing music, but even with caveats, if it helps sow some seeds of music enjoyment, then why not?

    I’ll see you online in RB2! 😉


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