Since Stereocache’s birth in the not so distant past I have seen a dramatic spike in the coverage of Rock Band and Guitar Hero news on music blogs and periodicals that I respect. It is becoming clear that these two games have come to be viewed as a part of the music machine out there while I would still consider them to sit squarely within the confines of a tech or gaming realm. I suppose this is really just symptomatic of a larger trend that has emerged over the last few years, what with the relationship of record label and sports game soundtracks etc etc. (a few weeks back I heard the guy from Activision? responsible for putting those together interviewed on Indie 103 here in L.A.) I have tried to avoid commenting on these games because I really didn’t see how this news was relevant for a music site to be announcing. It all seemed like a pretty transparent grab at views because of the huge popularity of these franchises. That is, until I heard this little tidbit.
“During the week in June when Mötley Crüe released “Saints of Los Angeles,” the first single from its new album, the song sold 14,000 copies on iTunes and 48,000 on Rock Band through Microsoft’s Xbox Live network.”
Now, I knew that the games were attributed with boosting sales and generating interest in bands that had started to fade, but this statistic paired with the kinds of single band story modes like Aerosmith and Metallica’s on GH is just kind of horrifying. Robert Levine’s NY Times article goes on to discuss this new launch-pad-synergy-marketing-avenue-Frankenstein in respect to the release of “Shackler’s Revenge” off of GNR’s Chinese Democracy that’s supposed to be available in September but I really couldn’t care less.
The significant aspect of this article is all the talk about changes in how we experience music. The marketing people over at all of these companies are thrilled, and rightly so. The fact that all of these people are “interacting” with the music (read product) will of course increase the time they spend with it and their memory of it. There will undoubtedly be a larger connection between the individual and the material which should also make the artist happy because that’s (what I assume) they’re general artistic goal is. I can’t help thinking though that this is all wrong.
An album should not be confined to my xbox, as much as I love playing xbox, and a song should not be interacted with as a series of colored dots. I’ve played these games a couple of times and I barely even hear the songs half the time because I’m trying to make those damn circles explode. I’ve seen people play with the volume off. Everyone just stand around watching. It strikes me that this is one of the most oppressive environments to experience music imaginable. Kids that sit around and play covers in their basements might seem like they’re pretending to have something in common with superstars, but I think ours will be the first fully delusional generation. Those kids in the basement were actually exactly like the people they emulated were at one time and the fact that they had real instruments means that there was at least the possibility that they could branch out and legitimately become their (or somebody else’s next) heroes.
And don’t get me started on the that Rock Band stage kit.