In the two months since MTV Networks and Harmonix released the music-based video game Rock Band, players have purchased and downloaded more than 2.5 million additional songs made available after the game’s initial distribution. Activision, meanwhile, said it has sold more than 5 million new songs via download for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock since it began adding downloadable content in early November. By comparison, it took wireless operator Sprint four months to sell 1 million songs on its over-the-air full-song download service. While new digital music services competing with iTunes and free peer-to-peer services have struggled to convince music fans to pay $1 for a single, downloadable tracks for games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero are flying off the digital shelves. “With such a low installation base, we didn’t think that there’d be 2 million songs sold in eight weeks,” MTVN Music Group/Logo/Films division President Van Toffler said. “We live in a rough time around music where our audience struggles to pay $20 for a CD but don’t hesitate to pay $50 for a game. The notion to pay 99 cents or $1.99 to have a song and repeatedly play with it apparently isn’t a big hurdle.”
It turns out that’s an understatement. Consider these 2007 sales figures from NPD and Nielsen SoundScan:
Digital Music Sales $835 million on 840m units
Guitar Hero/Rock Band Sales $935 million on 10.5m units
Whoa. That’s right – Guitar Hero is a more efficient way to sell your music than iTunes. But put the two streams together is a powerful combination…and we’re talking about Legal downloads. Who knows what the effect is in the P2P world?This has become such a phenomenon that last week USA Today even coined it the “Guitar Hero Effect” in a news article, with salutory effects for bands both old and new:
DragonForce guitarist Herman Li and his speed metal bandmates used to play the video game Guitar Hero. Now, fans are flocking to the band after finding their song Through the Fire and Flames in the latest installment of the game, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock.
“Our CD sales have gone up, and we are high up the charts on digital downloads,” Li says. “It’s great. We don’t play commercial music. It took everyone by surprise.”
Rich Williams, guitarist for the classic rock band Kansas, says that after the release of Guitar Hero II, which included the band’s song Carry On Wayward Son, “the front row of almost every show we did was filled with young teenagers. It’s all due to that. It’s brought us a whole new fan base.”
Digital sales of the song rose from 119,000 in 2006 to 297,000 in 2007. “It’s been a positive influence for us,” he says. “It brought a younger crowd to us that otherwise might not have come in.”
All I can is that Niccolo Paganini’s got nothing on Hong Kong-born DragonForce guitarist Herman Li, who claims to be a self-taught musician. Take a look at this video trailer for “Through the Fire and Flames” Stupidly hard.