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Warner, MTV Games In Music Licensing Stalemate

| 3 Mar 2009 18:32
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MTV Games and Warner Music Group are butting heads over music licensing agreements that could eventually see a shortage of new Warner content in the weekly Rock Band updates.

Billboard.biz says a "stalemate" currently exists between the two companies over Warner's demands for more money from the Rock Band licensing agreement. Back in August 2008, Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman said the amount of money being paid to the music industry in these licensing deals was "far too small" and also made the ever-so-slightly-threatening observation that games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero "are entirely dependent on the content we own and control."

It looks like Bronfman is willing to back up those words with action: MTV Games has requested several new licenses since that proclamation but Warner has responded only with counteroffers that MTV would not agree to. MTV Games is also playing hardball for the moment; as a result of Warner's intransigence, MTV has stopped requesting new licenses altogether until the two parties can come to terms.

The good news is that pre-existing deals have allowed MTV Games to continue to offer Warner artists in the weekly Rock Band DLC and the flow will continue for awhile yet. But at some point that backlog will run out and MTV will find itself without Warner content, and even if a new deal is struck soon it could take up to five months to get the newly-licensed music into the Rock Band DLC stream.

"By all accounts, WMG is ready to wait it out," the report said. "It recently pulled its content from YouTube over a similar licensing disagreement, and previously removed music from Last.fm and Nokia's mobile music store."

The spat between MTV Games and Warner over licensing terms is a bit of a surprise development because until now the most vociferous criticism of Bronfman's demands has come from Bobby Kotick, CEO of Guitar Hero publisher Activision. A week after Bronfman's complaints, Kotick responded by saying his comments were not "respectful to how much we've done to bring new audiences to the market."

The other majors in the music industry have thus far remained silent on the matter and if that situation holds Warner could find itself isolated and forced to back down. Individual artists may also take exception to losing Rock Band exposure regardless of the terms; as Kotick pointed out, videogames have proven to be a great asset in exposing bands to new listeners, an intangible but extremely valuable aspect of the current licensing deals. If all else fails, Rock Band could simply begin offering cover versions of popular Warner tracks; a cover version of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" is currently one of the top-ten selling Rock Band tracks.

via: Ars Technica

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