Now that he’s had some time to mull it over, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick thinks the music industry is getting off a little too easy with the current Guitar Hero licensing deal, and that maybe it’s time for music publishers to start paying him to use their music.
In August, Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman criticized the current licensing arrangements between the music industry and companies developing and publishing music-based games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, saying, “The amount begin paid to the music industry, even though their games are entirely dependent on the content we own and control, is far too small.” Kotick responded by saying Bronfman’s comments failed to take into account how those games had introduced various acts to entirely new audiences. “We’re introducing a whole new group of artists to new audiences that is resulting in their iTunes downloads being exponentially higher than they would otherwise be, [as well as] new album sales and new merchandising opportunities,” he claimed.
Now that he’s had more time to think things over, it appears Kotick is willing to go even further in that regard, suggesting in a Wall Street Journal interview (via GameDaily) that the music industry is enjoying huge benefits resulting from the popularity of music-based videogames, and that maybe it’s time to start paying for it.
“We compensate artists and publishers extremely well. There are millions and millions of dollars that are being made and paid,” he said. “There’s a misunderstanding of the value we bring to the catalog. What happens to your catalog in digital downloads? What happens to your merchandise? What happens to your ticket sales? When you look at the impact it can have an on Aerosmith, Van Halen or Metallica, it’s really significant, so much so that you sort of question whether or not, in the case of those kinds of products, you should be paying any money at all and whether it should be the reverse.”
He also rejected the idea that Guitar Hero is “entirely dependent” on licensed music for its success. “We have lots of music to choose from, lots of artists to choose from,” he continued. “A 12-year-old kid has no idea who Steven Tyler is or who Aerosmith is. The bulk of our consumers will tell you they’re not purchasing the products based on the songs that are included. They’re purchasing based on how fun the songs are to play when they’re playing them.”
Kotick has a point: In May it was announced that the new Motley Crue single “Saints of Los Angeles,” which had been released exclusively in digital format, had been downloaded 47,000 times during its first week of availability at the Rock Band music store, while downloads from conventional MP3 sites like Amazon and iTunes added up to just over 10,000.