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Thanks for the music?

John Lennon once said that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Take a look at the current gaming charts and you could draw the conclusion that music games are now more popular than The Beatles. Obviously, music games themselves aren’t a new phenomenon, but their current popularity, and specifically that of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, certainly is. As we write this, there are three iterations of Guitar Hero nestling in the gaming top 30, while downloadable content in the form of artist-specific song packs has further boosted the games’ appeal.

Above: Mop-top or drop-out - decide your favorite Beatles era in The Beatles: Rock Band

The seemingly insatiable appetite for these games is something of a mystery to us. While there’s no doubting their appeal, surely it’s only a few steps away from having a quick strum on a toy guitar? Alex Needham, a music journalist who has worked for Smash Hits, NME and The Face, agrees. “To me it seems a bit silly, and also I’m not that great at it. I’m not really dexterous enough. I was playing Guitar Hero with a proper musician and he said I was more of a rhythm guitar player than a lead – where’s the glory in that?”

Sian Llewellyn, editor of Classic Rock magazine, offers a different opinion. “What I do like is it does seem to have become a forum for introducing people to new rock bands, and to established bands’ new recorded output,” she says. “For example, new band The Answer had a track on the last Guitar Hero game when they can’t get mainstream radio play. Other bands are following suit and realizing its importance as a distribution method.”

This is something the games’ publishers are keen to stress. At a recent press conference, a senior Activision employee even went so far as to suggest that Guitar Hero was on a par with the iPod in terms of revolutionizing the music industry. It’s a lofty statement, but do the record labels agree?

Above: There'll be plenty of multiplayer antics in DJ Hero, including a mode that supports the Guitar Hero axe

Hywel Evans is synchronization director at EMI, where his job involves getting the label’s bands featured in games, films, adverts and so on. “EMI are big fans [of the games],” he says, “and see the gaming world as one that offers great new opportunities for our artists and exciting experiences for their fans.”

Conversely, Jack White of The White Stripes has put the boot into music games. “It’s depressing to have a label come and tell you that [Guitar Hero] is how kids are learning about music and experiencing music… If you have to be in a videogame to get in front of them, that’s a little sad.” Sorry, Jack, the times they are a-changing and it seems an increasing number of industry movers and shakers see games as a valid way of getting exposure for a band.

Above: Guitar Hero 5 repeats the multiplayer formula laid down in World Tour but makes it easier for newbies to join in

Llewellyn agrees. “I don’t know that it’s a revolution in itself, but the nature of how people are experiencing music is definitely changing and [these games] are surely playing a part. It’s definitely introducing kids to songs that they probably haven’t heard before but find that they enjoy, and with any luck they’ll seek out the albums and go see the bands in the flesh.” It’s hard to quantify how much of an impact it has on a band when their song appears in Guitar Hero or Rock Band but for less well-established artists we imagine it’s rather like an author getting featured on Oprah's Book Club.

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42 comments

  • guiarherodrummer1998 - December 13, 2009 12:15 a.m.

    I agree with CreeplyTuna. You shouldn't brag about how well you can play a videogame because its not considered a talent. I've been singing since before GH1 or Rock Band existed. I've since learned to play guitar and im in a band with four others called AtentionDEFICIT. We play grunge.
  • guiarherodrummer1998 - December 13, 2009 12:11 a.m.

    I get soooo tired of hearing Today, and Stranglehold and Crazy Train because they are so heavily overplayed in guitar hero world tour. I wish also they won't stop making Guitar Hero Games after the releases of DJ Hero and Band Hero, which by the way, has way too much pop music, and that can draw GH fans away.
  • CreeplyTuna - July 25, 2009 3:05 a.m.

    sure these games can be a bit of fun as a party game, but if you go around bragging at how good you are and can't even play a real instrument, SHAME ON YOU! I've been a drummer since before guitar hero 1, and i'm in a real rockin band, Downtown Sasquatch. i ended middle school this year, and from my school mates opinions, im the best rock drummer at my school. but there are three or four people i can name who JUST started drumming and talk as though they're the real deal, and i know for sure one of them hasn't even gotten a drum set yet. TO ALL THE POSER'S OUT THERE: F*** YOU!!!games don't make you musicians, the heart and soul of rock and roll does! did Kurt Cobain, or jimi hendrix or Dave Grohl become masters of rock from, games? NO, now shut up and leave the world alone. thank you
  • hetfieldhammet51 - July 22, 2009 10:02 p.m.

    how does Jack White have the right to say that being exposed to new music through music games is sad. The WHite stipes suck and Music games our this age's tape trading
  • alfonso.hdez - July 22, 2009 3:52 p.m.

    I think that saying that music games either create new musicians/kill music is like the argument saying shooters create violent people. If you really like music, you won't stop at playing a plastic controller w/paddles, and if you really enjoy the game, it won't stop you from learning the real thing. If you just find the game as a passtime and you don't feel like taking a real instrument, well, I guess you weren't going to in the first place! Sorry for the long comment btw.
  • Squidtech - July 22, 2009 1 p.m.

    "Try nailing Through the Fire and Flames on Expert and try saying that’s not hard work…" That's really ridiculous statement. How long does it really take to get good at Guitar Hero? Really? After owning the game for a year, just about anyone will be pretty damn good at the game. Sure, that's REALLY hard work by any sort of video game standards, but it's nothing compared to 10 years of practice it would take to even play close to that level on a real instrument.
  • Miresnare - July 22, 2009 10:55 a.m.

    Guitar Hero made mt pick up the real thing at age 32 (I'm now 35) as it was something I regretted not doing when I was younger. I sill enjoy the game. It's a game. Plain and simple. I'm not going to sneer at someone having fun with it. I do however, love playing the real thing and find it incredibly satisfying.
  • mertor3190 - July 22, 2009 6:21 a.m.

    In my opinion, Guitar Hero did a lot for music. I started listening to new music thanks to them. Music that has been existing for years and I never knew about. Sure now they're going a bit too far, but the fact remains that it helped people find out what real music is. I mean do we really want kids to listen to this new rap crap.
  • Doctalen - July 22, 2009 2:59 a.m.

    Guitar Hero and Rockband are really fun. Hell because of that I ak thinking og taking either drums or maybe guitar lessons. They also have introuduced me to a bunch of good bands. But I can see why Led Zepplin doesn't want their songs on them. There is no substitue for hours if not weeks of practice to know a song by heart. Like my english teacher said " I can see why its fun, for drums and singing you may actually get better at that but playing a real guitar is nothing like playing guitar hero. If you want to play music just pick up an intrument and learn to play it without any other urge to play it other then your desire."
  • phoenix_wings - July 22, 2009 2:23 a.m.

    I have used to have a nice little playlist going on my computer that's called "Songs I First Heard in Video Games." There's a lot of them--some of them from GTA and Saints Row, others from GH (never played RB). If there's a medium that gets people to listen and open their ears to something they've never heard before, then all power to it...However.... Most people like it now because it's easy, you pick it up and play it, it doesn't require a buttload of previous practice or hundreds of dollars to be on the same level as the rest of your 'band mates.' When there comes a day where we have less 'real guitar heroes and less 'real' rock bands, then I'll see cause for concern. If there comes a day that we're limited to what we can do on the guitar by the pressing of little plastic buttons and retarded whammy bars, then I'll see cause for concern. Otherwise, I see it as a re-imagined Zapper, or Superscope. Fun to play, but they never hurt anybody.
  • BuggattiFreak - July 22, 2009 12:36 a.m.

    Sorry GR, but that comment on Through the Fire and Flames was just stupid. If it's hard on a rickety plastic thing with five buttons, it's easy compared to the real thing.
  • pimpdaddie - July 22, 2009 12:25 a.m.

    what if game developers make a game were you play a real guitar and have the same gameplay as a guitar hero game. that would be the next real revolution.
  • TheReaper24 - July 21, 2009 11:54 p.m.

    For me, when I first played guitar hero, it got me inspired to try and play my favorite songs. It gave me a new look on music, and since it was my inspiration to playing guitar, it made me look at life differently. Yea I know that sounds weird but its true, if I hadn't listen to the music I do today, then I would be a totally different person. And plus games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band bring us back to music that we haven't even heard because they are so old.
  • penguinsrule3 - July 21, 2009 10:57 p.m.

    guitar hero, rock band, all of them are sell outs
  • kubes - July 21, 2009 10:52 p.m.

    i play the drums because i started in rockband i practice everyday i think music games are great btw @helloimgaydo wtf
  • foodlist97 - July 21, 2009 9:48 p.m.

    Rock band taught me how to play the drums.
  • Amnesiac - July 21, 2009 9:40 p.m.

    Jack White can stop his bitching. Would he rather have kids learn about his music from Guitar Hero or not know about it at all?
  • civver - July 21, 2009 9:07 p.m.

    These games would let one experience music first-hand. The next step would be the ability to create and share actual music online with these games.
  • Corsair89 - July 21, 2009 8:31 p.m.

    Guitar Hero and Rock Band are the reasons that I got into real gutiar in the first place. They also massivily expanded my iTunes library. Without them, I wouldn't be anywhere near as into music as I am now.
  • Kaz993 - July 28, 2009 4:49 p.m.

    there were quite a lot of songs I liked before GH or RB ruined them. Best example : Fire and the Flames, and by extension, the whole band Dragonforce. No one knew who they were in my school beforehand, maybe a few, I used to enjoy their music. Then strolls along GH3 and suddenly EVERYONE is listening to it, talking about it "oh man that song is fucking epic" and singing it. This is still happening. I cannot stand them anymore, everyone listens to it and it's constantly everywhere.

Showing 1-20 of 42 comments

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