Thanks for the music?

So the public is lapping up the games and the record labels (if not necessarily all of their artists) love it because it’s good for business at a time when they’re struggling to make the transition to digital distribution a profitable one. We have to agree with Llewellyn’s point about artists, established and new, popular and obscure, are getting exposure to new audiences. Is there much difference between hearing a song in a game or on the radio? If it (ahem) strikes a chord with you then you’re likely to look for more of that artist’s material.

Above: Now it's not just enough to dance in Dance Dance Revolution - you've got to get fit as well

Another point we asked our music industry experts to consider was the effect they think Guitar Hero and Rock Band are having on kids learning real instruments and forming their own bands. “Obviously they’re only offering a very pale facsimile of actually playing a real guitar, without any of the hard work involved,” says Needham. “In that way it seems pretty custom-made for the times.” A pretty withering verdict right there. Try nailing Through the Fire and Flames on Expert and try saying that’s not hard work… However, he adds that: “I think the people who have a predilection to form bands will continue to do so as it’s not a real substitute for being a musician. You can’t write your own songs on it and genuinely express yourself.”

Sian Llewellyn is of a similar mind. “As a rock fan and a guitarist who’s spent years learning to play the damn thing, it is kind of galling that people maybe will get discouraged from the real thing,” she says. “However, I think it’s more likely to encourage gamers to enjoy music on a wider level rather than deter those who would have the inclination to learn an actual instrument. Ultimately, there’s nothing like plugging in a real guitar and making a racket yourself.”

Jimmy Page of much-loved crusty rock outfit Led Zeppelin doesn’t reckon gamers can learn anything about playing real instruments through the games. “You think of the drum part that [Zep drummer] John Bonham did on Led Zeppelin’s first track on the first album, Good Times Bad Times,” he’s said. “How many drummers in the world can play that part, let alone on Christmas morning?” Zeppelin have been pretty vocal about their reluctance to have their tracks appear in the game. What a bunch of spoilsports, eh?

Above: Pop'n Music is a long-standing favorite in Japanese arcades, and now you can savor it on Wii

We’ve already heard how EMI are fans of the game. What do they think about the impact the games will have on potential stars of tomorrow? “Playing a game like Guitar Hero or Rock Band is fantastic fun and a very accessible way of interacting with music,” enthuses Hywel Evans. ”But once you’ve dipped your toe in the musical water nothing beats picking up a guitar or getting some drums and getting creative. Nailing Iron Maiden’s The Trooper on Hard might be satisfying, but I bet it doesn’t come close to standing with your mates performing one of your own songs to a stadium packed with fans who are singing along with you.”

The music world has always been one of changing formats – vinyl to cassette to CD to MP3 – but despite the immense popularity of music games, playing on a set of plastic instruments for high scores is never going to replace the real thing. If you’re born with any natural musical ability then not only are we childishly jealous of you, but you’re also not going to settle for imitations – you’re going to learn how to play an instrument.

Above: Can Karaoke Revolution steal SingStar's thunder? Well, SingStar's not on Wii, is it?

Guitar Hero and Rock Band certainly introduce new bands to new audiences. Many think that can only be a good thing for the musicians. Whatever your opinion of them, the music game bandwagon shows no sign of slowing down. Rock on.

Jul 21, 2009

The History of Music Games
Because when did it all get started, really?

 Guitar Hero: World Tour vs Rock Band 2
A duel to the death of the bigs in music games

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  • IAmTheWii - July 21, 2009 8:32 p.m.

    Personally, I would have to agree that while music games are a bit old, it still provides good entertainment, even if it's short-lived. In saying this, maybe it is time to give it a rest for a few years to let it become 'new' again.
  • Sidnapolis - July 21, 2009 8:36 p.m.

    I'd definitely have to agree that music games are a great way to experience new artists. My first real exposure to Metallica was through Guitar Hero, and now I can't get enough of their work.
  • Hobbs - July 21, 2009 8:48 p.m.

    I found out about Muse, The Strokes, and many other bands that I like now, from Rock Band & Guitar Hero.
  • skyguy343 - July 21, 2009 9:15 p.m.

    if i told jack white i heard one of his songs in a movie, would his opinion be any different? theyre the same thing
  • Xeacons - July 21, 2009 9:38 p.m.

    It's also introducing a newer generation to older music (and visa versa). Yes, I think the onslaught of music games has gotten crazy (7 GH titles this year?! Did I hear right?), and I've cooled down, but I still keep my eye open for good songs, genres, and artists the same as if I were buying actual albums.
  • chickenpie - July 21, 2009 9:52 p.m.

    Same as the first comment, guitar hero and rock band got me to play the guitar just like tony hawk gets people to skate
  • helloimgaydo - July 21, 2009 10:28 p.m.

    I work in a music shop(that's a music shop that sells guitars and amps etc. not CDs and DVDs), and I can't tell you how many times parents buy their kid a guitar because of rockband or guitar hero. And thats great. But the truth is, more often than not, when that kid gets his guitar home and tries to play, he quickly learns that its a LOT harder than the game, and so the guitar gathers dust in the corner while he rocks to holly heaven on a plastic imitation. On the other side of the coin, there are some kids who do power through and actually learn to play the real thing. The point is, it doesn't change how many people will learn to play for real, so I'm totally indifferent to it. Well, nearly indifferent. I HATE those games, mainly because I'm totally shit at them, which is mainly because I've been playing guitar for so many years that five buttons and a flappy paddle are just impossible for me to get my head around. Now I need a fag.
  • WouldYouKindly - July 21, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    First, I played Rock Band 2 and discovered Almost Easy Second, go on youtube and find out Avenged Sevenfold is awesome Third, See them live Fourth, learn guitar to emulate Synyster Gates At least thats what I did.
  • garnsr - July 21, 2009 11:04 p.m.

    Good luck finding a stadium full of people who want to listen to you play your own songs. How many bands ever achieve that? How can interacting with the music in a game possibly be worse than the radio station computer telling you that this is the song that you want to hear, over and over, every day, until the end of time? And, seeing how hard a time I have getting my fingers into position on five buttons on a plastic guitar, I can't fathom how anyone can play, with all the strings and different positions on all those strings. Drumming, however, makes a lot more sense to me, and is always the most fun part in these games.
  • clucky120 - July 21, 2009 11:47 p.m.

    agree with corsair on that i mean i can't stand the selection of guitarhero and rock band games today because they get pop songs insted of rock songs for vocal reasons but guitar hero 3 to me has good music
  • TeragRunner - July 22, 2009 12:40 a.m.

    I personally loved Rock Band. Until I got my actual guitar. I them noticed that Rock Band was an embarrassment and have loved guitar ever sense. A friend of mine did the opposite. He loved Rock Band, spent a time and a half of his own money what my dad spent on mine for Christmas. Now the poor thing is gathering dust in the corner. Now said friend is even more obsessed with Rock Band and is more of a nerd than I am. That's saying a lot. In his defense though I must admit that his music collection is a lot more than mine with most of his songs either in Rock Band or somehow connected.
  • fionnoh - July 22, 2009 12:44 a.m.

    ngamer got it's own feature? all right!!
  • TheCrimsonChin - July 22, 2009 1:20 a.m.

    rock band was the only the reason i bought a guitar, and i find that im hearing a lot of diferent sounds in songs now. it also really helps when u want to learn the words to song. i do think though that half the kids that buy drums or guitars after they play guitar hero r just gonna realize it takes a lot of work to get decent and say "shit this is a waste of all the money i earned this summer." i also thought it be worth it to impress chicks but the girl im seein can kick my ass with guitar so im not so lucky
  • Harmon20 - July 22, 2009 2 a.m.

    yeah, I can admit that a section of my library comes from music games. I just wish that Activision would stop butchering the Guitar Hero franchise already! and also, I wish that my brother's band had one of their songs on a RB/GH game... (they're Green Line Inbound.)
  • jackrabbitslims - July 22, 2009 3:38 a.m.

    Hmmm..."musicians" criticize people that play RB and GH for not picking up a real instrument. But does anyone find it odd that most of these people just learn other bands songs? You know the guy at the party that always has to have his guitar and play along to whatever song is playing? If you want to learn how to play an instrument then awesome, but if you're gonna be the campus douchebag that sits around all day playing other peoples song and think you have talent then you might as well not even bother. It takes real talent to play original stuff, but not so much when the stuff your playing has already been done. Btw, The White Stripes are awesome, but I think Jack should reconsider. After all, they've been on the radio...
  • bsoxfan554 - July 22, 2009 4:11 a.m.

    As always guys great article. Keep 'em coming!!
  • The_Lurcher - July 22, 2009 10:54 a.m.

    @foodlist97 & Kubes. If rockband taught you how to play drums then please explain the term paradiddle then flam the four stroke ruff, then tell me the time signature for any song on Rockband and Guitar Hero then write out that piece of music on a piece of manuscript then convert that into a tableture piece. Theres alot more to drums than hitting shit harder than everyone else. It's the same with all instruments you maybe good at rockband but that doesn't mean your good at drums and vice versa. I cannot play Rockband or Guitar Hero drums for my life I Just can't get my head around only five drums and no High Hat peddle
  • Marvelfan13 - July 22, 2009 5:39 p.m.

    I would have to agree that these games do introduce new (and old) bands to a new audience. When I played, "So Whatcha Want" by the Beastie Boys on Rock Band 2, I fell in love with the band and now have all their albums on my iPod. I probably would have never have heard of them because I don't listen to the radio that much.
  • oryandymackie - July 22, 2009 6:51 p.m.

    So it's acceptable for the developers to say that Guitar Hero and Rock Band are teaching kids about music, then close the curtains, ignore the fact that kids aren't learning about music, they're just growing fatter and fatter, and cover their ears and shout "lalalalalalalala" at the top of their voices to drown it out? The effect is similar to a three year old's tactics.
  • oryandymackie - July 22, 2009 6:56 p.m.

    Eh, yeah. Rock Band taught me how to play the drums. Let me show you some skills... I'm amazing.

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