Ongoing business squabbles over revenue from songs sold as downloadable content for games such as “Guitar Hero: World Tour” and “Rock Band 2” are about to make things ugly for gamers.
Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. made headlines recently when he went toe-to-toe with Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, whose company publishes the “Guitar Hero” games, over the royalty rates Activision pays Warner to use its songs in its video games. When Kotick responded by pointing out the effect Activision’s “Guitar Hero” games have on sales of music by Warner artists, it was clear each side its own opinion on who was buttering the bread of whom. All the while, MTV Games appeared to stay on the sidelines, leading those of us who prefer MTV’s “Rock Band” to breathe a sigh of relief that a bunch of guys in suits weren’t about to infringe on our right to rock.
Not so fast.
Both Wired and Billboard magazine’s Web site reported this week that negotiations between Warner and MTV have broken down as well. MTV wants to keep paying Warner the current rate, while Warner wants more money. In the meantime, Warner artists are still coming to “Rock Band.” Janes Addiction’s “Nothing’s Shocking” album, apparently, is just around the corner. But these deals are only possible because they were struck before Warner began demanding a higher rate. Once MTV Games runs out of Warner music, probably sometime this summer, there’ll be no more until a deal can be reached. Even when the two sides do agree, we may not see any new Warner songs for months, thanks to the time it takes to license songs and convert the master recordings for use in the games.
The Billboard article suggests both sides are prepared to wait this one out, meaning no B-52s, Black Sabbath, Tom Waits, Pixies, Van Halen, or any other number of artists from the world’s third-largest record label for a good while. Worst of all, my dreams of singing The Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” may never come to pass.