Photo by Carly Lewis

If your struggling indie band is looking to make a paycheck, you might want to consider licensing your music to a video game or two. According to yesterday’s Game Changers: Gaming And The Music Industry panel, which was moderated by Eric German of Mitchell, Silberberg And Knupp LLP, this will be the wave of the money-making future. Panelist Dave Pettigrew, SVP of strategic marketing and head of advertising and video games at Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, said that 2012 will be a pivotal year in video games and that many bands have already seen growth in both their bank accounts and their fan bases after having a song of theirs play through a game. “We’re trying to put music in places it’s never been before,” said Pettigrew.
Fellow panelist Mark Jowett, co-founder and VP of international A&R publishing at Nettwerk Music Group, agreed that “video games are good on an exposure level.” He also noted that as the game world moves toward app-based games, the music industry needs to find a way to move with it.
Josh Kessler of Downtown Music Services (dms.FM) emphasized that he focuses on relevance when he starts compiling possible game soundtracks, and then he refines his choices based on what works creatively and sonically. All of the panelists nodded when asked if new music has become an important element to video games, but Kessler noted that given the long lead time, having songs be new by the time the game hits shelves is a challenge. Music needs to be cleared 10 months ahead of time, which can result in a game sounding dated before it’s even ready for consumers.
Another challenge, says Mark Collins, VP of business development at MXP4/Bopler Games, is making people want to pay for their gaming; free download culture doesn’t just lurk around the music industry anymore. “The majority of users are never going to buy anything,” he admitted. “The trick is to build a product that’s very sticky.” He said that having a free-to-play model is crucial since most people won’t pay to use a game they’ve never experienced, and that having intriguing up-sale options is key.
One final piece of advice Pettigrew had for musicians who may find themselves getting involved contractually with a gaming company, was to aim for a royalty-bearing deal. A royalty-bearing deal will earn musicians money every time a game is sold, while a buyout deal, which is more common, has an expiry date. “There’s more money in royalty-bearing,” he said. And if you’re thinking of becoming a music supervisor? Be really good. Or, according to Pettigrew who noted that the music industry is shrinking while the gaming industry continues to grow, do yourself a favor and become a plumber.