Sunday, August 26, 2012

Surveying Literature: "The New MTV? Electronic Arts and 'Playing' Music

Today I finished the second article From Pop Music to Pac-Man, "The New MTV? Electronic Arts and "Playing" Music" by Holly Tessler. This is definitely an academic article, but it keeps interest and wasn't a slow read.

Here are my reactions to Tessler's argument, which is basically that popular music and video game music are very intertwined, particularly in the terms of distribution. She's interested mostly in how popular music/bands connect with video game music.

Tessler doesn't believe that today's method of distribution favors composers/musicians-- instead, music is a background feature of the game or most players. "Players' attention is never fully focused on the music."

I rarely play sports games, which have more popular music soundtracks.  The RPG/action type games I'm more likely to play have a soundtrack composed for the game.

Interesting to think of video games as being a vehicle of release for popular singles.

Having a popular song in a game, or having a game help promote a song that becomes popular, is mutually beneficial to both the gaming and music industries.

Tessler describes the financial flow to gaming music: pay composers a one time lump sum, rather than royalties. She compares the rise of MTV-- who convinced record companies they should let MTV use their content for free in exchange for distribution/publicity-- with the current state of gaming music composition/ video game distribution.

The article begins recounting EA's Steve Schnur's metaphor for video game music:

Atari= Gramophone
Sega/NES= 8 track/LP
He breaks off the analogy at this point, but one might extend it:
Playstation/SNES= cassette tapes/compact discs
PS3/Wii= digital distribution

What do you think of this analogy?  I love it!