Planning to make it big in the music industry by releasing a hit album? Dream On. A long forgotten PC Mag article resurfaced this week to remind us that the music industry had changed drastically over the last decade. According to Activision chief Bobby Kotick circa 2008, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith “generated far more in revenues than any Aerosmith album ever has.” The game in question has sold over four million copies to date, droves more than most album sales in the modern market. An amazing fact, but don’t act too surprised: headlining bands have always depended on the power of their brand to move merchandise and T-shirts as much as their albums. Still, it’s a heck of a way to highlight the dilemma of the modern celebrity: who you are may be more important than what you do.
According to the head of Activision, Aerosmith has made more money from licensing their songs and image for the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith game than from any one of their albums. This should really come as no surprise. Even back in the recording industry’s most profitable days, bands were almost always making more money from live appearances, merchandise, and (if you go back far enough), selling sheet music. From a business perspective, bands like Aerosmith have always been t-shirt salesmen more than record salesmen. Sweet licensing deals for everything like video games, movie soundtracks, and even roller coasters is where the real money is at. From PCMag: Activision says Guitar Hero: Aerosmith has earned the band more royalties than any of their albums. Activision chief executive Bobby Kotick was quoted by MTV Multiplayer at the company’s analyst day as saying that the band is enjoying more than just exposure to new fans and renewed interest of loyal rockers thanks to the videogame tie-in. “[Their] version of Guitar Hero generated far more in revenues than any Aerosmith album ever has,” Kotick said. “Merchandising, concert sales, their ability to sign a new contract [have] all been unbelievably influenced by their participation in Guitar Hero.”