Last night at the New York Gaming Meetup in midtown at Baruche College, dozens of developers, musicians and artists met to discuss the difficult and complex subjects of getting the music rights for games. “There are a lot of game developers who are looking to incorporate music into their games and they need to secure the licensing rights,” said Brad Hargreaves, founder of general assembly and NY Gaming Meetup. He brought together a panel of people who bridge the world of gaming and music along with the moderator, Andie Simon, consultant for Electronic Arts (EA). The developers at the event came away with the realistic understanding of the steps they need to take to secure rights to the music they want to use in games.
At the intersection of games and music there was Bill Wilson, VP of digital strategy for DigitalMusic.org, a trade organization that represents app developers and music services in their relationships with the labels, the publishers and the performing rights organizations. They provide education resources and the ability to “herd the cats,’’ for people with commerce companies developing new services. They are part of a larger legacy organization called NARM, the national association of recording merchandisers that handle the relationship between the physical retail communities and the labels. He believes the rights issues are very complicated, but not insurmountable.
“The trick is understanding who to go to and why, and avoiding some of the snake oil that’s out there,” he said. Understand that there are trusted sources for this stuff — and selfishly speaking, the trade organization is one way to find them. We are very much trusted nonprofit at the center of the commerce side of the business. Another major resource for gamers is to go to some of the indie aggregators who can do things more flexibly than larger content players can. There is The Orchard that handles the asset management for a lot of the smaller indie labels — and that’s a convenient way to do a faster deal. If you’re a video company, there is a project started by Corbis called GreenLight which enables companies to use synced video.
“One of the reasons I’m here tonight is because these are the guys that are the new mom and pop stores. Back in the day, these are the people who might be opening record stores. Now they are the people who want to create these fantastic new applications because they love music. We should be enabling them to help us and not gatekeeping them so much.”
Dave Pettigrew is strategic marketing and head of marketing and advertising for Warner/Chappell Music publishing that has about 1-1/2 million copyrights and that licenses music every day of the week. They have done every iteration of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and all the Just Dances and Dance Central. He gave his most basic take on gaming and royalties, “I’ve been doing video game licensing with music for the past 15 years. Basically, if it’s a music-based game, you’re looking at royalties, and if not, you are looking at a buyout. You can actually make a living at gaming. If there is music, and you can get it in the right game, then there is even more.”
“It’s a Byzantine business, and gamers need to get a basic understanding of how this music business works; then they have to come up with a fun game” said Simon. “Once they have done that, they really need to make sure they covered their Ps and Qs in terms of getting the music licensing. Otherwise, they are going to find themselves struggling. Read Donald Passman’s book, Everything You Want to Know About the Music Business.”
Sinjin Bain, GM for EA Partners, talked about how music is the key for gamers. “It’s an important creative and emotional content component of the game. It’s game design, it’s music, it’s story – and music cuts across the spectrum.”