How music was saved by a first-person shooter

J.N. November 25, 2018

There’s no secret that most musicians struggle financially in the digital music economy. Hardly no record sales and low-paid gigs due to saturated concert markets forces musicians to use their creativity in new ways to be able to live off their music.

Sure, you’ve read about those in the top who get zillions of dollars every year but the reality for most artists is to find a balance between finding time to record an album, go on tour and to manage an ordinary job, just like you and me, whatever that might be considering it need to be that type of job that would allow you to go on tour for a few weeks.

However, new opportunities have opened up that require a new mindset on how you want to represent your artistic brand.

The success of a booming video game industry, expected to generate $137.9 billion in revenue in 2018, is music to the ears for bands, musicians, record labels and composers. And video games have not only helped the music industry survive, but thrive on entirely new levels.

Since the nineties, when licensed music became prevalent in games, series such as “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater”, “Grand Theft Auto” and “Wipeout” have become just as well-known for their soundtracks as they are for their gameplay. For millions of people, video games have been a way to discover new favourite bands or dive into other musical genres. And because people discover this music while playing a game they love, they develop a strong emotional attachment to it.

Just like movie soundtracks before them, video games have become a space for experimentation and play. Artists like Amon Tobin, Health, and Skrillex have dabbled in game work. Next year, Brian Gibson, half of the Rhode Island noise band Lightning Bolt, will debut “Thumper”, an experimental game that he evocatively describes as rhythm violence. And Messed!Up’s readers have already been introduced to industrial music pioneers Front Line Assembly having scored two full soundtracks for “AirMech” and “AirMech Wastelands” [the second album named “WarMech”] lest to say Nine Inch Nails with a wide range of songs in games as “Call of Duty: Black Ops II”, “FIFA 14” and “Batman: Arkham Night”.

Video games are now an essential part of marketing plans for musicians and managers. The FIFA soundtracks, for instance, are viewed as one of the foremost annual showcases for international artists today.

While streaming is credited for helping to save the music industry from its stranglehold of illegal downloads and piracy, video games were helping it survive through the dark times of the late 2000s and today games integrate with services like Spotify.

Just take the mobile game “Beat Fever” helping to generate better engagement between players and musicians; players tap along to their favourite music and are then invited to stream the tracks in full on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. When Steve Aoki’s track Azukita was featured in the game for two weeks, its streams increased by million. 

65daysofstatic’s music in “No Man’s Sky”

Many composers and musicians see video games as a new medium of expression and experimentation. Sheffield’s post-rock heroes 65daysofstatic took on one of their most ambitious projects ever when they were approached to create the music for “No Man’s Sky”, a sci-fi adventure game with billions of procedurally generated planets. London trio Daughter composed the soundtrack for “Life Is Strange: Before the Storm”, a video game that deals with grief, destruction and the difficulties around coming of age. Their work on the soundtrack led to Daughter’s first Ivor Novello award nomination.

It’s no longer rare to see some of the world’s biggest musicians composing music for video games. Trent Reznor, Paul McCartney, Amon Tobin, Hans Zimmer, Health, Neil Davidge, Skrillex, Solar Fields and many more have all done so. It’s just another way to get paid for the work.

About The Author

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.