The Music Game: Why Indie Artists are Writing for Videogame Soundtracks

From MTV Hive:

In late August, 343 Industries announced the full details surrounding Halo 4’s soundtrack, a work scored by Massive Attack producer Neil Davidge. Davidge spent approximately 18 months composing hour upon hour of original music for the fourth installment of the multi-billion dollar video game franchise. “We presented around seven hours worth of material, of which they whittled it down to four hours of material,” Davidge says.

Los Angeles noise rockers HEALTH provided Rockstar Games with an estimated six hours of recorded work for Max Payne 3’s soundtrack, which also came out this year. Trent Reznor, Beck, and Deadmau5 have joined this list of musicians working with game developers.

It all shows how these two industries have joined to combat a mutual problem: declining sales. Developers and musicians alike are searching for new ways to improve their positions in their respective struggling markets. For the former, it means engaging games in a fresh way by incorporating unique musical moments into a game’s development. The latter has had to adjust the methods in which they write music in order to adapt to these non-traditional music deals.

Sony Computer Entertainment’s Alex Hackford understands this better than most people in either industry. Having worked for years as a video game music supervisor, he’s made a career out of including commercial acts as part of his video game soundtracks, ranging from unsigned bands to established artists. As someone who obtained licensed tracks from the Black Keys and Justice early in their careers, he’s convinced that game developers are providing increasingly beneficial opportunities to musicians. “A couple years ago I would’ve said [traditional revenue streams] are going away,” he says. “Now I’ll say, ‘It’s gone away.’” Recently, he’s worked with Beck and Deadmau5 for the newly released interactive music game, Sound Shapes. The game, which came out in early August for both Playstation 3 and Vita, deviates from traditional scoring by, according to Hackford, “tailoring levels around the music that the artist delivered as opposed to asking the artists to tailor their music around pre-existing experience.” In the game, a player can take previously composed musical elements and design their own levels based on various parts of original stems. Gamers can then upload their work to share with an online community, sharing their interpretations with other Sound Shapes players, which potentially even include the original artists themselves.

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