Guitar Hero Pays Tribute To Rock Stardom By Breaking Up
Activision confirmed the end of Guitar Hero, forcing fake plastic guitars and aspiring rock stars toward the same fate as those with joystick memories of substituting pong for tennis.

The difference is that in the 80’s, Pong didn’t make claims of saving the tennis or ping pong industries, while Guitar Hero positioned itself as more than just a hero to wannabe rockstars; Just two and a half years ago, Guitar Hero was going to save us all. But while Rock and Roll does save, Guitar Hero, a glorified game of Simon building a generation of faux musicians, offered the same false promise as an A&R man in the early 1990s.

In 2008, David Edery, the worldwide games portfolio manager for Xbox Live Arcade, a research affiliate of the M.I.T. Comparative Media Studies Program, and author of the book Changing the Game: How Video Games Are Transforming the Future of Business, wrote a guest post for the NY Times urging the music industry to explore the benefits of licensing to Guitar Hero.

“Few realize how dramatically these games have affected music consumption in the U.S,” he wrote in 2008. What he didn’t mention was that everyone realized there was lots of money to be made from Activision, who was paying enormous licensing fees to include well known (and expensive) music in their game.

Positing that Guitar Hero or even Rock Band would save the music industry based on increased consumption turned out to be short sighted. The video game touted as saving music, is off the market just two and a half years after Edery’s declaration, and is officially retro.

The bands all got their licensing fees, but what was that about music consumers and saving music? With Guitar Hero gone, the question answers itself.

A secondary problem with Guitar Hero was one that was rarely addressed; Guitar Hero was virtually unplayable for music lovers and musicians, since the assigned notes did not coordinate whatsoever with the guitar parts in any given song. Emotional connection to any one song was hindered by the game itself. To win, a player had to completely disconnect from music, which goes against the intrinsic emotional connection human beings have with music. The connection to the music is likely why they bought the game in the first place; to play the songs they love, like rock stars.

Music fans are very tuned in to the parts of the songs they love. Many music lovers tinker with their own instruments without intending to play professionally. So if you recognized the song, you, the trained listener or song lover, likely became confused; leaving someone who didn’t recognize or feel passionately about the song to beat you at the game. This emotional dissonance created a game room full of sad defeated music lovers.

“I knew it was more like Simon and less like guitar when I suddenly realized I was playing the fucking keyboards with a plastic guitar and no strings,” reports one well known San Francisco musician, “But don’t use my name because everyone will hate me if I say anything bad about Guitar Hero.” Maybe not anymore.

After spending millions on exclusive Guitar Hero games to draw in music fans, the game has seemingly realized that paying astronomical sums for popular music won’t save any industry, even though licensing payments and royalties are a reliable form of income for most artists.

The one reliable constant in the science of music consumption is simple; music consumers are fickle, and no one company can game a music fan into changing their consumption behaviors around music.

The next is a bit more complicated; music lovers understand how music works. Perhaps we are entering a new era where companies cease declaring themselves as saviors and focus more on the gamers themselves. Like nine year old Ben, (video above) who clearly needs a real guitar.

Sonos For Android
Sonos, the leading developer of wireless multi-room music systems for the home, has had apps for iPad and iPod iPhone enabling Sonos and Apple product owners to control their stereos from either device.

Today Sonos expanded their mobile application reach, introducing the Sonos Controller for Android, a free app in the Android store that “transforms most Androidâ„¢ smartphones into a wireless music controller for the award-winning Sonos Multi-Room Music System,” according to a Sonos press release.

The Sonos Controller for Android will be available in late March, presumably around SXSW, as a free download from Android Market. The integration makes its first public debut next week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Android owners are encouraged to watch an informational video guiding them through the integration.

Note: Sonos was kind enough to send a promotional version of the system to us for review in my next offline cloud music challenge. It just so happens I’m planning a road trip, so stay tuned for a review of Sonos offline, running through my iPhone, powering a road trip.

New Music Seminar Artist On The Verge
Having covered the questions around developing new charts in the music industry, every new chart announcement brings with it a new assessment of what it means to be a “breaking” artist.

This week, New Music Seminar (a conference at which I am a regular speaker) announced new charts titled “Artists On The Verge.” I was asked to submit a few bands from San Francisco who were then ranked using a new charting system developed by New Music Seminar that includes assessing touring data, online conversation, rate of fan engagement, growth of live performances, audience growth and more; the details of which are expected to be made public at the Seminar next week.

The charts are currently listed in alphabetical order, another nuance in the chart industry.

Two submissions from San Francisco made the AOV charts: Zoe Keating, and The Ferocious Few (with which, I must note, I have a business relationship). Congrats!

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