Microsoft's Epic Music Deal

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Music & Video Games

NatashaYesterday I talked about how next generation consoles will usher in new oppotunities for game publishers and music companies to work together. Today, Microsoft announced a deal that gives one example of how digitally distributed music videos will take advantage of broadband always-on consoles.

While this first of what I expect to be many deals between Microsoft and music labels won't include music downloads, it does offer music video downloads. Each month, Microsoft will promote an Epic Records Artist of the Month on its Xbox Live service, which currently has 2 million subscribers across 30 countries. This number will grow exponentially as every Xbox 360 owner gets a free basic Silver Xbox Live account--and Microsoft is expected to sell a total of 5.5 million Xbox 360s by the end of this summer.

The first artist that Microsoft and Epic are promoting has a direct connection to videogames. Natasha Beddingfield recently breathed life into the virtual Elizabeth Stark, the daughter of England's Prime Minister in Electronic Arts' remake of "From Russia with Love." The British singer-songwriter is currently the number three artist on iTunes.com and her new single, "Unwritten," is the number one downloaded song. While EA's James Bond game wasn't a smash hit, it did well at retail, and it's likely there's some correlation between the success of Beddingfield and that game. Gamers can download the music video for "Unwritten" straight to their hard drive.

As part of the Xbox Live Artist of the Month program, Beddingfield will play against an Xbox gamer in April as part of Microsoft's Game with Fame promotion. A contest each month will award an Xbox Live gamer the chance to play online against the featured musician.

This is one example of the future of next generation console's online offerings. We're not far away from the day where new artists and new music from videogames will be available to download straight to the hard drive of an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. (Sony's requirement of a disc drive is not just for gaming!) It's also worth noting that Epic is a Sony-owned company, so you can expect Sony to tap into music synergy when its PlayStation 3 begins to hit the masses in 2007.

More and more musicians are gamers today and they want to get involved in videogames. Music execs know that games hold 18 to 34 year-old males captive for hours and hours. And despite the success of digital distribution, the music industry is far from healthy. Music companies need games. Factor in the game publishers' new focus on seeking out original music and new bands, and you have the formula for continued convergence between the music and games businesses.

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