Yahoo! Music and Rock Band
Last year, Ian Rogers, who was at the time the VP of Yahoo! Music, gave an interesting presentation to some music-industry friends of his, which he shared in his blog: Convenience Wins, Hubris Loses, and Content vs. Context. His point, to quote: “Let’s get beyond talking about how you get the music and into building context: reasons and ways to experience the music.”
I just picked up a copy of the Rock Band 2 videogame this past weekend, for my Xbox 360. (I am a giant plastic-guitar nerd.) Here’s a perfect example of context, and the cheerful willingness of consumers to pay for the ability to experience music in a different way. The game experience changes depending on what music you’ve bought from the Rock Band online store — it can, for instance, create “Challenges” based around music from a particular band. The new game has also substantially improved in-game display of songs, including cover art and the like. Given the online capabilities of consoles, one expects that future versions of such games are going to begin offering more and more additional in-game context around the music featured. That context, in the form of band interviews and so on, is already available on the game’s website.
This stuff is huge, by the way, in terms of revenue. The Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises had each surpassed 15 milion paid song downloads by the end of Q2 2008. Music video games account for a giant part of software industry growth. In fact, they bring in more total revenue than digital music downloads. And the games drive digital purchases of the songs.
In the meantime, Yahoo! Music is turning back into a portal. What it notably does not seem to be doing: building new reasons and ways to experience music. (In the meantime, Ian Rogers went off to join Topspin.)