Friday, December 10, 2004

The Days of Mario

This article makes some very interesting comments about the way that the music industry is having to adapt. Namely that up-and-coming artists are finding new ways of breaking through into the popular market, most commonly by trying to get link-ups with computer games. I can see a large amount of merit in this argument - being a devoted fan of the Madden series referred to in the article, I remember quite clearly how I had heard of very few of the artists whose songs featured in the game, yet within a year just about all of them had risen to prominence.

However, the further the article stretches its point, the less valid I think it becomes. That is, that most of the bands which it cites in terms of having specific contracts to write for the computer games are already famous. They are probably very popular, and have a high "name recognition" amongst the "video game demographic", and do much to promote the game itself. Therefore the link that the article tries to make between viedo games and artists rising to prominence should actually be stated in reverse. The fierce competition between video games means that getting high-profile artists to write the music for their games acts as a form of advertising in itself.

Of course, getting the music in video games just right has long been a crucial factor in their success - despite the article's criticism of the "mind-numbing melodies of... Super Mario", the entire Mario series has managed to get the music almost totally right. On a random and personal digression, one of my favourite "Mario Kart" courses is Rainbow Road - not for the interest of the course itself, but because the choice of music is brilliant. But the need for the music to be just right for the game highlights the other weakness of the article cited - that is, that although exposure can help launch new acts, there is also the imperative of writing songs for a very specific audience. One much more specific than could be achieved just with general song-writing prowess. Admittedly this is a fairly normal and predictable means of sales. Adapt your style sufficiently to fit into a vehicle that will gain you exposure, and then trust that the strength of your other music is sufficient to attract new listeners regardless of a difference in style.

Perhaps what is more interesting, though, is the way that this demonstrates that the music itself is only one means of enjoying the art. Background music, or music that can tap into certain emotions, can give just as much enjoyment as focusing purely on music itself. OK, I'm probably beginning to ramble a bit here. But, in the light of a music industry that has been under threat due to increasing music piracy, it is interesting to see them have to find new means of advertising their product. Ultimately, too, I think that having to find these new outlets of advertising will help revitalise an industry that is all too often far too conservative. Here's hoping, anyway!