Vid games, ads, branding offer options for musicians

Choices discussed at MIDEM panel

The mutual benefits of music makers getting involved in video games, movie advertising and consumer brand marketing were on parade as the Music for Images strand took center stage at MIDEM.

Veteran musician and record producer Nile Rodgers (Chic, Sister Sledge) declared himself a major video game player and said that he was having as much fun producing video game soundtracks for his Sumthing Else Music Works label as he did in his early days of pop, rock and R&B.

Rodgers quoted two formative heroes in explaining why he was in the record and video game businesses. When he was 11, he said, he heard Malcolm X say, "Black people will never be free until they control the means of distribution." And years later, Ahmet Ertegun told him that the reason radio was so important was because the thing that sold records was repetition.

"What is more repetitious than the music in a video game?" Rodgers asked the MIDEM gathering Monday.

Working on hit video games including the "Halo" series, he said, taught him that the music for games was just as artistic as any other kind of music. "They don't think of it as art because it's called a game," he said.

Rodgers said that he experimented temping film sequences with music from video games and successfully placed music by veteran hip-hop artists Organized Noise in Michael Mann's "Miami Vice." As a result, he said he is starting up an agency to represent video game composers in the film and television world.

Rodgers stayed for a panel addressing challenges for labels and composers, hosted by Music4Games, that coughed up the intriguing reality that whereas writing music for film and TV involved timing for fixed cues, writing for video games requires 100 or more alternate musical twists.

"It's the most creative medium out there," said panelist Richard Jacques, a British composer.

Warner Bros. Pictures director of music Niki Gascon and Open Road Entertainment music supervisor Drew Sherrod put on an entertaining husband-and-wife act as they explained the realities of using music for movie trailers. With such hits as "Happy Feet" and "The Departed" to their credit, their message that the marketing budget for big studio movies is separate from that of making films had MIDEM attendees flocking around them following their session.

With Mathew Knowles, president of Music World Entertainment, a no-show for his scheduled interview after missing his flight, the strand moved on to an hourlong debate about the advantages and perils of artists getting into bed with big-name brands. Representatives of agency Frukt, Coca-Cola, AOL, Sony BMG Entertainment and BBH were on hand with proceedings mostly harmonious until attorney Kenneth Hertz, of Goldring Hertz and Lichtenstein in the U.S., articulated the artists' point of view.

Challenging the notion of record labels getting into the business of making deals with brands on behalf of artists, he said, "When the opportunity comes to the artist via the label, the first thing the artist wants to know is how much is Coke or Samsung or whoever paying you? What artists want from brands is different from what the record industry wants." There was some applause from the audience.

In the afternoon's Live Music Network session, panelists from across the business opined on the live sector's route to the future. The cellular phone, IMMF president Peter Jenner said, will "change our business completely. It will become the portable computer." He went on, "If you see it as a threat, then you are ignoring its potential. The labels tend to see it as a threat."

His comments, however, were rejected by Nuala Donnelly, head of music sponsorship at telecom group O2. "I don't think labels see us as a threat," she said. "There has been a big shift in recent years."

Speaking from the audience, veteran promoter Harvey Goldsmith chimed in. "The solution is about honesty," he said. "If you're all honest with each other, everyone gets a benefit from it. It's about honesty and greed."

In an anecdote-filled conversation session, Claude Nobs, founder and CEO of the Montreux Jazz Festival, suggested that mobile technology and the live business would co-exist in years to come. "Mobile is definitely going to go in a big way. But there is a need for live music," he said. "People will enjoying watching (footage) on a small screen, but they'll always need the interaction of live concerts."

Nobs received MIDEM's 2007 Personality of the Year award, which was presented Monday at a black-tie gala here.

Ray Bennett is a contributor to Billboard; Lars Brandle is global news editor at Billboard.
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