Everyone wants to be a rock star

A lot of us dream about being a rock star, pop star or even world-famous DJ and music games are now fulfilling this fantasy while changing the nature of music production and music sales altogether.

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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  February 15, 2009

A lot of us dream about being a rock star, pop star or even world-famous DJ and music games are now fulfilling this fantasy while changing the nature of music production and music sales altogether.

You can get the Fender or Stratocaster replica guitar, which are controllers resembling an axe guitar. You can even get a drum kit with four pads, drum sticks and a kick pedal. And why not get a microphone in addition to that so that you can take centre stage on lead vocals.

It may all sound very karaoke-like, but these game controllers in conjunction with music games are creating a new phenomenon in the music world.

In the past, you would need to be able to know how to play a musical instrument to be part of a band, but, now, gamers can take up their specially designed game controllers and team up to create digital bands.

Gamers can get a good sound system to connect their game console to and a big screen TV or projector. Throw in the music game controllers, and who knows, eventually they might even be playing to a big audience, wowing them with their musical game-play skills.

Music games and music production programs are nothing new however. Ejay has been around since 1997 and the program has touched all bases of the music producing market, from the amateur to the professional.

Ejay has traditionally allowed users to create music with pre-recorded sample sounds and it even allows avid musicians to upload recorded sounds and to create their own samples that can be integrated into music tracks.

Ejay has covered all bases in terms of the music producing market, from Hip Hop, Dance, R& B and Techno; and Ejay is one piece of software amongst a range of software that helps out budding music producers.

Apart from these games and programs making musical production more accessible, the advent of music games could be the saving grace of an embattled music industry.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing software, such as LimeWire has taken the wind out of the ‘sales' of the big music companies. Much of the music available for download on LimeWire infringes upon copyright.

Apple, on the other hand, has ensured that people download music legally with its implementation of Digital Rights Management or DRM on iTunes. Basically, DRM involves a situation whereby you can buy a song but not share it with others.

Recently, Apple has removed its DRM requirements on music for as long as one is willing to pay more for a particular song and pay less for a song that is DRM enabled.

Either way, whether music is downloaded illegally or legally, the music companies are not doing as well as what they once were and this is where music gaming, according to some in the music industry, is coming to the rescue.

Many music stars have realised that by endorsing music gaming products, they can get back into churning over the massive profits that the music industry produced prior to the advent of the digital distribution of music.

It's no secret that when it comes to media in general, gaming has gained significant ground in the last ten years, and this is why bands such as AeroSmith and Metallica have both decided to capitalise on this new market in the music industry. It involves a unique concept where the bands become the promoters of the music games and vice versa.

It also protects bands against copyright infringement that is currently taking place on file sharing services. It comes across as an ironic situation then: it has been the digital world that has brought the music industry almost to its knees and yet it could be the digital world that could bring the music industry back from the brink.

There are many facts and figures that back up the financial viability of music gaming. In 2007, Guitar Hero and Rock Band made £100 million more than all digital music sales from services such as iTunes.

The Aerosmith single "Same Old Song and Dance", for example, is featured in Guitar Hero III, and according to Nielsen SoundScan, which tracks digital and retail music, sales of the song jumped by 136 per cent the week after the game was released in late 2007, and by 400 per cent a week after Christmas that year.

Even the popular 60s band, The Beatles, is getting involved in the music game genre. Surviving members of The Beatles announced recently that their songs will appear in a video game that lets people pretend to be the world-changing 1960s British rockers.

MTV Games in conjunction with US studio Harmonix, the maker of the Rock Band video game, is having a Beatles Mania game developed for 2009.

"The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of The Beatles and their music," Sir Paul McCartney said in a press release.

"I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out," he continued.

"The Beatles continue to evolve with the passing of time and how wonderful that The Beatles' legacy will find its natural progression into the 21st century through the computerised world we live in," said Ringo Starr.

The concept for the video game was honed with input from McCartney and Starr as well as from Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison.

Apart from music games being good revenue generators for musicians and record companies, music games are obviously lots of fun for gamers. Here's a list of just some of the latest and most popular music games.

The latest and most widely-played music games:

Guitar Hero Series

The latest in the Guitar Hero Series, Guitar Hero III Legends of Rock has 70 legendary rock anthems. Guitar Hero III includes multiplayer modes, including the arcade-inspired Guitar Battle and the dual shredding co-op career.

Players can challenge the legends of rock and roll in boss battles, take those axe-shredding skills online and rock around the world. Players can even expand upon their Guitar Hero experience with downloadable songs, themes and picture packs.

Rock Band Series

Rock Band challenges ‘rockers' to master lead guitar, bass, guitar, drums, and vocals. The music featured in Rock Band spans all genres of rock and includes many master recordings from legendary artists. Rock Band includes legendary artists from punk, metal, alternative, southern, and classic rock genres.

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