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Lady Gaga may have only earned $167 for 1 million plays of her Pokerface on Spotify this year, but there are still ways for musicians to make money from their music online. The workhorse for the music industry has long been live shows, with concerts bringing performance earnings as well as providing marketplaces for sponsorships and promotional items like tshirts, CDs and posters. As Kiss' recent live UStream concert showed, there are a lot of people poised to make money from bands online.
As AdAge puts it: "It turns out giving a concert away online is a pretty good way to sell beer and video games."
Popular bands have increasingly been lending their songs — and visages to popular video games. In addition to partnership with big games like Guitar Hero, bands are reaching out to make their own games. The Beatles music was released in its own version of Rockband this year to much fanfare, while other bands have gone a similar route. For example, the band REO Speedwagon recently teamed up with digital agency Curious Sense to create an online video game called Find Your Own Way Home.
The move irks some. Many people were upset to see a digitized version of Kurt Cobain performing other people's songs in a new version of Guitar Hero this summer.
But even a lawsuit from Courtney Love claiming she did not sign off on using Cobain's image in GuiterHero cannot hide the impressive residuals that come in from partnering with a popular video game.
Kiss' live concert came in partnership with the "KISS Track Pack," which is available for download via Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network, and Wii Shop Channel, and includes three songs from the band. In addition, the event was sponsored by Anheuser-Busch. The company was only represented with a logo for the newly launched Bud Light Golden Wheat brand in the corner of the screen during the live concert, but the beer distributor was well pleased with the results.
According to AdAge:
"We're looking for ways we can connect outside the 30-second spot," said Keith Levy, VP-marketing at Anheuser-Busch. "Ustream was a unique way to do that." Mr. Levy said A-B found its way to Kiss through its extensive sponsorship of ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which has featured a number of high-profile musical acts, including Kiss. That deal, reportedly valued at $5 million, gives A-B sponsorship of some 187 of the show's concert events, as well as a spotlight on Bud Light in a series of live commercials.
Livestreaming presents all the opportunities of selling band merchandise at live shows, on a much larger scale. Kiss' November broadcast brought in over 2 million views via Facebook and Ustream and became a trending topic on Twitter during the performance. But beyond that, the show brought in money for KISS' sponsors. And the band.
Activision sold many units of the Kiss "Track Pack" for Guitar Hero 5. The pack was plugged during the live show with a scrolling text message on the bottom of the video. And while the company does not release sales numbers, Will Kassoy, Senior VP-Marketing at Activision, says that the Kiss pack has had the best sales of any of the "Guitar Hero 5" downloadable track packs available since the game launched in September.
Tom Consolo, a manager at Front Line Management in Los Angeles who has represented REO Speedwagon for more than 20 years, tells The New York Times of online games:
“You have your ups and downs (as a band, so) “you’re always looking to reach a broader audience. And with the advent of the Internet, you can reach around the globe.”
The problem of course, is monitizing that reach. REO Speedwagon is working hard to tap into its popularity online. Consumers who buy the band's game also receive coupon codes for 25% off their holiday album. There is also a sweepstakes for players who find the “golden ticket” hidden in the game and 20 prize packages offer real tickets to meet the band during an in-person REO Speedwagon concert in 2010.
With brand partnerships and promotional items online, there are plenty of dollars for musicians to earn online. That is, if they're comfortable seeing themselves digitized in games and online.