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2000 songs, 75m downloads - music's not dead

The music genre isn't going anywhere, it's just changed its tune

Hang on, who said the music genre was dead? The Rock Band catalogue will pass 2000 songs next week - that's 2000 songs over disc and multiple spin-offs featuring LEGO, Green Day, The Beatles, AC/DC and more - but according to Harmonix 75 million tracks have also been downloaded for the game. That's pretty damn healthy.

There's no doubt the product-based music business has dropped dramatically, and I'm sure we've all thrown out multiple pieces of plastic guitar-shaped tat in the last year or so. But it still keeps coming, and not just because publishers are trying to improve margins. Early buzz for Rock Band 3 is suggesting Harmonix has nailed the game this year, pushing out Guitar Hero and delivering the most complete band simulator, along with a desirable set of keyboards. With 75 million songs sold (for just one franchise) it's clear the real money is now in online content sales - a reflection of the wider entertainment market in general - but never underestimate the cool factor of well-designed controllers.

But I wonder if even the product-based music business is declining as drastically as it's assumed, because it seems to me to be expanding further beyond guitars, rock music and drum kits. 4mm Games has just released rap karaoke game Def Jam Rapstar in the US, a title that has truly massive potential to make big noises by catering to a completely under-served hiphop market (full disclosure: I've written about the game for Eurogamer.net - I like it). You only had to experience the buzz around the game at Eurogamer Expo last weekend to see its potential as a show-off performance game - and that's before you look at its online and social gaming features.

Speaking of the Eurogamer Expo, I witnessed for myself the first crowd of people bursting for the doors on Saturday morning. To get their hands on Medal of Honor multiplayer? To check out Killzone 3D? To floor it around Gran Turismo 5? No, to get on the Dance Central stage and shake what their momma gave them - adults to kids, male to female, these guys were nuts for Kinect's dance-off.

Ubisoft is readying hen-party-on-a-disc game Just Dance 2, after the success of the first and its Saturday night follow-up Dance on Broadway, proving the 'third-parties can't score on Wii' logic to be wrong, even in what is looking to be the console's twilight years. Back at Gamescom, Ubisoft's Euro manager Alain Corre joked to me that the company was becoming the 'dance publisher', and with next year's Michael Jackson game he's not far wrong. Regardless of Jackson's mad ways, fans aren't going to refuse to dance to classic music from Off the Wall or Bad. Good music is good music.

And there are more - InstantAction's InstantJam for Facebook is going the whole download/online route, while Nordic Games' We Sing: Robbie Williams is the complete opposite, on the Wii system that barely has any online features to shout about. Activision's DJ Hero scored well with the critics last year but was snubbed to some extent on release due to the high price - this year it's back, a little cheaper, but still on disc and with a big chunk of plastic turntable.

Is all this a mini music renaissance? I'd like to think so, and maybe that fall-off in music game sales was just as much about as shift in trends as guitar fatigue. Dancing and alternative music genres are looking to find their comfortable niche on the market in the same way that trends in music come and go, live on, morph into something else or fade away. Once they're established, and as digital downloads continue drive new songs to the customer, we may even see the music genre grow again.

Oh, and the 2000th song on Rock Band? Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced?" Definitely not part of the new wave.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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