Rock Band releasing Rush album for download
With nearly 40 gold and platinum records on their walls, Rush have clearly conquered the world of music. Now the Toronto-based rock legends are looking to dominate another industry: video games.
Harmonix Music Systems announced on Thursday it will release Rush’s 1981 classic album Moving Pictures for download to its popular Rock Band title, where gamers play plastic instruments in time with the songs on screen. The entire seven-track album will be available to Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 owners on Tuesday for about $11, or 880 Microsoft Points, the currency used by Microsoft for its console. Gamers will also be able to download individual songs for about $2 each, or 160 points.
Harmonix has made dozens of songs available to download for Rock Band since the game’s release in November, but Moving Pictures is just the fourth full album, following releases from Judas Priest, The Pixies and The Cars.
Moving Pictures is likely to sell better than previous album releases as Rock Band devotees, as well as the game’s own designers, have shown a particular affinity for Rush. The game’s online message boards have been flooded with demands for more material from the band since the title hit stores.
Rock Band was originally released with a cover of the band’s biggest hit, Tom Sawyer, from Moving Pictures, with four more tracks ó two versions of Working Man, Limelight (also from Moving Pictures) and Closer to the Heart ó eventually made available for download.
Limelight and the first version of Working Man were released as covers, but the later version and Closer to the Heart were master tracks featuring the actual band, illustrating the clout Harmonix now has with the music industry. A few years ago, Harmonix had difficulty getting bands to license master tracks to its Guitar Hero series of games. But over the past year or so, the Guitar Hero franchise ó now owned by Activision ó and Rock Band have exploded in popularity, putting the game publishers firmly in the driving seat.
Bonanza for game publishers
All of the downloadable Moving Pictures songs will be master tracks, including Tom Sawyer and Limelight.
Sales of downloadable tracks have also proved to be a bonanza for the game publishers and bands alike ó Harmonix says it has sold more than 20 million songs since Rock Band launched.
Andy Curran, artists and repertoire manager for Anthem Records, Rush’s label, says there were also initially some security concerns over supplying game developers with master tracks. Some bands had seen their masters leaked out.
“There has been a large concern about letting the master tapes going out to anyone,” he says. “When we passed that hurdle, and they could give us a guarantee that these wouldn’t leak out Ö then we got the green light.”
Curran says the band was an easy sell on the Guitar Hero and Rock Band as the games are turning a whole new generation on to their music.
“They thought it was fun and immediately embraced it,” he says.
In a video interview on the game’s website, the band members admitted to being rookies at Rock Band but said they were impressed by its popularity.
“I don’t have a set-up at home,” said singer and bassist Geddy Lee. “But my kids and my friends love it.”
Guitarist Alex Lifeson joked that while playing the game might be the next best thing to actually being in Rush, there are still some aspects Rock Band can’t duplicate.
“To simulate the feeling you need to get about two hours sleep for a week and a half,” he said.
“Make sure you have some people in front of you that are male only,” Lee added.