Let's roll through the numbers: In third-quarter 2007, the most recent financial data published, videogame company Electronic Arts set a record by making $1.5 billion in revenue. That's a heck of a lot of videogames sold, and it results in countless opportunities for bands to get exposure to the gamer demo—young guys laden with expendable cash. It's up to Steve Schnur, EA worldwide executive of music, to match bands with appropriate games—not just to get gamers to rock a little harder while playing best sellers like "Madden NFL" and "FIFA"—but to give artists a chance to break through. To that end, last year Schnur teamed with Nettwerk to form Artwerk, a publishing arm for bands that he believes align perfectly with the gamer mentality and can cross over into TV, film and advertising placements (see story, page 24).
After signing seven bands to Artwerk in the past 12 months, Schnur hopes to double the roster by the end of 2008. "We look at publishing as though it's our responsibility to deliver marketing opportunities to the artists we sign," he says. "We have to take a central role in the artist's career. We just can't be passive and sit back and wait for stuff to happen and collect the mechanicals. As matter of fact, it's rare, frankly, that I even ask, 'How is the album selling?' It's not the first and foremost thing on our radar. It's very tertiary to us."
Why did you decide Nettwerk would be a good partner for your publishing arm?
We had a concept of finding bands that were gamers and finding bands that had the potential to go way beyond the videogame, be it with film and television synchs, be it with advertising, be it with sports affiliations. The reason why I ended up going with them is that I felt, in the new world order of "music 2.0," my partner needed to be a management-centric partner, with the understanding that publishing is not just waiting around to open the mail and cash the check against mechanicals.
In today's market, a publisher has to deliver on marketing. A publisher has to create opportunities, not wait for opportunities. It's just not defined as pitching. Anybody can pitch—but how do you proactively create opportunity? And I felt that there was probably no other person than Terry McBride and the folks at Nettwerk who understood how to make music become a part of people's lives, how to get under their skin on a global scale, and not trying to hang onto, sadly, the model of survivorship that so much of music industry is doing now.
Artwerk signed publishing deals with four bands last year. How did you choose?
Our first signing was Junkie XL, because we felt that it was imperative to have, in our opinion, the world's best remixer/DJ. Junkie XL is an incredible composer as well. He's composed scores for us for "Need for Speed" and "SSX." He also fits very much into the foundational mind-set of Nettwerk; they really know how to work with, break and expand artists' careers much like his. His album ["Booming Back at You"] comes out in March.
The second artist we signed was Datarock, a band from Bergin, Norway. The band has been on every college top five chart this past year and is selling out massive-size venues from Brazil to Australia, and they've grown their touring base here in the U.S. and in Europe. I don't think there is a day that has gone by over the last couple months where I haven't gotten a license request on them.
The next band we signed is from Melbourne, Australia, called Airbourne. They debuted at No. 1 on the Heatseekers chart a couple of weeks ago [Billboard, Feb. 16]. They are a band that we put in every game last year, from "Madden 2008" to "Need for Speed" to "Skate." And we went from [placement in] "Madden" to [placement in] successive weeks on "Monday Night Football." Every time they went to the outro, and every time they came back from the intro, there was their song from "Madden." We also utilized them last year in our "Medal of Honor" launch. We have a consumer list, a core fan base list of millions. We created these videos [online] where people could first see the videogame footage, and they all had the Airbourne song attached as the audio bed, and then we chyroned it.
The next artist that we signed was an artist from New York called Jupiter One. Somebody in some advertising agency somewhere must play "Madden" or "FIFA" or one of the other games that we've included the band in, because we got a call and they wanted to put them in a European and Asian Mazda ad. So we went from, all of a sudden, a license of a band that we've signed in a bunch of games to a multicontinental ad campaign.
Click here to read more about Artwerk's newest signings, how it backs its artists internationally, and how gamers are the new tastemakers.