According to the head of Activision, Aerosmith has made more money from licensing their songs and image for the Guitar Hero: Aerosmith game than from any one of their albums.
This should really come as no surprise. Even back in the recording industry's most profitable days, bands were almost always making more money from live appearances, merchandise, and (if you go back far enough), selling sheet music. From a business perspective, bands like Aerosmith have always been t-shirt salesmen more than record salesmen.
Sweet licensing deals for everything like video games, movie soundtracks, and even roller coasters is where the real money is at.
Activision says Guitar Hero: Aerosmith has earned the band more royalties than any of their albums. Activision chief executive Bobby Kotick was quoted by MTV Multiplayer at the company's analyst day as saying that the band is enjoying more than just exposure to new fans and renewed interest of loyal rockers thanks to the videogame tie-in.
"[Their] version of Guitar Hero generated far more in revenues than any Aerosmith album ever has," Kotick said. "Merchandising, concert sales, their ability to sign a new contract [have] all been unbelievably influenced by their participation in Guitar Hero."
Back in 2008, first week sales for the game topped 567,000 copies and by 2010 more than 3.6 million copies had been sold. On top of the money they made from licensing to Activision, the band saw a huge uptick in sales from their back catalog as well. The game was a great advertising tool, driving more attention for album sales, and continued popularity of the band which expanded further licensing opportunities — the great circle of life in the music business.
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Image from the Associated Press: Steve Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith, right, and bass player Tom Hamilton, left, perform for the crowd at the Concert for Walden Woods on Monday, Sept. 6, 1993, at Foxboro Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.