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Q&A: EA's Schnur On 'Changing The Sound' Of Games With Artwerk

Standing at the crossroads of new music and interactive experiences, EA's Artwerk label works with both signed and unsigned artists like Junkie XL and Jupiter One to promote their music in games -- Gamasutra gets the full details on this relationship from
In 2007, Electronic Arts partnered with record label Nettwerk One to create a "full service" music company called Artwerk. The partnership built on EA's long-standing interest in digital music and the crossroads where music and interactivity meet. With Artwerk, EA's able to discover both signed and unsigned artists and cross-promote them, with many Artwerk musicians having their tracks appear in EA games such as Burnout Paradise and Need For Speed: ProStreet. It's an adjunct effort to EA's previously-established EA Trax program of licensed music, so Gamasutra went to EA worldwide director of music and marketing Steve Schnur to find out what differentiates Artwerk. Why set up Artwerk? What's the difference between that and EA Trax? Steve Schnur: EA Trax was our way of formalizing in-game music and establishing the new industry standards for fair licensing, label cross-promotion and artist involvement. I’m proud to say that it remains the industry paradigm and has changed the sound of our business forever. But for the past five years, EA has been instrumental in breaking new artists for other labels. With Artwerk – a joint venture with our friends at Nettwerk – we can now directly sign, launch and grow our own unique roster via our own full-service music company. Our premiere signing, Junkie XL, has already been featured in SSX, FIFA ’08, The Sims 2 and FIFA Street 3, has created an explosive original score for Need For Speed: Pro Street, and is currently working on a terrific new album for March ‘08. The Norwegian band Datarock was called “the future of indie-dance” by NME, their single “Fa-Fa-Fa” is an undeniable hit, and they’re fast becoming one of the biggest buzz acts in America. The mind-roasting Australian rockers Airbourne are one of the huge breakout acts of our Madden ’08, NASCAR ‘08 and Burnout Paradise soundtracks, they’re featured in Tony Hawk: Proving Ground, and their upcoming US debut album has the undeniable wallop of classic AC/DC. And NYC’s space-age/new wave/synth-pop/indie-rock band Jupiter One –- featured in Madden, NHL, FIFA ’08 and Burnout, as well as the new Mazda television campaign throughout Europe and Asia – is simply a star act that delivers great songs in the tradition of a classic singles band. In only its first few months, the Artwerk roster is everything a label should be: Diversified, unafraid, insanely talented …and growing. Can you talk about how Artwerk is going to work -- is it going to be a normal label, but with strong ties to using the music in games, or is it going to court existing artists like Junkie XL that have a relationship with EA Trax? SS: Artwerk is a label... but we are not in the record business. Instead, Artwerk is the music component of EA’s modern entertainment mandate, a new industry archetype in which our intellectual property can develop exciting new opportunities across all media. And because music is the only true global medium, we are actively signing artists of every genre from all over the world. We think of Artwerk as ‘Music 2.0’, where music, games and digital entertainment all come together like never before. How do artists negotiate deals for EA Trax? Do some or all get royalties instead of a lump sum? SS: Artists want their music in games for the most lucrative reason of all: massive and instantaneous global exposure. The fact is that the majority of artists’ income no longer comes from record sales, but from licensing, publishing, sponsorship and performance. Today, all artists want to be a part of video games. They want to be heard by the largest possible audience. Being associated with a top game makes an artist's image – as well as their records, concert tickets and merchandise – an even bigger part of their fans' lives. If you’re an artist and want to know who your audience is, what they do and what they’re listening to, you can bet your career that they are playing a video game right now. Is it a plan to have Artwerk artists soundtrack entire games? Or just bits? SS: Artwerk artists will be featured in an EA soundtrack only when their music fits the game’s theme, lifestyle and emotional heart. Sometimes it’s a standout track like Airbourne’s “Runnin’ Wild” in Madden ’08 or Jupiter One’s “Fire Away” in Burnout Paradise. Other times it’s a terrific original score like Junkie XL’s music for Need For Speed: Pro Street. The bottom line remains that each song chosen for every soundtrack must enhance the overall gaming experience. Best of all, we know that gamers around the world have spent the past seven years discovering their favorite new bands and songs through an EA game. We’re confident that our Artwerk artists will be an exciting new part of that experience for years to come. Any plans for music games that tie into EA Trax? SS: EA Trax has always had one clear mission: to discover and deliver the hottest music in the world for the very best games in the industry. It’s a mandate that will continue with each and every title we release. And to take your question a step further, we have to talk about how EA’s Rock Band has instantly created an extraordinary new relationship between fans and music. Everything about it – the remarkable software, the multi-generational fanbase, the unrivaled song library, the tremendous online capabilities, download song packages – represents an entertainment breakthrough that cannot be underestimated. It is the next great stage of evolution for music and games, and we are all extremely excited to see where it will lead next. At CES, you said, "I think what's next is a 24/7 interactive experience. The experience of the future is going to be about bringing music to the consumer and letting them interact with it any way that they want to." Can you elucidate on this? SS: Certainly the current generation of home systems and PDAs have re-set the bar for both entertainment and technology, and the popularity of digital downloads and online connectivity continue to create tremendous breakthroughs for games and game music alike. But what will iPhone 2, Wii 3, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox 5000 bring? Within the next five to ten years, EA’s ability to expose new music and explore interactive experiences will beyond anything the industry or the consumer has ever known. My hope is that Artwerk – and other labels like it – will be taking every advantage of these extraordinary opportunities. What's your staff like -- how big is it to deal with licensing all the soundtracks for all the sports games? Is there an NBA guy, a Madden guy? SS: My staff and I all come from similar A&R or music marketing backgrounds. We all listen to a lot of music. We see a lot of bands. We study international trends. We track mix tapes, independent acts and underground scenes all over the world. We have individual project managers for each title, all of whom have unique relationships with our game developers and marketing teams. At EA, every soundtrack starts with a blank page and some of the best ears in the industry. We work with record labels, publishers, artists, sports leagues, movie studios and our international offices often more than a year in advance to ensure that, in an EA Game, the music will always matter.

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