Video Game Soundtracks and the Future of Music


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By Austin Weimer

Video game soundtracks, like video games themselves, began with a minimalist approach. A few channels of basic sounds and an arrangement or two made up most of the video game hits in the ‘80s, such as Frogger and Super Mario Bros. These classics evolved into multimillion dollar productions, combining orchestra recordings, DJ mixes, and realistic sound effects. What was once a niche industry is now an incredible machine of profit and notoriety. In 2014, the music industry and the video game industry separately sold 15 billion each. Video game soundtracking could be the financial push the music industry needs in the future of multimedia.

The NBA series, backed by Take Two Interactive Software, continues to innovate the industry by hiring some of the best up-and-coming artists to record music for their soundtracks. Jay Z was the executive producer of NBA 2K13, and NBA 2K16’s lineup is even more promising—DJ Premier, DJ Khaled, and DJ Mustard, each with their own selections and feature track playlists. Some of their picks include hits like Nas’ “Made You Look,” Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz,” and Drake’s “0 To 100.”

In an interview with Business Wire, DJ Khaled said, “Basketball and music are two of my favorite things, and I’m excited to light up the soundtrack with my signature sound. Expect the hottest tracks and, of course, hit music when you press the start button on NBA 2K16! We The Best! Who? NBA 2K16 that’s who!”

The three DJs combined net worth is 58 million dollars, and along with Take Two Interactive Software’s staggering 2.351 billion dollars in revenue from past games, the company stands to have its most successful year in history with the trio.

Destiny is another video game making history with its soundtrack. It stands as the most expensive video game in history with 500 million dollars worth of production value. Composer Marty O’Donnell, whose past works include Myth and Halo, wrote the score for Destiny before the game was created. The entire scoring and sound effects process took over two years of planning and recording. O’Donnell drew inspiration from a few drawings and his work with Paul McCartney of the Beatles, trading melodies and concept ideas. The massive forty-four-track, two-hour-and-eighteen-minute final product showcases a 106-piece orchestra recorded at Abby Road Studios in London. O’Donnell’s work won the D.I.C.E. 2015 award for Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition and Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design.

While the music industry continues to go up and down in overall revenue, the video game soundtracking industry is pushing ahead. Mainstream artists jumping on projects and using their fame to promote video game playlists is a relatively new enterprise with a ton of potential. Sound designers are expanding their horizons with composers, and searching for the best sound effect samples and recordings. In the coming years, it will be interesting to watch how video games affect the music industry.

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