Home > Multiplatform, Music, Playstation 3, Video Games, Wii, Xbox 360 > How Rock Band has affected how I listen to music

How Rock Band has affected how I listen to music

Rock Band 2

Rock Band 2

(EDIT: This article was featured on Bitmob at http://bitmob.com/articles/how-rock-band-has-affected-how-i-listen-to-music )

I am a huge fan of Rock Band. I play it almost daily, but not as a social function like many who play the game; for me, it’s a solitary experience that I find both relaxing and stress relieving. I do some of my best thinking with a plastic fake guitar in my hands.

It was during one particularly long session of Rock Band late into the night that I came to a pretty shocking realization: not only have I not purposely listened to music outside of the various music rhythm video games for several months, I also hadn’t even realized this fact until that moment.

Rock Band and its ilk have completely changed how I purchase, consume, and think about music.

A few months ago, a few members of the band Styx were in-studio at “The Bob and Tom Show,” which is a very popular morning radio program that I listen to through subscriber podcasts. I had been somewhat familiar with the group but had never really paid attention to them. However, I was very impressed with many of the songs they performed and decided to look into buying a few of the band’s tracks. I could have done this by going to the iTunes Store built into my iPod Touch, surfing to Amazon.com, or by visiting a nearby bookstore. Instead, I went home and bought an entire pack of their music through the Rock Band music store for a significantly higher per-song price than the other options. This method was also less convenient compared to the others and requires a bulky plastic guitar in order to enjoy the music.

Truth be told, I didn’t even think of the other options at the time. At some point, “listening to music” became synonymous with “playing Rock Band.” There are many possible reasons for this. For one thing, I’m a podcast fiend. During any given week I might listen to 30 or 40 hours of spoken audio content. If I’m walking to class or playing a video game, I am likely listening to podcasts at the same time. Podcasts are cheap and the discussions in them might inspire me in ways that music simply cannot while requiring a similar amount of concentration to enjoy.

Another possible factor is, while I had previously held music as little more than background noise and a means to help pass time, Rock Band requires more attention to the music. Seeing the visual representation of the music, however inaccurate or simplified it may be, helps me appreciate technical aspects of the music that I, as a complete musical idiot, would never notice through just listening. The game is almost educational in that regard. Additionally, the video game clichés of arbitrary points, difficulty progression, and winning and losing really appeals to the part of me that has been conditioned from childhood to work towards earning high scores and overcoming challenges. The new downloadable songs keeps me engaged with the Rock Band platform, and the small number of new tracks per week introduces me to new songs and artists that would otherwise be swallowed up by the din and chaos of iTunes or Amazon stores. All these factors come together to make Rock Band more compelling on multiple levels than simply passively listening to my iPod.

Depending on one’s view, there may be a significant downside to my attachment to the music rhythm genre: namely, that my taste in music is evolving based on what I enjoy playing, rather than solely based on the merits of the songs themselves. I love the band Dream Theater, but there is no way I will ever be able to properly enjoy the songs “Panic Attack” or “Constant Motion” due to the painful and crippling difficulty. Instead, I find myself more attracted to relatively simple songs that are infectiously catchy such as the ones by Paramore, Maroon 5, or Kings of Leon. These bands aren’t what I would traditionally listen to, but my constant exposure to their songs in Rock Band have created a certain amount of enjoyment whenever I play them. Whether or not a song is “good” is almost irrelevant to me anymore. Instead, how fun the music is to play is the prime motivating factor for what songs I decide to purchase and experience.

At this point, I keep music on my iPod out of habit more than anything else. There are quite a few artists that I wish would appear in Rock Band, or even Guitar Hero, such as Murder By Death and Metric. But these glaring omissions are offset by the huge number of new bands that I’ve encountered in a way that appeals to me more than any other way possible. Maybe one day I’ll drift away from Rock Band and start relying on my iPod as my primary music player again, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

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