Rock Band, Guitar Hero boost digital music sales

The Rock Hero Effect: People buy either Rock Band or Guitar Hero. They get hooked on the addictive and lasting gameplay. They start buying expansion songs in droves at $2 bucks a pop. Then they flood online music stores to purchase the featured game tracks. In short, video games are the new CD.

According to Nielsen SoundScan data, individual Metallica songs saw an online sales spike between 31-48 percent, a month after they were featured in Rock Band. Though the overall impact is still unclear, music execs are thrilled, says Reuters.

While impressive, in-game downloads sell even more music. MTV last week said more than 2.5 million songs have been downloaded in Rock Band, while Activision accounts for more than 5 million Guitar Hero 3 downloads since downloading began last November.

"We live in a rough time around music where our audience struggles to pay $20 for a CD but don't hesitate to pay $50 for a game," said Van Toffler, MTV's music division president. "The notion to pay 99 cents or $1.99 to have a song and repeatedly play with it apparently isn't a big hurdle."

The significance isn't lost on Apple: You can buy Guitar Hero soundtrack songs on the iTunes Store. What's more, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock is now shipping for the Macintosh, courtesy of Aspyr Media.

Peter Cohen provided information used in this report.

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