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ND alumna speaks about Rock Band

John Cameron | Monday, November 23, 2009

The role of smart marketing decisions in the rise of the Rock Band video game phenomena was emphasized by Notre Dame alumna Christina Glorioso during her lecture at the Mendoza College of Business Friday.

Glorioso, now VP of Marketing Partnerships for MTV Networks, has worked with Clear Channel and SFX sports before moving to Viacom and ultimately ending up at MTV Networks Music and Logo Group.

Glorioso spoke primarily about her day-to-day work in the promotion and marketing of the Rock Band franchise, one of MTV’s most recent and successful branding ventures, largely overseen by Glorioso.

MTV’s part in the Guitar Hero franchise was initially limited to a promotional role, as the game was produced by a small developer, Harmonix Music and published by Red Octane. But Glorioso said once Guitar Hero was sold to ActiVision, a major games developer, MTV saw an opportunity to take a more active role in the budding music-based video game industry.

Glorioso said MTV Games’ strategy was to expand upon the Guitar Hero concept by creating a full band platform, which emphasized staying true to the music.

“We created Rock Band to be more authentic, even if you’re playing on plastic instruments,” she said. “We’re re-engaging people with music.”

Within 15 months, the Rock Band franchise had made $1 billion in revenue.

“It took MTV 18 years to become a billion-dollar company. Rock Band did it in 15 months. That is astounding,” she said.

A large part of MTV’s marketing strategy is to utilize its existing TV presence to publicize Rock Band.

“We use our networks in the United States to promote our game,” she said.

Glorioso said one of the major television promotions, an animated commercial based on the album cover of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” proved a great success in promoting “The Beatles: Rock Band,” which sold over 600,000 copies in its first month.

In addition to commercials, MTV marketed the game by scheduling frequent Beatles-related programming on its various stations, which include MTV and its affiliates, VH1, BET, CMT, Logo and Nickelodeon.

The Beatles: Rock Band’s huge sales make up only a fraction of the franchise’s total sales, which have surpassed 30 million units in North America alone.

Despite Rock Band’s massive sales figures, Glorioso and MTV Games have even greater aspirations for the franchise. According to Glorioso, various new markets have been explored through the various Rock Band add-ons meant to appeal to niche groups such as country and heavy metal fans (with genre-based “Track Packs”, bar crowds (with “Rock Band: Bar Night”) and families with children (with “Lego Rock Band”).

In staying true to its emphasis on the music, the Rock Band marketing strategy is now becoming more and more centered on the sale of additional music titles to players to be used in the game.

“The new experience in our game is the music,” Glorioso said. “We make a lot of money in song sales.”

Glorioso said MTV Games’ latest Rock Band venture, Rock Band Network, is set to revolutionize the music-based video game industry in the first quarter of 2010. The Network will allow artists, signed or unsigned, to code, submit and sell their own original music online to be used within the Rock Band games.

Glorioso, who co-founded iNDustry Alliance, the University’s networking group for alumni in the entertainment industry, emphasized the importance of networking and making connections in the entertainment world, and offering assistance to those looking to do so, specifying one condition.

“I only ask that once you graduate and get a job that you come back and do the same,” she said.