Aerosmith don't have a new album out, but the band still scored the biggest sales week of its 38-year career in early July, thanks to the fastest-growing new business in rock: video games. The new Guitar Hero: Aerosmith — which lets fans use the franchise's familiar plastic guitar controller to play 25 songs from "Sweet Emotion" to "Love in an Elevator" — sold over 567,000 copies in its first week, grossing more than $25 million, at $50 a game. In contrast, the band's last studio album, 2004's Honkin' on Bobo, sold 160,500 copies in its first week, grossing about $2 million. "We didn't have to think about it very much," says Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. "We were all pretty aware of how popular the game was, and being the first band to have our own version of it seemed pretty exciting. We're the first band of many."
After the competing rock-themed video-game franchises Guitar Hero and Rock Band grossed nearly $1 billion combined in 2007, rock's most legendary names took note: In addition to Aerosmith, top acts like Guns n' Roses, Metallica, the Who, Jimi Hendrix and many more are making tour stops at Xboxes and PS3s this year. G n' R are debuting "Shackler's Revenge," a song from the endlessly awaited Chinese Democracy, as part of this fall's Rock Band 2; Metallica are making their new album, Death Magnetic, available for play on Guitar Hero the same day it's released in stores and on iTunes; and Hendrix-estate conservator Janie Hendrix tells Rolling Stone that some of Jimi's greatest hits will soon be on Guitar Hero.
Since Rock Band and Guitar Hero offer similar game play — the upcoming Guitar Hero: World Tour will even let players take on drums and vocals, Rock Band-style — the games' makers are increasingly focused on differentiating themselves through deals with major artists. "There's a massive list of artists and songs that are available," says Tim Riley, head of music for Activision, which controls the GH franchise. "There's a smaller list of the ones you really want, and there's a supershort list of the ones you have to have. So it's safe to say we're all kind of going after similar things." Although the company won't yet confirm it, Metallica may also be the next band to have their own edition of Guitar Hero, according to an SEC filing by Activision.