Long before Lil Wayne allegedly sampled a track from Sword & Sworcery, independent video-game soundtracks have consistently been topping the sales charts on Bandcamp. It's gotten to the point that when a reasonably hyped game releases a soundtrack, it's almost inevitable that it will end up in the top five. Starting with Shatter, then Plants vs. Zombies, Super Meat Boy, Sword & Sworcery and now Bastion, it's clear gamers are still willing to toss down actual cash to support the artists.
These are, of course, not million-unit sellers, but they do bolster the idea that a game soundtrack is not just worth owning for collectable reasons, but also because they make for good listening. Currently, both Darren Korb's Bastion and Jim Guthrie's Sword & Sworcery soundtracks are the top two sellers on Bandcamp.
That's due, in part, to excellent sales from both games, and in Guthrie's case, to an incredibly odd piece of news that hit on Friday: "The Cloud," has been sampled by Lil Wayne in his new track with Drake, "She Will." Actually, technically Lil Wayne is supposedly sampling Gramz's "I Have Arrived," which samples, "The Cloud," but it's still an exceptionally weird circumstance where Lil Wayne is essentially sampling an iOS game.
There is no formula here for a certain type of music either. While Super Meat Boy's soundtrack is probably the closest to what you'd expect from a video game, the rest tinker in plenty of different genre's, from electronic to acid-folk. Price isn't exactly a deciding factor either, these albums range from $2.99 to $30 for the vinyl version of Sword & Sworcery and most of them allow you to donate more if you'd like.
This popularity most likely has something to do with passion. Whereas the typical music fan has grown set in their ways in terms of whether they purchase or steal music, video game fans have gone years without access to soundtracks, and even when the bigger budget releases are released, they're often hard to track down or limited to one run. Never mind trying to track down the score for an indie game; it simply didn't exist until recently.
So when a game sells well, and all of the above did on their respective platforms (iOS, Android, PSN, Xbox Live, PC), the fans want to give more money to the artists who worked on them to show their appreciation and support. It's the same reason you see way more handmade gaming paraphernalia on Etsy than you do of handmade band stuff.
It certainly isn't an advertising trick, while many of the artists flooded their social networks with links, none of them bothered with traditional advertising. "We've put out a few tweets and announcements," says Bastion composer Darren Korb, "but it seems like people have spread the word themselves for the most part.
"This is the first soundtrack I've worked on," Korb continues, "but compared to other albums I've released on my own -- of a band I was in or what have you -- this is doing much better." The trend seems to be the same for each of the albums, which is tied in with each of the games selling remarkably well. They'll get their due in hype from gaming blogs, but rarely cross into the traditional music space.
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Still, there doesn't seem to be an exact method for success -- it has a lot to do with the fact it gives fans a chance to support artists directly, but more than anything, these are all works that are worth supporting because they have no major backing, no publishers, no live shows, and, most importantly, they're a good listen.