Berlin game studio Newtracks releases Bands: “Farmville meets Guitar Hero”

Daniel Bock
Daniel Bock

Daniel Bock

Berlin game studio Newtracks just released its first title: Bands, a free social game originally pitched as “Farmville meets Guitar Hero, but better”.

The idea is to form virtual bands with your Facebook friends and play virtual concerts, starting with a US tour then unlocking other continents as the band wins more fans.

To play a concert, the player first picks a song and venue. Once people start turning up, the player can kick off a solo or a “special band move” to engage a single fan or a group – if the fans don’t get enough attention, they’ll walk out. The more quickly fans arrive, the harder they are to target.

Bands

Newtracks licensed 26 songs from 12 artists for the launch and will add more as it gets going. Players can also upload their own tracks – to avoid legal battles with labels, players can either upload tracks for private use or, if they own the rights, upload it to add to Bands’ public charts. 

“Imagine you’re a 17-year-old girl and you’re playing around with Ableton,” Newtracks co-founder Daniel Bock (pictured) explained. “I can say, ‘look, my song is in a game, play it so I can rise in the charts’… This is one of the ways we work with people that make music.”

The pop culture nature of the game gives it plenty of business model options: As well as affiliate links to buy the songs used in the game and selling its own virtual items, Newtracks is talking to major labels and artists about introducing branded items – tee shirts, say, or guitar pedals.

Why Bands nearly didn’t happen

All sounds good – yet the game nearly didn’t happen. Bock met Newtracks co-founders Roman Frank and Norbert Haacks studying at the Games Academy in Berlin.

“This was basically our thesis project,” Bock said. “As we talked with our lecturers, they’d always say ‘look, it’s a great concept, but you’re going to have a hard time dealing with the music industry regarding the rights’.”

The friends dropped the project – then managed to get an introduction to Universal Germany. “We thought, if they think it’s a good idea, why not start a company?”

After kicking off the company in Bock’s kitchen with “about €30”, and bringing on a former professor as a fourth co-founder, Newtracks secured seed funding last year from nine angel investors: Peter Read, Christophe Maire, Rdio Head of European Partnerships (and ex-Last Fm Head of Music) Stefan Baumschlager, Samuli Siren, Tilman Buggenhagen, Jörn Lubkoll, Philipp Belter, Hendrik Lesser and Martin Sinner.

Next steps, all going well, will include Android and iOS mobile apps – and, maybe, eventually a foray into console gaming.

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