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Madden '09 music lineup released

July 8, 2008 |  4:38 pm

It wasn't so long ago that game companies had to plead with music labels to license songs for their video games. Now, the pleading runs the other way.

Electronic Arts today released its list of songs for the soundtrack of its upcoming Madden NFL 09, an announcement that is as eagerly anticipated as any envelope opening at the Grammys.

EA gets about 4,000 submissions each year from bands wanting to land one of about two dozen spots on the soundtrack of Madden Football, which is played by more than 9 million gamers each year with near religious fervor. Some submissions come from established bands, such as Outkast and Green Day, that want to reach new audiences. But most are new, cutting-edge bands hoping for some exposure.

Ever since EA hired music industry veteran Steve Schnur in 2002 to crank up the buzz on its soundtracks, the game company has been choosier about which songs it accepts. Only new songs are considered, and only songs that reflect current musical trends, Schnur said. Most bands eagerly comply. That's because the average Madden song is played over a billion times as each player devotes hundreds of hours playing the game, according to EA estimates.

"That's more impressions than any radio station in the country," Schnur said.

As a result, some now-well-known bands got an early boost in their careers from Madden, including Good Charlotte, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand.

Larry Jacobsen, manager of Avenged Sevenfold, credits Madden for the band's success, even before its songs hit stores or airwaves. "The impact on the band’s career was immense," Jacobsen said. "There was no other way to explain the sold-out shows and kids singing every word to songs not yet on radio or available in stores."

What's in it for EA? While the company still pays licensing fees to musicians, the expense for EA is generally less than 2% of the cost of producing the game, Schnur said. EA also gets a tiny referral fee from iTunes when its players check the play list on EA's music website, then hop over to iTunes to buy songs on the soundtrack. But the main draw: a solid gold soundtrack to go along with the Madden plays.

-- Alex Pham

Video courtesy of Electronic Arts, featuring the song "Hammerhead" by the Offspring