They have come relentlessly. Like an army of Uruk Hai, they have come. Month after month, the fans have come to www.LOTR.com to hear the music. More than a million have come, downloading MP3 after MP3 of Chance Thomas’ original music from Vivendi-Universal Games’ Lord of the Rings series.
"The response to Chance’s music at LOTR.com has been fantastic," says Guy Welch, web marketing manager for VU Games. "Chance's delivery of web-ready files, online liner notes, and behind-the-scenes photography helped us quickly create a unique way for fans to experience this brand."
By the end of August 2004 the total had reached 1,080,213 downloads. And the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. According to VU Games’ tracking, fans downloaded more music in the last month than they had in any previous month. This in spite of the fact that the most recent games (War of the Ring, The Hobbit) were released about 10 months ago.
"We’re not just talking about hits, measured in tens of millions. We’re talking about actual mp3 downloads, " Chance said. "I never imagined the music would find such resonance with the fans. This isn’t Green Day or Brittany Spears or the Black Eyed Peas. It’s a bunch of middle-aged guys playing violins. Orchestral, choral, and acoustic underscore written and produced exclusively for games. I’m not sure if anything like this has ever happened with game music before."
But music agent Bob Rice, who represents many top game composers including Thomas, has a different view. "Actually, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Chance’s music for Lord of the Rings has richness, it has melody, it’s inspiring. And that’s why over a million people have taken the time and made the effort to download it. They want to hear it again and again. It’s just great music."
Gael Schults, a life-long student and performer of ancient music ascribes the lure of Chance’s themes to their interplay of authenticity, accessibility and emotion. "Chance Thomas was able to get in touch with some deep emotion on that music. I still wake up hearing these pieces playing through my head, in those half-sleeping moments just before morning consciousness. It is a rare composer who can bring both the heart of ancient folk tradition and modern accessibility to the same table with this degree of palatable success."
When asked what this means for music makers in gaming, Chance said, "Taken alone, this might be no more than a spectacular aberration. But in the context of everything else that’s going on these days – the sold-out live game music concerts, the recognition from BAFTA and the Grammys, and the relentlessly rising bar of game music quality – I think it portends amazing opportunities for us, and points to a significant trend sweeping through the entire world of entertainment."
G.A.N.G. founder and President Tommy Tallarico, a renowned advocate for game music adds, "The winds of change seem to be upon us. This is just more proof of how important video game music has become in our culture. Not only is the game experience itself benefiting from talented and experienced composers like Chance, but this proves that the fans are interested in the music outside the game as well."
Fans seem to support Tallarico’s view. Game music enthusiast Jesse Wang, representative of so many, said in a recent email to HUGEsound, "[These] soundtracks are absolutely amazing. I have never heard such passion and musical depth in a game soundtrack." Adds Shults, "Chance’s innate ability to feel the ancient music so strongly…exceeds normal musical boundaries in it’s ability to be true to the writings of Tolkien as well as to Ancient Peoples everywhere, whether real or imagined!"