A visitor to a recent video shoot for the band Dropbox would find nothing out of the ordinary: five black-clad weird-beard rockers throttling their instruments while overworked director Nigel Dick stitches together a plot (something about a peep show in reverse, where it's the showgirls who get hot and bothered as they watch the boys rocking out). It was what happened later that was unusual: Dick would ultimately edit the material into not only a music video but also a TV commercial for a seemingly unrelated product -- Atari's new Transformers videogame.
Welcome to Marketing 2004, in which the intersection of music and videogames involves more than merely sprinkling a few tunes into a game's soundtrack. In fact, this particular alliance between Atari and Universal Records is their attempt to reach the same coveted audience: young males. The video for Dropbox's single ''Wishbone'' features footage from the Transformers game, while the new videogame contains Dropbox songs that players unlock by completing certain levels. Dropbox's album hit stores April 13, while the videogame arrives May 11; ''Wishbone'' is also played in the commercial.
Dropbox guitarist Lee Richards -- whose band is the first signee to Universal's Realign label, an imprint founded by Godsmack vocalist Sully Erna -- figures both his band and Atari stand to win from the arrangement. ''It helps us to branch out, at least to a demographic that normally we might not touch as soon in our careers.''
Such an unconventional approach was a no-brainer for the New Jersey-based band, whose self-described ''retro'' sound was captured with help from producer Dave Jerden (Alice in Chains, Jane's Addiction). ''It's a real sludgy riff and a real sludgy game,'' remarks vocalist John Kosco (above, with toy). As for their interest in the game itself, drummer Bobby Jenkins says, ''We grew up with the Transformers and saw it on TV. We played the old Atari systems -- so it's kind of nostalgic for us.''
And even if this promotional experiment fails, a growing number of bands are contributing original songs for no other reason than being fans of videogames. To say nothing of having a track turned into an Easter egg. Says Jenkins: ''I unlocked the single 'Wishbone' and went to the extras and played it, and I was like, 'Wow, that's pretty cool!'''