Last month, I took a look at the recent prevalence of video game music being released on vinyl records. The idea that older game music is being re-released onto a audio medium that was on its way out by the time the NES was dominating the gaming market was a fascinating concept, and I wanted to look deeper into it.
I was fortunate to be contacted by the fine people of Data Discs, who pride themselves as being the first record label solely dedicated to releasing video game soundtracks to vinyl. Having recently released licensed record OSTs for Streets of Rage and Shenmue, I was curious to learn more about this business and what goes into the process of getting classic game soundtracks onto a classic format such as vinyl, and they were gracious enough to answer some of my questions.
OSV: Can you tell us a bit about Data Discs? What inspired you to start such a site?
Data Discs is the first record label solely dedicated to releasing video game soundtracks on vinyl. We carefully remaster game soundtracks and present them as high quality packages. The intention is to promote the work of game composers, which is all too often overlooked, and to introduce people to an area of music that, despite being culturally significant in many ways, has seldom been available on any format, let alone on vinyl. We aim to release soundtracks that work as standalone pieces; albums that can be enjoyed by casual listeners as well as game fans, and showcase the creativity and ingenuity of the composers behind them.
OSV: What is your history with both video game music and vinyl records? Did you grow up with both?
Yes, absolutely. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of playing games with my brother and friends. The music in those games, which we’d inadvertently listen to for hours on end, left a lasting impression on me. Like many people my age, game music has remained in my subconscious well into my adulthood, even if I didn’t realize it. As for vinyl, I’ve been buying it as my preferred format since my early teens; it’s always been a big part of my life and always will be. I think being an avid record buyer is an essential requirement for any label owner. You can usually tell when labels don’t have that background, or an inherent enthusiasm for the format pretty quickly.
OSV: How long does the licensing process take for records?
It can take a very long time indeed. It really varies, depending on the situation of the rights ownership and the specific terms required by the licensor. And that’s all before any pre-production or manufacturing can even begin!
OSV: You started with Streets of Rage and Shenmue for the first two vinyl albums you licensed and released. What made you pick those?
We felt that between them, these two soundtracks really showcase the diversity of what game music has to offer. Shenmue is a beautiful orchestral soundtrack, whilst Streets of Rage is basically house music filtered through an FM synth. They’re very different soundtracks, but equally amazing and wonderfully creative in their own ways. It was the perfect way to start the label.
OSV: Has there been a decent response to your release of licensed albums of older VG music?
The response has been very encouraging. We’ve received some really nice messages of support from people all over the world and look forward to bringing them some awesome records.
OSV: What are your plans for future releases? Is it based on personal preference or customer demand?
It’s a bit of both really. Although I think we’d struggle to work on something that we didn’t personally like ourselves. We have a pretty heavy release schedule ahead of us.
OSV: In our previous article, there was the topic of bootleg records and you mentioned vinyl counterfeiting to us. Is there an extensive history of both?
Bootlegging/counterfeiting of records has a long history, of course. With regards to game music specifically, it’s a relatively new thing, obviously inspired by the emerging demand for these soundtracks. It’s a shame that certain distributors and retailers are evidently willing to turn a blind eye, but it’ll always exist in some form.
OSV: What can fans do to spot bootlegs over official or licensed releases? That Mario Bros. we linked one looked pretty legit.
Thanks to Data Discs for answering what questions they could for me! If you’re interested in fully-licensed game music on vinyl, keep an eye on them for future releases. (Still keeping my fingers crossed for Super Castlevania 4)Data Discs, Game Music, Interviews, Records, Shenmue, Streets of Rage, Video Game Soundtrack, Vinyl