THE BLOG
27/09/2013 12:51 BST | Updated 27/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Five Is the Magic Number for Rock Stars

Last weekend I bought the new Arctic Monkeys album, AM. It's a great record - gritty guitar riffs and tender jams charting the maturity of a band that Rolling Stone magazine memorably described as having "torpedoed out of Sheffield." The twenty-something Arctic Monkeys are high achievers. Not only is AM the band's fifth studio album in only a decade, but each of these has shot to number one. No 'second album syndrome' for these rock stars. Last week another Rockstar celebrated the big number five - Rockstar Games, with the launch of its hugely anticipated multi-million dollar video game, Grand Theft Auto (GTA) V.

One week on, sales for both are off the chart. AM sold 157,000 copies in the UK in its first week, making it the second fastest selling album of 2013 (behind the chilled electro meets disco vibes of Daft Punk's Random Access Memories). As for GTA V, it secured a new record as the fastest selling game ever, with a staggering 1.57million copies sold in its first day on the market.

These stars of music and gaming have clearly never stopped evolving since they set out on their respective journeys to fame and fortune. It got me thinking about the magic formula - if such a thing exists - that lies behind their success. Both have instinctively understood their audiences from day one and rewarded them with personal and niche market attention, the best way to secure long-lasting loyalty. GTA V's marketing push remains true to this approach; Rockstar Games shunned the mainstream media, preferring to give independent bloggers and specialist gaming websites first call on reviewing the game - knowing that this targeting would gain them huge credibility in fans' eyes. An august title like the New Statesman simply couldn't get hold of an advance copy, as their deputy editor explained when she was interviewed on Radio 4 on the day of the launch.

Throughout their respective histories, the popularity of the Arctic Monkeys and GTA have been driven by fans via online forums and social media platforms. Indeed many pundits claimed at the time that the Arctic Monkey were the first music act propelled to fame by social media.

Moreover, both GTA and the Arctic Monkeys have cleverly grown with their fans, knowing that standing still is the biggest mistake you can make. Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman quite rightly reminded us on the Today Programme that the average age of a gamer is now 30. While these gamers might have been spotty teenage boys in their bedrooms when the first GTA launched back in the nineties, today games are no longer the sole preserve of younger audiences.

The Arctic Monkeys too have been hugely astute in developing their craft and carrying their fans with them since they burst onto the scene in the noughties. As with gaming, it also helps that rock 'n roll is no longer the sole preserve of the young. Anyone who watched the Stones at Glastonbury will have no trouble believing this.

Even if you are unfamiliar with the Arctic Monkeys' sound, the mature quality of their new album AM is unmistakable. In 2006 when 'I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor' rocketed to number one, these northern poets with their head-banger punk sounds that referenced everyday Sheffield hangouts were embraced in student unions up and down the country. Far from fading, however, the lads' raw and relatable lyrics continued to cut through other indie band noise - impressive, yet understandable in an age where the nation divides between sponging up the manufactured X Factor pop pap and the need for something original. And while their 2011 move to California where AM was recorded might have created dissent among fans who worried about them selling out to big business, the end product is a sound that remains true to its roots - it's just grown and matured as its listeners have. GTA V does something similar. Quite simply it's a bigger, better version of the original game with everything that players loved about the first GTA still present.

What these two established entertainment properties show us is that they're no one-hit wonders or one trick ponies. Despite the occasional moral bump in the road (GTA's raw violence and prostitutes was never going to go down well with middle England) both have succeeded where others have failed because they haven't tried to reinvent themselves into something unrecognisable. They've kept to the same winning formula that their audience loved about them in the first place but been astute enough to mature with the times and with their audiences.