More from Activision boss Bobby Kotick's address at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference: Activision are waking up to just how much money artists can make by appearing on Guitar Hero (HINT: it's a lot). So, they figure, if artists are making money off Guitar Hero, then Activision can start making money off those artists. And their labels.
Kotick claims that, shortly after the game's release, "every single artist" who appears in Guitar Hero III saw their featured tracks become their most-downloaded on iTunes. Which is making the artist money. And every time a kid boots up the game and is introduced to an artist like Aerosmith or Van Halen for the first time, that's more money an artist - and their label - will make.
Which has Activision in a unique position. Kotick says that if artists and labels are making money off Guitar Hero, they want to be making money off the artists and labels, in terms of both straight profits and in things like advertising and marketing presence (presumably on tours, via endorsements, etc). And if Universal (yes, he mentions their new labelmates by name) don't cough up, well, they'll just go and find another label who will.
Looks like somebody's got his swagger on.