Save the last dance – GTA IV axes 50+ soundtrack songs

Vladivostok FM, sleeping with the fishes

As much fun as we have with our virtual bank-heists, car-chases and random muggings, music licensing seems like a far more lucrative racket. Due to expensive, time-limited music licenses expiring, Grand Theft Auto IV developers Rockstar were recently faced with either pulling the game from sale, paying for a license renewal, or removing a good chunk of its famed soundtrack. Today, a small patch rolled out across multiple platforms, removing the now-unlicensed music tracks and it looks like the damage done may be greater than expected.

Right now, players are rallying to assess exactly what’s missing, but reports that the cuts would largely be focused on the Russian-themed Vladivostok FM radio station have proved true, thought perhaps at the expense of a broader truth. Vladivostok has taken the biggest individual hit, but almost every station in the game, including several which picked up extra tracks for the expansions, has seen some losses.

So far the most comprehensive list on what’s been axed comes from a helpful Steam forum user going by the handle Aaron. While he says that he’s still compiling information and the list may grow yet, what he’s assembled already makes for a grim read, and amounts to a rather significant percentage of the total musical content of the game. Over fifty tracks at present count, and it was only 46 a few minutes prior.

Probably worst hit outside of the Russian music picks is Liberty Rock Radio, which is now missing The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1979, Electric Light Orchestra’s Evil Woman, David Bowie’s Fascination and Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, plus a few more. Anyone with an ear for the classics is going to be bent out of shape over at least one of those.

It’s not all bad news. Rockstar have made good on their promise to replace some of the missing tracks. Vladivostok saw the worst damage done at a whole 15 tracks removed between the main game and its expansions (effectively the entire station), but it has received 11 new songs in replacement. It remains yet to be seen if any other stations have been given the same treatment.

Fortunately, Grand Theft Auto IV does have built-in support for custom soundtracks via a special independent in-game radio station, so it shouldn’t be too hard to reinstate the missing music if you miss any of it, once it’s all tallied up. Still, it’s a sad state of affairs and one that is probably going to get worse over the coming years before it has any hope of getting better – this is the kind of problem that requires forward-thinking legislation to prevent, and that’s hard to come by these days.

73 Comments

  1. woodsey says:

    It’s one thing to remove licensed stuff from new sales (i.e. Mafia’s music), but ripping it out of copies that people have already bought seems ludicrous.

    • tomimt says:

      This is, indeed, a terrible practice. Despite you can always argue that games are only licensed these days, the music industry is hardly losing money if people who bought the game years back still have the same music content the game originally had. I understand Rockstars reluctance to keep the same content intact for new customers, but that shouldn’t affect those who have bought it years ago.

      • tuoret says:

        I wonder how this works on consoles. If you pop in your GTAIV disc does it require you to download a patch that removes the songs (assuming you’re connected to the internet), or is this change only affecting digital copies?

        • Dugular says:

          There’s nothing illegal about keeping the songs on the disc. It’s a sale that’s been made.

          The issue is Rockstar still distributing the music to new customers. They would probably be fine if they separate the game into two versions on Steam: A version for previous purchases, and a version for purchases after the license expired.

          I believe they did this with one of the earlier GTAs on steam.

          But when it came time to strip GTA: San Andreas of music, they decided to start taking the easier route of keeping one version on digital storefronts. It’s a lazier and simpler process they’re taking.

          • Photonboy says:

            The songs have been PATCHED OUT OF EXISTING COPIES of the game so your post confuses me.

            I literally got to this site because I was investigating why a patch to GTA IV was in progress (hoping for issues fixed was obviously asking too much).

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I’m surprised this is even legal tbh (if it is… at the very least its retroactive false advertising). With Vice City they only removed the original version from the store but left existing owned copies alone. Now they’re just patching it out?

    • ThePuzzler says:

      I’m guessing the reason they’re removing the music from existing copies is:
      (1) They are required to make the music not be in the game for people who buy new copies.
      (2) Most PC users play on Steam.
      (3) Due to the way Steam works, it’s easiest to have just one version of the game for every new install, and which is auto-patched for existing owners.
      (4) There might be better ways of handling it (paying the music fee, or making the version without these songs a separate purchase), but not enough people play GTA IV to make it seem worthwhile.

    • intrigue169 says:

      ROCKSTAR is the only group of game makers that will go a head and update a pc game that does not even work properly. I still can’t get this game to run smooth at all. and now there is a update to make the game worse than it was a month ago. Good job rockstar. you would have saved more face if you would have just let the game go off in limbo to never be sold again. At least make the game run good on modern hardware if you are going to update. I will not buy Red Dead Redemption with practices like this. even if I am the only one to never buy on planet earth. what is to stop them from stripping all the music from GTA5 in 5 years

  2. dontnormally says:

    It’s disgusting to remove the songs from already-installed copies of the game.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      If Rockstar have a legal obligation to do so, then they have a legal obligation to do so.

      • Ribonizer says:

        They do not have a legal obligation to remove the soundtrack for purchased games. Licensing fees impact their ability to sell the game. However, it would require them to make a new version of the game and put it up for sales on Steam and now would end up having two different versions to update. While this was fully possible, they opted to be lazy and go with the easier solution to destroy the original product.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        “If Rockstar have a legal obligation to do so, then they have a legal obligation to do so.”

        They didn’t. They had 4 choices:

        Remove the game from sale, songs intact for owners.

        Renew the licenses and keep selling the game, songs intact for everyone.

        Remove the song, keep game on sale, screw owners.

        Remove previous version of game from sale, put up new version minus songs, songs intact for previous owners, gone for new buyers.

        They chose the one that costs them the least amount of effort and money and screws the most customers.

  3. EthZee says:

    Aw man, Liberty Rock Radio is my favourite station as well. Nothing goes so well with amoral vehicular carnage in my mind than melodic dadrock. If I recall, Alan Wake got hit with something similar too; these retrospective removals seem more sinister than just a change to new copies of the game.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      They simply stopped selling Alan Wake to get around thus issue.

    • Jalan says:

      The situation with Remedy and Alan Wake is a bit different. They openly admitted to screwing up things by not doing the licensing agreements themselves and allowing third-party negotiators to facilitate things while they focused on the game side and when it came time to remove Alan Wake from sale because of the expiring licenses, they said they’d attempt to negotiate new deals themselves. Of course, when or even if that happens at all is pure “up in the air” talk until it… well, actually happens.

  4. Syrion says:

    News like this make owning nearly every game only through Steam or some other client nowadays scary. If you absolutely must download any game you want to play from official servers, you are entirely at the mercy of whoever takes care of that.

    Considering how moddable all the GTA games are I’d suspect that a mod putting all songs back into their original places is only a matter of time. Also, gaming communities in general have shown to be great at preserving anything and everything worthwile.
    Still, scary.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Music mods are iffy. Unless they’re fan-composed, they usually fall into the “most definitely illegal, but hopefully obscure enough to get away with” category.

      Some do OK, like all the Stellaris music and advisor mods. Others have run into trouble, like mods that add Oblivion/Morrowind music to Skyrim. I have a feeling a GTA IV mod that re-adds removed songs would fall into the later category, unless it requires you to drop the music files in yourself.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        It might be possible if the mod didn’t contain any music, but instead had an installer that asked you for the location of the correct tracks on your hard drive (legal and full licensed of course), and patched those into the game.

  5. brucethemoose says:

    Paying devs to patch an old game and replace music isn’t cheap. It must cost a fortune to actually license the music for the game.

    While alot of angry internet dwellers (not so much on RPS, but other places) are pounching on RockStar over this, seems like they should be pouncing on the music licensers instead.

    • satan says:

      I’d pounce on whatever consumer protection agency isn’t doing their job to stop this nonsense.

    • mmandthetat says:

      When I was trying to get into the filmmaking biz, music licensing proved to be the most ridiculously tricky and impossibly expensive aspect of the whole thing. Which is saying a lot, because everything about filmmaking could be described that way.

    • frymaster says:

      Rockstar went into the deal with open eyes. Assuming Dominic’s explanation is correct, it’s absolutely right and proper that future sales of the game not feature content that Rockstar no longer has a legal right to sell.

      That being said, again assuming Dominic’s explanation is correct, Rockstar seemed to be under no obligation to cause the music to disappear from existing player’s games. It strikes me that, instead of figuring out the proper way to handle digital sales pre- and post- licensing expiry, they’ve taken the lazy way out and removed from pre-existing purchasers too, in order to save themselves the hassle. That’s borderline illegal, I would think – I never licensed GTA, I flat-out bought it.

      Possibly Rockstar could have created another title on Steam – “GTA 4 2018 edition”, with different content, and left the original title alone. But that would have been effort, would have annoyed people, would have doubled the release process when updating the game etc. etc., so they didn’t.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        It also could be an issue with maintaining multiplayer.

        Having two versions of the game trying to talk to each other can cause issues.

        There was no excuse for how they did this with SA though.

        • P.Funk says:

          I would think the simple solution is to make the legacy version different and segregate its multiplayer but gift the updated version to the old players as well (same game but less content so no reason not to). Best of both worlds. Legacy version loses all patch support or whatever requires more than minimal effort and updated version trucks on.

  6. Det. Bullock says:

    And yet they never had that awful Games for Windows Live patched out.

    • Just Endless says:

      the update in fact includes an UPDATE to games for windows live, although as far as i could tell only changes its name in a few places to “Xbox Live,” and threatens you to sign in a little harder (you can still ignore it an play offline)

  7. Premium User Badge

    Waltorious says:

    I do not understand why music licensing works this way for games. Films often license music for their soundtracks, but they don’t have to pull the music out again after a few years. And they definitely don’t go and take everyone’s blu-ray copy and replace it with a new blu-ray that doesn’t have a specific music track.

    Why does it work differently for games? For that matter, I’ve even heard of television shows having to change their title music during rebroadcasts (or when added to streaming services) due to expired licenses. This is ridiculous to me.

    The licensed music is a key part of the final work, be it a film, a show, or a game. Clearly there should be a solution that allows the music to remain, so the works can be experienced as they originally appeared.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Film licensing does sometimes work this way unfortunately.

      A few movies have had soundtracks change from theater to home release or in reissues.

      Probably the most obvious being the first home print of The Thing that had a new soundtrack due to arguments with the composer. The theatrical original was released later.

      There’s also the infamous “no Stairway” scene in Wayne’s World where even a few chords were denied after the theater release.

      • P.Funk says:

        “even a few chords were denied after the theater release”

        Yea, nothing like piece of shit rockstars who want to penetrate the culture and consciousness of every boy on the planet but then deny that culture the right to even reference it. Doubly ironic given the shady history of Zep stealing music.

    • something says:

      I know that classic ’90s TV shows, Northern Exposure and The Larry Sanders Show took forever to be released on DVD due to music licenses that were either expired or simply didn’t cover DVD release.

      It seems crazy that music licensing works this way. Surely the cost of dealing with this sort of nonsense must outway the occasional relicensing payments. Not to mention that they’re giving people reason to explore the possibilities afforded by piracy.

      • malkav11 says:

        For many, many years no one expected the various media to have long term interest worth an indefinite or long term music license. People should really know better by now, though.

  8. Danda says:

    There are many reasons to be annoyed:

    -GTA Online is basically printing money, so they could afford to renegotiate a substantial part of the licenses if they wanted to. I guess it’s not “Rockstar Games” anymore, but “Middle-aged bean counters Games” now.
    -They could have left the songs alone for old users.
    -They obviously knew about this for years, but they only told us TWO WEEKS before the removal. That’s not enough to play through the game in full, even if you didn’t have anything else to do.

    But no, they took the laziest way possible. They completely messed up.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      GTA Online might be part of the motivation. They want to drive folks to GTA V and the microtransaction hell it is in MP.

  9. tomimt says:

    I would rather they’d remove the cousin. Oh well.

  10. EgoMaster says:

    I get removing songs from newly sold copies. I will never understand removing songs from already sold copies. I will never understand why only Rockstar does this. I will never understand why they didn’t do it with Vice City, but did it with San Andreas and GTA IV. This should be treated as a crime if it isn’t already is one. Just in case I downloaded both GTA IV and EFLC, cracked, modded and backed them up. So I’m beyond this anti-consumer practice’s reach. But there needs to be a reaction against Rockstar, music industry, Steam and/or whoever else is responsible for this before it’s too late so that this doesn’t become common practice.

    • tomimt says:

      I assume they had a different kind of a licensing deal for Vice City. After they became huge, I guess the music license holders turned greedy and demanded more.

      • EgoMaster says:

        That’s closer to wishful thinking than an assumption. Wishing Rockstar isn’t being pure anti-consumer, which isn’t very true I’m afraid.

        San Andreas and GTA IV were both released on disc, which is a medium that doesn’t allow song removal. While GTA IV was released after Steam, it was still an after thought as the game had Securom, Rockstar Social Club and GFWL as DRM, not Steam. Why would a license agreement signed before digital distribution (or without digital distribution in mind) contain an article that required removing content from every game sold to date? If so, how would they even do that? Also, why is Rockstar the only one doing this, where even music games such as Rocksmith remove songs only from newly sold copies?

  11. mitrovarr says:

    Retroactively removing content from games they’ve already sold definitely earns the developer a lifetime ban from me ever buying anything they make.

  12. SaintAn says:

    And now only pirates will have access to the full game, and the people that paid money are screwed over as usual. Another reason on a list of many of why piracy is needed.

  13. criskywalker says:

    We had to wait for years to get this version and it is incredibly badly optimized, but the worst thing is that it needs that Micro$oft’s cancerware that is called Game For Windows Live. Considering that that piece of sh*tware was not exactly successful there are a lot of problems using it, which is required to save your game, but doesn’t work on Micro$oft’s own Windows 10, which shows how much they support their GFLW and how much both companies disrespect PC gamers.

    Making it even worse is the fact that Rock$tar decided to patch out about 50 songs from the game’s radio, including the awesome David Bowie. You can’t remove the Bowie from your freaking game! Come on!

    Well, do you know what, Rock$tar? I paid for the full game and you have no right to remove content from our game.

    Shame on you, Rock$tar! Shame on you for not respecting PC players, shame on you for make us wait for your awesome but flawed games, shame on you for removing content for games that we bought, shame on you for not removing that f**kware called GFWL from our game, shame on you for never releasing Red Dead Redemption on PC, shame on you for being a bunch of greedy bastards who never released DLC for GTA V because you only care about making a quick cash with that shit called GTA ONLINE.

    All that said, GTA IV is really a great game. It would be really cool if Rock$tar ever releases a free remaster which runs decently and doesn’t have that piece of stinky garbage called Game For Windows Live attached to it.

    • Optimaximal says:

      The GFW:Live client actually works fine – It happily installs as a redist package with GTA IV.

      The only thing broken is all the links to the separate Marketplace application, which doesn’t work on Windows 8 or 10 and is no longer available.

  14. boidsonly says:

    I smell a lawsuit against Rockstar coming on….

    • Mandrake42 says:

      Why? The licensing is dictated by the music industry companies who own the rights to the songs, not by Rockstar. I’m pretty sure if Rockstar had the choice the game would remain as is.

      • brucethemoose says:

        They do have a choice: pay up and relicense the music, or don’t.

        However, “they refused to pay” seems like a really weak case for a lawsuit.

        • Bostjan says:

          They should disclose this crap upon purchase. The customer needs to know if he will lose part of the game and when. They did not. This seems to me enough for a lawsuit.

          • Optimaximal says:

            They [Rockstar] have been doing this for years, as has every other owner of film, TV & game that licenses real-world music…

            The Mafia games & Alan Wake have both disappeared for a time because of their music licenses.

            If you bothered to read the EULA for the game, it’s probably all mentioned there, including a line that will likely state Rockstar are within their rights to alter the game and the music at any time for licensing purposes.

      • EgoMaster says:

        “I’m pretty sure if Rockstar had the choice the game would remain as is.”

        I’m pretty sure they had a choice and didn’t. I’m also pretty sure with such behavior, Rockstar doesn’t deserve such excuses. Riddle me this: San Andreas, which got the same treatment, and GTA IV were released on disc, a medium such a removal is impossible. Why would a license agreement signed before digital download services contain an article that would make removal of songs from pre-existing purchases mandatory? How would they even do that? Or did they future proof the agreement by adding “when digital distribution is invented, songs from all sold games shall be removed”?

        • Optimaximal says:

          The license agreements for the disc versions are unlikely to apply to the downloadable releases – they will have new licenses because they are a different medium.

          The only case you will even remotely have here is if you used a physical purchased disc to activate some streaming download (which Rockstar have never offered) – and even then it’s on shaky ground because you’ve transferred the license from a physical one to a digital one.

          This is no different than when everyone claimed their Windows 7 & 8 OEM/FPP keys for a ‘free’ Windows 10 digital license.

          • EgoMaster says:

            I must admit, that’s the best defense against the illegal road Rockstar is taking so far. It’s still impossible to swallow, that’s definitely not how such agreements are made, and there are evidences on the contrary, like deadline coming 10 years after the game’s initial release, not Steam release, but it’s the best non-the-less. Keep tryin’.

            Also:
            “They [Rockstar] have been doing this for years, as has every other owner of film, TV & game that licenses real-world music…

            The Mafia games & Alan Wake have both disappeared for a time because of their music licenses.”
            Rockstar didn’t do this for Vice City and GTA3. They did this for San Andreas and IV. That’s your first mistake.

            Your second mistake is, every other game left previous purchases alone. So your comparison doesn’t apply. Nobody is objecting to removing songs from new purchases. What Rockstar doing is completely different.

      • Cederic says:

        The person that bought GTA IV bought a game that included in-game music that played on in-game radios.

        Rockstar are the people that sold GTA IV, and are the people removing that functionality, and the entertainment it provides.

        They do this to GTA V and I get a refund or a quick trip to small claims court. Sorry but you don’t advertise something, take the money then break it.

        • Asurmen says:

          Except they didn’t break it. The game still functions just the same as before. The gameplay is unaffected. It would be very hard to argue you’re due anything from small claims, and definitely not a refund.

  15. Mandrake42 says:

    Ouch! It’s odd as this timed licensing of music seems to only affect the game industry. I don’t recall any films having to be pulled because they couldn’t use certain songs anymore.

    • Nelyeth says:

      I see this comment a lot, but it’s plain wrong. If you read the comments of the previous article, you’ll see counter-examples aplenty. Lots of movies had their music licenses revoked between reissues.

      The whole GTA mess is just making more noise because it’s freaking GTA.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        No it’s a great example – the examples of music removed from film was always example of music being removed in LATER VERSIONS of those movies and series. Nobody goes to your house and removes the music from the dvds you bought, which is the equivalent of what Rockstar is doing.

        • Optimaximal says:

          No, they’re not. You can install an original retail boxed version of GTA IV and it will have the original music.

          The EULA for the game will state that Rockstar are allowed to modify the game in future releases and, if you let it install the new patch, the music will obviously be gone. It’s effectively a new version of the game – not the same code as on the disc in the box.

          All computer software is licensed like this – always has been and always will be.

  16. fish99 says:

    If there was a solution to leave existing owners with the full soundtrack, but sell a new reduced version, and they decided not to go that route then they suck IMO. Also the fact that they didn’t take this opportunity to remove GFWL also means they suck.

    I wonder if the DVD-based GFWL version was also patched, I kinda fancy playing this again since I preferred the story and car physics over GTAV. BoGT was especially good.

    If I get to the end and don’t hear Koyaanisqatsi I’ll be very disappointed.

  17. Pharaoh Nanjulian says:

    This is what they are not spending all the GTA V money on.

  18. MadMaxHellfire says:

    I paid for those tracks, whichever they are, I paid for them too. They are taking away from me something we regularly bought, paid for, and nobody is batting an eye.

    • Kingseeker Camargo says:

      You actually licensed them. Same as you licensed the game, by the way. They might very well remove the whole thing if they please.

      • Cederic says:

        No, they can not. People bought a computer game and under UK consumer law that’s exactly what they can expect to receive.

        • Asurmen says:

          And that’s what they will still receive and still have access to, unless you’re trying to argue the game is the radio stations?

          • Cederic says:

            If the radio stations weren’t an intended part of the game experience then they wouldn’t have been added in the first place.

          • Asurmen says:

            There’s a difference between them being included, and them being the actual game. You’re acting like the game has been fundamentally altered. It hasn’t. You’d been hard pressed to prove the law has been breached, and even then there’s time limits.

  19. Kefren says:

    Hence not buying games where the DRM lets the publisher remove content afterwards. With GOG I can download the installed and keep it, though they tend to let you keep the version you bought anyway, and just put a new version for sale if there are changes like this, so you always get what you paid for.

  20. skyturnedred says:

    There’s already a patch/mod out that reverts the changes.

  21. Kingseeker Camargo says:

    Gaming in the 21st century: We’re still struggling with the uncanny valley and the maps get smaller and smaller so the walls can look shinier, and now the games that you already bought actively lose features as the years go by! What a time to be alive!

    We’re in 2018 and these fucking imbeciles still seem hellbent on making the pirated version come out as the superior one.

  22. Evil-Six says:

    “this is the kind of problem that requires forward-thinking legislation to prevent”
    This is the worst statement I’ve ever read on this site. Rockstar takes the lazy route and instead of updating their licenses or re-releasing the game they pull one over on the consumer, I get that. Now you call for your God (the government) to come and fix it. Government intervention has worked so well in video games in the past too right? Stupid.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Yeah, blaming this on the music industry or governments is absurd. This is Rockstar. They did not have to do this, they CHOSE to.

      • Optimaximal says:

        By ‘CHOSE to’, I assume you mean they’re ‘complying with legally-binding business agreements made with their music licensees’, yes?

    • Asurmen says:

      As opposed to those free thinking liberal game publishers who clearly have our best interests at heart? Yeah, let’s have a go at the clearly evil guberment because they never ever introduced legislation that protects us from companies.

  23. MechWarriorZero says:

    I managed to save the Vladivostok file

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