Axl Rose isn’t looking so good these days. But his business savvy looks great. The frontman for Guns N’ Roses plans to license a song that’s been in the making for a decade to the new Rock Band 2. According to an anonymous source cited in a report in today’s New York Times, MTV plans to announce today that the new video game will include GNR’s “Shackler’s Revenge.”

Guns N’ Roses’ plan to reintroduce its music to the public in a video game underscores how important to the music business games have become — especially Rock Band and Activision’s Guitar Hero series, which allow gamers to play along with songs on instrument-shaped plastic controllers. Rock Band 2 will also include songs from marquee acts like AC/DC and Rush; the game may also feature music by Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan, according to a track listing leaked online. Activision recently released a version of Guitar Hero dedicated to Aerosmith, and a game based on Metallica is due next year.

Both Rock Band and Guitar Hero have helped the ailing music industry by licensing songs and using online networks to sell additional tracks for gamers to play along with. Those tracks, which usually sell for around $2 each, are more profitable for record companies and musicians than iTunes sales.

Consider this news in context. Here’s some recent items from Artsjournal:

Music Sales Down 11 Percent In 2008 “CD sales have been a prime culprit in the sales dip, as they are off more than 16% from 2007 levels, which were significantly down from the year prior. Digital sales, however, continue to grow dramatically. Digital album sales are up 34% to 31.6 million units, which represent 15.5% of all album sales.” Variety 07/02/08

Reinventing The Music Business Model “I have seen the future of music, and it is advertising. In a business where the key product (recorded music) is being so relentlessly devalued that consumers expect to be able to get it for free, branding is seen not just as a growing revenue source but potentially the principal revenue source.” The Telegraph (UK) 07/10/08

The End Of The CD Boxed-Set? “Boxed-set sales have fallen off the cliff; they went from something to nothing. Unless the majors seriously look at reducing the price of the boxed set — they still think they should cost $39.98 or $49.98 — sales will continue to slide.” Yahoo! (Reuters) 07/08/08