It’s a collaboration few could have predicted, but the coming together of roots-rocker Tom Petty and ultra-violent video games juggernaut Grand Theft Auto is proving to be one that will pay dividends.
The long-awaited trailer for the latest game in the series, Grand Theft Auto VI, has just dropped – and the montage of clips involving guns, go-go girls, gangsters, high-speed car chases, speedboats and armed robberies, is all soundtracked by the 1989 Petty song “Love Is a Long Road.”
The teaser itself has amassed over 100 million views in just 24 hours, but while that was to be expected for such a hotly-anticipated prospect, it has been the fan reaction to Petty’s song that has drawn at least as much attention.
Since the trailer’s release, “Love Is a Long Road” has rocketed up the Spotify charts, with streams of the track up by 36,979% compared to the week before. The track has now racked up more than 11 million plays on the streaming service.
The song was originally recorded for Petty’s debut solo album Full Moon Fever in 1989, and although it reached #7 in Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, it failed to dent the Hot 100 on its initial release. By contrast, other singles from the LP, “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Fallin’”, and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” all charted in the top 30. The album itself has been certified 5x platinum in the U.S.
The singer died in 2017 aged 66, after a long and distinguished career including hits with the Heartbreakers and as a member of '80s supergroup the Traveling Wilburys, alongside Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynn, Roy Orbison and George Harrison. He has sold over 80 million albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
GTA VI is not set to be released until 2025 and will arrive over a decade since the last installment in the series. GTA V smashed industry sales records on its release to become the fastest-selling entertainment product in history, with receipts of $800 million in its first 24 hours, and $1 billion in its first three days.
Publisher Rockstar Games was forced to release the new trailer 13 hours earlier than planned after it was leaked on social media, and if the choice of Petty to soundtrack the teaser was surprising, it fits the innovative use of music in the Grand Theft Auto games.
Each of the games in the franchise features fictional radio stations playing in cars driven by characters, covering genres including pop, country and hip-hop. The gimmick has proved so popular that Rockstar have subsequently released three official accompanying soundtracks, featuring songs by artists as diverse as ASAP Rocky, Rage Against the Machine, Willie Nelson and Simple Minds. GTA V alone featured 16 radio stations playing 441 tracks of licensed music.
In an accompanying odd twist of fate, Petty last performed “Love Is a Long Road” in 2013 – the same year that GTA V was released.