By Kevin English
Earlier in the year I ran into one of the lead audio principals over at Rock Band Network, Caleb Epps. We talked for a little while at the CMJ Artist Lounge and have kept in touch over email since October. If you aren’t already aware, Harmonix, the creators of Rock Band are fervently working to roll out a game creation network that allows any recording artist to have their songs available for play and purchase on the Rock Band platform for the Xbox 360. Because there are currently 5 million active Rock Band players, I believe this to a huge opportunity for independents looking to provide value to their existing fans and benefit from the current community. I’m not by any means a gamer, and personally detest karaoke, but the inclusion of music, instruments and making money through the ever popular Rock Band game is too good to pass up.
For a limited time I will be accepting applications for artists who want to try out the Rock Band Network creation tool on my dime. We’ll get into pricing shortly along with a high level step by step introduction to the platform. I’m guessing all in, the selected artist will save about $150 to $200 in software and subscription charges and gain the ability to make money using the system. Kinda cool right? Well lets get started.
Step One: Getting Started
Initially you will need three types of subscriptions:
- Gold Membership to Xbox Live, “Gamer Tag” ($7.99 per month)
- Creators Club Premium Membership ($49 for 4 months or $99 annually) – This is Microsoft’s game creating software. Upon first glance, I can’t tell how much a premium membership will be, however, I’ll find out and update this post accordingly
- Rock Band Creators Club – Currently in closed beta, but necessary to get your music on Rock Band. Again as more info becomes available I’ll go ahead and update this post.
Note: If you are wondering why I’m talking about this software before it is available to the public, its because we need to stay ahead of the curve people. I have a feeling that this is going to be big, real big and I’d rather get a firm grasp of it now than scramble later to catch up.
Step Two: Authoring Your Track
Rock Band Network has teamed with Cockos (hee hee) to provide a software application that makes authoring your track easier and more automated. You’ll need to download the following application and plug in for this step.
- REAPER Digital Audio Workstation for PC/Mac ($60 non commercial license for artists making under $20K, free 30 day fully functional trial)
- REAPER Rock Band Plugins for PC/Mac (Free as far as I can see)
There are all types of documentation on the Rock Band Creators site that give detailed instructions on everything from mixing to MIDI set up, standards on drum, guitar and vocal authoring. This application will also help determine difficulty level and technical information about lyrics and animations (i.e. lighting calls, director’s cuts and pyrotechnics).
Step Three: Uploading Your Track
Magma is the packaging and auditioning tool for the Rock Band Network. It allows you to take audio stems, in the form of .wav files, and MIDI files authored to the RBN specification in Reaper, and create song packs that can be uploaded and auditioned on an Xbox. It also provides the ability to audition and test songs downloaded from the Creators Club using “Audition Mode”. For this step you will need to download the following:
Here you can enter all of the pertinent info regarding the track including song name, artist, album art and price. Harmonix publicist, Stephanie Meyers confirmed for me this week that songs will be sold for between $1, $2 or $3. It’s up to the artist/submitter to set the price, which you are free to change every three months. It should be noted that the split between the company and the artist is 70/30 respectively. Why should you give Rock Band 70% of your earnings? Because they are giving you a platform that they built to get you in front of 5 million users, that’s why. Just think, even 2% of 5 million people is pretty damn good.
With MAGMA you will also be able to take the various authored pieces of your song (drum mix, bass, guitar, vocals) and mold them into a single track.
Step Four: Review
When you upload your song to the Creators site, it will be immediately available for any other Creator with a Premium Account to download and audition. When asked if all tracks that pass Peer Review become available to the public, Stephanie responded positively.
Yes! Once a song passes through Peer Review, it is available for purchase and download in the Rock Band Network Music Store. The Peer Review process allows members of the Rock Band community to participate in the Rock Band Network. These fans can help shape the track’s final form, rating how fun and challenging the authoring is and helping flag issues to make the song the best it can be. Anyone who owns Rock Band 2 for Xbox 360 can join the Playtest and Peer Review processes by purchasing an XNA membership through Xbox Live.
Step Five: Publish and Promote
I know, that sounds like two steps, but I realize that this a long post and should get to the end ASAP. You don’t have to do much else to publish your track since it becomes available as soon as it passes peer review. Promoting is another story. As more and more artist become familiar with this process the game will undoubtedly become over saturated. Rock Band has made it easier to discover music by creating lists of the most recent songs uploaded, the top picks by Harmonix staffers and “random” to take you to a randomly selected track. Its yet to be seen how individual artist will promote tracks on the system, but I’m sure we can find creative ways to promote your track once all of the heavy lifting is done.
Sounds easy right? Not exactly, but I’m willing to give it a shot if you are. Start by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org with Re: Rock Band in the subject line and we’ll take it from there. I’ll select one lucky artist to go through the process with, all expenses paid by me. Can’t say I never gave you anything.
Written by Kevin English for Music Think Tank
The Hit Music Academy | 2010
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