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Wednesday
Mar032010

Rock Band Network authoring best left to the pros

After 45 hours of work over six weeks, my song is one of the 118 approved to be in the RBN Store when it launches. My last article laid out what it takes to get your song in the game, namely a deep skill set and lots of time. While I managed to clock in well under my 60-80 hour estimate, I had a considerable head start. I’d already messed around with Reaper, my stems were ready to go, I’d played through most of Rock Band 1 and 2 on all instruments, and my Xbox 360 was already networked to my studio computer. Plus, I’ve been a full-time mastering engineer for twelve years and a computer geek all my life. Even so, without the expert guidance of the folks at creators.rockband.com, my song never would’ve made it through the pipeline. They are a wonderful group of people – true professionals in every sense of the word.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Probably not. Here’s why:

  1. The authoring guidelines are rules, not suggestions. I mistakenly counted on some wiggle room. I figured if the parts made sense and felt right to play, they’d be acceptable. Not so. For example, on medium difficulty, green-blue chords are not allowed. There can be no kicks or snares between right hand time keeping gems, period. There are lots of rules, not all of them intuitive. Personally, I think that’s a good thing. My initial concern that amateurs would flood the store with flawed product was unfounded.
  2. Playtesting others’ songs can take as long as authoring your own. Authoring is a collaborative process. It takes me about an hour to playtest a song completely, on all instruments at all difficulty levels. You might need a dozen playtests to prepare your song for peer review, so you should plan to do at least that many for others. It’s not just a goodwill gesture. If you don’t actively contribute to the community, nobody will touch your songs.
  3. Hiring a professional is affordable. If you’re willing to share the royalties with an authoring company, your upfront cost can be as low as zero. There are plenty of companies eager to chart your song, with a variety of pricing structures.
  4. Professionals do a better job. Authoring is both an art and a science, and experience matters. No two companies will chart the same song the same way. Check out the expert previews on YouTube and you’ll spot considerable variation. It’s not easy to capture the magic of a real live performance.

Currently, Noble Rhythm is charting another one of my songs. They’ll take half the royalties, but no money up front. Obviously they’re a lot more optimistic about my sales potential than I am!

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with fifteen years of experience promoting his seven Color Theory albums. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Brian is also the head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

References (1)

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Reader Comments (11)

Brian, you're awesome. I really appreciate your dedication to "open source"-ing your whole career -- it's valuable stuff. Thank you.

March 4 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Very kind of you Justin!

March 4 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Hey Brian - thanks for this. We have some artists that are looking into getting into the rock band system. Glad to know about the tightness in the rules, that is going to make playability for the actual buyers of the game that much better.

Seeing what you laid out and your tech/studio experience, this one is going to be best laid out by companies who have dedicated themselves (or a good portion of themselves) to doing this type of work.

Thanks again man.

March 4 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Rollett

Is there a similar process for DJ Hero?

No, there is no process for DJ Hero. Right now the only way to get music into a Hero game is to use the "GH Tunes" system (GHWT/GH5 only), which is an in-game MIDI-esque sequencer. RBN differs because it works with the actual audio stems from a song, rather than replicating it with synthesizers.

It's definitely a lot of work to get into RBN, and the standards are strict. The upside of that is that the final product, as long as it adheres to the rules of the road, will be just as playable and polished as an official track. I've seen some real standout stuff in RBN done by band members and by RBN-specific authoring companies alike.

March 4 | Unregistered CommenterStefan Gagne

I would not do business with Noble Rythym. I just had an email stream of them refusing to accomidate my needs as a customer and artist. I asked if they would sign a non disclosure agreement, something I sign everytime I go on national TV or a radio show, they refused, sent a insulting and deragototy email in response, then "deleted my account" like it was osme kind of smite from God. NDA's are standard operating procedure in show business. Also there is no guarantee they will ever deliver your money, much like Snowcap never did. This company doesn't handle itself proffesionally and apprently, "the customer is always wrong" at Noble Ryhthm. For garage bands Noble may be a good option however if you're experienced in show biz, these people just come off as fly by night ass clowns.

March 8 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

Sorry to hear that! My experience has been 100% positive so far. NR has always come off as highly professional both in my personal correspondence and on the Creators Club forums. In fact, they go above and beyond by hosting "playtest parties" with forum members.

I was informed yesterday that my song just needs camera and lighting, and it'll be ready for playtesting. One side benefit of my having gone through the process is that I can playtest and peer review the song before the authoring is finalized.

March 9 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Brian,

Thanks for sharing this info! Please keep us posted re: your experience with Noble Rhythm.

March 18 | Unregistered Commenteralubman

An update: "If Not Now When" netted $106 in sales from Jan-Mar, shy of the $150 payout threshold. Sales have really slowed down since launch, where the novelty factor and limited selection must have worked in my favor. Noble Rhythm has my new song in peer review, so it should hit the store soon.

PHATBEATZENT.BLOGSPOT.COM

THANKS FOR THE GREAT ADVICE.

June 7 | Unregistered CommenterPTRILLA

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