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Rock Band Network for Dummies?

A few weeks ago, Kevin English of eleetmusic got me in to the closed beta of Rock Band Network, which provides the necessary tools to get your songs into the game. When it launches, the RBN Store will sell those songs through the game’s interface, with 30% of the purchase price going back to the artist. Now that the beta is public, you may be eager to dive in, but let me warn you - it’s a lot harder than I thought it would be! Authoring your first song requires a deep skill set and 60-80 hours of focused effort.

You’ll need to have:

  • Multitrack sessions of your song, including a dry vocal
  • A computer running Windows
  • An Xbox 360 with at least a 20 GB hard drive
  • Rock Band 2

You’ll most likely need to buy:

  • A premium Creators Club membership ($99/year or $49 for four months)
  • A Gold subscription to Xbox LIVE ($49.99/year)
  • Reaper Digital Audio Workstation software ($60 discounted license after a 30 day trial)

You’ll need to be able to:

  • Prepare stems from your original recordings
  • Learn a new DAW plus custom scripts
  • Play the game proficiently on all instruments at all difficulty levels (good luck if you can’t sing!)
  • Transcribe a vocal performance to MIDI, differentiating between vowels and consonants by viewing the waveform
  • Play the drums (to program the right hand/left hand animations correctly)
  • Connect your Xbox 360 to your computer

In addition to all that, you’ll be expected to test and review other members’ songs. It’s a network after all!

Believe it or not, I’m not trying to discourage you. I just want to save you the frustration of hitting a brick wall after investing your time and money. If the process seems overwhelming, you can always hire someone else to do it. The most widely promoted service so far is Tunecore’s, which charges $999. Keep in mind that the quality of the final product can vary considerably. One service might spend hours on lighting and camera work, while another might use the defaults generated by the compiler. Authoring is both an art and a science.

I created a couple videos of my song as it stands today, just after submitting it for playtest. I’ll post an update once the song makes it through the system. The first one shows the whole band in autoplay mode on expert difficulty, and the second just the vocals, so you can better appreciate the camera and lighting work.

More info on the authoring process here.

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.

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Reader Comments (9)

Holy crap!! LOL!

That does sound like an incredible set of requirements and work. I'm very interested to hear how this all turns out for you. Thanks for the information - this will get some people very excited, and save others countless hours of frustrating work and wasted money.


January 26 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian Ellis

$999, huh? Sounds like a useful skillset to get down. I might have to commit some time to learn this.

BTW, you and Kevin are both excellent writers and I'm glad you two are committed to doing real work and sharing what you're finding out. Wicked appreciated, over here in the peanut gallery.

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Thanks guys!

A friend at Harmonix emailed me this morning, and he thinks 25-50 hours is more accurate. 60-80 seems to be the consensus on the forums, but maybe the people who do it faster are too busy to post!

When I first saw the $999 figure, I thought the same thing - maybe I could get into the authoring business if my mixing and mastering work ever slows down. Now I'm convinced I'd need to lower my hourly rate significantly to be anywhere close to competitive. Plus, I'd rather not have to stake my financial future on the stability of my 360, as I believe I'm on my fourth - and I barely use it!

January 26 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Thanks for reading Adrian. The opportunity to monetize your music on RBN is too good to pass up at this point. Where else can you find 5M active gamers in one place?

Justin. 1K per track can become an excellent side business if you know your way around the studio. Brian and I have seen people do it for free as well, but they are asking for a percentage of your royalties :-/

I'm interested to see how bands plan to market their tracks effectively once the store is open. There is bound to be an over saturation in this marketplace.

Any ideas?

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English


Don't fall for this, its money making on the back of naive artists!

GAMERS WON'T BUY YOUR SONGS, only a minority will become fans, and then they will forget about you because they have A.D.D. and most of all because every wannabe band will add their songs to the site and over saturate it.

They don't really go there to hear new bands, but to play a game.

Don't waste your time and money.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterFebreze

Way to be positive Febreze. Thanks for that.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterKevin English

That was my first instinct, but now that I've seen how high the bar to entry is, I'm not so sure. I see lots of big name artists with songs in playtest and peer review. I don't think it's destined to become a vast wasteland like or MySpace, but time will tell.

January 28 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

I know from our own marketing surveys and fan interaction (in hip hop) that gamers using DJ Hero are already itching for new content. Given the multi-billion dollar business that gaming companies do -- strictly through after-market material like online gaming and expansion packs -- I find it really hard to get with The Febreeze Assessment.

I'm a cynic, too, but being a cynic requires knowing your shit, instead of just walking around searching for a parade to piss on. The numbers make it pretty clear this is a growth industry.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Read through those requirments... looks like I've trained for this my whole life. Reaper's even my DAW of choice. hurrah! But how is this looking now Guitar/DJ Hero has gone under and RB3's uptake has been a bit on the small side. (also bugger me... coding for pro mode is looking to be an [expletive], as the BBC would say).

March 9 | Unregistered CommenterTinkerertank

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