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.