Rock Band Network First Look

Harmonix walks us through its upcoming system that will allow users to upload and sell their own music in Rock Band.

When Rock Band debuted in 2007, developer Harmonix stressed that the series would be a unique platform for expression. While the upcoming The Beatles: Rock Band is an example of one direction the franchise can take, the Rock Band Network is another intriguing option. The recently announced network promises to give just about anyone the chance to get their music into Rock Band. We got a chance to get a run through what it's going to take for you to go from air-guitaring along to other people's music to getting some of your own tunes in Rock Band 2.

Before we dive in to how the Rock Band Network is going to work, let's go over what it's not: It's not the equivalent of an in-game user-generated content tool like a Little Big Planet level editor. Instead, think of the Rock Band Network as a collection of tools that will let the interested and dedicated masses import their songs and sell them to Rock Band owners. While this is obviously not for everyone, the process is pretty straightforward.

Before prospective Rock Band stars of tomorrow get to work on uploading their songs, there's some prep work to be done. The first step is creating an account on the official site, creators.rockband.com, to ensure that you can upload your music to the Web site for peer review. The next key step is signing up with Microsoft's XNA Creator's Club, which will let budding musicologists get paid once per quarter as the money pours in from their downloads. Next up is grabbing two PC programs, Reaper and Magma, which are core to the whole process. Last but not least are the master tracks of the song or songs being imported.

If it hasn't become clear by now, we'll spell it out: Technically savvy musicians with a working knowledge of professional PC music programs (sorry, no Mac support) will be fine with what comes next, but everyone else will probably want to sit this out and just enjoy the neat content that's likely to come from the Rock Band Network. So, once the prep work is done, the process breaks down into four basic steps: creating MIDI gameplay, compiling the audio and MIDI content into a song file to audition on your Xbox 360, uploading your song to the creators.rockband.com Web site for peer review, and uploading your creation to the Rock Band Network store.

We expect the Novelty genre to blow up. Are you listening Dr. Demento?

Creating the MIDI gameplay is done using the shareware program Reaper, which has been developed by Cockos. Harmonix has been working with Cockos to make some tweaks to the system to offer enhanced functionality so it will be easy to get songs prepped for Rock Band. Once a master track is fed into the program and broken up by various instrument tracks, the program will lay the tracks out and create a tempo map to ensure that all the music stays at a consistent beat, which is key for the gameplay. The next, fairly work-intensive step is charting the notes for the various tracks, which will lay the jewels that correspond to the buttons on the guitar or pads on the drum set. While the program has a number of helpful features designed to make the process easier, there are no shortcuts for time or for handling the layouts for each of the different difficulty levels separately.

A custom plug-in for Reaper will be available on the creators.rockband.com Web site that will allow any part of the track to be previewed as it would be seen in the game to give you an idea of how it's shaping up. In addition, you'll be able to adjust a song's visual presentation by tweaking camera cuts and assorted effects. Sadly, it appears as though support for the Rock Band fog machine--part of the stage kit accessory that's available for the game--isn't integrated, given the potential smoky shenanigans that could happen.

Once the song is entered, the next step is compiling everything and trying it out on an Xbox 360, which is where the Magma program comes in. The program creates a file that Rock Band 2 can read, and it allows a variety of information to be entered, including band information, art files, author name, and pricing. Once it's all sorted, Magma can send the song across a home network to an Xbox 360 running Rock Band 2, which will be patched to support song auditioning so that the song can be tested.

There will be three price options available for your created tunes: 80, 100, and 160 XBL points or $1, $1.25, or $2.00 on the PlayStation Network. For those considering supporting themselves on their downloadable-song income, the split will be roughly 30 percent for the author and 70 percent to be divided between Harmonix and Microsoft. In addition, the Rock Band Network system will automatically create a free demo of the song, which folks can use to check out your song before downloading it.

Once a song is ready for its debut, it can be uploaded for peer review to creators.rockband.com. When the song is up, anyone with a Creator's Club account can download it to review it and offer feedback. Harmonix will keep a close eye on all the content initially, but as the community grows, the expectation is that it will start to moderate itself. Some of the big hot-button topics are the expected copyright issues around samples, songs, and the like.

'Treasure Trader' is a great song but not nearly as good as Lovely Jetski Ultra's 'What's in Santa's Front Pocket?'

When a song makes it through the peer review process and is given the all clear, it will be uploaded to the Rock Band Network store, which will be added to Rock Band 2 in an upcoming patch. This means that if things take off, content could be hitting the store daily, in addition to the regular weekly updates. An interesting side note is that at the moment, the whole process applies to both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game with folks working to figure out a Wii solution. To add further excitement, the music on the Rock Band Network store will have a window of exclusivity for the Xbox 360 version of the game.

Based on what we saw, the Rock Band Network represents a landmark moment not just for Rock Band and Harmonix, but for musicians and creative types. If the network flourishes, it will offer another platform for aspiring musicians to reach an audience. The network will also offer developers and publishers some ways to extend the life of their games, not to mention the effect it will have on game and music communities. Anyone with the chops and skills to make this all work will want to go to creators.rockband.com to sign up for the upcoming open beta due to start in October. Folks hungry for some new music or looking to support their friends can expect the Rock Band Network store to hit this November in the US.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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71 comments
Shinkada
Shinkada

If this somehow works... If this somehow avoids the inevitable avalanche of copyright law, of drama, of the general bad taste that I find tends to infiltrate just about everything where gaming and/or the internet is concerned... It could very well be incredible, for artists, for players, for Harmonix and Microsoft's wallets too. 30-70 isn't a TERRIBLE split. Considering they're providing all the software and file sharing servers without a membership fee, it's actually a fairly reasonable deal. I'm not sure what iTunes offers its sellers, but it probably isn't much better, if better at all, than 30-70. As this article says; on top of being awesome news for people who like less popular bands, it could actually be an awesome new way for small-time bands to be heard. Just, again... Really got to hope the community manages to regulate the inevitable plagiarism. And really got to hope that the Top 10 songs aren't just a constant stream of rubbish memes and pop culture references.

buzzrock70
buzzrock70

The article says 3 pricing options, 80-100-160. But the screen shots show 240. No one is gonna pay 240 for a unheard song.. Which one is it?

darkheroblue
darkheroblue

this thing will not work,i mean,every song costs 240,that's three dollars. while the professional songs by real bands costs 160 2 dollars, i prefer to buy a real cool song that i alredy know that a song that we don't know if is sucks

shani_boy101
shani_boy101

this is quite a complex system, hopefully this will keep out all the riff-raff and give us songs from good, already-signed artists. Hopefully MUSE will upload some of their songs onto RBN, since they have THE BIGGEST THREAD on the Rock Band DLC forum.

xbox360555
xbox360555

But do you put CDs in the computers then upload it into the website.

InZane4all
InZane4all

I dont know, I mean I honestly hope that signed bands are put out there for download. I REALLY, want to play songs by Amon Amarth, which baffles me as to why they do not have any songs for download now.

kintzer
kintzer

To those asking about uploading songs from other artists: You will encounter some serious copyright issues if you do so.

shockster4life
shockster4life

pretty cool to be honest and im kinda a gh fanboy

Megamanx266
Megamanx266

Note to those complaining about paying for bands they dont know... You can PREVIEW THE DAMN SONG FIRST BEFORE YOU BUY!!!

remixbaby44
remixbaby44

@tjoeb123 hopefully, they'll be able too. if harmonix keeps putting out games like lego rock band while neversoft and activision arerefining gh, they'' need to be able to compete someghow

remixbaby44
remixbaby44

this is to all the people who cant read out there who wanna know if its coming to the ps3: "An interesting side note is that at the moment, the whole process applies to both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game with folks working to figure out a Wii solution.

KillerWabbit23
KillerWabbit23

PAY??? No thanks. I'll stick with GHStudio. Although, in the long run, it could be worth it. But not now.

Sweetwater94
Sweetwater94

wait, i have to PAY money to play songs that people created at home?? ummm, no thank you?

messtimeteacher
messtimeteacher

Love to discover new and/or unknown bands, creators, artists, so yea, European release...when?? I just wonder whether starting (or even settled) bands have the time, means and money to publish a song this way ?

Hotonhearsawhor
Hotonhearsawhor

will you only be able to put on your own bands music, or can you put on songs of other bands?

SpikedStrider
SpikedStrider

No you don't PARKY_G. The person is using the game and not XNA. Nice making things up though, you are funny.

mightycloud
mightycloud

This is a really cool idea. Now my mates can play my songs with me, but without the hassle of having to teach them it slowly. Is this gonna happen for the PS3 version or what? and will the tracks that people upload be available for the PS3 users to download?

PARKY_G
PARKY_G

A cool idea and im very intersested but i find it stupid that the user must be an xna member which is $100 a year! so not worth it seeing as you will make $.30 roughly on each download.

mquacken7894
mquacken7894

i don't think you should have to pay for songs by bands that you have never heard of, i mean in the end its only about getting your name out around the world isn't it?

dupuis2020
dupuis2020

Can you only uploaded songs from your personal music or can you take a song from another artist

GrowlanserDX
GrowlanserDX

Dirge Within should totally be put in this game

RakinR
RakinR

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

point-n-shoot31
point-n-shoot31

Yes! Thank you. One more thing to shove into Guitar Heroes face. Hopefully this will make Guitar Hero rid of that piece of $#!+ they call a "song editor". Better yet, just end the franchise completely.

witty-name
witty-name

ORAJ3L - Protest? YES. DAMN IT. YES. This, by all accounts, should be amazing. I've been waiting for something like this to come along as a real utility since the prospect of RB and GH became so frontal. And this SHOULD be it. Hopefully heh. This could open up a completely new way to discover new music, with the obvious benefits of learning to play the tracks on RB! Think we'll see an influx of quality underground bands if they pull it off.

megatazz86
megatazz86

Im with some of the past posts, I hope that it will have the "voice over w/ lyrics" option. The idea on GHWT was, well...."ok" to say the least, but just the pitch? Really? Its more like a freestyle, but the pitch is predetermined...a little lame if you ask me. So in other words, please RB, make it to where it has; 1. voice over, and 2. lyrics, then the network idea will be a great step in the right direction!

marshin7
marshin7

Avenged Sevenfold tracks!!

akmex
akmex

i love these games. add me on your friends list for the ps3. user name akmex

Bigbomb94
Bigbomb94

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

zj_pyro
zj_pyro

greaper666 said it all this also applies for MANY other games with more content for the 360....=(

tacoeater831
tacoeater831

well thats just great. except for 1 thing. many people(myself included) own rock band for the ps3 or wii. and play an instrument (well, im learning) but if i wanna someday put a song up on this. i need to disregard the fact that i have about 40 dollars worth of wii points in just rock band songs.not to mention the 20 or so i won from the pepsi rock band thing and buy rb2 for the 360 JUST so i can use this? nooooooo way.

SaruKenshin
SaruKenshin

@koradak The video showed somebody rating the vocals difficulty, so it look like it will have them.

konradak
konradak

Sweet. I wonder if there will be voiceovers in this too, or if it'll be like GH with no vocals.

dwils
dwils

How about some more content from real musicians? This is cool and all but ... ONE song from the likes of Mastodon, one of the best bands on the planet? We can do better than that.

filipino_boy
filipino_boy

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

greaper666
greaper666

So wait. The whole process applies to the 360 and PS3 versions of the game, but there's a window of exclusivity for the 360. Are they deliberately trying to confuse PS3 owners? And how does exclusivety on one single system for a multi-platform game "add further excitement"? Whatever excitement it does stir up would just be evened out by the frustration from the party that gets left out you idiots! Up until now, Rock Band has been doing pretty good when it comes to not taking any particular side console-wise. Shame on you Harmonix. I wouldn't complain about it if they didn't mention it on every single bit of damn news about it. It's like they are rubbing it in the faces of anyone who doesn't have a 360, which is pretty immature for a business really.

myrtlebeach
myrtlebeach

i want some friggin skillet online!!! awesome drums and guitar songs!!! wicked music too

bassplayer275
bassplayer275

Here's hoping that the someone in the Toy Soldier ranks will make some Dr. Steel tracks. That would be fantastic. Toy Soldiers Unite!

Soopa_Ed
Soopa_Ed

this would be perfect if only free would be a price option

ORAJ3L
ORAJ3L

Rock Band NEEDS Protest The Hero. Full Albums.

ORAJ3L
ORAJ3L

Question. Will you be able to play the songs you make reguardless of it making it to the Rock Band Store?

STi25
STi25

Still needs more Muse.. only 1 song? jeez.

baystatethrashr
baystatethrashr

@KingRoyW 1. You cant do this with guitar hero, in GHWT its a much simpler version 2. They are charging for this so bands can make some money from the music they make.