Rock Band Network: Updated Impressions

We get an updated look at Harmonix's tools for immortalizing your music in Rock Band.

Whether you're in an established act or an up-and-coming band looking to make a name for yourself, you'll have a chance to get your music heard and played (quite literally) with Harmonix's latest musical endeavor, the Rock Band Network. Back in August, we got our first look at how the system of translating your tools from raw audio to plastic guitar and drum gameplay works, and yesterday, Harmonix reps dropped by GameSpot HQ to show off improvements to the RBN since then and give us a peek at the creators corner of Harmonix's Rock Band Network-specific Web site.

Before you get started turning your musical masterpieces into game-ready songs in Rock Band 2, there's a checklist of items you'll need to have:

1) An XNA Creators Club membership, which will allow you to upload your created songs via your Xbox for peer review by fellow Rock Band Network users and, eventually, for sale in the Rock Band Network Store. XNA membership runs $99 per year (or $49 for four months).
2) An account on creators.rockband.com, the Web site run by Harmonix where your projects will live after being uploaded. It's here that your songs will be played and peer-reviewed by other members of the RBN community before being approved for sale in the Rock Band Network Store.
3) Reaper music production software, which is available for $60 and will be where you take your audio tracks, convert them into MIDI format, and lay out the individual drums, guitar, bass, and vocal tracks. Harmonix has worked closely with the developer of Reaper, Cockos, to create handy plug-ins that make the authoring of Rock Band tracks easier.
4) Magma metadata packaging tool, which lets you label and price your individual tracks, add album art to your upload, and compile all the data together.

The costs for getting started with the Rock Band Network aren't just financial. There's also a serious time commitment, because authoring a song from its audio roots into full gameplay is a time-consuming project. The first step is simply mapping out all of the notes in your song for each of the instruments and vocals (you start authoring with expert level in mind, then copy and paste the MIDI gameplay tracks, and then simply remove or modify sections for hard, normal, and easy difficulty). It's a process that, depending on the length and complexity of your tune, can take up to 40 hours or more. Then there's the process of deciding what you want your song to look like when it's being played. The beauty of the Rock Band-specific tools in Reaper is the insane amount of control you have over practically every aspect of presentation: Do you want the camera to focus on the bass player during a harmony vocal part? Should your bandmates initiate a sweet stage slide during the chorus? You can do all of that and much more here.

Powerful authoring tools are great, but authoring efficiency is also important for the folks at Harmonix. To that end, developers have created a number of Reaper templates that you can use to get your project started quickly. Harmonix developers also demonstrated little plug-ins and tools that speed up the authoring process--one tool makes it easy to connect the text of your song's lyrics to the MIDI note path of your vocal melody; another plug-in lets you preview and test your tunes in Reaper using the same note highway players will use in the actual game.

Once you've created your song, you'll use Magma to label the track and album, add additional information and any art you want, and decide on a price you'll sell the song for: 80, 160, or 240 MS points ($1, $2, or $3), which is a slightly higher maximum price than we saw in our previous look at RBN. As part of the XNA program, you'll be paid once per quarter for your efforts, with 30 percent of the proceeds going to the song creator and the rest split between Harmonix, Microsoft, and others. You can then compile and upload your songs to the creators.rockband.com Web site, where it will then be peer-reviewed by RBN community members. The peer-review process seems to be fairly rigid--a song must pass review five times before it can move on to the Rock Band Network Store.

Updated tools make getting your music easier, if still time-consuming.

During peer review, you'll get extensive feedback on every aspect of your song's gameplay--including notes on button sequence logic, difficulty, and more. Harmonix producers told us that they're hoping that the community will embrace the peer-review process in order to make sure as much submitted music makes it through the process as possible. That said, both community members and Harmonix employees will be on the lookout for copyrighted or objectionable material, and that content will be summarily rejected.

Still in private beta now, the creators.rockband.com Web site will be entering its public beta phase in the coming weeks. After that it won't be long before the Rock Band Network store is made available in Rock Band 2 and you'll be able to download songs from bands throughout the world. To help you make your choices, you'll be able to download playable samples of RBN songs for free--players will also be able to rate songs they've either sampled or purchased, making sure that the cream of the Rock Band Network rises to the top. With major labels like Sub Pop committed to converting its entire catalog (including Sonic Youth and early Nirvana) into playable songs via Rock Band Network, it seems like it won't just be your garage band that will be getting in on the action. Stay tuned for more on Rock Band Network in the coming months.

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54 comments
ichc1000x
ichc1000x

Harmonix really needs to get the RBN for Wii, and have all of the RBN songs for it.

Shinkada
Shinkada

Adding to the sentiment that 'Great, if AU had RB2.' Also, to all the people whining about the figure: Do your homework. $30 would be an average figure even for a normal digital record lable. Considering being in RB2 gets you free graphics, cheap software, and most importantly free advertising to everyone who has RB2 and an internet connection (see: a crap of a lot of people), it's a pretty reasonable figure.

sleeplessstudio
sleeplessstudio

30% for the song writer is a joke! I thought record labels, publishers and management were bad, but this takes the piss, when the majority of the hard work has to be done by the song writer. Also why the hell do we have to use Reaper, which as an avid Pro Tools and Logic user, seems to be the weaker choice for midi work. why not release the plugins as standard AU / VST / RTAS so we can use the program of our choice. In the end why should a company which already gets so much revenue from signed bands music being put up RB store take such a massive cut from musicians who don't have the big record contracts and publishing deals. a 45% / 55% would be more reasonable

Haunted_shadows
Haunted_shadows

This would all be well and good if Australia HAD Rock Band 2.

First_Karman
First_Karman

well, logistically speaking, a user only needs to sell approximately 534 copies of a song/songs to make back their invested money. And after that your rate of return is 30%. A real hit on RB2, and a song can sell upwards 50,000 copies. That's 15 grande, or half an average yearly salary for most people. 100,000 copies, like a regular label song, and your making enough to live off of, for 40 hours work. Will independents see those kind of revenues? Most won't. Some will. There's people who live on youtube, on wow, on newgrounds; so some will find a way to live on this. Most won't. But the people who stand to benefit most from this system are songwriters and artists who are already struggling on the circuit, who have time to burn between gigs. This is a great tool for them to reach wider audiences, and hopefully, achieve ancillary income for themselves.

EndoftheworldX
EndoftheworldX

This is a really promising tool to extend the RB2 experience. My only concern now is to see if this will actually be able to extend itself to the right audience to make this work. This is definitely a very ambitious turn for Harmonix, and I honestly hope that this will work out for the better. I probably won't have anything to do with it since I don't own RB2, but I still really want to see this work.

Kleeyook
Kleeyook

I wish someone will create anime songs to purchase for in RBN! Then I'm buying this!

MushroomRevenge
MushroomRevenge

I've been waiting for this, for a very long time. Paying for it seperately isn't a complete turn off until you realize its a full retail game price.. and the $100 for XNA? Who the hell is going to get this?

gothicman
gothicman

lol I find it so funny that people actually think this is cool. Sure, I'm all for it, but the fact that you have to pay for the software at $60, plus the $100 yearly fee, then add in the 70% cut taken away from you and your creativity, I just don't see the point and its not cool when greedy companies practically take the money out of your pocket for a piece of software that you can get for free. I just believe that leeching record companies and now harmonix, should give at least half of the money earned from what the artist has created through there work. This is the main reason why I don't buy CDs anymore because its complete bs what they are doing. I would start buying again if all the proceeds went to the artist, not record labels.

Kord911
Kord911

@Baselerd They would lose out on a lot of money, not to mention control of their own community if anybody could go ahead and do whatever they wanted... think about it, if you could make any song you want for free, what would be the purpose of buying songs? And how would they catch you if you took a copyrighted song and made the charts for it yourself without uploading it? If you want to play a 3rd party game with the ability to do this, do so. But if you were with Harmonix you wouldn't think this is such a dumb idea.

Baselerd
Baselerd

What a joke. You don't need to buy $60 MIDI software to do this. There's free options, and if Harmonix's software just reads the midi file (already separated into tracks inherently). XNA is also a pretty big joke, who needs to pay $100 to make games... when you can for free? This should be a standard feature for the next rock band, or even backwards compatible. FTL Microsoft + Harmonix.

Zidaneski
Zidaneski

I hope this works out. As of now I'm rather bored of RB2 ever since Uncharted 2 came out. I use to buy most of the songs too but the offerings have kinda tanked except for the Nirvana pack.

jmrwacko
jmrwacko

Looks pretty cool, but the $100 membership fee weeds out the younger aspiring musicians methinks.

hexen22
hexen22

COOL! So they use Reaper, awesome, it's the program that i use! =D

raev92
raev92

If you can get roadrunner to publish it's catalog You'll be seeing a LOOOT of money comming Harmonix think abou it...opeth, dream theater megadeth ect. WOOOW!!!

StarvingPoet
StarvingPoet

@DBZ-Dude15 30% is not enough? Do you know what percentage you make if you sell your music on itunes? About 22% - if you're lucky and you're self-published. If you're under any sort of label, cut that in half.

SolidSnakeJT
SolidSnakeJT

blueguykisame Posted Dec 13, 2009 10:38 am GMT -4 looks great, especially if you can freely share them. Other people making hundreds of free songs for me? fantastic. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ you dont understand, i hate the stupidity of comments here..

SolidSnakeJT
SolidSnakeJT

Trogeton Posted Dec 13, 2009 10:44 pm GMT -4 this is dumb.. you have to do it on computer... the ones from guitar hero OWN..once again RB copies guitar hero ideas.. but the RB fanboys won't admit the true just smack talk over the forums -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- you're an idiot, like the majority of the comments here....

Narroo
Narroo

REAPER is actually free, so long as you don't use it for commercial uses. So as long as you don't sell your songs, you can use it for free.

Aegyss
Aegyss

This looks promising. I'd participate if I had the cash and the time :P

Toysoldier34
Toysoldier34

@Trogeton simply put, Guitar Hero lets you make a song with their stuff, and free play into a song of your own. But Rock Band lets you use existing songs and turn them into songs just like the developers themselves do, so with Rock Band you aren't creating new songs, just turning them into the game's songs.

InsertWittyID
InsertWittyID

@Trogeton You're missing the point. This has nothing to do with Guitar Hero's song creator. Guitar Hero's songwriting feature was an interesting, but limited way to create music for the game through synthesis and drum loops. The Rock Band Network however, allows both indie artists as well as major label bands to bring their catalog to Rock Band. The key difference is that you upload recorded songs and create note tracks for them, rather than writing songs within the game itself. Essentially Harmonix is giving artists and record labels similar tools to what they use to create Rock Band songs.

Trogeton
Trogeton

this is dumb.. you have to do it on computer... the ones from guitar hero OWN..once again RB copies guitar hero ideas.. but the RB fanboys won't admit the true just smack talk over the forums

InsertWittyID
InsertWittyID

That's great news about Sub Pop Records converting their entire library. That means we'll be getting Sunny Day Real Estate!

LeMeAtOm
LeMeAtOm

Why oh why oh why! how can they only allow submissions from the USA yet sell them to europe as well. Surely that's just dominating the initial hype of the service and guaranteeing 100% revenue lands on their shores. If you are eble to take our money then you can surely pay us with your own :(

Murny7337
Murny7337

I wish I would come to Canada sooner!

_Sharpshooter_
_Sharpshooter_

this is going to be awesome. i love the concept!

retroguy02
retroguy02

@blueguykisame it's not free duh, you have to pay MS points

retroguy02
retroguy02

Love the concept, hope it's as transparent as they say it is. Take an example. Let's say an aspiring band puts in 40 hours in one complex song, manages to get 1000 downloads and prices the song at 160 MS points ($2 per download), which is standard for Rock Band DLC. Of the $2000 that it makes, $600 goes in their pocket. Divide 600 by 40, the band is getting $15 per hour for their efforts. Many up-and-coming bands don't make that much per live show. Besides, it's a great way to get them recognized on iTunes. Not bad money for part-time musicians IMHO. The Reaper software itself is $60, that's way cheaper than most commercial music-making software, and I think the $100 a year membership is worth it for someone who churns out more than 2 songs a year and manages to make $500 off each song. So all in all it's a great idea provided it works out well.

blueguykisame
blueguykisame

looks great, especially if you can freely share them. Other people making hundreds of free songs for me? fantastic.

BigBoss2014
BigBoss2014

@InsertWittyID not really, dont care either, it just looks like it, never said they were the same, looks like

buft
buft

i look forward too seeing some of the new songs produced through this.a nice compliment to the indy games on the xbox.

saejox
saejox

%30 of the profits? bloodsuckers...

otanikun
otanikun

I dont' see the article yet for it but Green Day is getting their own Rock Band game? Excuse me while I cry hysterically and rip my hair out in pure raaaaaaage.

madSomnambulist
madSomnambulist

Reminds me a whole lot of a software series the started a decade ago-- basically any software from Sonic Foundry (later purchased by Sony). With a high quality sound card and just a handful of samples it was really easy for even a total music amateur to make believable-sounding tracks until studios realized they had to step it up. It turned one-off studio software costing $5000-10000+ into a shrinkwrap retail box for $50. Seeing more of this = a good thing, especially old features I haven't touched in forever like beat-snapping/matching, automatic note recognition, etc. Now. Question is how much of the content is going to be "any good"? Things custom-designed for Rockband gameplay and style will likely be far better plays/buys than content from a garage band hitting up the middle school dance this weekend. Sine there's actual money involved one would think niche stuff like deliberately impossible shredding wouldn't be particularly popular with RB's more diverse playerbase.

KSigMTSU
KSigMTSU

Won't be surprised if some people start up internet businesses to convert these to playable game files for bands. If you figure paying someone 20 dollars an hour, 40 hours to map out 1 song, that song would only require 2667 downloads to break even at the 1 dollar sale point. I bet if you were picky about who you did this for you could make pretty decent bank working just on a % basis, tell them till it profits 800 dollars you get 100%, after that do a 50/50 split between studio work and artist. Considering how garbage the job market is right now I can see college degree having music majors trying to figure this one out quick.. lol.

punkdsk8erdude
punkdsk8erdude

this is crazzyyyyy. so much better than the GH5 song creator haha. And the fact that its real music is awesome. Although I won't be doing this, hell, I don't even own rockband, it's an awesome concept and really adds so much more to the game. Hopefully, becuase of the cost and time it takes, the songs people create will be available to play on all past, present, and future rock band games.

Spybreak
Spybreak

That's a hefty sum of cash to get your foot in the door.

megamega777
megamega777

It seems only expensive just because the person that made the music has to be paid. I say (being a guitar player) it is justified since these people (mainly small bands) who go through the work of making it has to pay for everything. Like I have already spend more than $1500-$2000 on my rig and most likely going to get a new guitar (the one I have hots for is $1000 alone) for christmas.

spikbeatz
spikbeatz

I wish I had time to find all the "Guitar Hero" fanboys quotes about how GHTunes was going to beat out rock band's DLC. Do people use GHTunes anymore?

spikbeatz
spikbeatz

I wish I had time to find all the "Guitar Hero" fanboys quotes about how GHTunes was going to beat out rock band's DLC. Do people use GHTunes anymore?

LoserMike
LoserMike

So this is only for the 360 version of Rock Band 2?

Ikthog
Ikthog

It only seems expensive if you think about it as a gamer... if you're a musician who's seriously interested in this, you've already spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars on equipment and software. Reaper also works on an "honor system" license, so you are asked to pay for it after 30 days but it doesn't stop working (meaning you could give it a shot and pay nothing if you decide it's not for you).

BigBoss2014
BigBoss2014

LOOKS LIKE a rip-off of GH tunes, but that was crap, so, i dont think anyone will care

Visa004
Visa004

so they're catching up to the what i called "the vocaloid system" but instead "the rock band network system."

Kord911
Kord911

Expensive as hell, looks like they found a way to make themselves more money, as well as help out microsoft. Either way though, I guess this is a good thing because since they only take the most popular requests, we'll hear a lot of real expansive variety in music starting next year.

joshboy101
joshboy101

good idea....seems a little pricey though.