By Eric DiGiovanni
On March 5, music took one step closer to being fully democratized: the Rock Band Network store finally opened up to the public. The song list is very impressive, featuring everyone from indie rock n’ roll mainstays The Hold Steady, geek-folk guitarist Johnathan Coulton, to even the Flight Of The Conchords.
The Rock Band Network (RBN) is a system set up by Harmonix and facilitated by Microsoft’s XNA service that allows anyone to submit their songs for sale in the Rock Band Network. All artists make 30% of the sales. All songs premeire on the Xbox 360, with a select few tracks going to the Playstation 3 and Wii stores roughly a month after.
That is, anyone willing to put in a lot of effort to create these songs. As someone currently making a track for the RBN, I can say from experience that it’s a very long process that requires millions of tweaks along the way.
First, you need all of the master recordings. That’s the easy part. Then, you’ll need to go to the Creator’s website (creators.rockband.com) and download the software package, which includes Reaper, an audio and MIDI editing program, and Magma, the program that compiles the MIDI files and the recordings into a playable format.
Next, you have to chart out every instrument for every difficulty, and this is where most of the work lies. Sure, expert difficulty is easy: just make the song as you normally would. But once you get to around medium and easy difficulties, it gets hard. Usually the people making the RBN tracks regularly play on expert, so some difficulties arise: can someone on easy handle a standard rock beat? Would a hard player know to strum up and down on faster parts?
At this point, you have the option of orchestrating all of the lighting and camera cuts for your song, but if you’re too lazy, or are just seeing how the song plays, then Magma will take care of all of these things. Speaking of Magma, expect to have hundreds of little hiccups when everything is being compiled. On my first run through, it took almost two hours just to get the song ready. Only afterwards can you test the song on your Xbox 360. In Rock Band 2’s Audition Mode, you can play your own songs or choose to have the system play the tracks for you.
Finally, after you’ve tested it on Rock Band 2’s Audition mode, you can upload it to the network to have it tested. To upload the song, you will need a Premium account for the XNA service, which costs $100 per year.
When it’s so simple, how could your band not be on the Rock Band Network? All kidding aside, the sense of pride, seeing your song or someone else’s being played by thousands of people makes it all worth it. Formal companies such as RockGamer and TuneCore have a team of programmers that will take care of everything, but there is a chance that the artist won’t make back the initial fee, which could be as much as $2500. Then again, paying someone else to do all the work for you isn’t exactly punk rock, now is it?
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