Rock Band Network for Dummies?

Rock Band Network

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.

Rock Band Network

Here are 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 video 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.


  • Reply
    Sheri Johnson
    February 21, 2010 at 11:14 am

    How long until your song is going to be available for download? Also, I’m curious how they come up with the difficulty ratings for the songs. Is that something you come up with or do people actually test it then rate it?

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    February 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    My playtest expired almost two weeks ago with very little feedback. I need to playtest more songs to get other authors to playtest mine, but the time commitment is overwhelming. I’m going to make a few changes and submit it for peer review, which is the final step before the song is accepted. Maybe I’ll get lucky. Unfortunately, that step requires 8 positive reviews, which means a lot of back-scratching on my part.

    It’s safe to say I won’t be doing this again. It’s way too much work, and there are too many authoring guidelines to learn. Even though the parts for my song seem “correct” to me, I broke a number of rules. IMHO it really is best left to the professionals.

    As far as I know, the store hasn’t launched yet, so no ETA on availability.

    In regard to difficulty ratings, I come up with them myself, but the song can be voted down if others disagree.

  • Reply
    Colie Brice
    February 22, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks for posting this information.

  • Reply
    Chisenga Katongo
    May 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    This is an exciting opportunity. However, it's too complicated for amusician who doesn't use any of this gear. http://www.diamondchainmusic.com

  • Reply
    Brian Hazard
    May 6, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    At this point, I wouldn't bother. The hype has long faded.

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