Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Final Curtain for RockBand?

 ROCKBAND has promoted its’self as the “next generation of the ultimate social and interactive gaming".
I caught up with them  at this years AES Convention in San Francisco.
 A game audio track Titled  “Rock On”  “The Rock Band Network Demystified”  was promoted as a session targeted to engineers, & producers, to provide musical content for the RockBand Network (or RBN)
RBN currently has 6500 registered users, 
with approx. 40 new users per day w/ 1300 songs in their current catalog.

Rock Band got a huge publicity push in Sept 09 (09-09-09) when they released  the Beatles rockband .  
Admittedly I am not a gamer,  but I am a huge fan of the Beatles catalog, and thought  this would be a big money maker.
Not even the Beatles can save RBN from themselves, I read today that
Harmonix the maker of Rock band is up on the Chopping block By their parent company Viacom.
Expensive add on’s – for plastic guitars and partial drum kits- and poor business strategy has caused the brand to flounder, and continue to lose money.


RBN "executive producer" Jim Marshall Hosted the T-mobile sponsored session detailing how engineers can offer their clients the opportunity to have their original music to sell on the RBN.
  There are currently 43 studios that offer to get your tracks on RBN, and they would like to increase that number significantly, so the RBN team (Jeff Marshall & his partner) are hitting the AES circuit to sell the idea to the engineers.
During a quick google search I found studio’s charging between $500-$1000 per track to upload your song.


What steps are necessary to get your track loaded into RBN?
 It’s not as easy as simply uploading the track.
 Create Playtest Review
·      Intense instrument programming is required  you create a MIDI chart for each instrument. each little block has a hand movement, head turn, lip move, strum pick move fingers, which drum or cymbal to hit,  go to a  solo…you get how detailed this is). And this needs to look real, for the gamers to approve the tracks that aren’t realistic looking.

·       Select a venue and setting (you have a few “skins” to choose from, and you get the house band that is programmed in that “theme skin”. There is NO option to pick and choose the gender or number of players in your band.
·      Once the programming is all done THEN you can upload the song for play testing and feedback within the “creators club community (which costs $99/yr to join).
·       During this phase if you expect to get out of the “play test phase” and into the store to sell your song, as a song submittor must also play test and give feedback on other’s songs loaded into this testing environment.  Per Marshall, "If you don’t interact and give feedback don’t expect your file to be tested and given feedback for approval".  This Playback session allows you to correct any programming bugs before the final upload.
·      When your song is ready for final upload, it 1st goes into a “holding pen” where 8 other RBN creator  club members must play test it and approve it for final release.  Once you get the 8 RBN member approvals; your song can then go live and be available for sale.
·      Songs that are approved for publication are then loaded to the RBN store.  Song in the store  are priced to sell at $1-$2 *NOTE: whoever submits the song for peer review is who gets paid from Microsoft after setting up a XNA creators club profile.

·      Here is a FAQ for artists to read before they consider having their music submitted to RBN.  Read it- it answers all your questions about how payments and reporting are provided for the RBN creator and NOT the artist, As the artist YOU have to go to the expense of hiring a legal expert to draft  a contract w/ the engineer doing the song uploading to forward the payment and any sales reports you.  You will end up spending about $1,000 to simply get the song programmed and tested and hopefully approved to sell in the store ONLY to  see nothing for it.

   Marshall took questions at the end of the presentations, and responded by laughing and  and asking  for “next questions” when audience members asked the following questions:
 if the “Has the RBN song search been improved?” 
"How long the process of programming and play testing on avg took"
 and "how artists got paid".

It appears to be the final curtain for RBN. 
For artists, even if the RBN product future was solid, I would advise you to pass on asking your favorite studio to load your tracks up on RBN- that money is much better spent on investing in strategies that will give you a return on your investment. 

If you need help figuring out what makes the most sense for YOUR career, then let’s talk!

Tamra Engle is a performing songwriter and business strategist who offers business solutions for creative minds to help them succeed in the evolving music and entertainment industries. As a performing singer-songwriter she has worked as a studio musician in Los Angeles; toured the U.S. and enjoyed the placement of her songs on television and nationally aired commercials. Her recent album was on the final round ballot for the 2008 Grammy's in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category.


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