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RBN Insider's Look: Authors, Part I

EthicalPaul grew up in small town Hillsdale, Michigan, video game fanatic bought Vic-20 with paper route money, taught myself programming. Attended college at Western Michigan University 1986-1991. Worked at NPR station WMUK as a student until graduating with almost useless "AV Communication" degree.  Bounced around some graphic production jobs picking up Mac knowledge. Started experimenting with home digital audio recording, multimedia CDs. Played bass with local band. Hired as programmer for small aluminum door manufacturer in 1995 and went on to became IT Director, still employed there. Went back to school to get MBA in 2003. Mac/iPhone programmer, zealot. Amateur roadie.


I decided to get into RBN because for a long time I wanted my friend Kristin Hersh's music to be in Rock Band and so the announcement last summer of RBN was very exciting for me. I obsessively read everything I could about RBN. When the tools became available, I downloaded Reaper and the RBN tools for it, and I started charting my first Kristin Hersh song.

It was slow going for me, having a full-time job and wife, but I just did a little at a time starting with the basics (tempo map, drums, bass) and then moving into the parts that are more challenging for me (guitar, vocals). I have a friend who is very talented vocally, and a Platinum Mic holder in Rock Band, so he was able to help me with the vocals. I was lucky to pick a song that has a nice repetitive bass part, and very simple drums for my first song - this alone might have allowed me to get through that first chart at a time when I had never seen a chart before, and was completely self-taught in the ways of RBN.

I was able to get into the closed beta a month or so before it opened, and so I was able to benefit from the excellent feedback received from putting the song into Playtest. The amazing S1ckh4nds really helped me to improve the guitar part, and Matt Greig and others gave very good feedback, although I must admit the memory of the whole experience is somewhat foggy - there was so much I didn't know at the time I submitted that first song!

I have a very odd mix of experiences and skills, a few of which made it possible for me to get a nice head start on what I needed to know for RBN authoring. Since 1993 I have experimented with digital audio workstations and MIDI (thank you Deck II!). I play a little bass. I used to date a music major and pepper her with questions about music theory. I'm very good with computers. I worked at a public radio station in college. I love music. All these things provided a little bit of help in "getting me there". But the biggest single thing that made it possible was the RBN peer community itself.

RBN is the first peer review community in which I have been involved. It has been very educational and exciting to see how the community works. It took me a few weeks of watching it and experiencing it before a solid model "gelled" in my brain about how the different parts work together (playtesting, peer review).

The most rewarding part of being involved with RBN has been seeing my songs get approved - but it's strange. There is a sort of "letdown" immediately after it happens because you are so invested in the process. When it ends there is a feeling that I can only assume is similar to post-partem depression. But it's good. It gives you a chance to take a breath, reset, and prepare for the next song. So far, I have usually had one song that I'm working on getting ready for playtest at the same time I have a song in the pipeline. I know some authors juggle many many songs at once, but I am unable to make that work for me. Two songs is about the most I can keep in my headspace!

RBN is sure to change in the coming months, but I don't have strong ideas about how. I do imagine that as artists and labels see songs in the RBN store, it will spark something in them that says "Our stuff needs to be here!" Before the opening of the store, I think there was a lot of fogginess in people's understanding of how with RBN you end up with a song that looks, sounds, and plays just like "regular" DLC. There is nothing like seeing and playing these songs to clarify that!