Over the last year, over five hundred artists have come to the Rock Band Network. Some (like Bang Camaro, All That Remains, and Evanescence) are already familiar from Harmonix-authored DLC. Others (like Flight of the Conchords, Third Eye Blind, and Amberian Dawn) came to the Rock Band Music Library via the RBN.
How do musicians find the Rock Band Network, and what is it like to be featured in the game? Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the world of a musician in the Rock Band Network.
The truth is, there's no such thing as a generic RBN artist. If there were, I'd paint that picture for you now - but with over a thousand songs spanning four decades and every genre in the game, it's a little hard.
Therefore, let's pretend for the moment that you're a rising musical star on the RBN. Here's what the experience is like, taken from the voices of artists who have participated.
There's a good chance that you didn't find Rock Band on your own. Many RBN artists report that someone tipped them off to this opportunity. They hear about it from labels, their management, their friends, or their fans - especially their fans! You're always interested in knowing what interests them and excites them. It might not always be what you're interested in (after all, you're an artist) but the chance to be in Rock Band sounds interesting.
"It sounded like a good idea. I remember, I hadn't heard anything about it, and just an email about 'They're making this video game. It's kinda like [being a] guitar player, except you've got a guitar and you sing and you play drums. And they want to use your song.' And I thought, 'sounds like something that could be huge.'" - Carl Newman of The New Pornographers
"We learned about RBN the best possible way. One of our fans told us that there is this great new addition to RB2 coming and you guys should definitely be part of it. Then she introduced us to RockGamer Studios and it took like 3 seconds to say 'YES, we want to be part of this!'" - Tommi Kuri of Amberian Dawn
"And we were like yeah, f*** it let’s do it." - Scott Herrick of Skeletonwitch
"We were like hell yeah." - Derrick Nau, also of Skeletonwitch
Once you know about the RBN, you do a little research. This is a great way to connect with your fans, but you might not be quite sure about the whole thing. You take some time to ask yourself - how do you feel about being in a video game? Is this a good thing for you? You do some research, and you learn that this is a serious opportunity to get your music in front of your audience. They'll have a chance to connect with you like no other.
"Any chance there is for someone to find out about Anti-Flag is an opportunity that we will take. I do believe that there are certain video games we would have nothing to do with. But I also believe that there are others that we honestly want to be a part of. It’s about finding the proper outlets for us to be a part of. " - Chris #2 of Anti-Flag
"I think that rock music and videogames just get along perfectly – especially when the game is called Rock Band. It’s simply a natural relationship. These types of games are really cool not only because they are fun to play but also because they are really a helpful way for people to discover new bands – and maybe even eventually start to play a real instrument." - Andrea Ferro of Lacuna Coil
"Video games outsell music, so hopefully they can do some good for bands and labels! Obviously they already have, but now that tons of songs are getting added, hopefully even gooderer things are in store!" - Steven Bradley of iwrestledabearonce
Next, you need to pick a song. You might have strong opinions about that subject - or none at all. It probably depends on whether or not you've played much Rock Band yourself. If you've been too busy touring and recording, then you may not know Rock Band well enough to have an opinion, and you'll be relying on the recommendations of your label, your fans, or the authoring group helping you to put your music in the game. Or you might just pick your favorite song. Or, if you're a Rock Band player yourself, then you might have some strong opinions formed already!
"Simply put, it’s a fun song. Even with that aside, it’s a pretty self-aware geek anthem." - Dan Ingala of Plushgun (about "How We Roll")
""Dr. Doom" is the song that we debuted off the new record first on the internet and stuff like that, and we think it's one of our favorite songs to play live. We enjoy the dynamics that go on with the song. It's fast and then kinda slow, and it builds to the end, which is the tome of all brutalness. I don't know. It just feels like it would be good for Rock Band. It's got the solo in it and everything." - Vincent Bennett of The Acacia Strain
"...I knew the song would port to Rock Band well, better than some of our other recorded material at the time... it's probably our "heaviest" song, and just has a good groove to it. The parts lend themselves well to the format…the cascading guitar riffs, cool vocal melodies, driving drum and bass parts... I just thought, 'If this were out there, I’d want it.'" - Jaek Pachniak of World Minus One (about "Still Alive")
Once your song is authored and released through the Rock Band Network, you'll have the chance to play it. There's something magical about that experience, especially if you're already a Rock Band player - you can look through the Music Library and see your musical heroes, and then you can see your own song on the same list. This is also when you have the rather odd experience of discovering that your fans can outplay you on your own song. What's up with that?!
"I woke up to an email saying it was available and immediately downloaded it. I had to leave the house because I wasn't getting any work done. I would play the song solo on drums... then on guitar... then bass... then I would build a setlist to see what it was like being next to Fleetwood Mac, Steve Earle, The Black Crowes, The 88's, and all the other great bands. When my wife came home from work, we did the same thing over again. It's quite surreal to play Rock Band drums in the same room you tracked the real drums." - Jon Black
"...I also thought it was funny that there's probably some ten-year-old in Nebraska who can sing my song better than I can. Because he's been working at it so hard, you know. He's probably memorized every nuance of the recorded vocal. Whereas when I sing along with it, I don't do well. Because a lot of the game is just stopping and starting at the exact time. And me, I'll sing along with my own song and go like half a beat longer on a note and the game will go 'Wrong, minus 15 percent.'" - Carl Newman of The New Pornographers
You might take some time to look, not just at your heroes in the game, but at the other artists sharing your stage. Do you recognize their names? What are they like in Rock Band? Did their music translate over as well as yours did?
"I [peer] reviewed a song by Dying Fetus and that made me go '...holy crap'. I knew who they were before, though I'd never really heard much, but that made me like them." - Ol Drake of Evile
Now you discover that your fan base has expanded. In addition to your existing fans finding your music on Rock Band, more people are discovering your band for the first time through the game. You're mentioned on websites focused on gaming and on Rock Band, and perhaps you do a few interviews. You take some time to promote your RBN track via your website or other tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, and perhaps you also use methods such as contests and videos. You check out the leaderboards showing how many people played your song and how well they did.
And then a chance comes along for you to reach out to that fan base. And you say something like...
"I would like to say 'Thank you very much!' to all of our fans and supporters. I’d love to say 'Welcome to the family!' to all the people that discover our music by playing our songs on Rock Band." - Andrea Ferro of Lacuna Coil
"Thank you for playing our song! Please find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace, and talk to us! We love talking to all of you and getting to know you more!" - Uliana Preotu of Me Talk Pretty
"The response we’ve gotten from being a part of RBN has been really rewarding. I just want to thank everyone who’s picked up "Still Alive", or any RBN track for that matter, and everyone who’s written us.... [T]hough it's new, it's only a matter a time before the community will get some serious credit for helping break artists. " - Jaek Pachniak of World Minus One
"You should buy our song on Rock Band Network. That would be great. And you can see if you can bust that solo. Do a hundred percent. I dare you." - Vincent Bennett of The Acacia Strain
"It is beyond awesome to know that there's a few hundred people out there, right now, who have learned the lyrics to songs I wrote, and can sing them. There are people who have learned songs I wrote well enough to play the charts along with them perfectly. That's wild! That's a whole different level of involvement with the music than downloading an mp3 and forgetting it forever on your hard drive." - James William Roy
"We love you. That's all this comes down to." - Alex Shelnutt of A Day To Remember