In recent years, we have gained a multitude of new, or improved, ways to access various media forms through digital communication. With various media forms becoming more streamlined through the Internet, people have greater access to movies, literature, video games and music. By moving to a digital space, it has become far easier for communities to access different experiences that twenty years ago would have been hard to come across. All media forms are readily available online, but the music industry itself has prospered perhaps the most throughout the transition, from physical to digital distribution. Record labels, such as Roadrunner Records (Slipknot, Stone Sour, and Within Temptation) and Fueled By Ramen (Paramore), have taken advantage of the digital space but so have others. With independent artists having the ability to distribute music on their own, video game developer Harmonix has created a service that has the ability to bring those artists’ songs to further popularity.
Harmonix is known for releases such as Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Dance Central. These titles have been successful in not only providing excellent gameplay through party mechanics, but also by making more artists known to the current generation. For the most part, rhythm games usually only feature mainstream artists like Aerosmith or Red Hot Chili Peppers leaving indie artists to typically struggle to be featured in a video game and, in many cases, they find themselves either in low budget productions or don’t make it into the final product at all. “For the independent band, exposure is definitely the biggest hurdle,” said Matt Rasmussen, guitarist in the indie band Rose of Jericho, “and even with the magical powers of the Internet interacting with fans is very difficult.” Harmonix began beta-testing a streamlined music service, called the Rock Band Network, in 2009 (released exclusively for the Xbox 360) which would provide a service that allowed anyone to post their own original creations.
The RBN features songs not only from indie artists, but the mainstream, as well—the network currently encompasses over half of the more than 4,000 songs available for download. These songs are crafted using the REAPER and Magma software; REAPER is used to place notes on the note highway, control camera angles, and set the stage lights while Magma is used to test the songs on the Xbox 360 and submit them to be authored. “Every note that you see on the instrument track is placed by hand. Every flash of the lights on stage and each camera cut are all created manually,” said Rasmussen, “You can let the system generate some of these things for you, but if you want something that doesn’t look really generic you have to do it yourself.”
Rose of Jericho, has gotten many of their songs authored on the RBN. The band formed in San Antonio, TX in 2006 and was one of the first bands to have a song released from day one on the RBN. “Buried Cold”—the band’s first submission—was submitted to Rhythm Authors, one of the groups authorized to publish songs on the RBN, and was met with immediate positive feedback. “RBN has given us exposure that we would have never seen before especially outside of the US,” said Rasmussen, “We are regularly contacted by fans from Brazil, Norway, Japan, Germany, etc., and many of them have found our music through Rock Band.”
The RBN has proven to be a success among many artists with every song playable on Rock Band 3 and Rock Band Blitz. New songs are posted on a near daily basis ranging from 80 Microsoft Points ($0.99) to 240 Microsoft Points ($2.99).