Rock Band game platform opens to indie music

The Rock Band Network, for which Harmonix and MTV Games plan to begin beta testing in late August, would allow artists to create Rock Band versions of their songs to sell to gamers.

If you're an independent musician looking for as many ways to sell and promote your music as possible, and you or a friend has some experience with software development, you'll want to check out the upcoming Rock Band Network, for which Harmonix and MTV Games plan to begin beta testing in late August.

It's more complicated than posting a song to iTunes, but you'll get placement on a more exclusive platform. MTV Games

To program songs for the game, you or your developer friend first needs a membership to Microsoft's XNA Creators' Club, which was launched a couple years ago to let independent developers create casual games to sell through the Xbox Live Marketplace; a membership costs $49.99 for four months or $99.99 for a year.

You'll then be able to get free tools and instructions from the Rock Band Creators Web site to convert your master recordings to the MIDI charts used by the game. Next, you'll have to submit your song for other creators to critique and finally to MTV Games for approval.

Once approved, the song will enter the Rock Band Network. All songs will debut exclusively for 30 days on the Xbox 360, and the Rock Band team will pick stand-out songs to make available to the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii consoles.

Under the network terms, musicians can charge between 50 cents and $3 per song, and they will keep a 30 percent cut of all sales. That may seem small, compared with the 70 percent cut musicians get for selling their songs on iTunes, which requires much less work, but Rock Band is a much more exclusive platform--you're much more likely to stand out here than among the bazillion songs available through Apple's music store.

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