MTV is to launch a Rock Band Network that will enable any artist, signed or unsigned, to have their music featured in the game.
Artists and labels will be able to submit their tracks for programming to a Harmonix-trained freelance developer. The song will then be released to Microsoft's Creator's Club to be reviewed by its online industry community before being made available as downloadable content. The price of this content will be determined by its creator (from 50 cents to USD 3), who then receives 30 per cent of the resulting sales. Because of its reliance on the Creator's Club the new network will launch solely on Xbox 360, but MTV expects to subsequently make popular tracks available on PlayStation 3 and Wii.
"We've figured out how to make it so anybody who owns and controls masters and publishing can put music into [Rock Band] at their own pace," said MTV Games senior VP of electronic games and music Paul DeGooyer. "We're talking about a set of serious professional tools to allow people on the front line of writing and recording songs to completely control their destiny with respect to interactive products and then giving them direct access to the download store."
The system will mean artists and labels not having to deal with Harmonix directly, instead preparing their own tracks for play in the game.
"It's very exciting news to us," Tony Kiewel, Sub Pop Records head of A&R told Billboard. "It's important to participate in every possible revenue stream available. Whatever gets your music heard helps your overall awareness and ability to sell records and downloads."
Currently in closed beta, MTV plans to go into open beta in late August in the US and open it via an online store, separate from the current Rock Band store, before the year's end. The two stores could be merged at a later date if the new program proves successful, says the publisher.
It will be moving slowly to begin with due the anticipated volume of submissions, however. MTV expects delays towards the start of the process until a pool of developers and reviewers has been established.
Once up-and-running however, the publisher is hoping interactive tracks could lure in consumers that wouldn't otherwise buy music, creating a whole new revenue stream for music artists.
"Recorded music on its own no longer leads the charge for artists," commented DeGooyer. "It's now this aggregated value proposition of recorded music, touring, merch, branding, web presence and now videogames
"I can envision a song coming into the Rock Band Network first, getting traction, picking up customers through online play and then being picked up by MTV's programming and showing up there. We've shown we can sell millions of songs in the Rock Band store. So it really does tie into a larger picture."
Microsoft's Creators Club currently reviews around 30-50 games per month, but since MTV and Microsoft expects the number of Rock Band submissions to significantly increase this number, a separate custom club will be created specifically for Harmonix and hosted separately, complete with a custom set of review procedures.
To date, Harmonix has made over 700 additional songs available to play in Rock Band, achieving more than 50 million downloads.