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Rock Band Network open beta goes live

But high expense could put off unsigned acts

The beta for Harmonix's and MTV Games' Rock Band Network has gone live, allowing users to upload and sell their own music online.

But unsigned musicians could find it too expensive to take advantage of, as professional artists also begin preparing music for the service in a bid to boost record sales.

"We expected this to be an initiative that would appeal to unsigned artists," offered Paul DeGooyer, MTV's senior vice president for games and music, told the Wall Street Journal. "What was surprising to us was how many artists with hit records have offered themselves up."

The process is said to be complicated and expensive, with third-party companies charging around $500 per minute of music.

New York's TuneCore is offering an introductory offer of $999, down from the regular $2,500 fee. In comparison, the company charges around $39 to upload an album to online music distribution services, with an annual maintenance fee of between $20-30.

The Rock Band Network requires preparing specialist digital sound files and instructions on virtual camera angles, lighting and animation choreography.

Songs sell from 99 cents to $2.99 each, with only 30 per cent of the sale price going to the user.

One of the professional labels preparing music for the service is Seattle's Sub Pop, original label for Nirvana, which is preparing 25 songs, but the company doubts it can be used as a way for users to discover new music when the entry costs are so high..

"At $3 apiece nobody's looking to Rock Band as a discovery tool," said Tony Kiewel, head of artists-and-repertoire at Sub Pop. "That's not going to happen.”

The Rock Band Network is only currently available on the Xbox 360.

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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