Rock Band Drumming Up New Revenue For The Music Industry

from the rocking-out-on-the-xbox dept

Hit video game, Rock Band, is proving to be a lucrative new revenue stream for the music industry. The game comes with 58 playable songs, but through the XBOX Live Marketplace, gamers can download new songs for around $2 per track. In the eight weeks since the game has been on sale, 2.5 million songs have been downloaded. Indeed, this is a welcome new revenue stream for the music industry, and yet another example of how embracing technology can open up new markets. In the original version of the similar game Guitar Hero, most of the tracks were actually done by a cover band, since the original bands made it prohibitively expensive to use the "real" version (and in some cases, the covered version was considered too close to the original). Now, more bands are finally realizing the benefit of being included in the game, and are now lining up to get their tracks included. That said, only about three new tracks are released each week. So, what is the hold up? If it's a technological issue, it's one thing, but really, there's no good reason to be artificially limiting the number of tracks available to Rock Band players. Having more available tracks increases the fun of the game for all, and for the bands, it's a fantastic promotional opportunity.


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  1.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 1:48pm

    Just want to say

    Back in the day I played a game called Stepmania. It was like DDR for the computer (and modded xbox). It allowed you to create your own tracks for the game. It is a royal pain in the but to get them correct for all the difficulty levels. Rock Band has three instruments and a mic to program for. Plus the coding for the characters movements.

     

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    Matt Bennett, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:02pm

    "So, what is the hold up?"

    C'mon, man. Somebody has to set up the key strokes required for the easy, normal and difficult modes for each song. Extra little animations in the avatars have to be put on. All that has to be play-tested. It's not nearly as hard as making the game in the fist place, but at the same time, it's not automated work. The whole studio is probably only like 20 main programmers, and they only probably have 2 or 3 guys working on this, at the best, the rest are working on the next game.

     

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    Lucretious, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:15pm

    unfortunately many of the new downloadable tracks are covers. To be sure they are quality covers that are quite close to the originals but if you are intimately familiar with the songs as most people are, even the best cover song in the world just doesn't cut it.

    As was said though, as time goes on they'll be falling all over themselves in order to get their music included in releases. I'd love to see an expansion for GH or RB that would include all indie music that would benfit the bands directly rather than some parasitic publishing group .

     

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  4.  
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    matt, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:15pm

    Re: Just want to say

    CT, s far as I had known, all of the rock band style games (there were plenty before guitar hero) use characters that are based off the equalizer and/or are easy to note special parts of the track, not the individual song.

    If each song had to have its own entirely unique animations/movements, the game would be horribly coded among other things. I play an instrument myself, and there are only so many expressions/movements available, you know? Considering in the game it is animated 3d models its easy to design them to do certain things, etc. Timing of the beats for each difficulty is probably somewhat more complicated, in all honesty.

    Meanwhile, if they were to allow people to import their own custom songs into rock band would be even cooler, but I guess with DRM and whatnot, that won't happen yet. That would be a total godsend for people wanting to remix songs though.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:18pm

    In agreement with #2, they have to set up key strokes and sounds for each instrument and port that to all consoles.

    In case you may not have realized, the game is out for PS3 as well and the same tracks are downloadable over its marketplace.

     

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  6.  
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    4-80-sicks, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Re: Just want to say

    Timing of the beats for each difficulty is probably somewhat more complicated, in all honesty.

    Yeah, that's the hard part. Good luck getting a machine to automatically tell if X or Y frequency should come from the drums or the guitar or whatever else.

     

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    Todd Hansen, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:26pm

    Word. Love the game. Been in music all my life, but the ole' industry could use a kick in the pants.

     

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  8.  
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    Matt Bennett, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:30pm

    Ok, I retract what I said about the avatars having to programmed. All the rest still stands, though, the keying still has to be figured out. It's not just what note is where; The players, even on the hardest difficulty, aren't reproducing most of the note played, only the "important" notes. Particularly, the harder versions give you a pretty good feel for playing the actual song, even though it's nothing like that. I'm sure it's something of an art. And therefore, takes time.

     

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  9.  
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    Aaron, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:32pm

    Additionally...

    They are artificially creating scarcity in the market. It's the same thing Nintendo is doing with their VC service. If you had access to everything up front, you'd only buy the good stuff. So by releasing things slowly, you end up buying the best product available at any given time.

     

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  10.  
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    Peter, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 2:54pm

    Each individual track DOES have its own unique set of animations. Take a look at the vocalist, he is perfectly lip synching all of the vocals in every song. Further proof of this is shown in Won't Get Fooled Again -- during Roger Daltrey's scream after the long synth break, the guitarist does a power slide that is not seen in any other song.

    That being said, Harmonix does have a whole bunch of DLC stockpiled, waiting to be released. However, I think it's a bit stupid to say that they are not releasing enough of it. It already has more DLC than 99% of Xbox 360 games, and this is only a couple of months into release. I think it's perfectly reasonable to release 3 songs at a time.

     

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    Nick (profile), Jan 18th, 2008 @ 3:05pm

    I want my hackable Rock Band/Guitar Hero

    I think the opportunity to monetize on this is not going to be very long. Soon enough, the game will be hacked, tools to create your own button sequences mapped to notes will emerge, and then people will start trading these creations on p2p. I like a lot of obscure music, and it would be fun to play these songs on Guitar Hero or Rock Band. But the chances of these songs getting an official release on the platform are pretty slim unless peer production occurs.

    If/when this hack becomes available, once again, the incumbents will cry fowl when this happens. After this, the answer will be to allow the hacks to link to a legitimate means to purchase mp3s, ringtones, concert tickets, etc.

    Another outcome is that Activision releases a developer's kit to the publishers, the publishers fund the development, and Rock Band/Guitar Hero becomes a platform.

    Fun times ahead.

     

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    Nick (profile), Jan 18th, 2008 @ 3:09pm

    In regards to the development, how mapping of notes could be made easy is to have the audio and the Midi files of the songs in sync in some software that does midi sequencing, multi track audio playback, and Guitar Hero/Rock Band mapping sequence. Then you simply decide what Midi notes you want represented as a guitar/bass strums or drum hits. I would be surprised if this is not how the developers are currently working.

     

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  13.  
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    Worms, Jan 18th, 2008 @ 3:50pm

    Rock Band Rocks

    I think they are releasing DLC fast enough. I don't need 200 tracks available right now when I may buy 3-4 tracks a month currently. I got Guitar Hero 3 for Xmas, my son then bought Rock Band a week later and we have not even turned on GH2 or GH3. My wife, sons, and I must have played 30 songs in a row last night on Rock Band. Great game and well worth the asking price.

    I do believe the animations are sync'ed to individual tracks too. If you actually watch the video going on in the background during a song it looks too customized to each song to be just based off of sound peaks or something.

     

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    Woody (profile), Jan 18th, 2008 @ 3:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Just want to say

    Actually they use the original master recording (one instrument or voice per track/tape) (in Guitar Hero anyway) so that when you make a mistake they can cancel the guitar sound with out affecting the vocal or other instrument tracks.

     

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    Jeffry Houser (profile), Jan 18th, 2008 @ 5:34pm

    I'm sure there is an administrative side too.

    Moderating the releases make sense to me, so there time to deal with the tech issues (as people discussed), but also the administrative side of things, such as acquiring song rights.

    I believe that post 13 nailed the "business reason" for this too. If they release songs faster than people can play them, songs may get lost in the shuffle as people look at the current releases.

     

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  16.  
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    VitaminCM, Jan 19th, 2008 @ 7:05am

    I'm Sure They'll Try to Shut This Down Too

    Every time someone else with a clue comes up with some way to help those thieving bastards, they freak out and try to shut it down.
    Do they realize how much money that their own stupidity takes out of their pockets?
    Yet again, leave it to others to find innovative ways to please customers and make money.

     

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  17.  
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    Affiliate Blog, Jan 19th, 2008 @ 11:07am

    Just wanted to say

    This game is an excellent idea and addition to the music industry. The ability to download songs really makes this a huge hit.

     

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  18.  
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    Rajio, Jan 20th, 2008 @ 5:23pm

    crossplatform

    my problem is that when i download this song for rock band i have to pay again if i want to listen to it outside of the game. for $2 i should get a version of the song i can listen to on other platforms too, don't you think? How much extra is the ringtone version?

     

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  19.  
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    Iron Chef, Jan 21st, 2008 @ 12:53am

    Mad at The Big Four

    So I started listening to good songs of the 1990s this week, and felt somewhat uplifted by the art that was created during this time, especially when put in comparison to art being created today.

    While songs from the 1990s, were somewhat negative, but still offered a level of hope.

    So I'm trying to conceptualize what changed since the 1990s to make the new art coming out of the music industry so, erm, formal and politically correct...

    We could fight that 9-11 changed it all, but now that airtravel is finally above 2001 numbers, that doesn't hold water.

    So during this purcular excersize of comprehension, I came to realize that artists have no voice and have possibly decided to pursue different careerpaths.

    So what does this mean?

    Maybe it's time that our buddies at KKR get involved in media distribution. KKR has a great track record of leaning out companies. Remember how HomeDepot let Robert Nardelli go a few months after KKR expressed interest in the company.

    Maybe the Big 4 have forgotten their core competency which is creating an environment which the creative class can create art. Maybe this challenge is partially because of the focus on maintaining current IP portfolios. Sometimes this means that there are cuts elsewhere. Instead of hiring solid music engineers who understand music, hobbiests are employed. As a result, the core competency seems to be focused on this piracy thing.

    I try avoid most music these days because everytime I get someting from any of you guys, it's horribly overmodulated and an embarassment to the US music industry. Consider purchasing the Instrumental version of "Apologize". It was an absolute let down. Sure, I paid $0.99 for the instrumental version. It was overmodulated on my Shure SE310 headphones. Why should I even attempt to run it through my $7200 stereo system?

    Not worth it.

    So as a fan, why should I even consider ponying up for a SACD or DVD-A version, I ask.

    If the industry can't hire good audio engineers and create good master, what's going on?

    I have a theroy. Your focus is so much on piracy.

    So I'll continue to listen to "At The Edge" By Jonathan Elias. Looks like he's good enough for Microsoft. Clint Mansell has a good team too.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

    In case your curious, some songs I've listened to:
    Ace of Base - The Sign.
    Alanis Morissette - Ironic.
    Barenaked Ladies - One Week.
    Collective Soul - The World I Know.
    Chumbawamba - Tubthumping.
    Green Day - Time Of Your Life.
    No Doubt - Spiderwebs.
    Natalie Imbruglia - Torn.
    Ini Kamoze - Here Comes The Hotstepper.
    Jesus Jones - Right Here, Right Now.
    Mountain - Baby I love your way.
    MC Hammer - U Can't Touch This.
    Busta Rhymes - Put Your Hands Where I Can See.
    Lou Bega - Mambo #5.
    The Cranberries - Dreams.
    Los Del Rio - Macarena.
    Live - All Over You.
    Goo Goo Dolls - Iris.
    Live - Lightning Crashes.
    Haddaway - What Is Love.

    Even MJ made the list:
    Michael Jackson - Black Or White.


    So I ask, when will Apple open a studio?

     

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  20.  
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    Iron Chef, Jan 21st, 2008 @ 1:12am

    Poop to you

    Before you get all fuzzy, I own everything I listen to. Sometimes I've bought the physical CD two or three times over.

    And then paid for them again through my napster or Rapshody account as needed. Then I paid for them again on iTunes as needed.

    So I like good music and am willing to pay for it, even if you build barriers for me.

    Thanks for asking,

    -IC

     

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  21.  
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    Gurney, Jan 21st, 2008 @ 10:35am

    Re: I want my hackable Rock Band/Guitar Hero

    already ahppening on the PS2. Many new version with new songs are out unofficially.

     

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  22.  
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    Bob Dude, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 5:35pm

    Re:

    Actually, it's real easy and automated. There are "easy" "medium" and "hard" settings for their software, and then they load the tracks into it and it makes the setup automated for the programmers. There is a game you can get off steam where you can load your own MP3s and it does this for you automatically. It's a joke.

     

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