Rock Band users will soon be able to record and sell their own music tracks through the game's online store. Developer Harmonix has unveiled its plans for The Rock Band Network, which will work with the existing Rock Band 2 Xbox 360 release in concert with Microsoft's XNA Creator's Club.
Tracks must be mixed according to certain Harmonix specifications, outfitted with MIDI gameplay information, then peer reviewed before being put up for sale on the Network's store. As with Xbox Live Indie Games (formerly Xbox Live Community Games), authors will be paid royalties on a quarterly basis.
According to the official Rock Band Network website, closed testing will be underway until August. That month, Harmonix will open up the creation utilities to the public, and at an unspecified date this year the store itself will fully open.
Although the system is native to Xbox 360 and it appears that the majority of the songs will only be available on that system, certain "stand out tracks" will also be sold to PlayStation 3 and Wii users.
The move is reminiscent of developer Neversoft's song creation utility in Guitar Hero World Tour, but is considerably more ambitious. While the Guitar Hero solution was limited to synthesized and sampled music, Rock Band's allows users to record their own material from scratch using a version of the Reaper audio workstation as well as Harmonix's own Magma tool for PC.
When Neversoft and Activision launched their tool, Rock Band 2 lead designer Dan Teasdale heavily hinted at Harmonix's own efforts -- while not-so-subtly slamming the competition's. "We actually want to find a way to for people to create music and express themselves, but when we do we want to make sure that people can sing, or the songs can be longer than three minutes, or that you can have more than 1200 notes, or that youíre not tied to some dodgy sample somewhere," he said late last year.
"You canít do it half-arsed. If you want to do a way to let players create and distribute music, you have to go all-in, not just do it as a bullet on the back of a box."
Said Harmonix co-founder and CEO Alex Rigopulos, "Our goal with Rock Band has always been to go beyond making music games and create a true music platform. With the Rock Band Network, we've evolved the platform to its next logical step, giving players access to an incredible amount of new music by putting the professional tools we use in the hands of the artists themselves."
[UPDATE: Interestingly, it's not just bedroom music creators who are intending to sign up to this service - Sub Pop's head of A&R Tony Kiewel is quoted by Billboard.biz as saying that the label is expecting to submit songs from its upcoming fall releases as well as its bigger releases from the past two years.]