At Noble Rhythm, we understand that while Rock Band Network is an exciting opportunity, there are lots of details to sort through. Here you will find answers to just about all of your questions, about both RBN and Noble Rhythm. If you have any questions that are not addressed here, or need clarification on any subject, feel free to contact us.
The Rock Band platform
- What is Rock Band? Who are Harmonix?
- What is Rock Band Network?
- Who will be buying and playing my tracks?
- What does [nr`] do?
- Can't I do this myself?
- I've seen other groups online offering this service. Why should I choose [nr`]?
- How long will it take for my track to appear on RBN?
- Will you accept any track?
Money, cost and revenue
- How much does it cost?
- Nothing? Seriously?
- Oh... I get it, you just want in on all our royalties, right?
- Okay, okay, so when, how, and how much do I get paid?
- What about taxes?
- We want to share our revenues with co-writers/bandmates/producers/roadies/mom/etc.,
how do we do that?
Your artist account
- How do I create an artist account on [nr`]?
- OK, so what information do I need for the artist account?
- What else can I do with my artist account?
Submitting your song
- How do I submit a track?
- What information (metadata) do I need to submit?
- What are the requirements for album art?
Your master recordings
- What do I need upload to Noble Rhythm?
- What do I need to do to prepare my multitrack recordings?
- I work in Pro Tools, can I just upload my project?
- I work with Reaper/Audition/Soundbooth, can I upload my project?
- I work with another DAW package (Logic, Cubase, etc.), how do I prepare my tracks?
- What are the technical requirements for my recordings?
- I don't want people stealing my music. Is Noble Rhythm's file system secure?
Rights and other legal mumbojo
- What is the Noble Rhythm artist agreement?
- So, am I signing over any of my existing rights to [nr`]?
- I'm signed to a label, can I still submit to Noble Rhythm?
- What about covers? My band does a killer “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
The Rock Band platform
What is Rock Band? Who are Harmonix?
Rock Band and Rock Band 2 are incredibly popular music/rhythm video games made by Harmonix Music Systems, for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo Wii game consoles. Players use guitar, bass, and drum game controllers, as well as USB microphones, to “play” and sing hundreds of their favorite popular songs by matching button presses and drum hits to colored gems that represent musical notes as they appear on screen.
The game creates a game experience which feels not unlike playing in a real rock band, and has also proven to greatly increase interest amongst video game players in picking up real instruments.
The game has also been a way for players to discover new music. New songs (from every genre and era) are released weekly to be purchased and downloaded to the player's library. From the perspective of the artist, the Rock Band platform is a lucrative digital distribution avenue similar to iTunes or eMusic. Artists such as Pearl Jam and Metallica have released entire albums to Rock Band (or its competitor, Guitar Hero) on the same day as their album was released in stores. More information on Rock Band is at www.rockband.com.
What is Rock Band Network?
Thousands of songs from hundreds of artists are currently available on the Rock Band platform, but that only represents a tiny fraction of all the music out there. Harmonix recognized that the bottleneck to growth was in manually producing the complex game data required to bring a track to Rock Band, as the company is only able to produce a limited number of tracks in-house each week. In response, Harmonix decided to open up their development tools to the community in the form of Rock Band Network.
These tools allow anyone, with the skills and resources, to produce their own Rock Band tracks (at the same quality as Harmonix's in-house efforts), and upload them for sale on the Rock Band Network Store. Not only will RBN dramatically increase the number of songs available on the Rock Band platform, but it also makes it easy for independent and unsigned artists to distribute their music to millions of Rock Band players around the world, provided that they can master the powerful and complicated production tools. This is where Noble Rhythm comes in, opening up the RBN to even more artists and bands.
Who will be buying and playing my tracks?
The Rock Band Network Store, where your music will appear, is available to all Rock Band 2 and Rock Band 3 users playing on an Xbox 360 console. Much of the infrastructure of the RBN store (the part that Noble Rhythm interacts with) was developed and is maintained by Microsoft. Harmonix occasionally publishes select RBN tracks to the PlayStation 3 and Wii Rock Band stores at its discretion, but there is no direct submission system as of yet for those platforms. The RBN store is available to users of the original Rock Band, but all RBN songs will be carried over into future Rock Band games (Rock Band 4, 5, etc.).
What does Noble Rhythm do?
Adapting a song into the Rock Band format is not as simple as changing a sound file from wav to mp3. The process is comparable in complexity to recording the song itself, and involves two major steps: remixing the track, and manually creating the game data.
For the first stage, Noble Rhythm will remix your master recordings into a “14-channel stereo mix,” which separates the “playable” tracks from the rest of the recording, while preserving the original stereo sound of the song. This step is vital in creating a realistic experience for the game player. If a player misses a note while playing the guitar solo, for example, the guitar track will temporarily drop out while the rest of the song continues.
The song must also be carefully remastered so that the playable tracks stand out (being the bass player can suck even in the video game world) without distorting the original mix, and making sure that the entire track is compressed with finesse to keep the game audio (sound effects and virtual crowds) from overpowering the music.
For the second stage, Noble Rhythm will author the game data for the track, which includes assigning the charts for the guitar, bass, and drum controllers and creating a pitch chart for the vocal track, as well as laying out the lyrics for the on-screen display. This is a manual process that can not be automated, and must be done for each of the four difficulty levels. Additionally, it is a creative process. Adapting the musical notes in your song into game actions, so that the track is both challenging and fun to play, requires an artist's touch.
On top of this, there are other game elements including camera movements, creative video effects, complex lighting cues, precise avatar animations, and virtual crowd reactions that must be created. This is a very important but often under-appreciated component of the game experience, so that, for example, the camera will focus on the guitarist during a difficult riff, the crowd goes wild during the parts of the song with the most energy, and the pyrotechnics go crazy when you nail the drum solo.
Can't I do this myself?
Indeed, you can! It does require an incredible investment of time, money, and a particular set of skills, but we encourage you to investigate it yourself, to see if it's up your alley. Check out the Rock Band Network website at http://creators.rockband.com for more information. One of the tenets of Harmonix's program is open access, and Noble Rhythm is committed to share that philosophy.
There is also a major playtesting commitment involved in being an RBN author, which means that when more people participate, everybody in the community benefits. You can contact us if you have any questions or would like some advice on getting started.
Our position is that by working with us, you get our skills and our tools working for you to create the best quality track, but... the knowledge to create tracks for Rock Band Network is freely available to everyone. We believe that the benefits of working with Noble Rhythm will be made clear as you learn about what it takes to produce and submit a track. In fact, the more informed you are about the process, the better we can work together.
We like to think of it as the difference between recording in a home studio and working at Abbey Road, but we encourage you to determine that for yourself.
I've seen other groups online offering this service. Why should I choose [nr`]?
Noble Rhythm has a few advantages over other groups offering this service. Firstly, unlike some groups, we do not charge anything upfront for our services. Our services are provided on a revenue sharing model, which means that we have an incentive not only to produce the highest quality work on each track, but also to keep your song available in the Rock Band Network store (not to mention to keep sending you checks). See the money section of this faq for more information on how this all works and why it's a good way for you to do business on RBN.
Another clear advantage to Noble Rhythm is our comprehensive online artist account and song upload system. Submitting a track to Noble Rhythm is easy, quick and secure. You don't have to snail mail us your master recordings or send your album art as an email attachment. Everything is managed from this website, from your personal and contact information to your song sales data.
How long will it take for my track to appear on RBN?
Short answer: a long time.
Long answer: Once we begin working on your track, it can take up to three months for a track to appear on the RBN. That said, because of the volume of our submissions, we may not begin working on your track right away.
These are the steps in the process:
- You will create an artist/band profile, prepare your song assets, and upload them to Noble Rhythm.
- We elect to work on your track. This may take a few weeks (or months) depending on our workload.
- We will remix your track, create the note charts and game data, and compile the package. We will also test your track for playability, and make any final adjustments. Then we will upload your song to RBN. 6 days - 2 weeks
- We will guide your track through the peer review process and your track will appear in the RBN Store. 4 - 12 weeks
There are many variables in the process, of course. Longer or more complicated songs naturally will take longer to compile. Additionally, your recordings may need some extra TLC at the remixing stage. The peer review process also has its quirks and occasional delays. Lastly, in the event that we are crushingly busy, we may hold your song in our queue before we can begin working on it.
Authoring for RBN is a complex endeavor; it won't take forever, but it may take longer than you think. You will be kept informed at each stage of the process, and you may contact us at any time to inquire on the status of your track(s).
Will you accept any track?
There are only a few reasons that we will reject a track:
- If the recordings are in bad shape, or are otherwise not useable.
- If you do not agree to our terms of service.
- If the recording is a cover song, contains uncleared samples, or infringes on any other existing copyrights.
- If we determine that the song is not compatible with “Rock Band” gameplay. There are very few tracks that will fall into this category. For example, if a track consists of nothing but a bass solo, or otherwise can't be made fun to play, we may reject it.
We do reserve the right to reject any track for any reason not listed above, but we do not want to be a content gatekeeper, and will not reject a track based on musical preference or any other subjective basis. The great thing about RBN is that major label artists will be listed alongside unsigned artists, and music tastes are so diverse that there are customers waiting to buy your music, no matter what kind of music you play.
Also know that it may be a while before we make a decision on your track, depending on our workload. In some cases, we may not be able to work on a track if our master queue is full, and we may refer you to another authoring service.
Money, cost and revenue
How much do you charge to author a song?
Nothing. At Noble Rhythm, there is no cost to the artist. We split the revenues with the artist right down the middle, which is how we get paid. Some groups are charging upfront for their services, and other groups are negotiating fees on a per client basis. While these are perfectly acceptable practices, because of the enormous time and effort it takes to author a song for RBN, we at Noble Rhythm have decided to accept the "investment risk" and not charge any upfront costs for our work.
Yup. Working with Noble Rhythm is entirely risk-free from the artist's perspective. You will make a profit with the first sale.
Oh... I get it, you just want in on all our royalties, right?
Well, sorta... like any new venture, the future is uncertain, but we believe strongly in this philosophy, and aside from paying nothing upfront, there are a few more reasons that a split revenue model is better for you, too.
First, from a practical perspective, maintaining a ongoing presence in the RBN Store takes resources and a large time commitment, which Noble Rhythm maintains on behalf of all of the artists who work with us, and we don't want to charge you for.
Even if Noble Rhythm changed only a upfront fee, or relied mostly on upfront fees for funding, we would still have to maintain our presence in the RBN, run this website, mail checks to our artists, and provide other administrative tasks, which would mean that the more successful a song is, the less money we would make. You don't really want to do business with someone in that situation.
A split revenue model provides you with a guarantee that Noble Rhythm is putting all of its creative efforts into adapting your tracks, not just x dollars worth of effort. Our success is dependent on it. Additionally, since we share in your success, you can be assured that Noble Rhythm will remain a member of the RBN community in good standing, and your tracks will always remain for sale in the RBN store.
Additionally, authoring a song for RBN is not a purely technical process, any more than writing and performing a guitar solo is just pressing fingers to frets in sequence. To use an analogy, compare creating the Rock Band note charts, avatar animations, camera data and the special 14-channel stereo mix, to adapting a novel into a screenplay.
Adapting for another medium requires a million or more creative decisions, that must both maximize the potential of the new medium, as well as respect the core of the original work. What results is a work of art of its own.
Anyone who claims otherwise just isn't doing it right. :-)
Okay, okay, so when, how, and how much do I get paid?
Songs are sold in the RBN Store for approximately $1, $2, or $3 (80, 160, or 240 Microsoft Points). When you submit your track to Noble Rhythm, you will let us know how much you'd like to sell it for. Noble Rhythm reserves the right to choose the final price point before submitting it to RBN.
When your song is purchased, 70% of the revenue goes to Harmonix and Microsoft, who maintain the RBN infrustruture. The remaining is deposited to Noble Rhythm's xna creator's account, and you are entitled to half of that, so you recieve 15% of the revenue for the sale or your songs.
Payments to Noble Rhythm are made by Microsoft (who operate the xna service which forms the backbone of the RBN infrastructure), and are deposited quarterly.
Your song pages on the Noble Rhythm website will be updated with sales figures on a regular basis, which we pull directly from the data on our xna account.
When Noble Rhythm recieves a payment from Microsoft, we calculate payments to our artists, and will send your share to you, either as a check, or sent via PayPal (you can choose your preference on your artist profile). If the minimum threshold for payment has not been met, funds will be held until the threshold has been met. The threshold for payments is $50.
You may contact Noble Rhythm at any time to inquire on sales figures or payment schedules.
What about taxes?
You are responsible for reporting your income from sales. When you receive a check from Noble Rhythm, you are responsible for reporting and paying taxes on this income. You only need to report your share of the revenue (the actual money you receive) from song sales.
We want to share our revenues with co-writers/bandmates/roadies/mom/etc., how do we do that?
Noble Rhythm will only send payment (by check or via PayPal) to the contact person listed in the artist profile. It is the responsibility of that person to split that payment with any co-writers/bandmates, etc.
Your Noble Rhythm artist account
How do I create an artist account?
Go to our signup page and fill in all the details. It's as simple as that.
OK, so what information do I need for the artist account?
We will need your contact information, including a valid email address and phone number, as well as a mailing address (we need to know where to send checks). All of the information required is listed on your artist profile page.
If you are in a band, you will need to provide a single contact person to Noble Rhythm. Your band's contact person will receive all communications from Noble Rhythm, and any payments resulting from sales will be made out to that person.
What else can I do with my artist account?
Other than uploading your tracks, you may sign into your artist account to review and edit your contact information, and monitor the sales for each of your tracks.
Submitting your song
(Visit our site tour page for a step-by-step walkthough)
How do I submit a track?
Once you have created an artist account, you may log in and update the information in your artist account, but you will not be able to upload a track until your account has been reviewed (to be sure it's not span). Once your account as been reviewed, you will receive a second email confirmation. At that point, you can log back in and go to the song upload page.
What information (metadata) do I need to submit?
You will need to submit the song name, the album it appears on (if any), and genre information. All of the info is laid out on the song upload page. If you don't have all of the information, you may still submit the track. You can add or edit song information later by logging in and visiting your artist profile, which lists your submitted songs.
What are the requirements for album art?
The image you upload can be jpeg or png, and should be at least 256x256 pixels. If you do not have album art, Noble Rhythm will create one for you from a default template.
Your master recordings
What do I need upload to Noble Rhythm?
We need both your master multitrack recordings, and a copy of the finalized mono/stereo mix of your track. The multitrack recordings are what we will work with, and the mixed track we use as a reference, so we can recreate the levels of your track as it sounds on CD or mp3.
You must send us your multitrack recordings at the highest quality available, but your final track may be uploaded as an mp3 or in another compressed format, as long as it represents the final mix of the song as you want it to sound.
What do I need to do to prepare my multitrack recordings?
The song upload form has upload fields for you to use to upload your tracks in any file format. You may upload as many files as you like for each song you submit. It doesn't matter how complex your project is or how many tracks you have.
You can export each instrument/vocal layer from your audio mixing/editing program, and upload each of the files individually, or you can compile the files together in an archive format like zip.
Keep in mind that however you upload your files, we prefer that you upload your layers in stereo, to preserve the panning information from your mix. Additionally, your filenames should be clearly labeled. The song upload form also has description fields for you to label your files.
I work in Pro Tools, can I just upload my project?
Yes! Noble Rhythm uses ProTools 8 LE to remix your tracks for Rock Band, so if you also work in Pro Tools (version 8 or lower), you can simply upload your entire project. Be sure that you include all of the audio files with your project file. Ideally, you should put all of your files and folders into a single zip archive, so that everything makes sense coming out on our end. You may also want to save a new version of your project, and then go through and delete unused takes and other extraneous files, so that the resulting zip archive is smaller and the upload goes faster.
IMPORTANT: Be sure that you do not have any live effects that are dependent on 3rd-party plug-ins. If you do, please apply these effects directly to the tracks before uploading your project.
I work with Reaper/Audition/Soundbooth, can I upload my project?
Yes. Noble Rhythm also works with Reaper, Adobe Audition 3.0, and Adobe Soundbooth CS5. You may submit your project in these formats, as well. See the Pro Tools answer above for more instructions.
I work with another DAW package (Logic, Cubase, etc.), how do I prepare my tracks?
If you use a different DAW package, you will need to export each of your multitrack layers individually into high-quality wav or aiff files. Be sure that each track is exported in stereo, so as to maintain your panning information. Also, please clearly label your files.
What are the technical requirements for my recordings?
Your tracks should be a minimum of 44.1 kHz / 16-bit, though higher sampling and bitrates are accepted. Files with lower sampling or bitrates can also be uploaded, but we may reject them. Your files can be in any audio format, preferably wav or aiff.
I don't want people stealing my music. Is Noble Rhythm's file system secure?
Absolutely! When you upload your files, including your album art, only Noble Rhythm will be able to access them.
Rights and other legal mumbojo
What is the Noble Rhythm artist agreement?
Before you upload your first track, you have to read and agree to the Noble Rhythm artist agreement. This outlines the agreement between you and Noble Rhythm. It outlines what Noble Rhythm is obligated to do for you in the event that we agree to work on your track, and details the license that you provide to Noble Rhythm to use your track for RBN. You can read the full text of the agreement here.
So, am I signing over any of my existing rights to [nr`]?
No way! By submitting a song to Noble Rhythm, you only agree that you will not allow anyone else (including yourself) to upload the song to RBN (multiple versions of the same track will cause problems during peer review), but you retain the copyrights to your song(s). If you change your mind after you submit your song, you may delete your track as long as we have not begun working it yet.
I'm signed to a label/distributor, can I still submit to Noble Rhythm?
Sure! However, you are responsible for ensuring that you have the right to submit your track to us, and for distributing shares of your payments. When you upload a track to us, you assure that you can grant us the right to submit your track to RBN.
What about covers? My band does a killer "Hungry Like the Wolf."
First of all, shame on you for your hubris.
Seriously, though, Harmonix has gone on record discouraging the submission of cover songs, since the rights issues have an extra layer of complication, and they currently disallow it. However, they have not ruled it out for the future. For now, Noble Rhythm does not accept covers, but we will continue to investigate the possibility.
Questions not covered here
If you have any questions that are not addressed here, or need clarification on any subject, feel free to contact us.