In addition to being a blast to play at parties, music video games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero are a great marketing tool for bands. They allow artists to expose their work to new audiences -- and, in some cases, highlight the intricacies of their songs. And with the advent of the Rock Band Network, a service launched in March that lets artists, labels and third-party developers code gameplay to music files and submit them for sale, the barrier between independent artists and music game licensing is smaller than ever.
Just ask Jason Rosenbaum, Missouri Lawyers Media's web editor and an occasional rapper. A huge music game fan, Rosenbaum successfully submitted "War Against the Radio," his collaboration with Columbia pop/punk band Audio Ammunition, to third party charter Rhythm Authors last year. After a long process, the song became available for purchase on Xbox Live Arcade for Rock Band 2 in July.
From the mid- to late-'00s, Rosenbaum studied then practiced journalism in Columbia by day, and moonlighted at night as rapper FM Kat. Through a mutual friend he met Audio Ammunition, a synth-driven pop/punk trio. The four collaborated on two songs before the band broke up and everyone went their separate ways. Rosenbaum, who frequents music game forums and says he plays Rock Band "way too fucking much" on his Playstation 3, jumped at the chance to share these songs when he heard about Rock Band Network, roughly two years after the split.
The process was slow. After signing a contract with Rhythm Authors to make "War Against the Radio" into a game in autumn 2009, the song underwent a long coding period. "There were some really challenging points in time where I didn't really know where the song was in the process for a few months," Rosenbaum says. Even after the song was "finished," it had to go through lengthy play-testing and peer-review procedures to iron out kinks in the gameplay. "[Actually] it got stalled in the peer-review process," Rosenbaum says. "It took two months to get to the point where it was like, 'Listen, the only way I'm going to get this through is if I buy Rock Band 2 for Xbox, start play-testing and peer-reviewing [songs] for other people in exchange for them to do it [for War Against the Radio].' And after that it was approved within a week."
On July 6, "War Against the Radio" was finally released for purchase. Rosenbaum stands to make little from download sales - the band splits 30 cents of every dollar earned with Rhythm Authors before dividing the profits among themselves - and he has no delusions that Rock Band will propel him or Audio Ammunition to stardom. But as a fan of the game, he remains proud of what they accomplished. "It's really about being able to tell your friends, being able to tell yourself and to maybe tell your future children that we're in Rock Band -- when it actually took some effort to get into it."