The Rock Band Network initiative is proving to be a hit with early adopters, according to developer Harmonix, a subsidiary of MTV Games.
Speaking at Liverpool Sound City - a 4-day music and international business conference held annually in the Northern U.K. city - Jeff Marshall, exec producer at Harmonix Music Systems/MTV, told delegates that the Rock Band network initiative had signed up over 9,000 users to its first 'free' tier since launching in open beta this January (Billboard.biz, March 4).
Out of those 9,000 users, approx 700 people had upgraded to the charged 'premium creators membership' and close to 400 songs had been uploaded to the network and were now on sale in the Microsoft Xbox live market, via the Rock Band Network Music Store, Marshall revealed.
A yearly subscription to the premium service costs $99.00. At present, the service is only available to U.S. residents.
Participating artists at the launch included the Shins, the Hold Steady, Bang Camaro, Of Montreal, Steve Vai. Artists get a 30% cut of sales.
PS3, Wii and Mobile Joining Soon
Content from the Rock Band Network Music Store will soon be made available on PS3 and Wii networks, as well as the Rock Band mobile application, the exec producer went on to say.
Calling Rock Band "a game itch that 24 million people worldwide play," Marshall stated that since the music game franchise launched over two years ago it has licensed approx 1,100 songs as interactive content and has sold more than 70 million downloads from the regular Rock Band store.
As previously reported, the Rock Band Network Music Store, which exists separately from the Rock Band platform, allows artists who control their master recordings -- or who have no label relationships -- to submit their music as downloadable add-on content to the music game franchise without going through a formal licensing process.
Explaining the decision to launch the Rock Band Network Music Store, Marshall told delegates that the platform provides "a really great discovery tool for independent artists."
Empowering Indie Artists
"Rock Band is really good outlet [for musicians] but until recently there's only been one way to do that which was to be licensed through our game partners at MTV music," Marshall stated during a panel entitled 'This is the Modern World: Navigating the New Frontier of Internet Marketing.'
"We weren't really scratching the surface of the opportunity to reach independent artists and musicians and labels. So we created Rock Band Network as a secondary path and the uptake has been good so far," he continued.
Speaking to Billboard.biz after the panel, Marshall said interest and user subscription to network was "growing at a pace that we're really happy with."
"As we move through the summer when we continue to get out and educate and market and promote what Rock Band Network is really all about that we see that user base continue to grow," he tells Billboard.biz, citing the high conversion rate for a new demo feature whereby users can access and play an unknown artist track as evidence of the network's successful "organic growth".
According to Marshall, for every two people that access and interact with a free demo track, one purchase is made.
"We're trying to use the Rock Band Network to continue democratize and enable independent artists and empower them to be part of the Rock Band world," Marshall went on to say adding that the network would continue to develop and grow throughout its open beta phase.
"We're fixing things as we move along. We're rolling out in a way that we feel we're going to be able to keep up with [demand] and to make sure that the experienced inside of the network and the consumer experience associated with that is compelling," he stated.
The Liverpool Sound City music event continues until May 22 with the business conference wrapping today (May 21). Scott Cohen and Richard Gottehrer, joint founders of digital distributor the Orchard, are among the speakers set to appear on the closing panel.