Music video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero have become the new stars of American culture. But fans of cult or indie music like, say, the Melvins, can't exactly inhabit their inner Buzz because rhythm game music catalogs offer a tiny fraction of recorded music. This week however, the newly announced Rock Band Network introduced the option for anyone with a tune to try to get their songs added to the Rock Band shop. Legendary Seattle indie label Sub Pop has already said they're interested and many labels are sure to follow.
Sub Pop A&R executive Tony Kiewel is an avid Rock Band aficionado and said the storied label is investing in equipment this week to turn songs into playable tracks. Sub Pop albums like Nirvana's Bleach or the new record from the Shins could be part of Rock Band by Fall should the game accept the tracks for sale. "This conceivably could be the opening of the floodgates," Kiewel said. "We always had the feeling that the people at Harmonix, they're all in bands, they're music people and I think it actually broke their hearts that we couldn't work it out to get our stuff into the queue faster."
Kiewel said Sub Pop is looking at converting parts of their catalog — which could include early Nirvana, the Postal Service and the Shins — into Rock Band-ready tracks for sale in the new Rock Band Network store. "You'd be crazy not to make your stuff available and sell it if you can," he says. "My fears are we haven't actually used the software yet and audio multi-tracking software in general is pretty complex."
With 8 million units and more than 50 million downloads sold, Rock Band appears poised to become a full-on music platform, and the new Beatles game — due September 9th — is sure to bring in an entirely new demographic. The game is creating new production costs heretofore unknown for Sub Pop, says Kiewel.
"It's all up in the air," he says."This'll be a 'release' as far as I'm concerned. This'll be another format alongside vinyl and CD."