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‘Rock Band Network’ set to debut

Harmonix first announced the idea of its “Rock Band Network” in July 2009.

The system was designed to allow any band to author tracks to be included in the “Rock Band” platform. Through this program, “Rock Band” could add to its already robust music library, while giving musicians the chance to receive exposure to millions who would otherwise never stumble across the music.

I wrote last year that this program, if run smoothly, could change the way music is consumed. Famous musicians have seen a big jump in sales following an appearance in “Rock Band” or “Guitar Hero,” so little-known acts would appear to benefit as well. The “Rock Band Network” could be the shot in the arm a sagging music industry needs.

The program, however, still hasn’t debuted, although it does seem that its release is imminent.

The system was in a closed beta for months, but appeared in an open beta in January.

Upon joining the open beta in late January, I discovered that the project was off to a good start. Web site bugs notwithstanding, a wide spectrum of artists and record labels have signed up for the project.

Some bands have hired private authoring companies to design their tracks for placement in the network, while others have record labels who are working on the tracks.

The songs coming through the program are no different than the ones available on the game discs or through downloadable content.

What is different is the eclectic choice of songs available. For the first time, “Rock Band” users will be exposed to genres like jazz when the network opens up to the public. As I understand it, the network will roll out as a separate entity from the current “Rock Band” downloadable store, but it will work the same way, with tracks as low as 99 cents.

As of Monday, more than 270 songs had been submitted to the “Rock Band Network,” and more than 100 songs have been approved for inclusion in the game by a peer review network. Harmonix releases about 500 songs per year through downloadable content, so it already looks as if this new avenue will grow the game’s library exponentially.

Many of the submitted songs come from independent bands. Others come from bands unknown to all but the most rabid music fans. There are also some major artists who have uploaded tracks. Here is a sampling of some of the more famous bands included: All That Remains, Billy Idol, Carl Douglas (yes, of “Kung Fu Fighting” fame), Creed, Drowning Pool, Evanescence, Flight of the Conchords, Flogging Molly, Lacuna Coil, Seether and The Shins. Widespread Panic has announced it will have songs included as well.

“Rock Band Network” is off to an impressive start, but it will be interesting to see how and when Harmonix will actually roll the product out. Until then, there is much to be excited about.