Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sub Pop: Acting Locally, Thinking Globally

Earlier this week, Harmonix revealed the Rock Band Network. A network that will allow record labels, artists, game devlopers, sound engineers and fans to create downloadable content to add to your Rock Band library for a price ($0.50-3.00) that you will set. The song submitted then will be reviewed by developers for playability, lyrical content, copyright infringement, etc. If accepted, you can have your very own song on Rock Band. This, quite simply, is one of the biggest things to happen to music in the last decade (along with Napster, MP3 players and, well, the rise of music games in general). What makes this so great?
Well, this allows anyone, and artists, I'm looking in your direction, to gain a fanbase they wouldn't otherwise have. Better yet, bands that you would love to play as or dreamed of being in can become possible now. Artists that would probably never show up on Rock Band at any point can now have their songs as downloadable content (maybe now I'll finally shut up about Melvins and Fishbone). Best of all, for up and coming artists, this is a global opportunity to introduce your music to people. The reach of Rock Band is vast and has provided people a newer, technological based means of hearing different music that would not normally hear on radio and, especially not, MTV. Also, for the newer artists, if your song is selected as downloadable content and is downloaded, you'll make 30% of its sale.

One label taking advantage of this new tool is Sub Pop. For those unfamiliar with Sub Pop, one could just say that the label is one of the most important indie labels of all time as well as helped put Seattle on the musical map. Instead, I'll sum it up by saying in the last 20 plues years, Sub Pop has released recordings by Soundgarden, The Shins, Band Of Horses, The Walkabouts, Afghan Whigs, Mudhoney, Sebadoh, Sunny Day Real Estate and, most importantly, Nirvana. These artists and their recordings for the label along with the rest of the catalog are intended to be released through the Rock Band Network. As of this date, the only playable track from the Sub Pop catalog is Hot Hot Heat's "Bandages" from Make Up The Breakdown which was released last September. Now, we'll, hopefully, be able to enjoy selections from a library that is as diverse as the ever growing game library that these songs are being converted for.

Whether or not, the Rock Band Network will fully work or if it will be easy to use is still in the air. Two things, however, are certain. One is that Sub Pop, once again, is thinking outside of the box and showing why their one of the most important Indie labels of the last 25 years. The second thing is that we are sitting on something that has already changed different elements of the overall musical landscape but now has the power to do much more. Old songs that hadn't received airplay are now in regular rotation on various Rock stations and not just on C.S.I. Younger audiences who would never go out of their way to listen to artists like Lush or Cheap Trick are now rocking out to them in living rooms and basements across the world. Hell, people who would never listen to Rock music at all are singing along to the works of Boston, Rush and Nine Inch Nails. That is an awesome thing and with this network, these same people can start creating things to give back to a game that opened them to worlds never explored. In the words of Devo, "Everybody, it's a good thing. Ain't it true, it's a monumental good thing."

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