The Rock Band Network was based on the XNA Creators Club model and uses peer review to check songs for playability, copyright violations and profanity in a song's lyrics. Harmonix had developed a suite of software tools, including a modified version of REAPER, a digital audio sound tool, and Magma, a metadata packaging tool, for use by artists and labels. In addition, Harmonix had helped to spawn the creation of several third-party companies, based on the previous hacking environment for the creation of custom songs, that will author an artist's song into a Rock Band track. Artists retain full control on their songs, and receive 30% of the sales from the Network. Several artists and labels had committed to expanding the distribution of their music through the network. A second version of the Network, "RBN 2.0" went live shortly after the release of Rock Band 3. The new version incorporated the ability to author regular and Pro keyboard, vocal harmonies, and Pro drums; due to the complexity and time investment, RBN 2.0 did not support authoring of Pro guitar or bass. The Network has been considered a more favorable option for the addition of user-generated content for music games than compared to Activision's previous attempt with "GHTunes" for the Guitar Hero series.
In anticipation of the announcement of Rock Band Network, Harmonix contacted the ScoreHero and CustomHero communities, groups that have been hacking and modifying songs from Rock Band to put in their own custom songs, in order to engage them in helping use their knowledge of song creation. As a result, a company called Rhythm Authors was created by Joseph Cirri, the founder of ScoreHero; for a portion of the song's sale, they will assist bands by creating the appropriate note tracking for their songs, peer review them, and help to train others to do the tasks. Within a week of the company's reveal, sixteen bands had signed up for Rhythm Authors' services. Other companies, including RockGamers Studios, TuneCore, and WaveGroup Sound, have also been formed for authoring; while authoring rates vary between the companies, it is estimated to be approximately $500 per minute of transcoded song. Harmonix provided training classes on the Rock Band Network tools and promotion at the September 2009 GameSoundCon Conference in Los Angeles. Harmonix' Greg LoPiccolo stated that he believes the authoring community will also come up with further plug-ins for the authoring software to further automate the song creation process. Similar companies that promise to help author note tracks have also been created since the announcement of the Network.
Songs from the Network will continue to work in Rock Band 3, and will be treated as regular downloadable content across all modes of the game. Rock Band Network 2.0 was announced upon release of Rock Band 3, with a testing cycle starting shortly afterwards. The second version of the network includes support for new features of Rock Band 3, including vocal harmonies, keyboard support, and Pro modes for drums and keyboard. However, it will not include Pro guitar or bass modes initially; this decision was based on the difficulty of authoring the Pro guitar tracks and the expected limited user base available to test these songs on the onset of Rock Band 3's release. Harmonix will review the demand for such features within a year to consider adding this functionality to RBN 2.0. Other changes include improved authoring tools for creators, and better control of audition sessions for reviewers to better evaluate a song. Beta versions of the tools were live shortly after Rock Band 3's release. The Network 2.0 is scheduled to go live on February 15, 2011, with existing Network shut down the day before. After this event, only players with Rock Band 3 will see new songs available through the Rock Band Network; players of Rock Band 2 will still be able to purchases older songs approved for release before the change.
To participate in the Network, artists must purchase an XNA Creators Club license for the charting tools. A copy of the digital audio workstation software REAPER, using custom add-ons created by Harmonix, is the key program that artists and track creators will use to author tracks; the program allows the author to analyze the tempo of the track, and then place notes in time with the music for each supported game difficulty. It also has the ability to auto-generate the song's note tracking for kick and snare drums at the "Expert" difficulty, though creators must further tune the resulting note track, and create easy, medium, and hard difficulty gameplay. Following this, Harmonix' "Magma" program, so named jokingly as magma is the source of "rock", is used to convert the song and note track information into a Rock Band playable song, and attempts to create reasonable animation sequences based on this information, such as having the camera focus on the guitarist during a solo. These animations can be further customized by the editor within REAPER. Only two aspects of the performance cannot be modified by the editor: they cannot change the lip-synching of the vocalists, and they cannot control the activation of the fog machine peripheral for the game. Authors are not required to use REAPER; Magma requires a MIDI file that meets documented specifications, allowing users to use other authoring programs if they wanted to.
The authoring of a single track is expected to take between 20 and 40 hours for a newcomer to the process, according to Harmonix. All tracks will be submitted to review through a standard peer review process to judge song difficulty and gameplay standards while patrolling submissions for copyright violations and profanity. Songs can be priced from $1 to 3 dollars, with the artists receiving 30% of the track's sales. The Network will only support creators that reside in the United States with content distributed to the United States, Canada, and Europe, due to current restrictions on the XNA Creator's Club and user-generated content.
Harmonix has also been in contact with major music labels who previously have been requesting Harmonix to include their music to participate in creating songs with the Network. One label, Sub Pop, has revealed they will plan to release all songs and albums on their label to the Rock Band Network, including early music by Nirvana, Mudhoney, Sleater-Kinney, The Postal Service and The Shins, though the amount and rate of content will be affected by the difficulty of the tools Harmonix will provide to make the music tracks. For the service's launch, the label prepared 25 songs through the various authoring companies. Tony Kiewel of Sub Pop stated that they see the Rock Band Network as another music distribution path alongside vinyl and CD and plan to release future songs from their label on the Network alongside traditional music media. One such band includes Flight of the Conchords, who announced that three of their songs, including two from their first album, would be coming to Rock Band at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, later clarified by Sub Pop that they would be Network tracks. Label Side One Dummy announced that they will be releasing The '59 Sound and Old White Lincoln, the two first singles from The Gaslight Anthem's The '59 Sound album in early March 2010. On April 30, 2010, Rhythm Authors announced that they were partnered with Sumerian Records to bring the label's music to the Rock Band Network; so far Asking Alexandria, Veil of Maya and After the Burial are confirmed to be in production. 2b1af7f3a8