When Your Fans Do What You Do

The 8-bit Collective is a forum and music-sharing website serving the chipmusic (music of old computers and video games) scene for quite some years now, and while I don’t want to incorrectly report history, it’s drawn the ire of some of its medium-to-long time users for reasons that are both controllable and not.  Since both its file hosting and forums are completely open to the public in an unscreened manner, one of the chief uncontrollable complaints is that there are many newer, younger users that share music that show signs that the poster is still learning the (electronic) instrument or learning how to make music at all.  Moderate to extremely experienced users chide with “Try Google” responses when there are questions about issues that are obviously known, and the less mature (or perhaps more bored) of the users will resort to trolling and hazing.

The rebuttal to the hazing is a complaint that if these younger users are not encouraged to learn the craft, when the experienced musicians become too old to provide new material, the form of music will die.  Those that haze, and many that don’t, conceded that if mediocrity becomes the norm, the music will die anyway, so perhaps this is just the way of things…

…but I noticed something different in one of the forum threads.

http://8bc.org/forums/viewtopic.php?id=24370

The original question is, “How do you make an awesome melody that is happy and epic at the same time?!” (emphasis mine)

What follows are replies that appear to interpret the question, “How do I make a melody?” which I am embarrassed to have mistaken myself.  By the end of the discussion, it becomes clear that the original post is from a fan asking a particular handful of musicians about their creative processes.  One of them obliges with an answer, and an administrator closes the thread.

This style of music is unique in that an artist needs less than $100 of equipment to perform it in a live, social venue, and that it doesn’t take very long to get from no knowledge at all to playing simple rhythms and melodies.  In that sense, almost everyone in the 8-Bit Collective site is assumed to be a musician, though I am aware of at least a small handful who are not.  I have reason to believe that the number of users who are really just fans of the style is higher than expected, and that many of these fans are posting trials in the audio section, though they may not have the ambition to become like the musicians they came to the site to learn more about.

This idea is not news, plenty of people see a famous football player and want to play football, a famous actor and want to act, play video games and want to program them, or see a rock guitarist and try to take up the guitar.  (I became a multi-instrumentalist because I saw a Phil Collins concert on TV at a young age.)  Some of us have stories of meeting a star player/performer, and some of the stories are great… some aren’t.  When celebrities meet fans that also admit they perform, the results can be very mixed, but usually dismissing in some way.  I’ve never known anyone to get a good result from handing a homemade CD to a rock star, for example.

So in the microcosm that is chipmusic, where its “stars” are much more ordinary and accessible, what should these stars do when every person in the listening audience is as capable of making the music you make as you are?

Sabrepulse’s choice was to be admirably honest, “I wrote the melody … by banging away on a cheap yamaha keyboard until I found something fun, then sequenced it. At the time I had very little knowledge about music.”

I agree with this approach.  I answered a question about how I made an explosive reverberating bass drum sound in the middle of a concert once.

See you next time.

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