Ahoy, ChipWINners! It’s great to see you again during this magical time of year. You know, the holidays — regardless of whether or not you celebrate them — can be a great time to give to others you care about. Whether it’s through direct gift giving, a Secret Santa, or a charitable donation, taking the time to help bring some joy to your loved ones is a truly noble act, but it can be trying, as well. This is especially true for people who are new to the scene or are outside of it and are trying to find the perfect gift for that special lil tracker composer in their lives. If you are someone who finds themselves in this position, fear not! For I’ll be listing a few things I’ve found throughout my years in the community that are meaningful, essential, and genuinely appreciated by those in it.
Sit back, take some notes, and get ready to figure out what to do with that time I helped you save, because it’s time to stuff some stockings with Kuma!
Memory & Storage
Hardware and software are fickle. Any amount of time spent in groups dedicated to digital arts is bound to reveal posts of people bemoaning the fact that either they lost their project in some way or another. Perhaps they didn’t save often enough or maybe some form of digital storage decided to crap the bed on them, and they regret not making a back up on a separate medium. As such, the gift of digital storage is a pragmatic choice that is always appreciated no matter whom you give it to, although it should be noted that some mediums are easier to ascertain than others. SD cards with high memory capacities and fast read/write speeds, for example, are abundant and easy to procure. Products such as SanDisk’s Extreme and Ultra memory cards are solid choices that offer fast write speeds and durable builds for affordable prices. Do keep in mind, though, that depending on the hardware this person composes in, certain formats of SD card may not be compatible with their devices. In particular, devices such as first generation 3DSs, PSPs, and CAANOOs are incompatible with SD XC format cards, so consider sticking to SD or SD HC cards when purchasing such products.
Portable hard drives are also a good option, as products as Toshiba’s Canvio line of external drives and Western Digital’s Passport products offer solid, basic functionality storage for nominal pricing, while devices like Buffalo’s Ministation Extreme offer some extra goodies, including a more rugged build as well as NFC transfer options that work fluidly with most Android powered devices that do feature NFC. However, for those who compose in other formats that aren’t as up to date, you may have to dig deeper. This is especially true for Game Boy composers, who are often in need of reliable cartridges, as well as a means of transferring the data to and from them onto their computers for back up and mastering. In this case, you’ll need flash carts. If you do choose to get someone flash carts, I highly recommend getting brands that have built in USB ports. These often play a lot nicer with current OS software than those without USB ports, and they don’t require esoteric software or a cart flasher to read and write to these devices. As much as I love products like Mr Flash, I wouldn’t recommend getting them for yourself or someone else unless you’re certain the person you’re giving them to can make full use of them. Rather, I’d recommend getting a Drag-n-Derp. While these can be difficult to find, they are still your best bet in terms of reliability and ease of use. They are by no means cheap, but if you can get them for someone, they’ll appreciate them immensely.
Headphones, Studio Monitors & Portable Amps
These are gifts that keep on giving and show you care about the recipient’s creative endeavors. Whether it’s for personal enjoyment or busking, post production or critical critique, it’s hard to go wrong with headphones, speakers or portable amps. With a large variety of brands available, the amount of choices available can be both exciting and overwhelming. Fortunately, this task is made much easier if you know what to look for in each category, and what brands to look out for, as well. For studio monitors, you generally want to get something between about 4 and 7 inches in height. This ensure that you get a product that can produce reliable, clear sound without being too bulky. Furthermore, while you can always take a risk on a brand if you find something that fits your budget, some companies offer units that are considerably more reliable than others, and I’d recommend looking for them first. In particular, JBL, Samson, KRK and PreSonus are companies of high repute that offer speakers that will help you get the most bang for your buck, as many of those options are available for less than $200. The same holds true for portable amps. There are a bevy of options available, but Peavey, Vox, Fender and Roland offer great units for less than $150 that are highly recommended by both professionals and amateurs, alike. The Roland Cube Mini, in particular, is ubiquitous in the scene, as you can often see these in festivals like MAGFest that have spaces set up for play in public areas of convention spaces.
Alternatively, if you’d rather get something a little less expensive, you can scoop up a great pair of headphones for a person for less than $75. When shopping for headphones, one thing you’ll want to look for, particularly if you’re out in person, are little labels that identify the unit’s strengths. In general, unless the person receiving the gift requests a particular brand, you’ll want to avoid anything that states they have things like “hyper dynamic bass boosting”, or any other special gimmicks that’ll enhance the sound coming out of the units. Rather, you should keep an eye out for anything labeled as “studio monitor” or “natural sound”, as these tend to deliver the truest sound quality when plugged into a device. I’d also recommend getting something that has a good chord length and has a gold plated plug, as gold plated plugs tend not to corrode the way nickel plated plugs do. To that end, brands such as Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, JVC, Sony, Behringer or Samson are terrific options, as they tend offer highly reliable products that are sure to be with someone for a long time.
More than physical gifts, the gift of great memories is one that will last for years to come, so if you know someone in the scene who is dying to go to an event, whether it be local or long distance, why not treat them to it? The increasing popularity of chiptune is no accident, as it coincides with the surge of Indie gaming and the popularity of shows like Adventure Time, Regular Show and Steven Universe. Thus, Chiptune–and VGM as a whole–are gaining ground in a way it has never seen before, and it’d be remiss of a fan to not try and make it out to at least one major event. When it comes to this gift, I would highly recommend asking the recipient where they would like to attend for two reasons. The first is because concerts, conventions and festivals each have their own unique identities. Between the kind of music they tend to offer, the associated exhibits and panels happening alongside them, and the sights and sounds the surrounding city or suburb has to offer, often times a large event can turn into a vacation, and wanting to get the most out of a vacation can make or break someone’s experience. The second reason I suggest this coincided with the idea that these events turn into getaways, and that’s ease of accessibility. Being able to easily travel to and from an event, arrange hotel stay, and having time to secure funds for an event are crucial factors, as well, and it’s important to know that some events are much easier to arrange for than others. Speaking from experience, events that are strictly music based, such as 8static Fest, Frequency Fest, Lwlvl, BRKfest or LSA, are definitely strong recommendations if you want to make it to an event that strictly chiptune and is relatively easy to get to based on location and hotel availability.
Conversely, if you’re looking to offer someone an experience that’s more diverse, but still want to guarantee some level of chiptune is involved, video game, anime and furry cons are a solid option. Events such as MAGFest, PAX, TMG and AVGC are likely your safest options when it comes to securing time with people in the Chiptune and VGM communities, but even more general pop culture conventions like NYCC, Momocon, SDCC, and Anthrocon have seen chiptune presence over the past couple years, so you’re bound to run into someone if you go to the right event at the right time of year. Now, if by some chance you can’t score tickets to a larger show, even just taking the time to treat someone to a local event can be something special. While not every city has a thriving, consistent scene the way New York and Philly do, if you know you’re going to be in a place that does have local shows regularly and can hit one up, then by all means do so. Not every Pulsewave is an incredible end of year extravaganza, but if you know someone who appreciates the bleep bloops, then consider spending the $10 for a ticket to a 3 hour local show. It’ll mean a great deal to them. Almost as much as my last recommendation will.
This last gift suggestion may sound lazy, but hear me out. In my time in the community, one thing that stands out and breaks my heart is the distance between artists and money. Whether it’s a lack of support for their art financially, difficulty holding down day jobs to pay the bills, or just keeping food in their stomachs, one doesn’t have to look hard or far before encountering someone in chiptune who could use your support. The good news, however, is that there are a lot of ways in which you can give the gift of money in a way that is more personal and meaningful than shoving a gift card or a wrinkled twenty into their hand. The first is to support their artistic endeavors financially. This may feel foreign because many artists in the scene offer the music for free or for very low prices, and this makes it seem like those artists doesn’t care to receive reimbursement for their efforts. While this might be true of some composers, the truth is that many people, whether they get into chiptune with the intent of making money or just for fun, do appreciate cash, and it’s especially so when that cash is given to them for the fruits of their hard labor. If you have a friend who has released a record on Bandcamp, Itunes, Spotify, Amazon, etc., show them they mean something to you by sending em some money these digital venues. In particular, if you donate a sizable amount of money on Bandcamp along with a note or a positive review of the album you just purchased, that little vote of confidence can go a long way towards helping someone stay afloat, and will bring more music your way in the future.
Another way you can help contribute to the artists you love is to is to surprise them with a small donation. Many artists in the scene, at one point or another, have made either a PayPal account public, or some have more recently started to create Patreon accounts to support their art. If you give to either of these outlets, particularly to Patreon accounts, it helps assure the artist that not only do they have continued support, but it helps them build a community upon which to spread the word of their work, allowing them to develop a more stable career that results in them making their passion a full time endeavor. This can also be done in the form of donations through Twitch, as artists such as DJ Cutman host live events that can be donated to while they’re performing, and these can be immensely gratifying to receive.
Alternatively, some other artists have hit hard times, and many are in need of assistance financially to make certain medical necessities come to fruition. This is especially true of trans members of the community, as many of them are struggling to make ends meet, and are striving to get money for medication, surgery or even just maintaining a roof over their heads. In these cases, when those people set up donation pages through sites like Gofundme, it means the world if you can even throw a little bit their way.
So if you see someone in the community you’d like to support, feel free to do it. Even if it isn’t by much, a little goes a long way in chiptune, and I can fully assure you that your money is going to good use.
Well folks, that does it for this final article of the year. I hope the suggestions I’ve made have been of some help to you in trying to find an appropriate gift for that special someone in your life. Moreover, I hope that whatever you do decide to get makes someone happy, and that you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season this year. One full of good food, laughter, and excitement for the next year, as 2017 kicks off with events like MAGFest and Frequency Fest. Thanks for reading.
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