Happy New Year ChipWINners! Welcome back to my column, So You Wanna Make A Chiptune! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Normally, I’ve reserved SYWMAC for the review of hardware and software related to the production of chiptune to help you determine what would be best suited for you. However, with this being the first article of the new year, I thought I’d talk about something just as important: motivation.
I’m sure a great many of you have made resolutions to become more active, steadfast and prolific with your creative endeavors. Just like with any other resolution, I know you’re going to need help staying focused. It’s okay: concentrating on new goals, New Year’s resolutions or otherwise, can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources within the scene to help you stay motivated! If you’re willing to work towards your larger goal by doing smaller goals, you’re guaranteed to make your dreams a reality in no time. Let’s not waste any more time. Come along with me as I guide you beautiful unicorns to pristine waters that I hope you will drink from!
Battle of the Bits
Battle of the Bits was a site I was first introduced to by one of my senpai in the scene, the incomparable Alex Mauer. When we first started talking about music and the things we wanted to hear in chiptune, he encouraged me to improve by taking part of One Hour Competitions (OHCs) that would encourage rapid song making and force me to my creative limits. I had no idea what he was talking about, so he sent me a link to a very colorful website, and what I bore witness to was truly remarkable.
Founded by the bearded wonder Baron Knoxburry, Battle of the Bits is a website that encourages creativity by approaching it like an MMORPG! People post challenges to the website, and dependent on the rules of that challenge, will have a limited amount of time and/or resources available to them with which to create a song that will then be voted upon by other members of the community as champion of the competition! Are songs not your thing? Fear not, because, for the visualists, illustrators and graphic designers out there, there are also visual battles in which illustrations, visuals and the like are to be made using specific color palettes, paint brushes and time limits, as well!
Does this sound exciting to you? Perhaps daunting? I will admit, especially if you’re new, it can be a bit of both. My one criticism of the site is that between its very busy, colorful layout and some of the immediately available FAQs on the site, it can be a little hard to digest the finer details of BotB. I ended up having to do a bit of lurking and digging to find comprehensive breakdowns of the terms and gaming system the community uses. There is, quite frankly, a lot of info to take in. From the various types of competitions (the most famous being the aforementioned OHC) to the leveling system, the currency earned and awards rewarded to the types of classes people gain. It can be pretty intimidating. If you take that time to lurk, however, it will be worth it, because BotB will look even more enticing to you once you get it.
However, for those who need the tl;dr: You start as a level 1 Noob. From there, based on your activity on the site and how others interact with you, you will gain experience. 25 points are needed to go from Noob to Playa. From there, depending on your specialization, you can become one of ten classes, including chipist (reserved for the chiptune composers), pixelist (for the visual artists), or criticist (for those who actively participate in the voting and judging of various competitions) just to name a few. Its a lot of fun, and from what I can tell, it is possible to multi-class, meaning the more you participate with the site, the more you’ll level up and become the equivalent of that guy in the comic book shop with a reserved seat in the table top gaming section because he’s been playing Magic since the mid 90s.
If you’re the kind of person who needs competition to thrive or who needs to feel like something is fun as opposed to it being work, Battle of the Bits may be the community for you. With it’s playful, welcoming atmosphere, charming community and bevy of available gameplay options, BotB may be the best game you’re not playing, and I encourage you to check it out.
Weekly Beats 2016
If you don’t like approaching your work as play, if you need a regular, scheduled regimen in order to zero-in on your goals, Weekly Beats may be more up your alley. Presented as a personal commitment one makes to themselves, like working out regularly, Weekly Beats is a community based on the idea that creativity can be cultivated if one stays the course and does their best to maintain a constant work flow. Founded back in 2012 by the devilishly handsome Trash80, what separates Weekly Beats from many of the other options listed here is that it isn’t geared primarily towards chiptune. Rather, regardless of how you create your music, all you have to do is submit a song that’s at least a minute long in mp3 format once a week by midnight on Monday. It’s that simple.
One week allows ample time for you to get your creative juices flowing for a song. Furthermore, unlike Battle of the Bits, if you can’t submit, it’s not a problem. Weekly Beats isn’t a competition, it’s just a suggested schedule. If you would like more interactivity, you’re more than welcome to post in the forums. Once there, you can have questions answered about the community and the deadlines, find resources that can be incredibly useful for song creation (including a pdf of a scale booklet made by Brackleforth) and request CC (constructive criticism).
All in all, Weekly Beats is personal commitment. If you happen to fall off the wagon because you got lazy or life got in the way, don’t beat yourself up. Just do your best to stay the course and keep improving. Even if your song doesn’t get a lot of downloads or listens, what matters is that you do this for you, and that in the end, you find it within yourself to be proud of your commitment to your creativity.
Webshows: Clipstream and Digital Underdogs
Maybe personal fulfillment isn’t for you. Perhaps what you crave is something more satisfying, more public, something to feed your ego. If what you need is for senpai to notice you, to be recognized by your peers as great, then you should strongly consider signing up to do a streaming show.
Clipstream and Digital Underdogs are shows that are run by two well respected titans in the scene, each with their own vibe, feel and appeal. If you’re the kind of person who wants to party with strictly chiptune people, derp around online, and play with a crowd you’re used to seeing in the Chiptunes = WIN Facebook group, Clipstream might be for you. Run by Glenntai with help with several other members of the scene, including Casshern and SPRY, Clipstream started shortly after the success of a multi artist show celebrating the release of Frostbyte‘s album ‘Codex’. The show was the first I had ever seen of it’s kind, and included performances by Vince Kaichan, StormBlooper, Boaconstructor, Electric Children and Frostbyte himself. After seeing how well that took off, Clipstream took the lead from there and has become a semi regular event since.
Usually held monthly, Glenntai hosts event pages that get posted both on the Clipstream Fanpage as well as other well known FB chiptune community pages and encourages people to sign up to do a set. Aside from special events–such as streaming shows from MAGFest, BRKFest or 8static Fest–each set is 20 minutes in length, and you get to do almost anything you want during it. From performing in your living room to posting animated gifs on screen while your music plays, so long as what you’re doing is morally decent and doesn’t violate Twitch’s code of conduct, you’re more than welcome to play pretty much anything you want on Clipstream that’s chiptune. It’s a fun experience, and it’s one I’m definitely looking forward to doing again. It does, however, have a drawback: its popularity. Depending on the time of year, Clipstream can fill up very quickly, and is often run in a first come, first serve manner. While drop outs and fill-ins happen from time to time, it is strongly advised that if you want to participate, you be vigilant in watching for new events. If you’re not, you can find yourself waiting another month to perform with the jolly crew of misfits that are regulars to the event.
The Digital Underdogs stream, DuD Live, is of a similar vein. Hosted and run by Kloudygirl, DuD is a collective of eclectic electronic artists who come together to do a variety of events, but are primarily known for their compilations and their live streams. The show is hosted on Ustream, which has been a mainstay digital venue for Kloudygirl over the years. Unlike Clipstream, DuD gets backed up regularly group’s Youtube channel for later viewing, which makes for a wonderful sharing experience for those who aren’t able to tune in. (Clipstream does have a Youtube Channel, but it doesn’t get used as often). DuD is also a more diverse collective, meaning you will be among a bevy of performers who aren’t strictly chiptune. This can be a good thing, as it’ll allow you to broaden your horizons and make new friends along the way outside of your normal social circles. It is, however, an event that lives up to its group’s name, being composed primarily of people considered underdogs in their various niches. As such, DuD doesn’t always have the same pull or appeal as Clipstream. However, this also means that DuD is usually much easier to get in on. If you don’t want to fight against a crowd that can build around Clipstream, then consider checking out DuD Live. It definitely deserves more attention, and is just as satisfying a digital venue to play.
My next recommendation is one that combines aspects of all three of the previous offerings. It is competitive, requires personal commitment, can boost one’s ego, and drastically increase one’s recognition in the scene if they are successful. What I am talking about is compilations. Whether it’s through a dedicated chiptune label like us here at Chiptunes=WIN
or Pterodactyl Squad, or a collective of mixed variety like Kaleidoscopic Artist Productions or I Thought You Were A Marxist Records. Being a part of a compilation can be an incredibly fun, rewarding, and challenging means of upping your productivity in 2016. You could end up, in an effort to impress others, outdoing your own expectations in way you never saw, and that’s an exciting prospect. Furthermore, getting recognized via a compilation can open unexpected doors, and can help garner a following that leads to work opportunities, commissions, invitations to perform and much more. It’s a chance at the dream realized, to become the richest kind of rich the world has to offer: chiptune rich.
However, using a compilation as motivation has drawbacks similar to that of Weekly Beats, in that, more than anything, its on you to keep going to decide if you’ll make the deadline or not. Futhermore, because compilations are less frequent, if you miss the deadline, that’s it. You’ll have to wait for another compo to release your goodness and hope that what you’ve produced meets the criteria set by the record label. Otherwise, you’ll have to start from scratch again, and that can be an awful feeling. Another pitfall of compilations is that they usually allow a considerable length of time for people to work and submit to them. As such, people will often take that time for granted and let life or laziness get in the way. It’s incumbent upon you to stay on your game if you’re going to contribute. Conversely, the one thing that may be most risky about relying on compilation deadlines for motivation is perfectionism. Certainly you want to do what you can to put your best foot forward so you can be a part of an awesome collective. If, however, you get too caught up in fine tuning, if you start beating up on yourself and become too self-critical, you can end up becoming less productive than you intended. So, if you are planning on doing a compilation, consider your personality first before going for broke. The last thing you need is to be self critical to the point of stagnation.
Facebook Pages for some Record Labels:
ChipWIN | Kaleidoscopic Artist Promotions | Pterodactyl Squad | Micro Collective | I Though You Were A Marxist | Ubiktune | OC Remix | Digital Underdogs | Data Airlines | CouCou Micromusic | 56KBPS | Cheapbeats | Bleepstreet | Gamechops | 8bitpeoples | monobomb | CalmDownKidder |
Bonus Tip: Concerts, Fests and Shows
This last suggestion is one that I find very helpful. While all the previous suggestions are based around working at a steady pace (or giving yourself a fixed deadline by which to get something done) this one is about something that often goes ignored or understated, and that’s enthusiasm. While the Internet can be a great resource for many things, and we spend a great deal of time on it, truth be told, nothing beats the experience of partying with your fave people irl. Whether it be at an annual event like MAGFest or Freq. Fest., a monthly event like I/O Chip Music or Pulsewave, or just a one-off event that happens to have people performing and hanging out, the benefits of going to a live event can be huge. They won’t make you a better composer, and they won’t make you more steadfast with your work, but the social connectivity of being with other people can make you more optimistic, more passionate and more included in a scene that has been growing rapidly since I first became a part of it in 2012. Whether it’s just to have a good time, to get advice in person from someone in scene, or just to see how someone gets through their performances, the positive effects that a live show can have on you are tremendous.
So if you are able to attend one, what’s holding you back? Crippling anxiety? Trust me when I say that the chiptune scene is harmless. There’s a reason why people like Pixel8ter and Dino Lionetti of Cheap Dinosaurs refer to chiptune as the “Social Anxiety Dance Scene”: you will never, in your life, meet a group of more socially awkward, derpy, charming, good looking people in your life than you will in chiptune. In that combination, anyway. If you take those things individually, that’s a different story, but together, we’re top notch. And guess what? You’re a part of that, too. So if you’re feeling down about yourself in anyway, don’t worry: we’ve all been there, and chances are we’ll love you for you. Just don’t be a dick.
That’s it for this edition of SYWMAC. I hope these tips give you the determination you need to keep working towards your goals. Please continue to check back with us on here on the ChipWIN blog for more cool reading material, and continue to work towards the goals you have deep inside. We can’t all be famous, but if success to you is being more productive and being more involved in this scene, then consider this your pre-emptive invitation. You have what it takes to make your dreams come true. I believe in you. Make it happen.
Love and Peace.
\m| (=^(T)^=) |m/