I’ve begun a special project here at the blog. But before I tell you what, I have to tell you why.
When I was a junior in college, I took a music business class as part of my minor in euphonium performance. The major paper for this class was to evaluate a certain portion of the music industry and analyze how people in it work – are they making money, how to network, where shows were happening, what people who interacted with that part of the music industry were like – all in hopes that by the end of it, we as musicians would have already built up at least a baseline knowledge and series of contacts to get going with our music careers. Having recently gone to MAGFest and been introduced to chiptunes, and knowing that the only way to be a professional euphonium player in America is to join the Army band, I decided I wanted to learn more about what was going on there – who the major players were, how people were getting jobs or if they were getting jobs at all. I ended up contacting Rob Carballo of geekbeatradio about it, and the next thing I knew I was hopping a train to Boston to interview DJ CUTMAN (then just a small-time artist peddling his home-burned mix CDs at MAGFest), Inverse Phase and James of BR1GHT PR1MATE.
As fate would have it, that trip forced me to drop out of the class to avoid failing it due to a large number of absences (protip: if you’re exhausted and sad all the time and don’t know why, get checked for depression, kids!). When I told my professor about landing those interviews, he told me I’d need to drop the class, but also said that he would be failing as an educator not to tell me to follow my dreams if I felt this was really something that was going to help me, because that was the whole point of the class in the first place. We shook hands, and I caught that train. The interviews were wonderful. Rob and all of the geekbeat crew were amazing. It was one of the best trips of my young life. And it set the stage for Brandon Hood to contact me and ask if I wanted to start blogging here with ChipWIN, which ended up netting me college credit for an internship regardless, so in a way I still ended up ahead. (And now you know why I write under the ChipWIN-tern handle.) So began my proper introduction to the chiptune world.
Believe it or not, I didn’t actually watch Reformat The Planet until about two years ago. Up until that time, I was happily plodding along, reviewing albums, learning about artists and finding out that maybe some people had been around a little bit longer than others, but without really having any context or history. And then Dan Davis found out, sat me down, and made me watch it. To see all of these well known people so young and full of hope was amazing – until I realized that most of them aren’t in the scene anymore. And the more I looked, the more I realized that many of the people who were present in that film don’t interact with “The Scene” in the grand sense in any meaningful way anymore. Some folks made it big and got out, like ANAMANAGUCHI. Some folks kept doing chiptune as a hobby while pursuing other projects like they had always done, like glomag. But many people started their chiptune pursuits in the shadow of those people and of events like BlipFest, and they were the ones who were shaping how we look at chiptune now – and those are the people that I need to talk to. These are the people who, were I writing that paper that I had left abandoned on an old dead Lenovo laptop, would be the ones who could shed light on what the modern chiptune scene looked like, and how people made a living with it – or not! Because in my time writing for this blog I learned that most people don’t want to make a living off of chiptune! Loads of people just want to make music because creating music is their passion – just like the people who got the New York scene up and going almost a decade ago.
It’s time I un-bench this project.
Over the next several months, I will be interviewing people all over the country about their experiences in the time since the days of BlipFest. I’ll be digging into what really keeps “The Scene” alive – where the major centers of creativity are, how people are getting their names out, and how people forge on from the trails blazed by those kids who thought making their Game Boy into a musical instrument wasn’t a hilariously bad idea. This will be predominately focused on the current American chiptune scene, but I hope to pull in some artists from across the pond to weigh in as well. I’ll be talking to people with all kinds of views about chiptune – people who still do it as a hobby, people who make their money off of it, people who used it as a springboard for other things. I’ll be looking at what the actual costs of being a chiptune musician are (aside from ordering pizzas) – what it costs to have your own website, which methods of putting your music up online are the most successful and/or easy, what the costs of merchandise and travel look like, and perhaps most importantly, what the real cost of gear looks like – especially for people who do visuals for chiptune, because while making music is what most people think of when you think of chiptune, the live performance aspect covered by visualists is just as important. Some of those interviews will end up as separate pieces here on the blog, some won’t. Some byproducts of this will be articles you would normally expect from the ChipWIN-tern Spotlight column – live event coverage, for example (see you at lwlvl!).
And the best part of this for you guys? It doesn’t cost you a dime. I’m not doing a fundraising campaign for this, it’s all on me. You guys just get to sit back and read this when it’s done in a few months. And hopefully, if you get an email from me, you’ll take a few minutes to answer some questions.
Don’t stop following your dreams.