What MLP Fan-Music Can Learn From 2011 10


Gather round, kids, Grandpa Odyssey/Eurobeat Brony is gonna tell you a thing or two about his day, and you whippersnappers better learn summ’it from it.

It’s gonna be a long one, so to get to the content suggested in the title, you’ll have to scroll a ways. I’ve sprinkled in some videos (suggested listening for those interested in the history of MLP:FiM fan music), so if my rambling becomes too long-winded, feel free to simply peruse those.

The position of being the first person to create MLP:FiM fan-music is a fascinating one, in that even if I was to stop participating, I would still be an inextricable part of its history. Other musicians have been able to bow out with varying levels of grace and mystique, or have remained in but been able to change how they are seen; but by being the starting point for the scene I have carved my name into that stone, and much of what occurs beyond it can be attributed to me— or in some cases, blamed on me, and aptly so. I often think about the impact this has on others, and what kinds of things I can (or should, responsibility pending) do to understand the health of this most crazy and mercurial thing.

No, this isn’t going to be “music in 2011 was so much better”. In fact, I dare say that the general production level of music in the MLP:FiM scene has actually gone up since its inception. Right now we have an absolutely mind-boggling amount of content under our belts— in fact, though I forget where the statistic comes from, the MLP:FiM fandom has produced about as much music in three years as the mainstream music industry has published in the last 40-50. We have a lot of finely polished material in this scene, so believe me, neither quantity nor objective quality is at fault here.

The problem is its joy. Much of the first wave of musicians has fallen either into obscurity or out of favor with the scene in general (either by the scene’s determination or the artist’s), and for every finely-crafted instance of sound design in a new release there are two drops of bad blood between two musicians, or musicians and former fans, or musicians and their current fans, or between two fans with differing opinions.

It used to be somewhat more common to hear of musicians being nostalgic for 2011, not all of which was well-placed. I don’t necessarily feel this was because of a sense of hipster-like adherence to a specific style or outright rejection of all things new (though the at-the-time new influx of generic Modern Talking dubstep-fests certainly played its part), but it was difficult to pinpoint exactly why.

I dare to propose that I may understand why. It was, in a phrase, the genuine and unobliged desire and drive to create precisely as that creative mind felt compelled to do so.

Allow me to break two of those points down.

••••••••••••••••

GENUINE – The first track of the MLP:FiM fandom was “Evil Enchantress (Euro Spell Mix)”. It was created as an apology for being unable to extract Flutterguy’s voice from the original titular song. After that day, however, future tracks were made not out of apologies or being told I should, but simply because I was compelled to make more. I genuinely enjoyed the show, and wanted to make something new and unusual to express it. This was before the ‘ponification’ trend— I wasn’t “ponifying” anything, I was “eurobeatifying” MLP.

The point is, I genuinely enjoyed the show, and created driven by that point coupled with a desire to make new music. I sense that this was true for many of the other early pioneers— NotACleverPony, ChainedAlgorithm, PinkiePieSwear, and what have you, even including those who came only shortly after such as JackleApp, MicTheMicrophone, PhillyPu, Baschfire, Makkon, Lavender Harmony… we created because we personally wanted to create.

••••••••••••••••

UNOBLIGATED – This is perhaps my biggest point in this post.

When we started, Equestria Daily was merely a fledgling fanfiction and news site (copying the likes of derpysquad‘s Derpy Hooves News in many ways) started by a Trixie roleplayer from /co/. This isn’t to say that EQD played NO role in helping early musicians; rather, that “getting on EQD” was not yet a checkbox to be ticked or a point of contention for ‘being part of the circlejerk’. We appeared on EQD because we were an unusual and uncommon sight, and thus, at the time, news-worthy in a sense. Sethisto was not obligated to feature our works, nor did we create them for the sole purpose of appearing there.

None of the musicians were held at metaphorical gun-point to create works about MLP. If anything, there was an inherent understanding that these musicians made other music, and MLP was simply part of their subject matter. “Brony musician” simply meant “musician who is also a fan of the show” (back when “brony” meant “fan of the show” without any suggestions towards socio-political opinions, hygiene or fashion sense), and that made sense. Yes, people requested more “pony music”, but this was only because the joy for the show itself was still prevalent. If there was any obligation, it was likely to be based on the influx of new fans who found this new music through a shared interest.

Many core facets of the MLP:FiM fandom were literally reversed if not drastically changed in the summer of 2011, for worse or for better. For our purposes, the most important of these was a general shift from “could” and “want to” to “should and “must”. These took the forms of

  • “I must tell people about this show!” instead of “I want to tell people about this show!”
  • “My friends have to like this show!” instead of “I hope my friends like this show!”
  • “I must contribute to this fandom!” instead of “I want to contribute to this fandom!”

This shift was sparked by a newfound sense of importance in the violent speed in which this unlikely group grew. We had stumbled upon something so new, unique and novel… so the next logical step must be to see it grow even faster! This sense of manifest destiny generated a sense of obligation— “to make this grow faster, we MUST see more material, we MUST spread the word”.

Put another way, I began to hear some people tell me they “felt that they had to contribute to the fandom” around about mid-2012.

There were benefits to this new sense of importance, of course— I seriously question if I would have ever performed my music (or any derivative thereof) in front of a crowd were it not for the huge increase in conventions— but this mindset was, in my opinion, toxic in its implications towards would-be and established content creators. There were now set rules and limitations, milestones and obligations. We began to create with a sense that we ‘had to’.

As more musicians were drawn into the scene, so did the demand on certain news sites that had previously featured other musicians to give them a piece of that pie. As more and more musicians entered, said pie became more difficult to split, and it was only a matter of time before they had to make decisions on who they do feature, and who they don’t. News sites were no longer welcomed to feature new songs, they were obliged.

Being obliged to eat a large ice cream sundae is less fun than eating a single scoop on one’s own accord. The joyful desire to create was replaced with an arbitrary ‘duty’, and this sapped much of the joy out of creating music. Those who stuck with it were rewarded— in some cases, my own included, heavily (in some respects)— but the damage was done.

I wonder how many people would call For The New Lunar Republic “PINO” if it was released today.

••••••••••••••••

These changes had drastic effects on how the newfound “pony music scene” worked. Equestria Daily became, through no effort/desire of their own to be so, the ‘standard’ by which new music was judged. If you appeared, you had ‘made it'; if you didn’t, you either ‘weren’t good enough’ (which wasn’t necessarily the case) or you ‘didn’t have an in with one of the prelisteners’. Folks began listening ONLY to certain musicians and not others, for various reasons. Why take a chance on something new when the old one still works just fine? Why give new talent the opportunity to pleasantly surprise you when you only permit yourself to listen to music with the same subject matter over and over, and the old talent scratches that itch sufficiently? And thus there became a very large, though unspoken and hard to visibly see, barrier to entry for new musicians, and it was reasonable for them to believe this was the fault of the musicians themselves.

We have a lot of angry, bitter, grumpy souls forcing themselves to make music about a show in the hopes that we’ll benefit from it, even if only in the satisfaction that we’ve been heard. Even I’ve found myself succumbing to much of that jaded bitterness, from time to time, losing sight of why I still make music about the show.

About the show…

…what about the show? Wasn’t this the source of our delight and the inspiration for what made the early works so full of joy?

Having recently finished Season 4 myself, I can say that, while some things most definitely have changed in the show, the general sense of fun and delight has not been lost. It remains the cute and entertaining amusement it was in day 1— there is perhaps a sense of departure from the grand adventure on which Mrs. Faust would have sent us were the show still in her control, granted, but it remains every bit as delightful on its own. There have been outside influences, but I dare to argue that little has been done to deter it from the path on which it began— being a well-made show to prove that shows for that demographic do not have to be ear-clutchingly, mind-boilingly terrible for those outside of it.

I’m the problem here.

I let myself forget how wonderful it is to make something new and push myself, even if it does sound less refined, because I was excited to create it. It’s still possible for me to experience the joy I had in remixing “Fluttershy’s Lullaby” and publishing it the day I started making it. It’s still possible for that sense of “because this is fun, and we like creating new things from our inspirations” instead of “because people expect me to, and I need the traffic from EQD to boost my monetized videos”.

••••••••••••••••

So. I finally need to address the title of this VERY long post, what we musicians can learn from 2011. I write these not to teach, but simply to present my own findings on the matter.

CREATE FOR YOURSELF. This isn’t to say “only create for your own eyes and ears”, as there’s something delightful about presenting your work to a receptive audience who supports your work. But one of the primary things we’ve forgotten in this fandom is the notion of creating because we want to, or because we feel like stretching ourselves out and trying new things.

IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE SUBJECT MATTER, LEAVE… FOR YOUR OWN SAKE. This is neither a threat or a suggestion that you should “just get out”. If you don’t enjoy MLP:FiM, why should you force yourself through it just to make a few people on the internet happy? This is a great recipe for frustration and bitterness. So why do it, unless your earnings are so great that you literally cannot afford to do otherwise? You should NEVER be held to creating content about something you no longer care about, and anyone who would seek to do this to someone other than themselves is nothing short of cruel.

IF YOU DO LIKE THE SUBJECT MATTER… INDULGE YOURSELF IN IT. Maybe start with Season 1, where the sense of something new and exciting and wonderful remains intact. Fandom material is one thing, but there’s nothing quite like putting yourself back in the place when you experienced the purest version of that early joy, before there were institutions or obligations, before there were hierarchies and castes, whether implied or explicit.

GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO TAKE A BREAK. I took several breaks during the first two seasons, usually to avoid burnout. Even if you love the subject matter, too much of a good thing can poison your joy for it. Create things inspired by something else, and care not for those who would criticize you for doing so.

DON’T DEPEND ON EQUESTRIA DAILY – FOR BOTH OF YOUR SAKES. I do not envy EQD’s workload right now. They have enough things to worry about before they even touch the music world, which was frankly never supposed to be their focus in the first place. Additionally, many musicians outside of the MLP:FiM world have to make do without an EQD-like news source, instead peddling their works from the ground up and starting at absolute 0.

I encourage other musicians in this scene to follow suit. This way, even if you do appear on EQD, you know you have done so by your own merits, but your success is not dependent entirely upon its decision. You will have done the work any musician should know to do, and you’ll have taken control of your music’s destiny directly.

BE OKAY WITH THE FACT THAT NOT EVERYONE WILL LIKE WHAT YOU DO. This is a hard one for me, as I have this strong sense of “oh but I worked just as hard if not harder on this piece why don’t people like it as muuuuuch” that I really need to get over. Yes, my non-pony work is just as good as my pony work, but that’s not a decision I can force others to make. I can hope for them to open their minds up and try new things, and I’ll encourage it as much as I can, but it’s taken years for me to finally accept that it’s not up to me to change people’s minds on every new thing I release.

One thing I’ve been working on is reaching out to people who dislike my work. Too many people I’ve seen who say “I dislike [artist x]’s music” get crapped on by [artist x]’s fans simply for stating an opinion— it’s a matter of opinion on something that is meant to be subjective. It’s okay. They could still be lovely people in their own right. Grant them that permission, and yourself the notion that what you do might not be for everyone.

••••••••••••••••

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ve been genuinely blessed to have fans from all corners of the planet appreciate my work, tell me that a song of mine got them through a rough patch or gave them the strength and courage they needed to do something that made their lives better. I can’t say it’s always been easy or fun or even good, and I’ve had plenty of rough patches. But I’ve been so fortunate to be part of this ride, and for all the negativity still in the system, there is still joy to be found.

I tell you now, musicians, that the utter delight that was found in making work in 2011 is not gone, as long as there are still those who do not lose that joy to a thirst for fame, fortune, self-righteousness, or simply trying to fit in. The only thing that has truly changed is the fandom itself and time— create with genuine joy and purpose, driven by your own desire to create something new and wonderful, and you’ll have created something well beyond itself.

You’re free to disagree with any and all of what I’ve just said. But dang, it feels nice to get it off my chest.


What Do You Think?

10 thoughts on “What MLP Fan-Music Can Learn From 2011

  • Sethisto Scootaloo

    I do miss the old days. As someone who has to dig through 10-20 of these newer tracks for review forwarding a day, there is a definite sense that people are just busting as many songs as possible in the hopes that they can flood their way to horse fame. Very few new people really take time on their music, and it shows. A couple of them submit songs daily or twice daily, and they are never any good. The originality has died, replaced by “how many pre-made wubs can I layer on top of Generosity to make it look like I did something?!”, followed by angry twitter/tumblr messages when they aren’t added to the already incredibly lax Music of the Day post for their 400 views. I don’t think these guys realize that even if they do improve, people will see their names and jump ship based on experience with that particular musician before even trying their new stuff.

    There is also the issue of the audience as a whole sticking to what they know. It has been a while since we have seen a Glaze or Tombstone pop up, and that may be due in part to the general lack of interest growing among the listeners when it comes to trusting new people. 4everfreebrony for example dropped a song that was at the very pinnacle of pretty much every top 100 at the beginning of the year, and most of his newer stuff is really good in comparison to everything else, yet people just aren’t swarming like they used to. EQD was always a good initial burst, but word of mouth was what really drove those early songs to the 1 million + views range, and it just isn’t happening much anymore.

    People are picky these days, and the “absorb everything” activity is much lower than the pony prime of 2011/2012. I’d recommend these newer guys put forth more of an effort to not just copy whatever samples they can get their hands on, and try to create something original. It’s alright to fail, it’s not alright to throw the same exact thing at the wall 30 more times hoping it will eventually stick.

    And stop sending songs with Trixie on them in attempt to “beat the system” 😡 . I think I see 10 a week.

  • Odyssey Post author

    Hey Seth, no respect lost, man. Just know I didn’t write anything to diss on EQD or say nobody should ever use it/read it, just that musicians should learn to stand on their own two legs instead of make so much more work for you and yours.

    I respectfully disagree that originality is dead, it’s just harder to parse out because of the sheer numbers. The challenge is going to come from them doing their own work, as you said— they have to find a way to stand out from larger numbers than we in the early years had to deal with, so the challenge has only increased since the start. It’s also possible we’ve become burnt out over the years, even with good material it’s possible to simply become tired of all this music coming in.

    It’ll never be easy to reduce EQD’s workload in the music sense, but I do hope it soon becomes more enjoyable. There are still new expressions to be made in this scene, and I look forward to seeing them wrought out in ways that challenge the way things happen today.

  • Chinchillax

    As someone who got into the fandom after all this happened, this is really interesting. I know you come at it from the music side of things, but all of your suggestions apply to other aspects of the fandom as well. I’m having trouble finding something people create for the fandom that doesn’t apply. Writing fanfiction, episode analysis, art, animations… everything fits into what you’ve said in bold.

    Thanks for writing this, I think this is something I needed to read, especially the part about “create for yourself.”

  • Andrew

    As someone who isn’t “horse famous”, has never made a single song, and only joined at the tail end of the fandom’s early days, this still struck home. Just so much of this is so spot on to how I’ve felt for a while, but had no idea how to get it out. Actually, I guess a lot of the old guard fandom feels vaguely like this, but it’s something hard to communicate. Up until now this song has been the closest I’ve felt to someone expressing the 2011 feeling right: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_V8gORnKhk

    I admit, I fell into a lot of the same pitfalls you described here. It never even occurred to me for a while longer than I’d like to admit that most brony musicians would actually be musician bronies, with other interests and inspirations, and would get kind of down when they’d go on extended breaks or leave altogether. Another thing is that I remember specifically telling myself I was *going* to write a fanfic over the summer of 2012. I didn’t care if I had no ideas, I was doing it. Nothing was stopping me. I had to give back to the fandom that gave me so much joy, like it was a debt to pay or something. To hear now two years later that apparently I wasn’t the only one with these feelings at roughly the same time is really interesting. Kind of eerie, really.

    I guess I just have a lot to thank FIM for, especially in terms of music. My iPod would be hundreds of songs fewer if not for the fandom opening my mind to other genres I’d never have given a second thought to beforehand. The thing is, at least for me, back in late 2011 it was really only when a song involved pony could I stomach a genre that I didn’t used to like. Something about the positivity and general awesomeness of MLP extended into everything it touched for me. I honestly can’t explain why this was, and I’ve thankfully branched out since then, but if it wasn’t Wooden Toaster, Sim Gretina, PinkiePieSwear, Alex S or the like there’s a good chance I wouldn’t even consider listening to an electronic song. I swear back then I would’ve enjoyed For The New Lunar Republic less if it weren’t made by and for bronies. I have no idea if other people feel or felt this way, but it seems like it could be a reason why brony musicians lose a lot of their audience for their non-pony songs. Believe me, I feel bad for ever having felt that way, as if pony was the only thing making you guys talented.

  • ExoBassTix

    I’ve long pondered myself over why exactly the brony music scene is the way it is now. I look at Equestria Daily, and scrunch up my face because of all thoughts that got connected with it due to time and influences from both my own experiences and those of others (be them friends or random people I come across).
    I haven’t witnessed the community the way it was in its early times, for I only got into MLP:FiM at the start of 2013. Yet I’ve always been amazed (not in a positive sense, but also not in a negative sense because I personally can’t afford myself to think negative over something like this) by the mindset of people around me. I’ve been featured on a few small compilation albums on MyLittleRemix, and I remember how one of them was submitted to Equestria Daily, but didn’t get on, and everyone from the album just slumped down and felt rejected.

    My only thought at that moment: “why did you make the music that isn’t on EqD at this moment?”

    Having always had the mindset of making music because I wanna make music and enjoy myself, and take any promotion, recognition, and even every individual listen of my work as a welcomed bonus for my effort, I was blown away. To see them be so sad they didn’t get on EqD made me pity them. No joy, as you mentioned in your post, just a feeling of necessity of getting recognition. As if making music (about technicolor magic horses, in this case) is only worth the effort if it gets you popularity.

    I’m glad there are still hobbyist musicians out there who make music for the sake of personal happiness. For the sake of passion. For the sake of fun.

    Saying that reminds me very, very strongly on one particular event that happened around 20/21st of January, 2014. MyLittleRemix got stirred up, for things happened that all people had entirely different opinions about. I’m talking about Freewave, I’m talking about Circuitfry, but most importantly, which I’ll focus this text on, I’m talking about Balloon Party.

    Balloon Party has been a big thing. I don’t have to have been a part of the first edition of Balloon Party, “100% No Feeble Cheering,” to know how that went down. I read through the archives on MLR that hold the discussions about Balloon Party when it was going on, before the deadline. People were just having a good time, coming together to make music about pastel colored ponies who go on adventures to learn about the magic of friendship. And that all got accentuated with what happened afterwards: lots of participating people got money that was raised through the released Balloon Party albums themselves, so they could afford a trip to the big beacon of unity at the time: BronyCon USA. And they got together. I can only imagine all these people laughing or smiling, talking about random subjects that may or may not have something to do with ponies, music, or music about ponies (perhaps Balloon Party). No obligation to do anything. At all.

    A year later (if I’m not mistaken; I could well be), Rainbow & Rooted: Four’s Fall Down came around the corner. I was there at the time, and I witnessed it all: the drama, the frustration, the hesitation to get music done to send in, everything. People -needed- things to go a certain way (opinions became facts, making some people very, very angry towards people with different ‘facts’), and people -needed- to be a part of Rainbow & Rooted because they -needed- to be brought together at BronyCon (even I worked my ass off, WITHOUT ANY FUN WHATSOEVER, just because I succumbed to the knowledge that I could just see these people I -had- to meet if only I got on the album, plus the knowledge I would get loads of recognition (I remember the time producing it as a very big torture, for I spent every breathing second being annoyed by my collab partner because things weren’t moving along or going the way they should go)).

    It was already a big shock to have seen that happen, even though I was less ‘mature’ at the time and just adapted, went with the flow. After all I was, and still am, young.

    When Academy of Power came around the corner, Circuitfry had started the project on his lonesome, without MLR (having stated to be done with the place and a specific person on it, after he got banned for actions that nobody except he will ever understand completely). People were not told anything, it just happened.

    Circuitfry removed the five BP/R&R albums from Bandcamp shortly after his banishment/self-appointed exile from MLR, or to be more precise, make them private and only allow a small amount of people to download the albums with download codes he generated. He also posted on his Tumblr, which I coincidentally happened to see, that he was looking for someone to redistribute the albums. I told MLR about that, nobody having known it before I told them, and everybody said something in the lines of “yeah someone really should do that, importance yadda yadda MLR should be the owner of the albums bla bla,” but nobody actually went and did it, and having no reason to not do it myself, I stepped up to Circuitfry and he gave me the albums.

    To cut this side-story short, miscommunications happened, more drama happened, there was even a brief moment of lingering anger for past actions which made people draw back to their shells yet again, let’s just say things went downhill pretty bad.

    The project is still alive to this day, and I’m following its progress voluntarily, because I know what Balloon Party has given the community in times past, and I hold on to the maybe futile hope (that I don’t know, but strive to find out) that Academy of Power can be an alike thing. Just fun, no obligations.

    Just now I was asking a friend of mine to read this post of yours. I’m gonna quote exactly what he told me.
    “Dude, if a fanbase has been shitty since the second season, and there are now 4 seasons and the 2nd movie upcoming… it’s probably time to leave.”

    Maybe I’m a stubborn optimist. Maybe I am. But I’ll tell you right here and now, that I will never stop having faith in the community and it’s people, to move towards better times.

    People can change. Both for the worse, but even importantly, for the better.

  • ph00tbag

    I have to agree. Even among the artists that I subscribe to in my wish to find, cultivate, and promote other musicians, as part of my contributions to FiMMusic, among those who have impressed at the very least with one or two tracks that were brilliant, there are many who pump out a new tune at least every week, and it just seems like every new tune feels progressively less inspired and more forced. Its the guys that do this that really inundate the community to the point where it is literally work for me to try and keep up with as much of the music side of the community as possible, and given the amount of stuff that just doesn’t feel inspired. Considering I actually have obligations that require me to be so attentive, I don’t mind doing this, but if I have to be this constantly active to be aware of everything going on, I can see why there’s flagging interest in new musicians; someone who isn’t trying to write a blog post about lesser known musicians every two weeks has no reason to listen to the same rotation of joyless music every week.

    I think if everyone just wrote pony music when, and only when, the show made it all just spill out, then I think interest would improve overall.

  • Qbe Root (@Qbe_Root)

    It’s throwback time! This week, Sethisto wrote a general lookback on the fandom since its beginning and now, you write about how the pony music scene changed. And after reading both articles, I feel like I joined the Herd far too late!

  • taƵe (@UndercoverBrony)

    By reading your blog entry, oddessy. I have realized that putting your music out there just to increase views and become “Horse-Famous” is not all there is to making music centered around colorful little horses. You have taught me that I should have fun in doing what I want to do. I should not “have” to make music; I should “want” to make music. Also, recently my work has been seen by more and more people and I felt that I “had” to keep making music regularly. But ready this blog gives me the sense again that I should be able to enjoy what I put out on the internet and I should enjoy doing it. Thank you!

  • MG

    I completely agree withall the comments stated above.
    It is a thing wwhere people think that they can just throw something together and just call it art. But its more or less a process to where if your not satisfied with your own work noone else will. Yeah you will always have those haters out there that say you can’t do it or say that its not possible. But you gotta be the one to defy those odds. Don’t be the person that does exactly what everyone else is doing because it seems cool, do it beacause you have a passion for it. Do it for yourself first and or fame last. It is about the journey and the story that you can tell after each song you make. Which is the achievement on why you do it for yourself in the first place!