Make a joyful noise. October 2, 2007 5:31 AM   Subscribe

First MeFi Music Challenge? 27 eager participants got their feet wet. Second Challenge? 12 serpentine submissions. Third? 9 MeFiers took it to the bridge. Fourth and most recent? 7 made the suprhuman effort. This is not a promising trend...

What I'd like to do here with this MeTa post, in the face of these dwindling numbers, is first off to urge the admins to not lose faith in the Challenge idea (cause I did note a tone of disappointment, I guess, in Matt's voice as he mentioned this latest Challenge in the recent podcast...), and to urge MeFi Musicers to renew their efforts toward the goal of keeping this thing alive and breathing. And to ask one and all of those interested if there's perhaps anything else we can do to keep this afloat, to keep it interesting. Any new ideas? Suggestions?
posted by flapjax at midnite to MetaFilter Music at 5:31 AM (68 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

My humble committment to you: As soon as I have the money for some recording equipment, I will participate in every single challenge.

Not much of a suggestion, I know.

So I'd be tempted to let this run it's own course. The MeFi community itself is stable enough to support Music as a section - I think it's proving popular, (although I have nothing to back that claim up with) and so maybe this is something that has to find its own level. Perhaps fretting about it will make it worse?

Could I be any more oblique?
posted by Jofus at 5:45 AM on October 2, 2007

Have there been that many, already? Maybe cut down on the frequency, so it becomes a bit more special as opposed to rote and perhaps boring. The MeFi Swap that Dreams runs always seems to be a bit, but that's what, two times a year?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:49 AM on October 2, 2007

I think the disappointment was just because there weren't more great superhero songs and you're not going to be able to do much about that, but we did mention it and try to publicize it. maybe we need to sidebar it before the due date. As I said, I think this time of year in the US is busytime for people. Maybe we need prizes? (are there prizes? I am not a musician, clearly, but I do have a banjo now)
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:59 AM on October 2, 2007

Yeah, less frequent. People are more inclined to wimp out if they know they can just catch the next one pretty soon.
posted by hermitosis at 6:04 AM on October 2, 2007

I nth suggestion "less frequent" for justifactory reasons X, Y, Z already stated.
posted by Kwine at 6:15 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

One way to look at it: the theme thing is nice, and I'd actually be for keeping it going on a monthly basis, but we could try making more of a Big Deal out of it once a quarter maybe. So there'll be a theme for October (speaking of which...theme for October?) and November but then in December there will be a Theme, By God. Or something.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:15 AM on October 2, 2007

(That is to say, I don't see a problem with only seven entries on a given month, per se, though I think a couple dozen is a lot more awesome. As it is, we had I think 59 songs posted to Music last month. That's a healthy crop, thematic or no.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:17 AM on October 2, 2007

Most people I know who produce music really loathe the process of creating commissioned work, and that's when they're getting -paid- to produce somebody else's idea. I think it's just stabilized at the level of people happen to be in the mood to create a song with an externally-chosen theme every month. Maybe prizes would help; even if they're just of token value.
posted by tehloki at 6:32 AM on October 2, 2007

I would like to see a "Bob Dylan cover song" theme, I would be so totally there, dudes.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:47 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

You know, Meatbomb, I bet that would get a lot of folks over to MeFiMu to check out the results. I think a "cover this artist" theme would be a fine idea, once in a while.

And, um, yeah, mods, this month's theme? Please?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:04 AM on October 2, 2007

then in December there will be a Theme, By God.

Is God a member? No dios jokes, please. Or was He just brought in as a ringer because the themes mortal MeFites suggested weren't getting good enough results?
posted by languagehat at 7:09 AM on October 2, 2007

I've meant to do something for the past couple challenges, but I suck. I'll try to, you know, keep the sucking under control, and get something done for the next one.
posted by danb at 7:24 AM on October 2, 2007

(Also, for what it's worth, I totally flaked on this one. I wrote it—it is, in fact, about Batman—and it's all ready to record [and I "wrote" an alternate too, even, called Clark Kunt], but I just didn't get around to it. So I hear you, danb.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 AM on October 2, 2007

Or was He just brought in as a ringer because the themes mortal MeFites suggested weren't getting good enough results?

Actually, languagehat, God thinks all the results are GOOD. But He'd just like to hear more of them.

As for me, I'd like to go on record as saying that a monthly challenge is not too often. I think if it's less than monthly, it runs the risk of getting to diffuse, or invisible or something... and I'd also echo cortex's comment that 7 results, as we've seen for this past month, is not necessarily all that bad. Still, it's the steadily diminishing number of entries, over the course of the last 4 challenges, that does have me a bit concerned.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:36 AM on October 2, 2007


(1) n+1ing the "less frequent" idea.

(2) Keep submissions open for longer; perhaps a monthly challenge.

(3) A prize would be swell. Nothing like incentive.

(4) In lieu of a prize, have some additional recognition elsewhere on the site - perhaps a sidebar mention, a post to MeFi or MeTa, or a little banner across the top of the site.

(5) I like the theme ideas just fine, but since I only do instrumental music, its sometimes hard for me to come up with something that obviously works with themes, so I haven't submitted anything yet. Perhaps you could incorporate different types of challenges: cover songs; length restrictions (best song under a minute; best song exactly 2:32 long; etc.); instrumental restrictions (best song with an oboe sound in it); incorporation of found sounds (sorta the musical equivalent of the Worth1000 photoshop contests - best use of this loop of an industrial meat grinder, etc.). And so forth.
posted by googly at 7:43 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

awesome ideas, googly.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:15 AM on October 2, 2007

if there's perhaps anything else we can do to keep this afloat, to keep it interesting.

Incorporate sex or death somehow. I'm only halfway kidding here, but do more fun stuff, like best 80s guitar solo or an online jam session where someone starts with the melody, passes it to antoher, who lays in drums, then so and so. or use any two (and only two) instruments to do songs about X.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:17 AM on October 2, 2007

Clarification: challenges currently are at a month. Possible that the "about" page needs updating to reflect that, though.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:20 AM on October 2, 2007

Maybe the winner could have the musical notes used to indicate a featured song appended to their username for their month as champ?
posted by Abiezer at 9:31 AM on October 2, 2007

I dunno how the prize would be awarded, though -- maybe everyone who participates would get it?

Fuckin' pinko.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:35 AM on October 2, 2007

Maybe the winner could have the musical notes used to indicate a featured song appended to their username for their month as champ?

At the moment—and as of fairly recently—songs that are featured in the podcast get a little music-note widget displayed on the song page. Doesn't correspond directly to the music challenge, but there's often overlap.

I don't know if sticking something next to someone's username sitewide would be a great idea. Matt only did the gold star thing twice; once, on a lark, for Stan Chin, and then he took it away again because it was causing constant "what's with THAT" headaches; and again much later with the August Contest, and that had the same revokation denouement. It's just a weird thing to do, in the context of mefi, even though I dig the motivation for the suggestion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 AM on October 2, 2007

Fair enough, cortex. Top of my head response to the incentive idea above, and it's not as if I participate in music as anything other than a listener.
Only counter-argument to what you say that springs to mind is that maybe the "what's with that?" will make for the ideal opportunity to promote the contest to those not visiting the Music sub-site - if the tedious repetition of the question and response doesn't do for everyone first.
posted by Abiezer at 9:53 AM on October 2, 2007

If I may be frank, I never really bought into the "What's with that" argument because it can be easily solved by making the badge (in whatever shape or form) clickable and linking to an explanation. Or even just a DHTML title.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:02 AM on October 2, 2007

As a non-participant in all this, I'd just like to say that Googly's fifth suggestion is the one that would get me visiting MeFi Music more than once a month.
posted by Partial Law at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2007

Perhaps you could incorporate different types of challenges...
"..., best metal polka, ..."
posted by Wolfdog at 10:43 AM on October 2, 2007

Nah.... bagpipe ballads!.....
posted by Wilder at 10:51 AM on October 2, 2007

If it makes anyone feel better, I wrote a song for bridge (but didn't have time to record) and I wrote a song for superhero (but didn't have time to record) -- and my superhero song is much better than my bridge song. So in this one data point, at least the quality trend is improving...
posted by davejay at 10:56 AM on October 2, 2007

I tried writing a song for bridge, but then it turned into a sick, monstrous game wherein I tried to find a rhyme for "Susquehanna" in each of the 13+ verses of the song.
It almost killed me.

I've been avoiding MeMu out of a combo of shame and fear ever since.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:02 AM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I still think we should think about changing our idea of "theme." I know some folks are too keen on the idea of "guidelines," but what about just trying it out once?
posted by ORthey at 11:03 AM on October 2, 2007

I'd be down with making October the month of Experimenting With Different Theme Types.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:11 AM on October 2, 2007

Probably not plural Theme Types, unless you're radical enough to propose a couple different ones for the month. Are you that radical?
posted by Wolfdog at 11:15 AM on October 2, 2007

Alvy, you just needed to visit RhymeZone.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:17 AM on October 2, 2007

*Smacks forehead*

Ethiopian banana! Of course!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:31 AM on October 2, 2007

I only submitted for the snake one, came close on the last two but just didn't get it together. I blame it on busy time of year. I'm satisfied so far with the themes and once a month rotation (not that experimentation would be bad). As for increasing participation, maybe some "submissions so far" (or a submission count) could be featured at the top of the page in the Challenge banner? I had no idea the numbers were dropping off and might have been motivated a bit more to get things done had I known.
posted by erikgrande at 11:45 AM on October 2, 2007

I really like the idea of having there be a theme that can help instrumentalists as well...I might participate in that case, and I'm sure I'm not the only one on MeFi with a lackluster singing voice, but a little bit of playing talent.
posted by DMan at 1:54 PM on October 2, 2007

This might have been mentioned before, but an easy way to increase participation would be to lower bar. What about a mash-up theme? More people have access to audio editors than an entire home studio. Like googly suggested, maybe the theme could be an actual audio clip or even a drum loop or chord change. Actually, a chord progression (or a bass line) would be a really interesting theme for the challenge.
posted by imposster at 2:42 PM on October 2, 2007

I haven't forgotten about the challenges but have been pretty darn busy recently (intercontinental moves and new job and whatnot). Should be back recording again pretty soon though! I like the idea of mixing it up a bit though!
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:03 PM on October 2, 2007

I like the idea of covers too. I'm not much of a writer, but it could be fun for people to put their own spin on popular (or not-so-popular) music. I'd enter that challenge.
posted by itchylick at 4:07 PM on October 2, 2007

Well, posts like this will get folks to go check it out.

Lengthening the time period might be good too, like davejay mentions, it can take more than a month to put something decent together. Maybe two months or quarterly?

I have no qualms with "guidelines" or experimenting with the themes.

I would like to suggest "Halloween" for October. Anything scary, spooky, spoken word ghost stories, dark, mysterious.

Regarding prizes; I don't really care about "winning" anything, but if we did do that, we really should extend time lines so that people can put together their best work.

Finally, JESSAMYN GOT A BANJO! Do tell, what kind did you get? I'm really excited for you.

Flapjax, thanks for posting this!
posted by snsranch at 4:16 PM on October 2, 2007


It's more of a banjo-mandolin and it looks vaguely homemade. Maybe it's just an oatmal box and a rubberband.... Seriously, I can't play I just like to tang on it practically drone-style when I'm feeling like I need a little bringdown. Very calming. I'll put a photo up at some point.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:48 PM on October 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think 7 is actually better than 27. I felt like a lot of the songs (mine included) just got lost in the volume during the first month. I know I didn't listen to them all (and felt guilty about that.) I also am in googly's position, where sure, I can call any song I want a name that has something to do with the theme, but otherwise it's sometimes pretty hard to see how exactly I can connect my instrumental music to a superhero or a snake. I have produced a few new songs during the intervals of the following challenges, but they just haven't seemed relevant at all.
posted by advil at 5:12 PM on October 2, 2007

advil, I get what you're saying about relevance. I think of it as I would with other forms of music that have no lyrics. It's about what you cause your audience to feel and visualize. That's much more difficult than "Woo hoo, I'm a snake-tada!" But it can be done. Actually "ripples" is a good example.

jessamyn, congrats, vaguely homemade sounds really cool. Ceegar-box style.
posted by snsranch at 5:29 PM on October 2, 2007

As a songmaker who hasn't participated in these yet, either due to lack of time (bridge, water) or disinterest (superhero), I nevertheless have thoughts.

I think monthly is fine, but maybe it would be better if the next month was announced a month ahead of time. For example:

"October's theme is 'spooky' -- let's get those spooky songs up! November's theme will be 'monkeys,' so start thinking about it now!"

That way I always have a choice of what to be inspired by. If "spooky" leaves me unmoved, I can move on to next month. Also, if I am inspired by "monkeys" but am short on time -- I have two months to get something done!

As far as the themes themselves go -- "water" is fun because it can be interpreted several different ways -- the song can be about water, it can have watery metaphors -- or it can include the sounds of actual water, or sounds reminiscent of water. This is somewhat less true of "serpentine" -- even less true of "bridge" -- and the leastest true of "superheroes," the theme that I not coincidentally found least interesting.

I don't necessarily have a solution to that, but it's something to think about, especially as it pertains to the concerns of the instrumental artists.

I also agree, again and enthusiastically, with ORthey's "guidelines" thought, and googly has some great ideas.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 8:14 PM on October 2, 2007

cortex: "... Theme, By God ...."

There you go - December's theme: By God.
posted by dg at 8:38 PM on October 2, 2007

Karlos the Jackal you make some very good points. I really appreciate your ideas about time line and the timely presentation of it.

This isn't an RPM challenge or the other writing challenge, the name of which escapes me. (NANOWRIMO?) Anyway, this thing is evolving and that's cool. But I can see that quality is going to be a factor and that requires more time.
posted by snsranch at 8:57 PM on October 2, 2007

Not that I've followed this or anything, but is 7/27 from initial interest to final production such a horrible showing? This post seems to crap a bit on the folks who made it to the end (as if their effort, while "superhuman," are ultimately inadequate).

Nothing inspires broad participation like condescending doom & gloom... Pardon me if I'm butting in where I don't know what I'm talking about. Just imparting my impression of this post's rather dim tone.
posted by scarabic at 9:09 PM on October 2, 2007

Hokay... nevermind... I'm being an ass. Four separate events... less participation each time... I was definitely missing the point. Please ignore my previous comment.
posted by scarabic at 9:14 PM on October 2, 2007

Hey scarabic, it's nice to hear you chime in!

I've been a fan of your's for a long time, but I haven't seen you comment on MuFi, and I think that's at least part of the reason flapjax made this post.

People don't have to actually post music to participate. Your comments there would be really appreciated.
posted by snsranch at 9:27 PM on October 2, 2007

I'm not on MeMu (see what a dork I am?) much because I have terrible taste in music and no ability. Those are both gross exaggerations that I hope will hide the more embarassing facts that I love music and even play a little but find it impossible to discuss and almost never want to hear any music composed by someone I have met (even less so after having ludwigvan's "Julia" stuck in my head for over three weeks once, which was almost unbearable, lovely though it is and scantly though I could differentiate a "uvula" from a "vulva" at the time).
posted by scarabic at 12:30 AM on October 3, 2007

I've been meaning to upload more and participate in the challenges but annoyingly can't seem to find a workaround to the 'uploading mp3s is broken with Firefox on Linux' problem I've been having. It seems to insist the files are m4u's, whatever they are, which they are not. I don't know if this is fixable at my end.
posted by motty at 7:10 AM on October 3, 2007

  • sidebar music theme announcements, incl. last contest's winner
  • little gold music icon next to the winner's name, with mouse-over TITLE tag "Mefi music winnar!!1! (lol)" AND a link to the winning MeMu song page*
  • do silver and bronze icons too for second and third place
  • gold medal gets something useless and silly from the mods, like an unwanted t-shirt, ugly jewelry, a garden gnome, whatever
  • OR have a little token, an Elvis statue or whatever, that the winners pass to each other like a UFC championship belt -- stick it on your mantle, feel happy/proud/stupid
  • googly's last suggestion, but change it up each month. Maybe Oct. is a theme month. Nov. is a cover song month. Dec. must use a certain sound clip. It'll create opportunity for non-musicians (or beginners) to contribute and push existing contributors to explore other areas. This will also help with the "less frequent" problem, as there will be people who only jump in for mashups or covers, for example.
  • on second thought, I think googly got 'em all
  • (lol)
* This is the biggest problem: the contest has next to zero visibility on MeFi. Musicians want an audience!
posted by LordSludge at 7:12 AM on October 3, 2007

The next contest should be around re-tooling a radiohead song to use the fibonacci sequence.
posted by itchylick at 8:23 AM on October 3, 2007

I write lyrics but not music. I hear we have some instrumentalists about; maybe some day we can work together. I actually had lyrics for the "superhero" theme, but unless you want something from garageband for accompaniment, I'm not talented enough to compete, gold star or no.
posted by misha at 11:39 AM on October 3, 2007

lordsludge writes: sidebar music theme announcements, incl. last contest's winner

OK folks, one thing seems to be a bit misunderstood here, by the above commenter and some others in this thread as well: IT'S NOT A CONTEST! There are no WINNERS! It's a "challenge". (Many of your suggestions were funny, though, lordsludge. I want a garden gnome!)


misha: As someone who thinks lyrics are, like, IMPORTANT in the total scheme of song things, I'd say hell yeah, put your GarageBand treatment of 'em up on MeFiMu! Nothing wrong with that!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:09 PM on October 3, 2007

Well it SHOULD be a contest!

I'll even donate the garden gnome. (I have no idea who gave me this one or why.)
posted by LordSludge at 6:24 PM on October 3, 2007

I want a garden gnome too!

Just to tag along with you flapjax, for you folks who don't think MeFiMusic is for you, fuggeda 'bout it!

Sure there are many great musicians and artists who post there, but there are goofballs, like myself, who are there to learn and have fun. I've posted some really horrible things, and still haven't had a "YOU SUCK" comment.

Oh, wait, maybe some of you SHOULDN'T comment there! JK
posted by snsranch at 6:30 PM on October 3, 2007

Bah. Do I have to make a separate meta post about this?
posted by motty at 7:11 PM on October 3, 2007

Gee, motty, I dunno... I reckon there's fewer and fewer folks looking at this thread by now. Can anybody help poor motty here? I'd say give it another day or so, and if no one slides in here with an answer for you, maybe you should email cortex or matt about it, or, yes, make a new MeTa post about the problem.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:44 PM on October 3, 2007

motty, I've been thinking about your question. I've had similar problems, not being able to post at all and when I did sometimes it played slow or fast.

So I wonder, what kind of music making software are you using? I'm not familiar with linux, but I'm guessing that there is a work-around for you.
posted by snsranch at 7:50 PM on October 3, 2007

Cheers flapjax at midnite and snsranch. I'm pretty sure it's not to do with the mp3s themselves - they're just your normal output from lame on standard settings and they largely seem to upload elsewhere ok, though there is one other site where I get the same error as here. It's something to do with a weird interaction between Firefox on Linux and something on the server end that gets the MIME type wrong; the one time I did upload something here I think I ended up using Lynx to do it, a complex operation which involves remembering what my password is.
posted by motty at 6:18 AM on October 4, 2007

motty, just email Matt with the full error including the exact MIME type your browser is saying your files are. He'll probably just add it to the approved list. (Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.)
posted by Partial Law at 9:08 AM on October 4, 2007

Cheers, Partial Law. Much appreciated.
posted by motty at 9:32 AM on October 4, 2007

No one, of course, is looking at this thread anymore, but I'll nevertheless point out that my plan would also result in the elimination of these dead times when there's no theme at all. Yes!
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 3:23 AM on October 6, 2007

I'm still looking at it Karlos, and I agree with you. I support your suggestion.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:01 AM on October 6, 2007

No new theme yet? I think this thread has rekindled many people's interest in the challenge, but we need a theme.
posted by erikgrande at 8:34 AM on October 6, 2007

OK! Let's give this sucker a shot:

Submission deadline: October 31st — Pick one, or incorporate more than one into a single composition. Be sure to tag appropriately. Be sure to tag your submissions "spooky", "tomwaitsimpression", "lotsofnotes" (as appropriate) and "mefimusicchallenge" so listeners can easily follow along.

Who knows how this'll play out, but it should be interesting, and hopefully help people who are looking for different types of prompts find something to chew on.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:06 AM on October 6, 2007

Well howdy-do. Kudos for trying new things.
posted by erikgrande at 11:28 AM on October 6, 2007

Hey, uncle cortex, uncle cortex, I have a question. I was away and didn't find about the new challenge until now, and now we are halfway thru the month and I have lots of stuff to catch up with, buuuuuut, I have an old tom waitsy song. Would it be ok if I add the tomwaitsimpression tag to it, or would that be too sleazy?
posted by micayetoca at 7:49 PM on October 15, 2007

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