As the Tune Spins #3

After Round 1, I was confronted with one of the most odd things that have ever happened to me in my 5 years of judging internet music contests. I sat down at the computer one morning and decided to check out what was going on on the Spintunes blog and found that Dr. Lindyke, a band that was shadowing the competition had put out a blog that was a review of the judges. Not a review of the songs but a review of the 5 judges and how they did at judging. I quickly clicked it and read through it. There were comments like “Judging is subjective”  and “Please, please, please, people, assess these challenges as you see them. Do what makes you feel happy. Keep taking chances, trying new things, and sticking your necks out. If you’re happy with it, that’s what matters.” While, I completely understand the don’t change yourself for the judges rally cry at the same time, I felt like it was undermining the judges. My first blood reaction was “So, they want the competitors not to listen to what the judges are saying and to not to worry about whatever advice we are giving them. Then why the hell are we here?”

I was pretty livid. I ended up writing a very long rebuttal to the Dr. Lindyke blog. If you scroll down the page on the aforementioned blog, you can find the (very long) second draft. The initial draft was pure venom. I came to my senses and confronted the situation with a little calm and perspective. I stopped acting like it was an attack and gave my opinion. My reply was well received, especially my This-is-a-game-Play-to-win philosophy. The whole thing was an interesting little experience but it also left a bad taste in my mouth.

I already felt like the outsider. The Songfighter in the land of the SongFuers. Most of these participants already knew each other and had good rapports. I wasn’t used to communicating with fellow judges through twitter and chats. And I had just had my judging criticized. I really felt like maybe I had made a mistake signing up. And that feeling grew when the second listening party came around.

For every round of the competition there would be a “listening party” where everyone would get together at the justin.tv website and listen to the songs and chat. I missed the first one due to a prior commitment, but I made an effort to be there for the second one. It was Round 2, the first round to include eliminations. I was excited to hear the contestants take on the challenge of playing with time signatures. There I was in the chat. Fellow judge Jules was hosting the affair. A bunch of the contestants were there. The songs started playing… and I was disappointed.

I remember sitting with my gf as I listened and telling her how I was really not impressed by the songs in the round. They may have achieved their goal of working in different time signatures but in my eyes, they weren’t great tunes. They weren’t the type of tunes that screamed out “I’m in to win this competition. No one is eliminating me this round”. Yet I was in a room full of people heaping on praise to each other. It was a very positive scene and I was so full of negatives. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was a party pooper. Caleb Hines’ song came on and that was the final straw. I just couldn’t get into the vocals at all. The crowd was telling him that this was one of his best songs yet. There was a gap there that I felt I couldn’t bridge. Again, I felt like the outsider. So,  I snuck out like a thief in the night.

Next up, Part 4- Finding my place in SpinTunes & Sad songs that say so much.

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8 Responses to “As the Tune Spins #3”

  1. Sometimes my humor isn’t immediately apparent. I thought I had telegraphed what I was doing with my introduction, in which I stated, “I’m a firm believer that for those contests that are judged, a judge should never have to explain a decision. In this unnecessarily long and rambly post, I’m about to demonstrate why.”

    Everybody and his grandmother reviews the songs. So I parked my tongue in my cheek and reviewed the judges. I never imagined someone would take me completely seriously, which is why I went on to review the songs that were NOT written in Round 2.

    The Song Fu/Artifiction/SpinTunes crowd is a very different animal. For many of us, the goal of competing has nothing to do with the winning or losing, and everything to do with the challenge and improving ourselves. To put this in perspective, consider that in Song Fu #6, Joe Covenant and I discussed that if we were to go head-to-head as challenger and prior champion we would guest ON EACH OTHER’S ENTRY. In the first round I posted daily drafts of my entry on my TMA profile page and took constructive criticism from the other competitors. I wound up with a much better song, and it never occurred to me to avoid the advice of another competitor. It’s not that kind of competition.

    We do a lot of encouraging. Even when a song’s production values are objectively and blatantly deficient we try to take the position that what we’re doing is not a battle-of-the-bands, but composing. So we tend to look very hard at the intent of the composer. We also tend to hang out a lot in the same chatroom (currently http://artifiction.spruz.com) and collaborate on each others’ songs both in and out of competition.

    I can see where somebody used to bare-knuckles dog-eat-dog competitions would scratch his very perplexed head at that.

    FWIW, you were a great judge, and I still don’t disagree with any of your decisions or comments.

  2. Russ Rogers Says:

    I will echo Dave’s thanks. Not only was your judging fair and honest, it was internally consistent. By that, I mean that you had your own perspective on what the competition should be and what a good song sounds like. You didn’t always agree with the other judges, but that’s not the point of judging. You were diligent and honest, and by the end of the competition I could almost “hear” how you would rank the songs before the results came out. That’s what I mean by “internally consistent,” you weren’t’ just tossing out rankings on a whim or worse randomly.

    It was an unwritten, nearly unspoken ethic of the TMA crowd, that we try to be consistently supportive of each other. And it not just positive attitudes and reinforcement, although that counts for a lot.. I’ve had TMA folks pour hours of work into my projects, just because I asked on a forum page, tweet or mentioned something casually in a chat room.

    I really like you, Niveous. You’ve got a fan and friend in me now. And I think you will find that many others in the TMA crew feel similarly. Gabba gabba, we accept you, one of us. I know I will be paying far more attention to Nur Ein, just because I know you’ve been involved with that. I hope you enjoy the benefits of having a cadre of TMA supporters behind you and your projects.

    Again, thanks for the time and energy you poured into SpinTunes #1 to make it successful. And welcome to the club.

  3. Russ Rogers (of Godz Poodlz) Says:

    I will echo Dave’s thanks. Not only was your judging fair and honest, it was internally consistent. By that, I mean that you had your own perspective on what the competition should be and what a good song sounds like, and you stayed true to that. You didn’t always agree with the other judges, but that’s not the point of judging. You were diligent and honest, and by the end of the competition I could almost “hear” how you would rank the songs before the results came out. That’s what I mean by “internally consistent,” you weren’t just tossing out rankings on a whim or worse randomly.

    It was an unwritten, nearly unspoken ethic of the TMA crowd, that we try to be consistently supportive of each other. And it not just positive attitudes and reinforcement, although that counts for a lot. I’ve had TMA folks pour hours of work into my projects, just because I asked on a forum page, tweet or even mentioned something casually in a chat room.

    I really like you, Niveous. You’ve got a fan and friend in me now. And I think you will find that many others in the TMA crew feel similarly. Gabba gabba, we accept you, one of us. I know I will be paying far more attention to Nur Ein. I hope you enjoy the benefits of having a cadre of TMA supporters behind you. Rock on!

  4. boffoyuxdudes Says:

    I just stumbled upon your post here thanks to Travis’ retweet. I do echo the same sentiment. I thought you brought a good perspective to the contest that was unique. I could also see your frustration coming into this cold, and expecting a more ‘cut-throat’ type of competition, which really doesn’t exist with this group of folks.

    I had to laugh at Dr. Lindyke’s goofing on judging the judges. I also snickered at creating the ‘songs’ for people who neglected to enter them in Round 3. That was all meant in good fun, just as Dante’s ‘Drive By Mooning’ of the Judges in TinyChat tried to set a fun mood at the start of the contest. Just like saying Mickey Mouse is insane, when actually, we’re just F*cking Goofy.

    I agreed for the most part with your criticism of the BYD songs. I knew you didn’t have the perspective of our past work, and the fact we’re rarely if ever serious about the material, but care about the production values. It was very interesting, because I never thought of people taking the songs at face value before. I’ve literally created thousands of bits and segments, and just doing music is a new stretch for me, even though we’ve been doing production for 30 years. It was just an element to the overall project, not THE project.

    When you were upset about our 2nd shadow song, I realized you were coming at this from a totally fresh viewpoint. The parody aspect of the song, as it keeps building to something that couldn’t possibly happen in real life, wasn’t apparent, and you were genuinely pissed that we believed that this was acceptable behavior. We don’t think it is, which which is why we wrote it that way to make that point.

    Some people commented to us about that review, and we tried to explain ‘That’s what Judging is all about’. It’s the different viewpoints that help you build and make a better song the next time.

    So, thank you for judging Spintunes #1, and I hope you come back for a future contest. I keep meaning to check out Song Fight and Nur Ein because I know you’ve been working on it – who knows, we might even enter in the near future. Looks like fun to shake things up over there. First we need to get White Elephant and Spin Tunes #2 accomplished tho.

    Tom

  5. Graham Porter (Emperor Gum) Says:

    To echo what others have said, I thought you were a fair and honest judge and I agreed with all your criticism of myself. I would be more that happy for you to return and judge future contests. I wrote you some comments to that effect at the time but apparently my browser swallowed them because they aren’t there now. I guess the SpinTunes contest is a part of an (open) community, hence the encouragements/ect. I for one don’t have the equipment or skills yet to be cutthroat, I just enjoy taking part and getting feekback.

  6. I wouldn’t call Songfight or Nur Ein cutthroat… that’s definitely a mis-perception on your part. We’re supportive, but not candy-coating. Actually the meanest reviewer is that dude from Song Fu 🙂
    -bill

    • Very true, Bill. Songfight/ Nur Ein is a very supportive place but you have to have bulldog skin there because we are a brutally honest group. We’ll show you love when you’re good and we’ll let you know when you’ve given us crap to listen to.

  7. Graham Porter (Emperor Gum) Says:

    I admit that my experience with Song Fight/Nur Ein is pretty limited, so I take my comment back. My Nur Ein stuff was pretty crap, but no one was ever rude.

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