Definition of scene music

yzi - 18:34 8 January 2014 #

Listening to and creating "demo scene music", music produced by sceners for sceners, has always been a very important part of what it means to be a demo scener. I would like to see Demozoo become a place where a demo scene musician's entire scene works could be registered as entries. No such place currently exists. (Nectarine stores the actual music files for playback, and they don't want to and cannot list EVERYTHING by anybody. Modland, AMP, HVSC and others also store the actual files, and are centered around a particular platform or format, and don't care so much about linking the music to general demo scene productions and groups and such.)

Demozoo's organizers and maintainers have been somewhat unwilling to allow entering music that wasn't used in a demo, or competed in a scene music compo, because, so the logic goes, then the Demozoo registry would slowly become a general indie music catalog. I see this pretty far fetched and an imaginary fear, but I can understand the logic.

To clarify the situation, and perhaps to find out if a clear-enough definition could be found, let's try to list rules. Here's a start. Please comment and edit.
- Intended audience: Demoscene music is primarily made BY demo scene people FOR demoscene people. If it ends up being listened to by the general public who don't identify themselves as belonging to the demoscene, then it is accidental and not the musician's original intention.
- Creators: Demoscene music is made by people affiliated with the scene, who identify their making of that piece of music as a scene activity, adding to the scene's common heritage (?)
- Demoscene handle used as artist's name: Demoscene music is labelled with the scener's handle and maybe group as the artist name, not a general artist name used outside the scene. (this naturally doesn't apply to mods etc that don't have the composer's name at all, or for composers who used there real name as their scene handle, which is very rare)
- Free not-for-profit distribution: Demoscene music is meant to be freely shared and copied between demosceners, without profit.
- Commercial, for-profit, music is not demoscene music. (Except maybe if the same song was also freely released as a scene song, but I don't know if this is actually possible and relevant in practice)
- Game music, ie music distributed as part of commercial games, is not demoscene music. (Except if it has for some reason achieved a cultural demoscene status and acceptance. C64 game music maybe?)
- Covers of game songs (or other commercial songs), if done by scene musicians as scene music for the scene, might still be demoscene music. Even though the distribution of such music files might be a bit questionable... But Demozoo is only a database, a canonical listing of things that exist.
- Demoscene music is downloadable from a well-known demo scene file archive site like scene.org, AMP, Modland, HVSC. (except in cases where a song is known to have existed, but lost, then of course the historical existence can listed, especially if e.g. a piece of "scene documentation" like a disk mag or a "scene letter" mentions it)
- Things entered to demoscene music compos are demoscene music.
- Demozoo maintainers have the right to declare any piece they want as demo scene music.
- Demozoo maintainers have the right to remove a piece of work or an entire artist, if the artist or the work is not considered as being a part of the demoscene cultural context.

In short, I'm drawing the line in terms of the intended cultural context where and for which the music was made and used and shared. It's subject to discretion and moderation of course.

Your comments?

Can you think of music entries that someone might actually enter and that you think shouldn't be allowed here, but is not easy to judge with these guidelines?

gasman - 23:55 8 January 2014 #


Following on from http://demozoo.org/forums/post/423/#post-423 ... just to be clear, I'm not saying it's a bad idea for us to cover scene music more widely, just that doing it *well* is going to take more energy than we can afford to spend on it. For this sort of project, we've had to choose our battles carefully, otherwise we'd never have launched ;-) (So thankyou for doing some of the thinking for us - it really is appreciated...)

Just to throw in some specific examples of 'borderline' cases, then (and not making any judgement about whether these are right or wrong for inclusion):

* "Except maybe if the same song was also freely released as a scene song, but I don't know if this is actually possible and relevant in practice" - Fairlight's work with guest musicians would be a good example of that. To take one instance: Stereo Wildlife's soundtrack from Numb Res started out as a commercial album track <http://stereowildlife.co.uk/track/so-this-is-what-it-feels-like>, but is now recognised as a 'scene track' (e.g. appearing on the BitJam podcast - http://www.bitfellas.org/page.php?204 )

* Established demosceners like Mosaik and C-Jeff releasing albums through Bandcamp - sometimes free, sometimes paid, sometimes pay-what-you-want - in the same genre as their demoscene work, but presumably they're hoping for it to reach a wider audience. Do they consider those albums to be part of their demoscene output? I have no idea...

* When does someone qualify as a 'demo scene person'? I'm a major fanboy of Chibitech <http://demozoo.org/sceners/30690/> who makes crazy awesome NES-chiptune-vocal-synth-dubstep, and I was delighted to be able to add a Demozoo profile after she contributed a soundtrack to an intro at Tokyo Demo Fest. Her other music releases are surely 'demoscenish', but I'm pretty sure she'd be regarded primarily as an artist in the chiptune scene rather than a demoscener. Would one demoscene release be enough to justify adding all her other music here?

dipswitch - 02:58 9 January 2014 #

I'm absolutely seconding Gasman's hesitations.

dipswitch - 03:01 9 January 2014 #

In fact, the whole discussion reminds me that we need a solid, hewn-in-stone (yet alterable after discussion) set of rules before things get out of hand. The Discogs contributors' guidelines at http://www.discogs.com/help/database/submission-guidelines-release give a pretty good idea about how things can be done. We also used to have a textfile with rules during the beta phase - Menace, are there any plans for making them "official" too?

menace - 07:34 9 January 2014 #

Well, no plans as such, but perhaps a "best practices" page might be a good idea. If Gasman wants to implement such functionality, then I'll be more than happy to start filling it out with some ground rules and links to relevant discussions like this one.

yzi - 18:45 9 January 2014 #

I kind of agree with both sides. On one hand, data doesn't even have any meaning, except if it is put into context, with relationships and a functional meaning in interactions. To "understand" someone's message correctly means that you assign the same, or similar enough, sets of relationships and functional roles to the components of the message.

But on the other hand, you should only add bureaucracy, after it has become evident that there is real, actual, undeniable need for it. Adding bureaucracy prematurely and speculatively usually only makes things slow or impossible for no reason, and nobody wants that. Most of the scene's concepts like party, group, handle, demo are pretty clear for everyone. I don't think there has to be a written rule that you must not add a Pouet demo URL to a party entry, because they are clearly different object types. The system can (and should) perform an automatic sanity check to filter out such obvious errors, but it doesn't need to be on the rules page.

Now that there have already been questions and misunderstandings, and the questions are getting answers, surely there has to be a place where the accepted correct answers are collected? If "rules" sounds too harsh, how about "content guidelines".

obTopic. I thought about the music definition some more, and I came to the conclusion that the same basic rules apply to demos and all other prods as well. A "demoscene demo" is a freely distributed, not-for-profit, demonstration of art and human creations, signed and labeled with underground scene handles and group names (usually not real names), primarily intended to be seen by the demoscene, i.e. the somewhat undergroundish group of people who appreciate and are interested in such demonstrations. Maybe in the 80s and 90s, on the Amiga scene in Scandinavia or something, demo makers knew that their demos are often also watched by ordinary computer users, but even then they weren't the primary audience. If the ordinary computer users got interested in the demo scene, then they sort of became a part of the scene.

So, the only question is, who was this thing made for. If it was made for the demoscene, then it is a demoscene production. Simple as that.

Now, there are some exceptions and additions. For example, I don't really think this one is really a "demoscene demo" http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=4077


yzi - 20:16 9 January 2014 #

Let's see if I can make an ordered list, in decreasing importance. Lower numbered rules may sometimes outweigh higher numbered ones. Number 0 is special. ;)
0. If the scene just de-facto has adopted the "thing", then it is a "scene thing", whatever it is, even if it was taken from somewhere and someone else, even illegally or without permission.
1. The prod's primary intended audience and context is the demoscene.
2. The prod is distributed freely
... <--- here I'd draw a line, and for the following very important things, there might be exceptions, which diminish the demoscene-ness of the prod, but don't necessarily mean it's not a "demoscene prod".
3. The prod is not intended to result in profit. (yeah, prize money? making demos, graphics, songs and hoping to get noticed by an employer...?)
4. The prod is signed with a demoscene underground alias: handle and/or group.

End of rules.

OK? Any objections?

Then some applications of the rules. Examples to convince you why the rules are correct. :)
- If a prod is released at or for a party, in a compo or as an invitation or something, then it clearly guarantees rule number 1. Right? That's why Demozoo maintainers wanted to use that as the deciding factor.
- If a prod is downloadable from a known scene site like scene.org, then it obviously fulfills rule number 2, and most probably also rule number 1, because there's a selection process for getting the prod there.
- Being downloadable from many other well-known sites also guarantees rule number 2.
- Sometimes, a prod is just adopted by the demoscene people, even though the prod's original usage purpose was maybe a bit different. That's why the Rax demo is in Pouet and people don't cry about it. They apply rule number 0. (To me it seems that its authors hadn't heard about the "scene"... was there such a thing as a PC demo scene in 1987? In the USA?) That's also why this song has been accepted to Nectarine. The moderators used rule 0! http://www.scenemusic.net/demovibes/song/26814
- If a person uses their real name as the scene handle, it sort of violates rule 4, and I think every scener agrees that it diminishes the "sceneness" a little bit. But the other rules can compensate!


yzi - 20:29 9 January 2014 #

By the way, special rule 0 can only be used for inclusion, not exclusion. Violating rule 1 or 2 means exclusion, except if saved by a super-user moderator by waving the rule 0 flag.

Maybe I should have formulated rule 2 differently. It doesn't matter if the prod "is distributed" or not, I mean, if it actually gets distributed. If it's so crappy nobody wants to copy or download it, it doesn't mean it isn't a scene prod. But it is made available and offered for distribution for free. :)

revival - 23:36 9 January 2014 #

Music is nice. Being inclusive is nice. But I hope you guys are very wary of this direction. It IS a bad idea to cover music more widely here.

Apart from the shared cultural context, most demoscene music doesn't really have much in common with executable audio/visual presentations. It could potentially drown out the executables, and there's just not enough overlap in audiences interested in executables and music.

Clearly some very dedicated people have been driven enough to put together all this information on people, groups, parties and executables. Who would step up and do the same thing for music/art?

Please don't try to be everything to everyone, because that'll kill this beautiful site.

I know I'm probably not saying anything you guys don't already know, I'm just not a fan of silent majorities.

dipswitch - 01:11 10 January 2014 #

Revival, I share your sentiments mostly - however, back in the 1990s, the "tracking scene" and the demoscene were most intensely entangled, not just for the "cultural context". Members of tracked music groups (what later branched out into "netlabels", this transformation most prominently embodied by Tokyo Dawn Records) participated in demoparty compos, had demoscene BBSs as HQs and distsites, hung out on the same IRC channels, and occasionally did soundtracks for demos. Some demoparties (like Evoke) were jointly organised by demogroups, ANSI groups, and tracking groups.

In the long run, I would be very strongly in favour of Demozoo extending to documenting the old tracker scene - documenting not just every random .xm or .it that someone happened to produce, but only the official tracking group releases. It would be important, because noone else is doing it on an encompassing scale (just as it is a major lacuna to document the vast activity of BBS-door groups, which also was heavily intertwined with the demoscene and in fact produced a number of prominent democoders). However, this is something for the future.

SunSpire - 07:14 10 January 2014 #

<yzi> Commercial, for-profit, music is not demoscene music. (Except maybe if the same song was also freely released as a scene song, but I don't know if this is actually possible and relevant in practice)

That is definitely possible, for example I have an album up on bandcamp with demoscene tracks I previously released at demoparties, mostly for the sake of offering lossless .flac as an additional file format to those who care. Or for remastered, alternate versions of existing tracks. It's a great way for any demoscener to reach a wider audience or maybe even draw new people into the scene. But of course my original party releases remain unaffected by this, and those are the ones listed here at demozoo.

dipswitch: old tracker scene? Early 2000's modplug.com and "trax in space" come to mind :D But the sheer amount of tracks out there seem a bit overwhelming. And there are sites such as modarchive.org who cover a lot of the tracker scene already so I dunno if it would be practicable to list each of them here as well, considering a lot of the tracks on those sites contain no background info whatsoever.

In general, I guess there may not always be a 100% clear border between what is a demoscene release and what is not (hmm, what about the later plastic demos?) some stuff may need to be reviewed and decided upon on a case-by-case basis. And that's probably a painful task :D

yzi - 09:45 10 January 2014 #

The thing I'm coming to with this is, if someone lists their works on Demozoo, then it must be seen as a statement: the person is effectively claiming that the piece was primarily made for the demoscene audience. This should be stated on Demozoo's add entry form. If someone is caught entering things that can be shown wasn't really made for the demoscene or isn't somehow "stamped" with a demoscene approval, then this person is essentially lying, violating Demozoo's guidelines and his/her stuff can be removed.

I agree with Dipswitch, in the 90s there was really no sepatate "tracker scene".

dipswitch - 03:02 15 January 2014 #

well there actually was a distinct tracker scene, as in groups only releasing tracked music (and no demos etc.), but it was still part of the same "big scene" as the demogroups. at least that's how i perceived it back then.

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