Friday, 1 May 2020

It's all about the parodies

This week I have been drowning in parodies. Not just from the usual sources - namely the Musical Comedy Collective Facebook group, various performer's social media updates and my own guitar - but also from less likely places. 

This new stream of songs with new lyrics are an eye opener for a couple of reasons and the one that has caught my eye most is an Abba -based tribute to lockdown.

I know nothing about this group but I do know that my mum really likes this video. I know this because she not only sent it to me but she also shared it to our family Facebook group. My mum is now part of the viral video chain and she's sharing because it brings her joy and she wants it to do the same for others.

Compared to other videos I've seen recently it does, objectively, piss all over them. The time, effort and skill that's gone into the production of both the video and the music is obvious. This wasn't knocked out on an acoustic guitar in the spare room one lockdown Wednesday afternoon (guilty as charged.) It doesn't try too hard to make jokes either. Its gentle humour both visually and lyrically translates well to a general audience and there's no pretence of making over-educated observations or including lyrical wordplay only someone fluent in politics/pop culture/English-to-degree-level would get the humour from.

I should hate it on principle for being too easy but I don't. It's not easy. In fact that's the one thing that concerns me as Youtube videos were inevitably going to go this way.

Here comes a metaphor only those over 35, possibly over 40, will understand.

In the 1980's (I warned you) the computer games market was exploding. WH Smiths couldn't sell enough little boxed cassettes to primary-aged kids like me who lived for riding their bike, singing along to Top of the Pops and spending inordinate amounts of time on their Sinclair Spectrum / C64 / Amstrad CPC (delete depending on how posh you were, as a child of the people I had a Spectrum.)

The games were often pretty basic. Thanks to the technology, the graphics could be rough, the sound sometimes little more than a series of bleeps and bloops and the gameplay satisfying for about twenty minutes before you wanted to spend another ten minutes loading a new one.

But they were often the product of one teenager in their bedroom doing everything. They had great ideas but they were limited in terms of time and skill set. Great programmers are rarely great graphics artists or musicians - especially at 17 or 18. This "homebrew" generation though were inspirational to kids like me though and I started programming games too. It looked like a level playing field which anyone could enter. Then the 90s came and the big software houses moved in. By the end of the decade no 8 year old could imagine making a game themselves that would be able to compete.

The same happened with music and film in previous generations but this parallel is easiest for me to picture and it's now inevitably happened on Youtube. The barriers to entry at this point are definitely lower than in the computer game example. It's not particularly expensive to get an audio interface, microphone, video camera and green screen but it will take time to learn how to use them all. And a lot longer to use them well. 

Do all comedians need to become audio engineers, videographers and social media specialists to be heard? Or will they also need to team up? And will we all have to work in the expectation that the gap between coming up with an idea and putting it to broadcast will be getting longer if we expect anyone to view it?

Back to the homebrew...


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