Saturday, July 29, 2017

SpinTunes and such...

It's been a while since I posted, but that's not because I haven't written anything. I actually have written a couple of blog posts here, but they never got past draft, for reasons that will become apparent.

Travis Langworthy, aka "SpinTown", ran the SpinTunes competition for a number of years, picking up where the Masters of Song Fu contest on FRED entertainment left off. After 12 contests, Travis decided to retire, and needed a successor. That turned out to be me.

I've had some mixed feelings about that. On the plus side, I love the contest and am privileged to keep it going. On the other hand, this means that I don't get to actually compete. That's not as terrible as it sounds, because I do get to work with the judges to draft interesting rules and challenges.

One of the things I brought back to the contest was eliminations. Early SpinTunes contests, like Song Fu, were games of attrition, and by simplifying scoring I was able to bring that back.

Even without eliminations, we've always had some attrition due to missed deadlines. But we've also allowed contestants (and even non-contestants) to "shadow"... that is, play along as if they were in the contest. Shadows get played at the listening parties and are placed on the albums, but are not scored and cannot win.

Well, I've changed that a little bit, too. When regular contestants miss their deadlines, the empty slots can now be filled by eliminated contestants who chose to enter a qualifying shadow. What that means is that if you were entered into the contest and weren't actually disqualified, but were simply eliminated due to a low score; and if your shadow would not be disqualified due to not meeting the challenge or late entry; then you could get promoted back into the fray, filling those empty slots and continuing on as if you weren't eliminated. My goal for that rule is to keep people interested and shadowing, and to put a little more uncertainty into the contest. In game design, some uncertainty = excitement.

It's can be frustrating that in an elimination contest someone can be removed due to a single bad round. It was a bad fit for their talents, etc. Now, you could conceivably get eliminated in Round 1, shadow the contest, and be promoted in Round 4 to blow away the judges and actually win. It's a reward for perseverance and for submitting every round. With this rule, it's better to submit a weak entry and be eliminated than it is to miss the deadline. Perseverance keeps hope alive.

Of course, the rule changes make SpinTunes feel more like a game than a contest, and that's by design. I think you have to remember that music is meant to be played, and that word isn't used by accident. If it's not fun, you should be doing something else. So I would rather see people having fun creating music than be in cutthroat competition. SpinTunes has always been a "kinder, gentler contest", and I like it that way. There are other competitions that are wonderful and great, and some SpinTuners participate there and vice versa. It's a big, big world, and it's meant to be shared.


So I've been herding cats (judges) and doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work on the contest. It also means that I won't be writing as many reviews and songs as I had previously done, but that's mostly due to time and a desire as the "showrunner" not to be too influential in the outcome. I still break ties when they occur, and currently limit my explanations to when that makes a difference as to the outcome (as in, when someone is eliminated).

SpinTunes #13, Round 2 just ended, and as I write this the Round 3 challenge will be posted in an about a half hour. You can view the new albums at, and follow the contest at On the blogspot site you (anybody!) can also click a link to the Suggestion Box and suggest challenges for upcoming competitions. And should you want to join in, instructions are there as well. Check out the links in the left sidebar.

Also, you can peruse the older albums at their original home,