Chiptunes community grappling with severe problems.
Advisory: This article contains allegations around sexual misconduct. Strong language is used.
As of May 31st, the well-established label Chiptunes=WIN has seemingly shut down for good, along with scrubbing all of its social media channels and Bandcamp pages. Its accounts on services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have all gone dark; the Discord server is, as of reporting, in tact, though only one solitary inquiry about the social media presence has been posted since May 31.
It is unclear what, exactly, led to the shutdown, though allegations of abuse swirl around the surprise shutdown.
An overarching theme present in many comments on the shutdown is censorship within the Facebook group was taken too far, with reasonably benign posts that dealt with criticisms about diversity (or lack thereof within the scene) being removed alongside potentially inflammatory content.
Twitter user, and Facebook group moderator, @AuracleDMG says on Twitter he was concerned with what he saw.
“In my short time as moderator I saw several posts shut down for “inviting” aggression from bigots and trolls. Such inflammatory suggestions as “another 100% male lineup is disappointing for women” and “learn about feminism if you want to be a good community member.”
“The moderator instructions in these cases is to lock comments because it’ll only descend into argument. This is not helpful nor conducive to the positive, progressive image the group puts forward. It sends the message that complaining will be shut down, not that trolls will.”
Another label, @abitofchiptune, alleges that three women were silenced over their advocacy for women, people of color, and the LGBTPIAP2+ communities within the broader chiptune community.
“These groups are addressing very real struggles,” the account says. “Silencing those voices is irresponsible of anyone who wants chiptune to be accessible and enjoyable. It’s irresponsible of anyone who intends to listen, respect, and support those historically marginalized.”
A flurry of other allegations have since emerged about the network. The massive compilations the label is known for have sparked heated debates on what qualifies as chiptune or not, attempting to exclude artists from the community. Contributors of written work and music for the compilations are unpaid or underpaid.
The network’s Discord rules seem consistent with the messages of community members. While they call for “no hate speech or bullying” the rules seem designed to prevent the type of transformative discussion members are engaging in on other platforms, shielding the site from any of its own problems.
“Do not create controversial, “hot topic” posts likely to provoke an argument (no politics, religion, outside “drama”, etc),” one rule reads. “Regardless of the intentions behind it, this sort of provocational behavior is unwelcome in ChipWIN, & may result in removal from the server. It’s simply not what we’re here for.”
These rules are also posted for the Facebook community.
Additionally, the blog’s FAQ addresses the questionable financial situation, noting that monies raised goes to covering project costs, and that future distributions will include revenue splits. The FAQ also wades into the controversy the site claims it has no interest in, saying in a section titled #DontFuckAround: They’re not “taking any kind of stand on the sexual proclivities of any our members. Because we’re not. Y’all do you.”
Such a statement seems out of place on a page that is largely dedicated to explaining the history of its eight compilations in obsessive detail.
We reached out to Brandon Hood, the founder and organizer at the heart of much of this, via email, and did not receive a response.
In the community more broadly, allegations of forcibly touching spectators at events have surfaced, questioning the safety of the scene as yet another label, CheapBeats, closes, as its founder is scrutinized. He has apologized for one such alleged interaction, blaming intoxication. The allegations are unproven in a court of law.
It is apparent the chiptunes scene is undergoing a dramatic upheaval in line with other industries in the wake of the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements.
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Suffering from mental health concerns including around sexual abuse? A number of options are available to you. In Canada, Kids Help Phone: http://www.kidshelpphone.ca 1 800 668 6868. In Australia, Kids Helpline: http://www.kidshelp.com.au 1800 55 1800. In the United States, TeenLine: https://teenlineonline.org/ 310-855-4673. Take This has prepared a collection of mental health resources.
If you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse, options are available to you. (US) National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline | Rape, Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Incest National Network – offers online chat. (CANADA) Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres https://casac.ca/anti-violence-centres/ (province-by-province contacts). In an emergency, call 911 or visit your nearest Emergency Department.
Top image: Partial screen capture of Chiptunes=Win website captured by Evan McIntosh on June 6, 2020.
–With files from Evan McIntosh.