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Opinion: Beatbox Battle Culture is Overtaking Our Art form

My single passion in life is to study beatbox as an art form and identify insights that help drive our community forward. I’ve taken a step back this past year to get a higher-level view of the progress we’ve made thus far, and we’re gaining tremendous momentum.

While I often get lost in the excitement of what’s to come for our community, Frank Zeppa’s quote often comes to mind; “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

We’re seeing subscriber and view counts balloon to the millions, but we haven’t experienced the progress that I thought we’d see by now...and it’s becoming more and more worrisome because we’re backing ourselves into a wall.

Battling is Defining Our Culture

Battling has always been the fundamental ‘acquisition’ strategy for the beatbox community. It draws the largest crowds, wins us the most internet points, and frankly fuels our guilty pleasures of watching faux-rivalries unfold on stage.

While these battles pierce through the internet stratosphere, we’re nurturing more and more fans of beatbox battling, rather than fans of our art form. The mass majority of our community today admires beatbox routines, not for their musical tactfulness. Instead, we’re harboring a dangerous fetishization of newness over all other musical elements that encompass a great beatbox routine.

The Numbers Speak for Themselves

Let’s look at the numbers. Why is it that videos like the one above receive only 10% of the views that a beatbox battle would. Tom Thum and Gene have crafted a masterpiece that requires 100 times more time, effort, creativity, and skill to produce, with barely any results to show for it.

It’s really a headscratcher. The composition and artistic vision is unprecedented. It’s not over-the-top or avant-garde, either. It’s nothing short of an incredible musical composition.

We’ve seen this pattern of behavior even on our own channel, here at HumanBeatbox.com. We’ve dedicated hours and hours to put out musical pieces or in-depth discussions, but we’ve seen 20x results on our “Guess that beatboxer” series that do not require nearly as much time and effort.

We Are Young

Before I jump into any radical conclusions, let's ask ourselves the following:

  • Is our audience too young?
  • Is our understanding and appreciation for our artform too juvenile to appreciate the complexities of our art form?
  • Do we have a content distribution problem because of YouTube’s algorithm?

The answer isn’t simple and is most likely a good mix of all of them.

The good news is that we can be the catalyst for change. While you may have reached a point of beatbox content saturation and now pick and choose only a handful of videos to watch every week, we need your utmost engagement and support in supporting artists who are experimenting and driving the art form forward.

Beatboxers who are going on tour. Beatboxers who are producing albums. Beatboxers spending hours fine-tuning one masterpiece. Beatboxers who are doing charity work. Beatboxers who are performing on Broadway.

These are the true, underappreciated pioneers.

Boldness is the Path Forward

I'm not here to criticize battlers, but to lift up the misfits.

All artists eventually need to make a decision to take one of two paths. One that satisfies the calling of the masses, while the other challenges the norm by stepping outside of your comfort zone. If you’re feeling uninspired and are sick of the rat-race of clout chasing, take a step back from battles and shoutout videos. Explore music genres you’ve never explored before. Go to an Indie concert, perform standup comedy, or even start a vlog. Your creative soul deserves it.

Boldness is the true path forward.

Yes - battling is undeniably fun, but when was the last time you’ve questioned your purpose as an artist?

4 comments

  1. artdent1 6 September, 2019 at 13:57

    Battle culture didn’t kill hip-hop in general and it won’t hurt beatboxing.

    Take another step back and look at what battles have that no other part of beatboxing has:

    social participation and community. beatbox’s culture is global and digital and a lot of beatbox fans have small if non-existent local communities. watching huge crowds go crazy for beatboxers doing their thing live must seem like the coolest experience possible. the energy is palpable in battle videos and it makes beatbox fans and aspiring beatboxers feed off that energy.

    the views and dollars for music and tours will come.

  2. beatboxlover 13 August, 2019 at 00:20

    Our beat-boxing scene is still new to many people and they need time to fully investigate in the artistic aspect of beat-boxing, in my opinion. The trend of making music from beat-boxing or trying something new in general is new too. So as time goes by, we may see many more people who are not only focusing on battling but also enjoying the diversity of the scene or even willing to become beat-boxing artists.

    Besides, when it comes to taking beat-boxing as an art form, maybe people will judge the products with a measurement of a true art form but not the measurement of beat-boxing. That may lead to larger scale of samples for comparison and thus may cause the products to be underappreciated, which I think is normal, as there are many good and well-known musical products out there, along with many musical pieces which are well-produced but still got less attention than some pop songs or popular EDMs.

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