Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23rd, 2011

 

All of us here at Figment want to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  I know some of you may not celebrate Thanksgiving, but of all the holidays we celebrate here in the States it’s the one I think really applies to everyone.  You don’t have to be American to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It’s all about family and giving thanks for what you have.  We’re certainly thankful for everything we have and that includes your support over the past few years.  We consider all of you part of our Figment family, so thanks and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

RHCP ZT!

November 18th, 2011

Turns out Figment players aren’t the only ones outfitting their bands with ZT Amplifiers.  Look who else is rocking out with ZT Lunchbox amps!

That’s right that little ZT Lunchbox Amp on the table is giving John Frusciante, the guitarist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Hendrix-style power sound he needs to keep up with Flea and Chad. Your band can rock ZT as well, just visit the Figment G-Base Gear Store to pick a virtual Lunchbox amp for your band!

Figment Player Profile – TMTYTF

November 11th, 2011

Game communities are just that, communities.  They’re made up of all kinds of players who possess diverse personalities, different skill sets, and varying degrees of competitive spirit, but regardless of their differences they all play a part in creating the community. TMTYTF has been a member of our Figment community since August, 2008.  He’s created a variety of different bands in the past 3 years, and has even guided one to #4 on the Top 10 Bands List.  He’s had his ups and downs as a player, and his outspoken nature has ruffled some feathers at times, but he’s never given up, and he’s never stopped trying to up his game.  In short, he’s an active member of our Figment community, and we thought it was high time (no pun intended) that we got to know him.

Figment News:  So who is TMTYTF?

TMTYTF:  My name is David. I’m 21 years old and I was born in 1990. I am from beautiful Orange County, California. I go to a lot of rock shows and I can’t get enough of them. Oh and I’m also a 4th year college student/retail sales associate.

FN:  You’ve been a Figment player for over 3 years. What is it about Figment that has kept you playing for so long?

TMTYTF:  I’m really not sure I just get a kick out of it. I love music and although Figment has no music, if something seems real enough you can feel it in your heart. Several of my bands and others from the site seem so real that I have a crystal clear imagination of what their music would really sound like. I also like how Figment is an ongoing process. Anyone may enter and leave the site as he/she pleases and it’s always still there once you get back.

FN:  Do you play an instrument? If so, what and how has it influenced your bands on Figment?

TMTYTF:  Yes and no. I got my first guitar when I was 12. I took a few lessons, then quit for awhile. In my senior year of high school, I took a guitar class. The class involved only acoustic guitars even though I was used to electric. Ever since then, my guitar playing has been on and off. It’s sad too, because I have a rad B.C. Rich Metal Master Warlock, which I got when I was 17, that hardly ever gets played anymore (it’s the one in the Stonekrank picture). Other than that I love to sing. I’m no professional, but I can hold a tune and enjoy singing karaoke and Rock Band vocals. I wouldn’t say my music has influenced my figment bands, but my figment bands have influenced some lyrics I’ve written. None of them turned out well at all, but I’ve tried writing songs based off Stonekrank’s “Loser” and “Modern Tragedy” from their Smokin’ album and Stonefly 45’s “No More Sunshine”.

FN:  You clearly love metal. Is it your favorite type of music or do you like other types of music?

TMTYTF:  Well, I do like metal but it wouldn’t be my first choice. I’d say my favorite genre is more along the lines of mainstream and alternative hard rock. If I like any metal, it’d be 80s hair metal or classic metal. I’m also really into grunge and pretty much any type of rock n’ roll from the 1990’s, my first decade of life. Anything 90s, from Nirvana to Blink 182 to The Presidents of the United States of America to Limp Bizkit, I am into. The older I get, the more music I discover and the more I’ve broadened my horizons. I also like most of the music from 2000-today and even classic rock from the 1970s. Perhaps even a little reggae and, believe it or not, I’m starting to catch onto some rap even though I used to hate it. I always thought rap sounded way better when fused with hard rock/metal, which is probably why I like Rage Against The Machine so much (they’re my favorite band).

FN:  What are some of the real bands that influence your fake bands?

TMTYTF:  Well, bands like Seether, Saliva, Papa Roach, Theory of a Deadman and breaking benjamin were big influences for Stonekrank. Gravestompers were designed with a Static-X/Five Finger Death Punch/Nonpoint sound in mind, although they are a metal group with clean vocals more along the lines of Godsmack and Disturbed. I kinda had chill rock bands in mind for Fragment Shelter. Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray came to mind and they’ve sorta kept their sound throughout, give or take. Smart Alec was my first jokester band highly influenced by the likes of “Weird Al” Yankovic, Stephen Lynch, and Jon Lajoie. They realize people hate Smart Alec lately for being overly crude and obnoxious. They have always had quite an attitude. Firecharged! drew their sound from classic kick-ass bands like AC/DC and Motley Crüe (let’s not forget Van Halen). Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Buckcherry, and The Donnas were crucial to The Nymphomaniacs’ career early on. Hell, Their debut album Bitches and Money was derived from a lyric in Buckcherry’s 2001 song “Time Bomb”. Drifter was created with an acoustic metal sound in mind, not quite like Tenacious D, but just powerful music without electric guitars. Their influences include Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Cash, even Social Distortion and Nirvana. I’d go through them all but I have too many damn bands. Alright, one more. The Phony Fakers have been influenced by modern post-grunge acts like Puddle of Mudd and Smile Empty Soul.

FN:  Have you ever created a fake band before playing Figment and if so, what led you to do so?

TMTYTF:  No. I honestly can’t say I have. However, I had thought of the name Stonekrank long before I discovered Figment. I always thought “If I ever joined/formed a band, I have to call us Stonekrank.” I’m not sure why I changed the spelling from “crank” to “krank”. Guess I just thought it sounded cool and I always thought Stonekrank would be a killer name for a band.

FN:  Stonekrank is your most popular band. What was the inspiration for that band?

TMTYTF:  Well, it’s difficult to say. They draw inspiration from so many directions. Staind is one real-life band they admire because they put so much passion and heart into their music. Stonekrank has always been about putting everything they’ve got into each release as well and they aim to display their heart and soul on every album. Other than that, my life has had a significant impact on what I do with Stonekrank. The band is very personal to me, not only because they were my first figment band, but because I think of them as a part of me. Also, they wanted to have a modern hard rock sound, yet stand out from all the other bands out there who were doing the same thing as all the others. The ‘Stone’ part of the name comes from David’s last name.

FN:  Are all of the band members in Stonekrank fictitious or are they based on real people?

TMTYTF:  You got me. As a matter of fact, two guys in Stonekrank are fake and two are based on real people. Mike Schmidt and Paul Donahue? Made up. David Stone is based off of me. Hell, my name is also David Stone (if you haven’t figured it out by now). He’s my rock star alter ego. Stone isn’t my legal last name even though I go by it. Ronnie Jenkins is partially based off of a friend of mine named Ronnie (although his last name isn’t Jenkins). Oh and the band’s original drummer, Steve P. Withers (now with Red Flames Rising), is also made up.

FN:  Stonekrank has sold almost 400 albums on Figment, had four #1 albums on the Hot Albums Chart, one #1 single, and two other albums that charted in the Top 3. How does that feel and what advice would you give other players who want to top the charts?

TMTYTF:  It is an honor that you guys like us so much. It feels great and we love you too. Stonekrank wouldn’t be half the band they are today without the fans. If you want a release to top the charts, put your heart and soul into it. That’s what I did with Stonekrank. I remember way back when, before they released Smokin’, they may have had a total of 12 fans give or take. It really took a lot of hard work and imagination to get them to where they are today and the more they grew and evolved as a band was when the fans really started to appreciate their work. I consider Smokin’ their first breakthrough album that really started to grow their fan base (it was also their first record to chart on the Hot Albums Chart). Another thing I feel has been vital to Stonekrank’s success is their individual songs. I try to come up with catchy titles and I’m really proud of how some of them turned out. My personal favorites: Boom Mothafucka, Tainted (A Headbanger’s Anthem), Krank’d Up, The Image of Your Sorrows, and Eden’s Farewell.

FN:  You’ve had a few feuds with other players on Figment over the years. Are you too outspoken or just misunderstood?

TMTYTF:  Oh I’m very misunderstood, in so many ways. My mouth has the tendency to have a mind of it’s own sometimes and gets me into a lot of trouble. I’ve found it’s easier to keep my mouth shut, but I do like talking so it’s hard sometimes. However, quite a few things I’ve said on Figment in the past have been taken way out of context, making it seem as if I said something I didn’t. I just want to explain to everybody on the site who is reading this that I do not like being involved in feuds and the things I say are said with the best of intentions, so if I’ve offended you in the past, I apologize and I hope we can be cool from this point on. I’d much rather be your friend than your enemy. I am a little outspoken at times, but mostly just misunderstood.

FN:  What is the band and/or album you’ve formed/released that you are the most proud of?

TMTYTF:  Oh I’m sure nobody will be surprised by this one but Stonekrank is the band and Ultimatum is what I consider my finest work. Even though there were so many more bands/albums I’ve formed/released that I’m very proud of. Stonekrank literally doubled their fan base after releasing Ultimatum. I released it on June 30th, 2010 and it remained a hot album well into September. It never reached that #1 spot but it is by far my highest selling and most listened to Figment album to date. I don’t know if I can top it, but I’ll sure as hell try. Even before I released it, I knew I was onto something big. I’m so glad all of you liked it as much as I did and saw the true creativity of Ultimatum. By the way, Stonekrank’s Taking Down An Empire is a close second, though.

FN:  What tools do you use to create your album cover and band images?

TMTYTF:  When I first started playing, I didn’t use any tools, just a direct copy paste. Then I started using photoshop. Eventually, ChildofAlma turned me onto Picnik.com and that has been working well for me ever since. Nothing too fancy, I usually just crop the covers square and adjust the colors and contrasts, etc. of my image, add any special effects, then add text.

FN:  Do you think design skills are necessary to be a top player on Figment? How do you think a player who doesn’t have incredible design skills can compete with players who do?

TMTYTF:  I realize that other players have mad design skills and crazy awesome art programs that the rest of us don’t have access to. I don’t have great design skills but I still managed to compete with the other players who do. So no, design skills are not necessary. A broad imagination is more of a requirement in my opinion. So are marketing skills (i.e. advertising).

FN:  Your label TooMuchTooYoungTooFast Records is not only home to all of the bands you create, but has also signed a number of Figment bands including The Angel’s Sin, Sanguine Symphony, x69 and Six-66 among others. Why did you decide to create a label? Do you think it’s enhanced your game play on Figment?

TMTYTF:  What’s funny is I didn’t create that label until almost 2 years after starting up on Figment. I always thought my bands had an implied label. After a while of playing and seeing other users have success with their record labels, I decided it was time for me to create one. Most, not all, of my bands are signed to TooMuchTooYoungTooFast Records. A few of them either switched over to Firecharged! Records or signed up upon forming (my other label, a bit more low key). Yes, I do feel that creating a label has enhanced my game play and I decided to let other bands from other users get in on my label because we gotta make it fun for them too.

FN:  You’ve clearly made some friends on Figment. Do you ever share what you’ve done on Figment with friends who aren’t on the site?

TMTYTF:  All the time. People get sick of hearing me talk about it. I’ve often said that fantasy football is for sports lovers, Figment is for music lovers. My real life friends don’t understand Figment, except for bobmuffin55, who is a real life friend of mine. He’s the only person I’ve ever recruited to Figment. Other than that, I think everyone else who doesn’t get Figment is missing out.

FN:  If you had to pick one Figment player whose work you admire who would it be?

TMTYTF:  Oh man, hands down ChildofAlma. He and I have a history on the site and I’ve probably been friends with him the longest. I mean, the dude created Sinthetic. And The Forgotten Falling. His work speaks for itself. I admire many other players as well, so I’m bummed I couldn’t give them a shout as well. You guys know who you are though.

FN:  Is there anything you’ve learned from playing Figment that you’ve been able to apply in the real world?

TMTYTF:  Marketing definitely. I think marketing on Figment and in the real world go hand in hand. Also, the graphic design of different album covers helps with creativity. I aspire to be in the music industry as a full time career. I have a deep, burning passion for it and there’s nothing else I’d rather do. All in all though, Figment has taught me a few things.

FN:  If someone asked you why you play Figment what would you tell them?

TMTYTF:  It’s a place where you can escape the real world and be yourself. You can express yourself through your bands and take them in any direction you want. It’s a virtual music industry and it’s about as close as you can get to the real thing without adding music. Figment is fun, and I will keep coming back!

 

It’s hard to believe that formerwageslave has only been playing Figment for a little over a year.  His almost total domination of the Figment Hot Albums chart (seven #1 albums) has quickly made him one of the most successful Figment players in the history of the site, and he’s certainly one of the fastest players to notch over 100 album sales for a band (Lucifer and the Long Pigs.)  While his success on the charts hasn’t scored him a major contest win just yet, he did win the 2011 Album Cover of the Year Figgie, tied for third in this year’s Album Cover Design Contest, and was a finalist in the 2010 Metal Concept Album Contest.  He also accepted and met the first Figment Challenge!

But accolades aside, formerwageslave is our latest player to be made an Industry Heavyweight for any number of reasons.

First of all, his design work speaks for itself.  Whether it’s industrial techno or Viking Metal you can immediately identify the vibe of one his band’s the minute you lay eyes on them.  Or should I say when they lay their eyes on you!

His writing skills are evident in the song titles, band/album descriptions and news that he creates for each of his bands, and are every bit as important as his design skills.  With song titles like “Slow Dance With A Steak Knife” and “Ethergoddess Kiss” is it any wonder that Vorpal Queen has dominated the charts?  And when his Viking Metal band Vengeance Burns Eternal felt snubbed after receiving only one Figgie nomination his band responded by saying, “We have been notified that our noble band has been shunned from this so-called awards ceremony, save for a nomination for Dagur’s silly slogan. We will not forget this day! We would gladly roast the judges on spits over open flames, then feast on their charred flesh. We would decorate our studio with their bones, and smear their brains upon our bodies like greasepaint. Should our next album be full of harmless pap involving angry fruit and lengthy hogs? Swina bqllr!”  Priceless.

Another great thing about formerwageslave is his truly collaborative nature.  Whether it’s his innovative collaboration with FuriousGrace on the “Within…” and “Without Screwtape’s Grasp…” double disc release, his work on the ZV & Janissary World Tour Poster or his involvement in the Deathklaat supergroup project, formerwageslave is not above working with any Figment player.

So congratulations formerwageslave!  We’ll be depositing 15,000 pieces of lucre in your account as our way of saying thanks for all of your hard work.  We hope you’ll embrace your new position the same way you’ve embraced Figment and will pass your knowledge as well as some extra lucre to the rest of our Figment community.

We’d also to thank ChildofAlma for doing such a great job as an Industry Heavyweight over the past few months.

I’ll always owe my friend Rod a debt of gratitude for introducing me to hip-hop at an early age.  Back in 1981, Larry, Rod and I used to hang out in Rod’s basement and listen to records.  It was then that he introduced me to old school rap like The Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and many other groups.  When we weren’t listening to rap we were spinning Go-Go records by the likes of Trouble Funk, E.U. (Experience Unlimited) and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers; funk records by bands like Slave, Parliament/Funkadelic, Prince and The Bar-Kays; or soul from the likes of Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and even a pre-Ghostbusters Ray Parker, Jr. In turn, Larry and I turned Rod on to arena rock like Rush, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Scorpions and The Police among others.  I still remember creating fake radio shows for our fictional radio station WROD with it’s tagline of “Funk, Soul, Rock, Rooooooolllllll”, and it was around this time that Larry and I began creating fake bands, something that I know was hatched out of the music we were all listening to collectively.  Whether we were white or black was irrelevant.  We bonded over music and we all dreamed of being a rap, funk or rock star.

I just finished reading “The Tanning of America” by Steve Stoute (Gotham Books, 2011).  In “Tanning”, Steve talks about how hip-hop culture transcended music to create a new consumer mindset – a mindset that is not black or white, but tan.  Stoute, who began his career in music as a road manager for Kid N’ Play and worked his way up to Executive Vice President of Interscope Geffen A&M Records, left the music industry in 1999 to enter the world of advertising and is now the founder and CEO of Translation, a leading brand marketing company.

In his book, Stoute traces the rise of hip-hop from it’s birthplace in the rec room of a Bronx apartment building to it’s effect on the election of President Barack Obama, showing along the way how it’s influence on youth worldwide created the first generation of consumers with the same “mental complexion.”  He explains how hip-hop as a musical form created a new language or set of “codes” that redefined urban culture as the embodiment of cool, and how understanding the culture, mind-set and “codes” of these millenial consumers can lead to success for any brand.

While some of Stoute’s claims may at times seem to over-inflate rap’s influence (NWA’s co-opting of the Raiders attire led to an increase in NFL licensing and merchandise revenues from $300 million annually to $3 Billion), his book clearly shows how hip-hop culture has influenced consumer taste across the entire socio-economic spectrum.   Throughout the book Stoute talks about how he realized what a mobilizing force rap music could be for a consumer company if they knew how to stay “on the right side of cool.”  Whether it was the effect of Run-DMC’s “My Adidas” on the fortune of that brand or the way LL Cool J’s early adoption of brands like Kangol, Le Coq Sportif and Sergio Valente created new markets for those brands, it’s clear that when a brand is embraced by a hip-hop artist there is a direct, and more often that not, positive effect on it’s bottom line.  While some may dismiss rap because of it’s overt brand-name-checking and emphasis on money, consumerism and “bling”, Stoute points to the universal themes of “aspiration”, “credibility” and “authenticity” in explaining why rap resonates with consumers no matter their socioeconomic status.  When discussing it with Jay-Z he got this response,

“…he pointed out that many of the rock musicians had come from sustainable backgrounds, seeking acclaim for their talent and a level of cool that playing music gave them.  For rappers coming out of the projects, getting paid and bettering yourself is part of gaining credibility.  Jay reminded me also that it’s not selling out when a kid in the projects sees a guy rapping about Sprite or the Gap because they know he’ll be getting the money and that feeds his or her own aspiration.  It’s not that being acknowledged for talent and great work isn’t desirable, but getting paid trumps those goals.”

Whether you agree with Stoute or not really isn’t important when you stop to consider how much race relations have changed in America over the past 30 to 40 years since rap emerged as an art form, and “The Tanning of America” makes a strong case for rap’s influence on those changes.  I know rap had an effect on me, because as a white suburban kid listening to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five I was given a guided tour of the Bronx streets in songs like “The Message” and it was a revelation.  Having moved a lot as a child, I witnessed first-hand many examples of both overt and subtle racism, and while I was acutely aware of how race could be an issue for many people, it was never an issue for me.  Let’s face it growing up in the suburbs is very homogeneous, and I had little opportunity to interact with African Americans.  Music often bridged that gap and I think helped open my mind to different cultures, races, etc.  I guess that’s why I so loved those hours spent spinning records in my friend Rod’s basement.  As I said before, music bonded us together and was a way for us to translate those things about our upbringings that may have seemed different, but were in the end so similar.  It was indeed a “tanning” moment for both of us.  As I read this book I couldn’t help but think back to those times, and how music has continued to effect change and bring together generations of kids.  I know Hip-hop played a role in changing the way I think about race and what it was all about to be an American, and I hope it continues to do so for future generations.

Of course, “The Tanning of America” is also about how marketers can reach new consumers, and while you may think, “why would I want to read a book about using music to market brands?  Let me assure you that there are lessons to be learned here as well.  “Tanning” is a book about how an upstart musical style created on the streets of America changed the conversation not just about race, but also about how changing demographics and thinking continue to effect the new economy, a global economy that is fed by multicultural consumers who are attuned to how brands interact with them.  Let’s face it, music and marketing are inextricably connected, more so now than ever, and regardless of how you feel about that connection understanding why it exists and how powerful it can be is important to anyone who follows or wishes to be part of the music industry.  I know “The Tanning of America” gave me a new perspective on the subject, and I hope it will for you too.

So pick up a copy of “The Tanning of America”, give it a read, and get yourself a new “mental complexion.”

Visit The Tanning Effect blog.

Watch Steve talk about his book.

Follow Steve on Twitter.