“Gypsy Bard” and the My Little Pony Fandom’s Creative Output

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve a certain fondness for throwing characters into interesting situations to see what makes them tick and, as I’ve also mentioned before, I got lured into the My Little Pony fandom by the wide selection of catchy fan-created music. I’ve decided I want to comment further on that.

While waiting for some files to transfer, I found myself reading a well-written self-insert fanfic (Damn you, recommendations sidebar! You always know just what’ll hook me next! ;P ) with an interesting plot point:

When our hero discovers that this isn’t just any My Little Pony setting, but, rather, that she’s “stuck in a snow globe” made of her own hypothetical musings, she tries to drink away the resulting burst of existential despair and winds up singing a song. There’s more to it, but I want to focus on the song:

Gypsy Bard Cover by Dreamchan feat. Princewhateverer

Ignoring the benefits of this kind of cross-referencing being common, let’s look at the context in which this song exists.

In addition to Dreamchan’s cover, this same song also has a remix by The Living Tombstone (with impressive visual accompaniment by olibacon), a cover with piano accompaniment by Flutterwhat, an orchestral-styled instrumental version by BassBeastDJ, and various other ones that don’t stand out from the crowd as clearly like this 8-bit cover.

Now, this isn’t unheard of. In fact, having a large constellation of covers, remixes, and the like, seems to be becoming more common. For example, see this cover and many others for the song Megalovania from Toby Fox’s Undertale or the many “Abridged Series” comedy dub edits. (Here’s an example clip with non-worksafe language taken from one of them.)

It’s not even unusual for a fandom to produce fanworks that go beyond ordinary covering and/or remixing. For example, here are some songs from the fans of Starcraft, Deus Ex, Portal ([1], [2]), Star Wars Galaxies, Mass Effect 2, and Battlefield 1.

What makes MLP:FiM noteworthy is how much the fandom has been producing fanworks that go beyond merely remixing existing content. For example, the Deus Ex and Mass Effect 2 songs I linked were both by the same artist, Miracle of Sound, while the MLP fandom alone has artists like ponyphonic, WoodenToaster, and StormWolf, each having produced multiple songs.

The fans were even working on a fighting game, called Fighting is Magic, before Hasbro decided that went too far and sent them a Cease and Desist notice.

What makes Gypsy Bard so special is that it’s an original song written for episode 7 of an “Abridged Series” (I quote it because the creators consider it too divergent for that term to fit well) called “Friendship is Witchcraft”.

Why is that so important? Because of what it implies about the size and vitality of the fan community. Not only did they get together enough people to voice-act an Abridged Series, they also managed to find someone to write original songs. Then, on top of that, one of those songs inspired its own covers and remixes… one of which (Dreamchan’s) would have been based on Flutterwhat’s piano version if Princewhateverer hadn’t contributed a guitar version. In other words, it’s a third-order fan-work at minimum. (A fan-work of a fan-work of a fan-work… not counting indirect inspirations) Those are not common. In fact, until My Little Pony, the most I’d ever seen was a second-order fan-work.

However, to be fair, with music, the main barrier to high-order fanworks is getting attention. What I originally saw were second-order fanfics, which require readers to be familiar with the original work first. (For example, a Harry Potter fanfic named Make a Wish was popular enough for other people to write fanfics in the universe it established.)

A closer musical analogue would be The Mirror Lies, a heavy metal song written as a tie-in to a My Little Pony fanfic named A Change of Face.

Nonetheless, I still maintain that the fandom for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has attracted an uncommon mix of quality and quantity when it comes to creative and skilled fans. Let’s just hope that it’s merely ahead of the curve and this kind of output will become increasingly common.

UPDATE 2021-01-12: I haven’t kept up on things enough to be sure, but it looks like it’s probably a bit of both. I haven’t noticed anyone else in fanfiction as prolific as the bronies were at their peak, but we are also seeing a rise in content overall as well.

An example of a comparable outlier on the gaming side would probably be Minecraft with songs like Diggy Diggy Hole and MoonQuest for Yogscast (the former now covered by Wind Rose), In Search of Diamonds by Eric Fullerton, parodies like TNT and Revenge by CaptainSparklez under his own name, etc.

CC BY-SA 4.0 “Gypsy Bard” and the My Little Pony Fandom’s Creative Output by Stephan Sokolow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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