Keygen Music: From Cracktros to Demoscene to 8-bit Black Metal

by birtanpublished on July 2, 2020

keychain music can be as deliberately

difficult as black metal or esoteric

mysterious guy hardcore but it can also

be a lot more fun my own personal

journey with key gen music started with

a tweet from at duality jack in 2016 if

there's one thing that this exists is

all about it's making dreams come true

like a couple of years late maybe every

six months you know whatever whatever


up until this tweet sent me down a

rabbit hole keygen music was one of

those things you know I had heard of but

I hadn't heard which is a way of saying

I really didn't know that much about it

but I didn't want to sound like a total

fool but then you hear it and you

remember yes this this is the sound of



keep said music is based in 80s and 90s

hacker culture which I'm obviously very

intimately connected to and

knowledgeable of because of my extensive

exposure to the film hackers which I am

sure is a fantastically realistic

depiction of the era of which I am now

prepared to pontificate for you qualify

crews back then were competing to crack

software and this created a culture of

healthy competition and from that sprang

the introduction of crack introductions

crack intros or crack throws which would

be built by crews in front of their

pirated software to pump their to

call out members of the crew who had

done the work and to disrespect their





early cracked roads were just private

graffiti there'd be a name scroll maybe

a simple animation but they progressed

along with technology and as more and

more home PCs came with sound chips

music was added and visuals started

becoming more and more elaborate and

eventually an entire scene around crack

intros grew separate from the idea of

just pirating software this was called

demo scene in which crews would build

the most exciting and inventive visual

and sound thing for cool reasons



music and cracked rose was made possible

by mod files which were easy to program

with esoteric music tracking software

and whereas a wav file or an mp3 file

which did not exist at that time would

have been way too big to fit on the

floppy disks that were you know where

pirated software lived a mod file could

feature a 3-minute song in 20 kilobytes

using just a single sample that could be

reap itched and rearranged or the sine

square and triangle waves of every day

sound chips that were all of a sudden

present in home pcs this sound this

limitation this computer-based sound is

the essence of what we now know as chip

tune and through this developing

technology for sound and the

simultaneously explosive growth of what

you could do visually on home computers

demo scene was born separate from

cracking and pirating software this was

just about the cracked rose just about

impressing other crews with just how

good you were at building a thing


demo scene allowed crews to flex for

each other showing it was possible with

new technology for an audience of other

creative computer nerds and as cracked

software transitioned from being

exchanged on floppy disks to exchanged

via torrents often programs would come

with a key generation program that would

allow you to open up your copy of

Microsoft Office that you needed to make

your computer homework look good and

professional and inside of those key

generating programs was music called

from demo see all of a sudden keygens

became the largest platform for the

distribution of music that had

previously been limited to a tiny

community of hackers making music for

other hackers now normy is like me were

able to hear music that had previously

been restricted to those who knew that

hackers was not a realistic portrayal of

hacker culture


I was joking off the top about

black-metal but I do think the

comparison is apt first of all there's

an inherent criminal element but there's

also the idea that this music is built

for a very specific community that will

understand the rules and the structure

of the music and sometimes when

Outsiders are piled into it it can be

very confusing and perhaps problematic

and ultimately all of this work all of

this creativity is in service of

bettering that community of building up

a scene that's really not for anyone

else whether that's cracked Rose or

whether that's you know burning down a

church and making a song it's just like

it may have been a few years but I

guarantee the sound of some of these

songs will ring a very nostalgic and

criminal part of your heart bells and

you can check out some of the best of

key gen music in an amazing article in a

comp from nest that is linked in the

description and I think some of it will

feel very familiar to you and even

though the heyday of crack cruise and

demo scene and key gen music may be over

I would argue that the spirit still

continues in artists who build up these

walls and create very specific

environments for you to listen to their

music in my favorite current example of

this is a band from Toronto called kam



can boys debut EP is called while city

and the only way for you to play it is

to play the video game that they made to

go along with it where you are the

titular can boys trying to get to a gig

but you're being stopped by longboarding

lizards and you have to power up by

getting hamburgers on your way to the

gig but there are five songs contained

within the levels of this video game and

you have to go through the five levels

of the game in order to listen to them

it's not a direct one-to-one comparison

with key gen music but the idea that you

are forced to be in a specific place in

front of your computer to hear what it

was definitely a lot of work seems very

spiritually connected to that spirit of

the 80s and 90s this makes sense in so

many ways for a modern audience to

consume music so much of our creativity

is attached to our computers it comes

from and through and around and is all

about these machines that control our

lives and so whereas mostly we

experience our music on our phone on our

commuter on our phone waiting for the

bus so we can begin our commute to force

someone to listen to something in a very

specific place doing a very specific

task whether that's stealing Photoshop

or playing your video game is a really

interesting idea and changes the way

that you experience that music this is

not going to be a surprise for any of

you because I have a youtube channel but

I am guilty of searching for praise and

recognition for just about every tiny

thing that I do and so it's interesting

to me that there are people in this

world who want to put all of that work

into something creative whether it's a

song or a video game and then wall it

off so that not everyone has immediate

access to it but anyone with the right

set of curiosities is able to experience

it exactly how you wanted them to so you

can check out wild city from kam boys in

the description and maybe get a sense of

what it was like to steal something

without stealing it and here's some good

music without having to steal something

what do you think do you see the spirit

of crack Cruz and demo scene and key gen

music in any modern music or is it just

the homage and the tip of the hat of

bands like anime Noguchi let me know you

think in the description and be sure to

subscribe for new episodes of this

exists from time to time be excellent to

each other

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