Eric L. Interview: What Is Marathon Mode?
Just this week, VGM cover artist Eric L. announced Marathon Mode, a 5-week marathon of daily covers. Naturally, I had to investigate to ensure that he hadn’t lost his mind. What would compel someone to torture themselves by releasing a music video every single day for 35 days straight? The answers may shock you...
Ultimately, music is an expression of the human experience—and what's the human experience without a few mistakes on the way?
What is Marathon Mode for those who don't know?
Marathon Mode is a 5 week-long event I'm hosting on my YouTube channel during which time I'm uploading new video game music covers every day.
What compelled you to do daily covers?
The idea for Marathon Mode primarily stemmed from a conversation I observed between other members of the VGM community and a "YouTube guru" (I'm not really sure what else to call him). This "YouTube guru" had suggested doing daily covers as a means to develop an audience, and most of the community (myself included) cringed at the thought and basically rejected this idea as something that wasn't possible. After I thought about this conversation, I considered all of the possible advantages of doing something like this and began to wonder just how impossible this might be. I then spent some time considering what might go into doing something like this, and while I quickly realized it would be a lot of work, I decided I was up for the challenge.
How many covers have you finished in preparation of Marathon Mode?
I was able to finish recording 17 covers before officially announcing Marathon Mode—at the time I'm writing this, I've been able to finish four more since the reveal.
I'm the kind of person who doesn't ever stop if I have something to get done
How have you had to adjust your process to allow for quicker covers?
Part of the adjustment has been to just do less. A lot of times in making covers, I find myself caught up in feeling like my music has to be really dense and complicated (something that is heavily encouraged in my studies as a Jazz Major)—I've had the realization though that while that's cool and can serve the music well at times, the average listener is more interested in hearing music that gets them to feel something, and doesn't care about a crazy reharmonization or a super technically difficult trombone solo. I'm also finding that to make quicker covers, sometimes it takes saying "I'm okay with the fact that 'X' wasn't perfect". For me, that's usually listening back to an improvised solo that was 85% good and saying "I'm okay with the other 15%", because ultimately, music is an expression of the human experience--and what's the human experience without a few mistakes on the way?
Do you worry that you will experience burnout?
I've already had a brief run-in with burnout in some of my preparatory work for Marathon Mode, and honestly I'm glad it happened as soon as it did because it helped me realize how much I'm capable of doing in a day before it becomes too much. I'm the kind of person who doesn't ever stop if I have something to get done (admittedly borderline obsessive at times), and so that aspect of the process has been really good to kind of figure out how to balance "hustle" with being reasonable and taking care of myself.
You mention that you've made some of your best arrangements for Marathon Mode. Do you think that working under a time crunch affects your creativity?
I think that's the case some of the time—there are definitely a handful of my smaller arrangements that are pretty sweet, and I think it's because of that time constraint that I didn't overthink them. However, some of the larger arrangements were actually in progress long before I even began recording for Marathon Mode as they involved collaborators, and I think in some of those cases being able to write in ways with collaborators that I normally wouldn't be able to was the thing that bred even better creative work.
If the idea of making some imperfect music bothers you then attempting this may not be a wise decision.
What do you hope to accomplish from Marathon Mode? More views? More subs? Better efficiency?
In short, I'm hoping to develop all of those things through Marathon Mode, but with varying degrees of importance. An increase in audience and viewership would be a really cool result of this project and is definitely a motive to do this, but the primary function of Marathon Mode for me is to get better at the skills I use to make content so that I can work more efficiently, and be able to do more/better work as a result of that efficiency in the long-term.
What's been the most important thing that you've learned from doing Marathon Mode?
I've learned quite a bit in the way of technical information through working on Marathon Mode, and while that's all been very useful, I think the things I've learned about myself have been more important--specifically, where my limits fall. When you are recording music videos every day for weeks on end you start to learn what your limits are in many aspects, even if you don't always learn them in the healthiest of ways (sort of how I mentioned experiencing burnout earlier). Learning my limits in different capacities has allowed me to plan more effectively for the work I need to get done, and I've become more productive as a result.
Is this something that you would do again? Would you recommend it for other creators?
I'm not sure if I would do this again--at least not by myself (if I ever do, at the bare minimum, I will hire a video editor). It's been an exciting and engaging challenge, but it's also taken a lot of time and is far from sustainable in normal day-to-day life, especially when classes are in session. As for whether I would recommend it to other creators, I would because of the immense growth I have experienced both as a person and an artist, but this recommendation comes with a warning. This is definitely not something everyone can handle doing, and I'd recommend considering some things before you dive in headfirst.
The first thing to consider is that in doing this, you will inevitably create at least a few videos that you aren't entirely proud of. Don't get me wrong; you'll end up making some very cool videos as a result, but if the idea of making some imperfect music bothers you then attempting this may not be a wise decision. The other big thing to consider is how much you're willing to sacrifice in exchange for no immediate return. I've spent (and will continue to spend) whole days working on this project, between recording, mixing/mastering, video editing, description writing, thumbnail design, and anything else. It's become its own full-time job of sorts. If you're someone who likes to have a lot of free time, or if you already have a lot on your plate, attempting your own Marathon Mode may not be in your best interest.
While it’s not for me to decide Eric’s sanity, I have to commend him for such a monumental undertaking. He’s already uploaded three covers to his channel, so I think at the very least, we can help him by smashing that like button, ringing that bell, and flooding his comments section with encouragement.
Follow Eric on his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4twcaEcciyusgLcN8UsazQ
Eric L. is a jazz musician whose affinity for both music and video games eventually led him to create jazz arrangements of video game music on his YouTube channel. Eric is currently studying Jazz Performance in college, and works part time as a brass instructor at a local music store. Some of Eric's musical influences include Marshall Gilkes, Conrad Herwig, Hiromi, Jacob Collier, Snarky Puppy, T-Square, and the constantly growing video game music community on YouTube.