Exploring the Most Terrifying iPod Knockoffs of the Mid-2000s

In the land of vinyl sequoias, Spotify norm, and Winamp elitist, Wade Nixon, the man behind the incredibly popular YouTube channel “Dunkpods,” stands alone with a pair of MP3-playing Oakley sunglasses. They were produced in 2004 in the flamboyant zenith of the iPod craze, and they probably would have been lost entirely to history if Nixon separated them from eBay as part of its quest to revive the many shocking misfires of portable music. would not have jumped

Twenty years ago, during that brief pocket of air between the fall of the CD and the revolution of the cloud, it seemed Everyone, Even Oakley was chasing the elusive cool, bequeathing the iPod silhouette. Sunglasses are just the tip of the iceberg; DankPods has covered a Batarang MP3 player, and no statement made MP3 players, and a Nerf MP3 player—all of which are jittery, messy, and commonly found in the ancient Kmart checkout aisles. No MP3 player managed to remove the iPod from the throne, but Nixon believes the legacy of these failed experiments is worth preserving. And, against all odds, millions of DankPods viewers feel the same way.

“I was a kid during these times. I was born in 1990. I had these manly MP3 players,” says cheery Nixon early in the morning from his home in South Australia. “I am nostalgic for them, but they are junk. are pieces of. Nobody bought them. And I know that because I’ve never had a problem finding brand new copies of them. ,

The fascination with old, bad MP3 players certainly doesn’t seem like the foundation of a hugely popular web series. And yet, DankPods has cultivated 1.2 million subscribers on YouTube and garnered an impressive audience of more than 37,000 patrons on Patreon, which nets her roughly $40,000 a month. DankPods is currently the fourth most popular operation on Patreon among accounts that publicly disclose their Patreon totals, with more backers than the podcasting juggler. Chapo Trap House,

Nixon has spent his entire professional life around music; He was a drummer by trade before his social media success and studied something called “Jazz Philosophy” in college. He says one with one experience a lot of The expensive pair of headphones at school made him a lifelong audiophile. In their early era, DankPods mostly showcased Nixon’s iPod modding prowess. In May 2020, he brainwashed 2,000 gigs into an iPod Classic. The video was produced by Algorithm8, and his life has never been the same since.

These days, DankPods is primarily centered around deep-dive into Nixon, which currently piece of old digital-audio crap is capturing their imagination. He’s a natural performer: witty and charming in the way that YouTubers typically are with enough technical fluency to capitalize on the UI horrors of an MTV-branded MP3 player. (It has a tiny microphone built in for some reason! What were they thinking!) Nixon tells me he’s not afraid to run out of material at all and has literally hundreds of shoddy MP3 players left to find. The benthic area of ​​the second hand market.

“The way you find really weird stuff is just by searching the word ‘mp3’ globally and scrolling through 30,000 results on eBay. Honestly, I just sit on the couch and scroll through.” I do,” says Nixon, who mentions that this was the method he used to find a biblical MP3 player that was the subject of a recent video. “Once you go through all those results If so, you start misspelling. If I’m looking for a drum cymbal, I can type ‘drum cymbal’. That’s when you find people who don’t know what they have.”

Nixon’s hard work has paid off. It’s really shocking to see how deep the MP3 rabbit hole goes, but I think the ascent of the DankPods signals a more glacial generational shift. At 31, Nixon has grown up listening to music exclusively digitally, and millennials are currently taking over what our culture is allowed to know about. Perhaps DankPods, in its own egregious way, is sanctifying the MP3 player in the same way we’ve preserved the same kind of old turntable. In fact, when I asked Nixon about his love of the format, he sounded like a boomer praising the virtues of analog warmth—in an entirely different era.

“The Internet can still be unreliable, even in an age when I can get a 5G hotspot from my phone. But there are still moments where it doesn’t work. [With an MP3 player,] it is yours. You are holding it,” he says. “I still use a black-and-white iPod today. It never stopped being good.”

The old ones fueled similar complaints about digital music – how can anyone claim a collection that doesn’t take up physical space? But streaming managed to abstract our relationship with our favorite records beyond all recognition, and now the idea of ​​importing a handful of MP3s into hard drives is a kind of archaic, connoisseur-ish mirth that never existed. When everyone had an iPod. (All of this nostalgia hit an apogee last month when Apple announced they were formally pausing iPod manufacturing, prompting Nixon to hold a candlelight vigil.) Dunkpods are having a doomed MP3 renaissance. may be in the forefront, which has not yet been fully elucidated. He certainly has the number of customers to show.

Of course, like every other creator on YouTube who has become immensely popular in a short amount of time, Nixon is wary of how the bulk of his finances are tied up with almighty platforms. YouTube is notoriously flawed in its content moderation, and its second channel, Garbage Time, was flagged after Nixon told me drumming on a Wii sports theme. It’s one of many reasons that Nixon extensively refits Patreon, where he hands over extra video to his boosters for a dollar a month. But he also finds some of Patreon’s technology finicky and unreliable. To become an internet celebrity in 2022 is to be constantly ready to take up shop when the app is bad and move to greener pastures, and Nixon is no exception.

“I feel safe because people are there for me. Even if I’ve been monetized for months, I could keep going. I’ve saved all my videos so I can go to Vimeo. If I’m on YouTube or Patreon I have all kinds of contingency plans in my mind if I have to leave,” he says. “I have parachutes on top of parachutes to pull me. I’m here to stay.”

One of the beautiful things about Dankpods is the way the show harkens back to the pre-algorithmic era, when our listening habits were completely replaced by whatever we could afford on iTunes or cradle from Napster. could. When Nixon fires up an old MP3 player, I’m often amazed at how the files are still intact. yes you really can do Listen to the Converge albums left to slather on those Oakley sunglasses, who knows how long. MP3s are stubbornly immortal at a time when the rest of our online experience seems increasingly ephemeral, and I think Nixon has embraced the same posture. DankPods will live as long as questionable portable music players survive. Right now, it’s looking as usual.

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