Ted Talks: Rock ‘N’ Roll Star


What truly motivates you, constant reader, to build your MOC’s and share them with the masses?  We already know you enjoy building your castles, and trains, and SHIPs (oh my).  You also do it to help your fellow builders with tips, share techniques, and provide positive feedback… for the good of the building community.  What more could anyone ask for, right?  Gee, Wally. How altruistic of you.

C’mon, people… you know, and I know, there is something else stirring underneath the surface…

It starts out as a little burning ember at first.  You’re hooked on getting the MOC views, and now you are yearning for a little more recognition. Fanned by the faves and encouraging comments from other builders, it burns brighter and grows inside you.  Eventually it consumes you, in a raging inferno that craves the FULL ATTENTION of the community!  You’re not looking for mere recognition from your peers anymore.  You’re looking for acclaim!  It is your DESTINY to become one of the “LEGO ROCK STARS”!!!

♪♫ “So you want to be a rock ‘n’ roll star? / Then listen now to what I say”.♫♪ – The Byrds

Look at me! Blog me! Love me! Name a build technique after me! Put my MOC’s onto trading cards… Hire me to be a designer at LEGO!”

 ♪♫ “Just get a [LEGO set] / then take some time and learn how to play.”♫♪

Well, duh!  Starting out, I think everyone understands that essential step of honing your craft.  It’s a long way to the top, if you want to Rock N’ Roll.  There’s not much else that really needs to be said.  If for some reason you are considering a spiritual training camp with an Indian guru to be further enlightened, let me save you the trouble.  Your meditation mantra is this: “Build my collection… Build some MOC’s… Build my collection… Build some MOC’s…”

33357057533_f0c2e9daa1_o.jpgthereeljames – Ommmmm

♪♫ “And in a week or two if you make the [blogs] / the girls’ll tear you apart”♫♪

If you’re a “LEGO savant”, maybe it does only take you a week or two to get your first blog post.  Typically though, it’s a gradual build up, as your skills and parts collection improve over time… but either way, it has finally happened!!!  You’ve made the “Cover of the Rolling Stone”  and have gotten your first “Top-40 hit”.  The web-traffic and views on your photo page have gone through the roof!!!  …But slow down there, “Stillwater”.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  You’re still only a one-hit-wonder and merely “Almost Famous”…

If you start racking up more blog hits, you’ll also start racking up the favorites and the followers too.  At some point those builders that you considered “Rock Star Legends” will actually start following you.  Eventually, you build up enough confidence to go out on the LEGO CON-cert Tour with them.  You’ll play your solo act on stage, and then play in a collaborative jam session for the final encore.  Once the public has gone home, you play late night poker after the show with the roadies, sitting around a DUPLO table and trading your MOC’s for a few cans of “The Brown Note”… Rock N’ Roll, baby!!!

6045417123_fe1d4ea2a8_o.jpgcaptainsmog – On The Stage

Fame can be fleeting though, and new acts are always appearing on the scene.  To stay on the radio play lists, you’ll need to keep “Feeding that Monster!” by churning out those pop song hits.  Building a MOC in a popular licensed theme is a smart choice (Star Wars builds are always perineal chart toppers – the exception being “clones on a plate”)… might I also recommend participating in an Iron Builder contest?

♪♫ “Sell your soul to the company / who are waiting there to sell plastic ware.”♫♪

There are plenty of “LEGO Rock Stars” that reached the pinnacle and cashed in to become TLG “company men” and “company women”.  You’ll notice that they seldom get the time to build/post their own MOC’s anymore.  They don’t even want to build after a full workday of pushing brick-shaped pixels around a monitor screen.  Now they are just another Technic gear in TLG’s “hit making machine”.  They are chained to their desks, creating watered-down “Danish pop songs” that can appeal to everyone, especially to kids ages 8-and-Up, and that fit neatly into a certain market-determined piece-count/price-point.  They’re “getting’ hygee with it”… ♪♫ Happy Happy Joy Joy…♫♪

Stinky Wizzelteats – “I’ll teach you to be happy!…  I’ll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!”.

 Even if you don’t catch the eye of the major TLG Label and become a full-time contract-artist, don’t worry.  You can still get a taste of the action as a one-time guest performer.  Maybe you submit a few LEGO set ideas to CUUSO, IDEAS, or whatever it is that “American Idol” reality show is called these days.  If your idea goes “GOLD”, at least there’s still a modest chance the final design will maintain some modicum of your artistic vision.  But first you’ll need to thoroughly humiliate yourself by pimping for those votes… week… after week… after week….  Once you DO hit ‘GOLD’, and if TLG thinks you’ve handed them a bona fide hit, they’ll start pumping out the plastic.  They’ll even give you a 1% royalty on every record sold!  ONE PERCENT!!!

But that’s not the only way to cash in on your “Rock Star” acclaim.  You can also sign on with an independent label, or create your own. Rather than “selling yourself out” to TLG, you’re trying to sell out of your commissioned MOCs, custom printed figures, trading cards, action wear, etc.   You take your “Don’t Tread On Me” concert T-shirts with you on every stop of the LEGO CON-cert Tour, and then sell them on-line when you get home.  If your fans really like what you do, then surely they will pay up and support you, right?  They know you’ve got bills to pay, and more bricks to buy?  Maybe giving away MOAR free prototypes will entice them? Or maybe you need to find some other way to promote your wares? (…might I recommend sponsoring an Iron Builder contest?)

Pine Barons – Clowns “I am just a clown like you, and we fake smiles for pay…feeling so transparent.”

♪♫ “The money, the fame, and the public acclaim… ”♫♪

Up to this point I’ve been talking about “Rock N’ Roll” stars. They still have to crank out that “rock n’ roll” music that appeases the masses… “FREEBIRD!”  …But then there are the “MEGA STARS” that Leg Godt on a whole different level.  They can build whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.  They are the trend setters (sometimes accidentally) and meme creators (sometimes purposefully).  They have been featured performers in Block-umentaries.  You know of whom I speak.

“Mega Stars” have followers in the thousands (like > 7,500).  Those large numbers have only gotten worse (I mean better) with LEGO being in the mainstream now.  On a bad day, they get 20 more new flickr followers, 15 of which have empty photostreams and those generic flickr camera avatars. On a bad day, they only get 150 favorites on a new MOC that hasn’t even been blogged yet.

"Fried Chicken!" - A tribute to Freddie Mercury

Ochre Jelly and “Fried Chicken!” (yum)

For their ‘fans’, which even include the “Rock Stars”, there is almost no hope of making any deep personal connections with the “Mega Stars” anymore.  Don’t get me wrong.  They aren’t cold hearted elitists.  They just can’t keep up with all the fan mail, let alone all of their fans’ photostreams to reciprocate the love. I wonder if they even fave other people’s MOCs anymore, let alone comment. (Perhaps they need to hire personal assistants – actually, I know that has already happened…. “Hey mom. Can you check my flickr to see if there is anyone I need to respond to while at BW?”).

When you are a “MEGA Star”, you don’t need to connect with everyone on a one-on-one basic anymore.  “We ain’t one-at-a-timin’ here! We’re mass communicatin’!”   Your MOC concerts are filling MEGA-STADIUMS now! You’re headlining ROCK FESTIVALS!  YOU Control The Action!  You have truly arrived.

Orange Stage at LEGO World

♪♫ “The price you paid for your riches and fame, / was it all a strange game? You’re a little insane”♫♪

Jonatha Brooke – “Careful what you wish for…”

There is a price to be paid for being a “Mega Star”.  To avoid the paparazzi, they have to build their own private LEGO Neverland compounds, and only invite the people over who knew them “before they were famous”.  They have to register at LEGO CON-cert hotels under false names too (…psst… I know who you are Mr. Bricky McBrickface).  When they walk through the LEGO CON-cert hall, they overhear jealous comments about their latest hairstyle, and the MOC’s they brought with them (btw – does TLG print the “Law of Jante” in the fine print of every instructions booklet, or something?)

LEGO “Mega Stars” must miss those halcyon days when they were up-and-coming builders, trading critiques on Lugnet and playing the “open-mic night” at the Corner Café.  I can’t fathom what it is TRULY like to be a “Mega Star”, and I’m too lazy to reach out to some of them and ask.  I’m no “Rock Star” myself either; being put onto a trading card just isn’t my goal in life (however, I’m always down for a lunch box lid).  I’m happy simply being an “Almost Famous” kind of builder; doing just enough to be relevant, but not enough to edge over that slippery slope.  Having seen the various endings to this cautionary tale, I don’t aspire to fly much higher.  I have my “Piece of Mind


Boston – “Piece of Mind”

Despite dragging my feet, I still net a couple new random flickr followers a week, for God knows why.  I’m at 1,800 flickr followers right now, which is a little insane, and with no hope of ever keeping up with them all…. Speaking of being “a little insane”, aren’t most creative types?  We’re never gonna’ survive unless we get at a little crazy… (…being A LOT crazy is a whole other matter…).

♪♫ “Don’t forget who you are, you’re a rock and roll star!”♫♪

So, where does this chase for “fame and acclaim” lead in the end?  Right back to the same question I asked at the very beginning: “What truly motivates us to build and share with the community?” Why are we doing all this?  To what end?  When our heads start to swell up from the moments of praise, we should probably ask ourselves this question time and again.

If it IS to become a “LEGO Rock Star”, now’s the time in this article for the reality check.  Remember that “Rock Star” status is mainly limited to within our own FOL Universe, and in our own minds.  It’s no more than that juvenile battle in the “LEGO High School” cafeteria to climb the lunch-table pecking order.  I assure you, no one outside of our FOL Universe gives a rat’s ass.  To most outsiders, we’re ALL just bunch of neo-maxi-zoom-dweebi’s, no matter where we are sitting; man-kinder, women-kinder, and sometimes actual kinder, just playing with toys.  That’s right.  They’re toys; we should be out there having fun with them, and playing well with each other.  Why so serious?

Space Cafe

BricksTreasure – Space Cafe

If our personal motivation is to become better builders, then we need to remember that all of these counts of views, faves, and awards are but arbitrary measures.  The means to become better builders comes from continually pushing ourselves to improve, by learning from others who inspire us, seeking out feedback, and not being overly defensive in the face of an occasional critique.  We’ll rise up by helping others rise up with us.  As cliché as it is, in The End, “the love you take is equal to the love you make”…  But don’t just take it from me.  Take it from the Walrus…

Paul McCartney – Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End


With that, I think this musically themed satire has rambled on long enough.  It’s time for YOU to step up to the mic for the encore, and take over the comments stage.  Bring it on home!  Tell us about your stardom, or just rip on my playlist choices.  If you not a “Rock Star” yet, then you can just give us your best Neil Diamond cover (or whatever it is that your generation listens to these days).  This is your chance to shine!



24 thoughts on “Ted Talks: Rock ‘N’ Roll Star

  1. As far as pursuit of fame goes, this is spot on. I can definitely relate to some of your stages.

    But there’s one part you left out that I find more satisfying – the personal achievements (that still go hand in hand with attention). Like that moment when you actually feel that you improved, that you don’t have to rely on gimmicks (like npu overload or using complex techniques just for the sake of using them where simple would do just fine, probably even look better) to attract attention anymore. The moment you escape the theme(s) you were stuck in and realize you can actually build in any scale or style you want. (The more themes you build in, the more followers, since you’re doing something for every taste, eh? ) The moment you develop your own distinctive style, where anyone familiar with your stuff will be able to attribute it to you from a quick glance over the thumbnails.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying the enjoyment I get from attention. Not at all. It’s actually one of the things that push me towards my goals. But it’s not the ultimate goal. It’s not the main motivation. Nor is that altruistic stuff you mentioned either (That’s what others should do for me!). Getting to the point where I can see/think something I like and be able to brickify it is the goal.

    You don’t have to be a mega-star to miss the days when you were a new builder. You just have to be in this hobby for enough time. There are things I miss about those times, both regarding interaction with the community, and regarding building itself.


    1. Good call-outs. In my mind, I considered the awards within the “racking up the blog hits”, but it definitely deserved it’s own specific mentions. Thanks for filling in that gap, and for the rest of your thoughts. I think once someone has an identifiable style is a good milestone too (but that qualification could make you the “town drunk” as easily as it could a rock star… Or perhaps they are just ahead of their time… Murmurdog?…)


      1. Town drunk?! I’ll have you know, good sir, that my drunken style reaches well beyond this town! Uhthankyouverymuch.


      2. Haha, I’ll admit murmurdog crossed my mind when I wrote that, but then the truth is if I saw one of his builds without the signature, I don’t think I’d be recognizable because of his style, but rather because of our discussion. And if I take a moment to think about it, I can’t give you a negative example here, but maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough. What I had in mind were guys like mihaimariusmihu and Iain, not people that just build weird things.


    2. Yeah, the rock star thing – definitely motivation. But as Vitreolum notes, personal achievement is a strong motivating factor as well. For me (and this should come as no surprise), it is about pushing limits. I started doing what I do because I was disgusted with the “state of the art” in terms of representing human figures with Lego bricks. I thought that the work of even some of the most prominent Lego figure builders left a lot of room for improvement. I figured there had to be a better way to do things…

      I still don’t think I have accomplished most of the things that I set out to do, but I feel that I may have advanced the state of the art a little, especially as I see a handful of similarly-styled works pop up in various locations – and that is definitely gratifying. I’m pretty sure that rock star status will be an elusive goal for me, especially given my niche, but I’m hoping that at least I can be a decent roadie:


      1. You’ve pushed the medium more than a lot of “rock stars” out there in my book. “Niche” is just another word for “not as influential as you should be.”


      2. Sorry man, you’re doing art. You’re never gonna be a rock star!
        Hopefully one of your works will end up in the Met one day.
        But as Cristopher said you deserve much more attention!


  2. I enjoy the praise and the popularity, but I really can’t care one way or the other. The metrics of what constitute fame and rock star status are faulty and fleeting, why pursue it? And by what gauge is all that quantifiable? X number of likes + Y number of followers = Z(MB) level of legendaryness? pffffft. Pass. If I have to live up to every expectation and blow people out of the water with every build, where’s the fun in that? And what does anyone get by seeing rock stars amaze us every time? I want to see Tyler Clites fuck up a build, at least then I’d know he wasn’t some damn time traveling robot from the Lego future, like Timecop without the mullet. If being a rock star means not being allowed to make mistakes, then count me the fuck out; I do that daily and couldn’t possibly qualify. And I actually learn more from those mistakes than the successessesses.

    Am I altruistic? Hardly. I have pursuits for the community that would improve it, but I know that they are MY ideals and opinions. Are my pursuits egotistical? Certainly. But really only in the definition of “for myself” and my own expansion. Do I want fame? I won’t turn it down, but it’s definitely not what motivates me. Do I do it for the hookers and blow? Yup! And I only upload to the community because I’ve got nothing better to do while I wait for the gay tranny German midget porn to download. Like everyone else, amiright? Hello? -tap, tap- this mic on?

    But what really motivates me is that I found a community here that not only does not think alike, but also revels in the fact that we don’t. And it all stems from a simple toy! That respect and counter argument and conversation excites me. That is the Art that nourishes me. Back in high school, we had a period one day when the teacher asked us to list the ten things we wanted in life without limits. Everyone listed Lambos, Ferraris, executive jobs in Forbes listed companies, blah blah blah. I said all I wanted was a pair of maple trees far enough apart to hang a hammock. And was serious about it! All the other answers everyone gave fell in line with each other’s and all were in agreement, save me. I think I’ve found my hammock, especially here, in respect for the complexity of Lego as a simple pursuit. The disagreements are truthful and thoughtful without losing respect, THAT’S a delicious pursuit for me and what I build because it mimics my own arguments with myself and this art. And those that are famous are of equal voice in places like this, no special treatment (except for Mike, but he needs constant reassurance), no discouragement FOR the lack thereof, no secret handshakes (although that would be totally bitchin’!), just honesty. To be a rock star in my hammock means absolutely nothing to me and amounts to even less in real life, the trees don’t give a shit. All three of them. 😉


    1. Another way to put the theme of this article is “Which do you see the FOL Community as more; Something to conquer, or something to be a part of?” I would guess almost all of Manifesto readership is solidly in the “be a part of” camp, and this article was preaching to the choir… but sometimes it feels like more and more people have the “conquer” mentality, with “We are the Champions” as their theme song… and perhaps a “shot across their bow” was in order…

      I think in early days of the community, most 18yr+ builders were just happy to find other kindred spirits, and glad not to be the only ones out there. With LEGO going “mainstream” in the 18+ world, it seems like that aspect of “the struggle” and “the history” is being taken for granted (like, “Of course Brickworld has 1,000 registered attendees. Hasn’t it always?”…)


      1. I think I’m a blend of both camps. I want to have an impact on the people who made an impact on me. And maybe inspire people as others inspired me. But as far as faves and follows are concerned, the only ones I care about are from people I respect, who may or may not be “mega stars.” I don’t care about the general public or even the average Lego fan who’s only interested in collecting sets and minifigs. I’d rather be a “Lego builder’s Lego builder” than someone with wider mainstream success.


  3. What motivates me to build? I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that it’s a question we need to ask ourselves each day. To me, I build for a story’s sake. I’ve always been a reader and always loved writing, constantly coming up with characters and locations and plots that go nowhere. But when I pick up a minifig, my character becomes real, becomes physical. A handful of bricks can become that tower in that place with that particular moat that I’d thunk about. That was what always kept me in the Lego sphere.

    But as for the fame, the community, I think Matt answered it the best. We have an incredibly diverse community from pretty much everywhere, all tied to a single toy! Sure, the masses don’t give a toss about it, but the fact is we do. I was drawn into the community by Overlords Goldman and Rutherford and I’ve stayed ever since. And yes, my skills have improved as I’ve gotten older, and yes my followers have increased, but the fame hasn’t been what’s kept me going.

    I love recognition like any other human being. I wouldn’t turn down a trading card with a character of mine plastered to its back. But it was never about the number of followers. All I wanted was to share a story or two, and I didn’t really mind how crazy it got!

    I’m no Rock Star, not even an ‘Almost Famous”. I’m a young rocker, my guitar’s out of tune and my amp’s busted. But I’ll still keep playing, no matter how many actually enjoy the music, because that’s the only way forward (or up in this case).


  4. Personally I build what I like to. I try to do as good as I can. And yes I post my builds to show them if I’m satisfied with the result.
    I’m not a rock star and never will be, hopefully! Building too less and posting too seldom…

    Although I’m happy when getting more faves as usual and like to read comments to my builds, I take the most from attending conventions. It is so much fun to directly talk to people and hear what they think about what I did when seeing in person.

    What I find the worst on that rock star thing is that much better builds by less known builders get way too less attention. Why are the rock stars featured so often on the blogs. They already have so much attention no need to push anymore.

    Some of my builds have been featured on blogs and I sill feel proud about that. But non of those featured builds got as much attention as a trooper on a plate by a rock star. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. This fact just gives me a hint on what all those likes are worth. They mean nothing compared to a comment you get when talking face to face!


    1. “What I find the worst on that rock star thing is that much better builds by less known builders get way too less attention.”

      Well you answered that yourself – less known builders. You want attention, you have to work for it. That’s the ugly truth. It’s not as easy as posting a magnificent build and worship will come. Some may get lucky. Most won’t. And when they get lucky, they just move in the rock star area if they’re good enough and the cycle starts again; another unknown builder should get more praise blah blah. It’s all a worthless clusterfuck.

      And the simple truth is you can’t expect to post 2-3 builds and expect to get the attention Tyler gets after years and years of dazzling the community and beyond, not matter how good those builds are. Best you can hope for is get the attention his clones on a plate get.

      This may even make a good subject for an article – ways to draw attention to your builds.

      The point of faves is not to gauge the worth of a build. They’re influenced by way too many factors – how good the build is, npu, popularity of the builder, popularity of the theme and so on. They’re simply a tool to tickle the ego of the builder. And in that respect they do their job just fine. A new builder will be overjoyed with his new milestone of 20 faves and a rockstar will revel in his 400, but in the end the guy with the 20 faves will get more satisfaction out of them.

      As for blogging, I disagree with you. Blogging rocks star makes sense. New people are coming in every they and they have no idea who’s who. Those blogs are their main gateway. Then there’s plenty casual lego fans who don’t follow builders on flickr and the likes. TBB may be the only place where they get their moc fix.

      Also, the fact that they’re rock stars doesn’t mean everyone knows them. To give you an example, I don’t much follow the space crowd – so my main way of finding builders worth my attention in that area is through blogs. I’m talking about people with 400+ faves on their builds that have been doing this for a long time and I had no idea who they were after being in the hobby for 3 years+. If blogs wouldn’t post their work because they get enough attention already, I would have probably never discovered them.

      Maybe where the blogs have it wrong is that they post these the moment the builders post themselves. It could be much more effective to post after some time passed, maybe 2 months or so. That way you have a much wider pool of people that may not have seen it and those who did are fondly reminded of a good build instead of thinking “meh, just seen this 5 minutes ago on flickr”. But it’s just a maybe, not sure that would work and it involves quite a bit of fuss.


  5. Nice column. I’ve noticed the band/hit record analogy too. Just as in the world of music, quality and artistic creativity eventually always suffer under similar pressures. “Long-Awaited-Follow-Up-Album”, anyone?!

    I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to get caught up in any of it.

    I build for myself first and foremost. I don’t make money on this stuff. It’s not a career. It’s just a hobby.

    I do post photos online and if others happen to enjoy my work – then there’s a mutual benefit. It gives me confidence that I must be doing something right. But it’s not the raison d’être in creating it.


  6. The heck I know what truly motivates me, but to me “why do I build” is a more vexing question than “why do I post it on the internet”. Maybe those questions are even somewhat related, but the fact that we post our stuff to me is just part of that community building thing we humans have built into us. We like to find a peer group to hang out with, and so we make our presence known to others. It’s just communication. Then from that comes knowledge of the state of the art, inspiration, feedback, growth, conventions, friendship, and even rock stars.

    I must be needing sleep, going all philosophical like that. Yep, 3 AM already.


  7. Interesting topic for sure. That image piqued my interest Ted.
    I have to say that Pascal hit the nail on the head for me. I often question why I build or post. When I started posting a few years back I wanted to see if I could make something that other people would “get”. I did that e11even contest as it seemed like it was achievable to make something with only 11 pieces and since I didn’t have that many bricks it kinda felt like anyone had a shot at winning. Kinda ironic that that particular contest drew me in as I really don’t care for competitions.

    Being inspired by what others have made and finding people who are interested in similar Lego things were probably the main reasons I kept building. Initially I wanted to get to that magic 100 favorite mark on a build as some form of validation. Then it was about giving different styles a go, which it still is. I struggled a lot with the posting to groups thing as it seemed like I was trying to get people to look at my builds and even now I tend to only post to groups that I have been invited to or have specifically targeted for whatever reason.

    The Lego building community is as diverse as any other. It takes diff’rent strokes to move the world. Yes it does.


      1. Suck at alcohol? No no no. We sip at it. We chug it on occasion. And we imbibe freely as clarity drives and embraces us. But suck at it? I think not. And Lego, lots of Lego.


  8. Personal Milestone– Turning that corner from building for the approval of others to building because it was fun and I personally like the end result. Example of what I mean: many of my “greatest hits” on Flickr have found their way back into the parts collection, while some of my lesser known “B-Sides” continue to remain intact.

    However, nothing motivated me to “return to the studio” and complete something like the possibility of sharing a final product with the faceless masses, so it’s always both.


    1. I certainly can relate to that, my favorite model of last year was the least rated but hugely satisfying to get done.Though sadly it also found its way to parts bin.


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