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March 22, 2012 10:35 AM   Subscribe


 
Last year, Drake spoke out about his distrust of Tumblr, lamenting that the drive-by social-media bulletin board discourages creativity and personal expression. Tumblr does have potential as a conversation hub—many people use it this way—but increasingly Drake’s characterization of it as a place for photos and gifs unencumbered by the written word seems accurate. Like Pinterest, the current social-media success story, it’s merely a way of broadcasting things a user finds cool, attractive, unique, or funny without explanation. And with its rolling presentation model, none of it is built to last.

Metafilter is turning into content-producers!
posted by Artw at 10:41 AM on March 22, 2012


The answer to both of your questions is yes.
posted by bongo_x at 10:44 AM on March 22, 2012


Nonsense. I distinctly remember the RIAA telling me that internet piracy would decrease musical output
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is this article really based on the premise that music is not content?
posted by kaibutsu at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2012 [27 favorites]


Music isn't content, it's something you listen to while driving.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:49 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the statement makes no sense given the standard definition of "Content Producer"
posted by delmoi at 10:49 AM on March 22, 2012


Is this article really based on the premise that musicians haven't been "churning out a steady stream of conversation topics and half-formed ideas without quality control" for as long as music magazines like Rolling Stone have been publishing interviews?
posted by John Cohen at 10:52 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought they were already content producers, seeing as they were producing content for my ears.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:53 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


1. There are a lot of 3-month music fads these days.
2. Grimes did a cool video where she performs in public.
3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
posted by theodolite at 10:53 AM on March 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Yeah, what the fuck? Music is content. Musicians are and always have been content-producers. I don't know what kind of buzzword-infested echo chamber you have to live in to write that article. I mean, look at the paragraph Artw quoted: Blah blah Tumblr, blah blah blah drive-by social-media bulletin board blah blah, creativity blah blah blah Tumblr blah conversation hub. Blah blah Pinterest blah blah blah blah social-media sucess story blah, broadcasting blah blah presentation model. Blah blah. That is pretty much how my brain read this article.
posted by Scientist at 10:54 AM on March 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Interesting article, but I don't buy it. I still think the takeaway is about the same as it's always been, immortalized by John Lennon:

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you
in time - It's easy.

All you need is love, all you need is love....


There will always be a sea of pretenders. Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, the public fucking square. Whatever. It's the tragedy of the commons, reheated with a false premise (where the limited resource, supposedly, is creativity, or maybe Good Ideas - give me a break).

This isn't the problem it seems to be.

If anything I think this glut of "content producers" (used in some vague pejorative sense that I don't care for) will simply result in a greater amount of wonderful things. More chaff, sure, but also more wheat.


In other words, tl;dr: it's a feature not a bug.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:55 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can think of only three bands I've discovered over the past few years that I truly love.

Of those, only one has a "major record label contract," and that's Shinedown...which plays in a genre that the industry as a whole doesn't support nearly like it used to, anyway.

More content? Cry me a river.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:58 AM on March 22, 2012


I read this the other day, and it made me feel really stupid. I could grasp all of the distinct elements, like sentences and paragraphs, etc. I'll even accept the premise that Seapunk is a thing. But, I could not for the life of me string together the different paragraphs and topics as they were presented on the page. It literally made no sense to me. Did anyone else feel that way?
posted by Think_Long at 10:58 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yesterday I play rhythm of Bear, and you all play rhythm of Bear with me, so we are the Bear people.

But today you now play rhythm of Eagle, now you say we are Eagle tribe. Me confused.
posted by idiopath at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most musicians are discontent producers, amirite?
posted by chavenet at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


it’s merely a way of broadcasting things a user finds cool, attractive, unique, or funny without explanation.

Wasn't tumblr built specifically for this?
posted by HumanComplex at 11:00 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The result feels like musicians threatening to become content-producers, churning out a steady stream of conversation topics and half-formed ideas without quality control. Being a part of a conversation feels as important as what’s actually said. That’s a sure route to obscurity

This idea sounds like a holdover from an era where "the written word" wasn't on a computer screen and implied some long-term tangibility; I don't know that it is necessarily going to be true for the next generation of content-receivers, who are mostly content-producers themselves. Nowadays artists who communicate with their fans are more common than those that don't. Saying that labels or producers were "quality control" is an oversimplification, and I can't help but think it comes from people who wish they were the gatekeepers or tastemakers.

Plagenhoef might be thinking of previous examples where an artist tried a lot of things and nothing stuck; I'd suggest that there's plenty of room for a "content-producer" to undergo a David-Bowie-esque kaleidescope of personas in a shorter span of time, and for that to be a meaningful identity in and of itself. I guess we'll have to see.
posted by dubold at 11:01 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of music genres that simply aren't that "good" if by "good" you mean skillfully executed and carefully produce. Rock was originally such a genre, with metal and progressive rock bring the skill focus back in. Punk has always been such a genre, although admittedly some pop groups take punk influences. I donno many Steam Punk groups besides Abney Park, but certainly they embody the focus on aesthetics, DIY ethos, etc. that defines Punk.

There is similarly plenty of room for lolcat culture in music or whatever. I'm confident some skillful artists will eventually concoct sublime lolcat masterpieces that still cause our trans-human uploaded descendants to lol in 500 years. I can haz cpu cycles?
posted by jeffburdges at 11:02 AM on March 22, 2012


Damn kids, get out of my steady stream of conversation topics!
posted by mullacc at 11:03 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Musicians aren't supposed to be content producers. Record labels are the content producers, the musicians are just their tools.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:03 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I feel certain there's a lawn he wants kids to get off, but I was unable to determine whose lawn or where it is.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:03 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm not sure what's so difficult to grasp about what I took to be the article's central thesis (though maybe it could have been better written): As the major means of communication between music makers and music fans/consumers increasingly prioritises rapidly-moving streams of communication, deeper and more long lasting connections necessarily do not form in the same way (if they even form at all). This ends up changing what's actually created.

I mean come on, Marshall McLuhan was making the same sort of point almost 50 years ago.
posted by Len at 11:05 AM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


dunkadunc, can you add CanadaDry tag?
posted by wcfields at 11:07 AM on March 22, 2012


IS NEW THING RUINING EXISTING THING? If you equate change with ruin, then yes. Otherwise, probably not.
posted by usonian at 11:08 AM on March 22, 2012


Pretentious throwaway music scenes will never be the same again!
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


But today you now play rhythm of Eagle, now you say we are Eagle tribe. Me confused.

That's it! Outta this fucking cab!
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on March 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Basically if you can make sense of this article or consider anythinmg in it a really concern you should probably get a haircut and a proper job.
posted by Artw at 11:14 AM on March 22, 2012


Also:

it’s merely a way of broadcasting things a user finds cool, attractive, unique, or funny without explanation.


Before Tumblr, this was called a notebook. I have a shelf full of notebooks with stuff I've written down or pasted in that I found cool, attractive, unique or funny without explanation.

I was the user, and I only broadcast to myself, but other than that it was same use case. Again, this is not a problem, it's simply the evolution of a very human habit. I for one think it's pretty exciting!
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:15 AM on March 22, 2012


And since someone mentioned Bowie earlier: though Bowie did radically rethink things multiple times over his career, it didn't happen with the kind of rapidity that's being talked about here. Look at the main chapters of Bowie's first decade or so (I'm probably fudging a little here, but hopefully the point still stands:

Wannabe Newley: 1 years
Psychedelic space hippy/hard rocker (Space Oddity to Man Who Sold the World): 2 years
Glam rock: 2-3 years
Plastic soul: 1 year
Thin White coked-up duke: 18 months
Berlin wino: 3 years
Cannibal of own earlier persona (Scary Monsters): 1 year

etc etc etc.
What I think Plagenhoef is getting at is these sorts of shifts in style – or at least in styles followed, not necessarily created – has become telescoped into a timescale of weeks, not years. Does this mean there's less good stuff about now? I don't know, but I'm not arguing anyone get off my musical lawn. Do I think it's going to have an affect? Definitely, and for a set of reasons, many of which seem to have similar strands to some of what Simon Reynolds was writing about in Retromania, in which everything is cannibalised and reassembled with omnivorous glee, and more than that is done so as a public performance, be that it one of a band live on stage, or someone who throws 32 things up on theirr tumblr every day.
posted by Len at 11:18 AM on March 22, 2012


Now we need a hipster version of HP Lovecraft's commonplace book.

And lets face it, the evidence mounts up:
* Lived in Brooklyn
* Obsessive correspondence regarding cats and icecream.
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


John Cohen: "Is this article really based on the premise that musicians haven't been "churning out a steady stream of conversation topics and half-formed ideas without quality control" for as long as music magazines like Rolling Stone have been publishing interviews?"

In the old days, someone needed to think you were good enough before they gave you time in a recording studio. Sure, there was crap back then, too. But not like now.
With the Internet, anyone with Garageband can throw some loops together and put their music online. The vast majority of it is crap, to the point where I don't even bother looking for good music on Bandcamp because the signal-to-noise ratio is so low.

On the Tumblr front- when Washed Out and Neon Indian came out, I was blown away. Their debut releases were really fucking good. So I started looking into "chillwave" and ran across all the Tumblr blogs, which were full of these rank amateurs who had heard about this New Cool Thing called "Chillwave" and wanted to make chillwave, too.
Problem: These people had no idea how to write music. Either they would sample '80s synthpop tracks (sometimes in entirety), downpitch them by 20%, add reverb, and call the songs their own, or they would ineptly throw woobly synths together and make meandering crap that amounted to nothing. Somehow, an even smaller scene thought this was good, and so Witch House was born.

What you get in this Tumblr scene is imitators of imitators of imitators, each less skilled than the one before them. One person starts using triangles in their album art? Everyone has triangles! One person uses strange Unicode characters in their band name? All of a sudden, everyone's got unpronounceable band names made of umlauts, crosses and triangles. Faux-Polaroid album art of beach scenes? The word "Beach" in your band name? Band names that are poorly disguised ripoffs of other, slightly more famous bands' names? It goes on and on. Copying is an inherent part in the creative process, but few of these Tumblr artists are forging forward and doing something original, and there's very little quality control.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:23 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sounds like an opportunity for an "Exactly as it was before, BUT WITH THE INTERNET" patent was missed.
posted by Artw at 11:26 AM on March 22, 2012


Reblog is the new remix.
posted by modernserf at 11:27 AM on March 22, 2012


Now we need a hipster version of HP Lovecraft's commonplace book.

And lets face it, the evidence mounts up:
* Lived in Brooklyn
* Obsessive correspondence regarding cats and icecream.


* Racist as fuck
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:29 AM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Relevant: Zombelle's (aka Shan Beaste referenced in the AVClub article) SoundCloud page if you want to hear some examples of seapunk.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:31 AM on March 22, 2012


Shit-gaze. Chillwave. Darkstep. Witch house. Seapunk. Brooklyn. Blissed out. Heavy. Beach. LA. Noise. Retweet. Hip young white people from affluent backgrounds to revolutionize music ten more times in next six months.
posted by Alterity at 11:32 AM on March 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Sidhedevil - the 2010's were a different time where everybody was racist.
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was into this scene when it was Lakepunk.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:36 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


grr I am mad too because music I don't like
posted by griphus at 11:36 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So the problem is now that too many people are making music?

Seriously, if you aren't making music, shut the fuck up about the music industry. Especially if you're currently earning a living from music that you didn't personally make.
posted by empath at 11:49 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Copying is an inherent part in the creative process, but few of these Tumblr artists are forging forward and doing something original, and there's very little quality control.

So don't listen.

It's called 'scenius', and it's how every great popular music genre got created. A bunch of kids copying each other who had no idea what they were doing. (See dubstep, garage, jungle, techno, rock and roll, jazz, and so on).
posted by empath at 11:51 AM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is a spoof, right?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:54 AM on March 22, 2012


There's music on Tumblr?
posted by desjardins at 12:07 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a spoof, right?

It was profiled on the New York Times, so if it is then it's an old joke. Also.
posted by codacorolla at 12:08 PM on March 22, 2012


As ever Hipster Runoff is way ahead of ya: The Memeification of Your Band
posted by kersplunk at 12:16 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: some vague pejorative sense that I don't care for.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:20 PM on March 22, 2012


What annoys me is kids who never really listened to electronic music but just know it's the popular thing to do after your indie band breaks up. They don't understand fundamental or that they need to put an amen breakbeat over everything.

Also, re: "curating" it's like taste is more important than talent and everyone wants to think they are some sort of tastemaker. Curating only makes sense if the curator is otherwise qualified and notable in their field, rather than just someone in the internet.
posted by fuq at 1:13 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


My take on the article was more charitable, though I agree that the music/content bifurcation is all sorts of problematic. I read the argument as being something like:

Thanks to the general lack of thought and quick turnaround that goes into platforms like tumblr, we're seeing an explosion of fad music sub-sub-type one week, which is cast into antiquated disrepute by the time the next fad hits a few weeks later. There's little development time and so little chance to cultivate an idea or type of sound, and the lack of explanation limits the potential for musicians to dig deeper. So they become content generators, the way so-called "social media experts" do content (which is to say half-baked and not really with much effort, since timing is everything), which is bad for music.

That seemed like a fairly reasonable claim to me. Arguably, it's just highlighting crappy musicians, or ill-advised music-to-market strategy, or the opportunity cost of using social media popularity metrics to measure music success.
posted by hank_14 at 1:28 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it not inevitable that otherwise low-paid people will retreat to otherwise low-cost platforms with their 1,000 true fans at some point? The greater research question is whether this is a product of the recession or is a wider trend, and, if so, does the trend indicate a greater recession of the entertainment industry than reported? Considering the industry, and that comedians are now resorting to similar efforts the creative industries are not in jeopardy. It seems like most of those people who are complaining about the problem (and by complaining I mean not [yet] profiting) have not figured out a low-tech way to develop their capacity to raise money.
posted by parmanparman at 1:55 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the old days, someone needed to think you were good enough before they gave you time in a recording studio.

There's an interesting conversation to be had there. Obviously, you're right. The bar to entry is lower today. For MetaFilter's audience, the best analogy might be literary agents and editors. These people spend countless hours of their lives as gatekeepers, reading through swill so that casual readers don't have to sift through it on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble. I didn't know Tumblr had music, but I'm not interested in checking it out. I have a roomful of great music already and there's a ton more on my list. I'm not interested in gold-panning some random stream bed.

But that's me, and I'm looking for quality as my priority. Some people aren't. For some people, there is more fun in (for instance) the community aspects of making music together. They think it's cool that a New York stockbroker writes a song about triangles, and then a librarian from California responds with her version, and a high-school kid from China melds elements of the two, and so on.

The lowered bar makes it more difficult to enjoy music in one aspect, and yet opens new ways to enjoy it that are very different. It's interesting. The evolution of music's interactions with the Internet has been fun to watch.
posted by cribcage at 2:17 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


desjardins: "There's music on Tumblr?"

Mostly the audio is incidental, a music scene is about building an image and an identity. Images and graphic design are often more important than anything involving sound.

Of course this is never the case with ones own favorite music, which one only likes for how it sounds, but it describes the music other people like.
posted by idiopath at 2:56 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the old days, someone needed to think you were good enough before they gave you time in a recording studio.

Well, not really. Plenty of little fly-by-night studios in the US and UK would cut an acetate disc for money. You didn't have to be the Beatles to cut a disc at HMV 363 Oxford Street, anyone could. The big difference between then and now isn't so much in the way music is produced, but in how it's distributed and consumed. Back then anyone could make a record; now anyone can make a recording and everyone can hear it. Almost instantly.

What you get in this Tumblr scene is imitators of imitators of imitators, each less skilled than the one before them.

Undoubtedly true, but haven't scenes always (where "always" is the last 50-75 years of popular commercially produced recorded music, say) been like this? Tumblr just provides us with a window into all the basements, garages, and cheap studios where all of the imitators congregated in the past. If you've ever spent time digging through old LPs and 45s you've probably encountered plenty of imitations of imitations.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:07 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


The bar to entry is lower today. For MetaFilter's audience, the best analogy might be literary agents and editors. These people spend countless hours of their lives as gatekeepers, reading through swill so that casual readers don't have to sift through it on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble. I didn't know Tumblr had music, but I'm not interested in checking it out. I have a roomful of great music already and there's a ton more on my list. I'm not interested in gold-panning some random stream bed.

The arbiters of taste haven't disappeared, they've just become more diffuse. There isn't anything particularly novel in the tumblr-style curation; if you don't like the music someone recommends on tumblr, you'll probably decide to stop following them. Same as it ever was. The difference between past cultural "gatekeepers" and tumblr users is the tumblr users don't affect to an elite status.
posted by MetalFingerz at 3:38 PM on March 22, 2012


In the old days, someone needed to think you were good enough before they gave you time in a recording studio.

good enough being defined as able to pay for a few hours of studio time at a hole in the wall recording studio

there were zillions of singles released by bands in the 60s that ran anywhere from mediocre to really awful

if you really think the kingsmen, the count five and many other bands like them were "good enough" you've only heard their hits, which were just plain lucky moments that happened to be captured

trust me, the bar's been raised considerably since then - at least, with today's technology, electronic music is in time and in tune, no matter how brain-numbingly uncreative and boring it may be
posted by pyramid termite at 4:49 PM on March 22, 2012


pyramid termite: "with today's technology, electronic music is in time and in tune"

Yeah, and all electronically recorded music is electronic music. All electronically amplified music is electronic music. Of course it doesn't all remold itself into shiny sonic plastic, but more and more of it does.

Actually, for me, this is a major problem with music now. We still don't have software that can reliably play traditional written music in an idiomatic way. By that I mean keeping time in an organic way, the subtleties of intonation that aren't just a constant 5 hz vibrato but actually an expressive component that adds weight to a melody. These things are not notated in sheet music but are actually essential to playing it properly. Autotune can't automatically give you that perfect plaintive melismata on the right syllable, beat quantizing can't automatically give that bit of rubato that adds urgency at the right moment, or the sigh that follows. And mechanical precision is for many of us worse than the acoustical messiness it whitewashes over.

Also, the ease of transition going from idea to result effects the content. If you are chiseling shit in stone, you spend some time thinking about what you are going to write. A tweet can be longer than that pithy engraved motto, but you don't have to spend as much time thinking about it, because the effort to make it is negligible. The ease of using modern audio technology (compared to the difficulty of older instruments and recording/editing methods) directly leads to throwaway content being shared on a grand scale. This isn't all bad - sometimes a half baked idea can be beautiful, that strange gem nobody will ever have the time to polish, the idea that looks promising at the start but always undermines itself. But the opinions of our friends and our trusted voices of cultural insight become more and more important. And of course the same amplification and proliferation is happening in the realm of cultural insight as well.

I think it is excellent that we get to peek at all the little fads that last a month or two (we had those when I was an excited teenager attempting to do experimental music, they were just invisible outside our minuscule social network). People complain about the mediocrity of most of what we find looking for new music, but I remember the same near-constant disappointment before I found the critics and fans that would reliably lead me to the good shit. Just like we did in meatspace, we will have to find better methods of finding the things that will mean something to us, and skipping the junk (and let's not pretend half baked junk isn't most of what was ever on the radio either for that matter).

Which leads me to the real point: this critic needs to stop whining and do his fucking job. If we aren't finding the good stuff, it is because the critics suck.
posted by idiopath at 5:43 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Content" is coming to mean something different from what it was understood to mean not too long ago. When all the people trying to build the next online social mega-thingy say "content providers" they don't mean Malcolm Gladwell churning out column-inches for The New Yorker, they mean users producing pix, tweets and status updates. If musicians did move in the same direction as all the rest, they would end up providing pix of the band and tweets about the band at the expense of, y'know, music. I am a curmudgeon, sure, but I see that as entirely possible. How do you find the fish that are swimming against the stream (if there are any)? They won't be on facebook.
posted by jfuller at 6:26 PM on March 22, 2012


Is it time for another douchey pundit to whine about the internet being the internet? Yes, I guess it's that time again.
posted by edheil at 6:52 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


When making music|films|television|video games was something with a high cost of entry, those industries produced relatively few goods, and so we made a much bigger deal about the products ending up on shelves. Now, the cost of entry is very low, so low that anyone can do it, and so there's a temptation to say "feh, look at all this crap that people are spitting out now", but there's no less of the good stuff out there, and now a lot of talented people who didn't have the means to produce are out there producing, and that's a good thing.

and that is why the aquabats exist, I assume
posted by davejay at 7:18 PM on March 22, 2012


I thought 'the Tumblr trap' was falling through the porn looking glass and coming to, 30 minutes later, all sweaty, confused and thirsty.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:44 AM on March 23, 2012


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