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August 3, 2014 8:01 PM   Subscribe


 
Lesson 3 is ass-backwards. Music listening technology has been getting better and better (not worse), but the music industry has been fighting this every step of the way instead of putting massive effort into taking advantage of it. So Steve Jobs etc just started taking all that money they were leaving on the table.
Regarding the high end, making better masters available is what makes a difference, not putting compressed-and-loud-for-radio mastering onto vinyl as if it were magic.
posted by anonymisc at 8:10 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


It's funny because all of these things have already happened. The music business is all-engines-full-ahead for bands making intelligent complex songs for grown-ups who spend disposable income on shows and downloads. Every big city is packed with venues whose average age is well into the 30s.

A certain segment of the mass media CNN and MTV still worries about whatever teenage girl singer or rapper is hot, but a triple bill of Peter Gabriel, The National and Ben Folds Five could probably sell out stadiums.
posted by MattD at 8:25 PM on August 3 [8 favorites]


Yes, lesson 3 smells like bullshit - hard to take the rest of it seriously when the author thinks the only significant change in music technology in the last 50 years was digital compression ruining their precious audio experience.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:56 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


So you could sum it up then as "Make boring rock music for the NPR set." What a terrible article.
posted by codacorolla at 8:57 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Fifty years ago, most households still owned clunky black-and-white TV sets.

Yeah, and fifty years ago most households owned record players that played records that sounded like absolute shit compared to a cheap knock-off MP3 player today. This vinyl myth has got to end.
posted by Jimbob at 9:00 PM on August 3 [23 favorites]


I think the best thing the music industry could do is sink some serious money into lobbying efforts to legalize pot. I'm not even joking here, I just don't feel the will to sink into new albums or live shows without some pot and I mostly skip it now because it is expensive and legally dangerous still in my state. I still listen to plenty of music, like Pandora in the car and stuff, but I'm not putting any money in there besides whatever revenue you get for serving me ads.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:08 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Anecdotally, in the 80's, everyone I knew had a loud HiFi system blasting in the living room, and now everyone I know has either nothing or some awful tiny system. A lot of the compressed sound in modern mixes is so it can be heard on little headphones.
posted by bhnyc at 9:15 PM on August 3 [8 favorites]


Anecdotally, in the 80's, everyone I knew had a loud HiFi system blasting in the living room, and now everyone I know has either nothing or some awful tiny system. A lot of the compressed sound in modern mixes is so it can be heard on little headphones.

Huh. I have the tiniest little speakers that absolutely blast through my whole downstairs, while in the 80s, my brother had these massive speakers that did nothing more than make the floors bounce.
posted by xingcat at 9:25 PM on August 3


make the floors bounce.

Yes, the floors used to bounce, and now they don't. It is a tragedy.
posted by bhnyc at 9:29 PM on August 3 [6 favorites]


...digital compression ruining their precious audio experience.

He's talking about Dynamic Range Compression, just one front in the Loudness War.

I remember reading a few years ago when Guitar Hero Metallica came out, that the MP3s included with the game had better dynamic range than the CD versions of the same songs that came out at the same time. Indeed, you can read more about it on the Loudness War wiki page.

I'm no audiophile, but it's a very real concern.
posted by Hatashran at 9:43 PM on August 3 [7 favorites]


This article is so weird. The whole premise that people are giddily lining up to fork over for cable seems to me not in accordance with reality. Consumerist named Comcast the worst company in America last year. Cable cos are local monopolies, it's either pay the piper or get stuck with rabbit ears, and most people choose the former begrudgingly. Even so, plenty choose to bit torrent all the fancy dramas he's saying they 're so happy to pay for, and every HBO subscriber I know has two or three people using their GO password. The distribution models for the two types of media are so fundamentally different that his arguments seem to founded on tissue paper. No individual record label has the same untility-like ability to cut the customer off at the source that cable TV does. Without that, they'll never have the pricing power cable companies do.

In addition, and with the possible exception of HBO, most of the most profitable shows on TV aren't these prestige products. They're formulaic crap like CSI and the Big Bang Theory or live events, particularly the NFL.
posted by maggiepolitt at 9:50 PM on August 3 [15 favorites]


Sorry, but i'm gonna have to pull down my pants and take a shit on #3, mainly the idea that "music devices sound worse than they did a half-century ago"

No. No they fucking don't. Itunes plus sounds basically as good as a V0 MP3. That's better than tape, 8 track, average vinyl recordings played through a meh system everyone would have bought at sears then, or any form of radio that would have been around.

They're basically cheating and comparing one eras cream of the crop with the entry level current stuff. And that's basically cheating. Really nice speakers from the 70s are still really nice speakers now, as are really nice turntables, really nice amps, and really nicely recorded vinyl. This was not what the average person had, and that's a dirty fucking comparison to pull out.

Spotify, even, sounds better than a standard radio broadcast. And honestly better than any crappy walkman anyone would have had in the 80s.

There's also a point to be made(which i get into below as well) that the average playback device now, and the average headphones are better than they have been in any era. Apples earpods, the HTC beats earbuds, and several other brands stock earbuds that come with any number of midrange-good smartphones are excellent and surpass any $20-50 headphones i remember existing in say, the 90s.

The comments about compression and such of modern current pop music are true, but the actual delivery mechanisms that have just recently hit the scene are far superior to anything that's existed before. Spotify, pandora, itunes radio, rdio, beats, grooveshark. All of them represent a superior method of music delivery to anything that's previously existed. You can think about, hear of, or be linked to a band or even just a song you had previously never heard of and play it right then.

Honestly, i think the only cogent point he delivered here was about the "loudness war" and overcompression/loss of dynamic range. And it's clouded by how much weasel worded bullshit he shoveled along with it.

Anecdotally, in the 80's, everyone I knew had a loud HiFi system blasting in the living room, and now everyone I know has either nothing or some awful tiny system. A lot of the compressed sound in modern mixes is so it can be heard on little headphones.

I think the big point you're missing here is that, at least among everyone i know under 30, all they listen to music on is headphones. And you can get some pretty damn good headphones for under $100 now(sennheisers, grados, AKGs, even those monoprice ones are pretty decent). And even the basic headphones now sound WAY better than cheapo headphones from the 90s. A smartphone or laptop and headphone is the new "hifi".

And on the speaker front it's partially right, but it's also true that a lot of 20somethings thrift/otherwise buy cheap a halfway decent receiver and speakers, even if they're just playing downloaded MP3s or grooveshark/spotify/etc through them, because they want to hear their music in a way that sounds decent.

The flipside to that is the majority of summertime listening i've done pretty much anywhere and especially with friends has been through my big jambox, which compresses/dynamic EQs/generally post-processes the audio to hell. I have to admit though, there is something neat about the social aspect of things like that though. More than one phone can be linked at a time, so everyone can take turns playing that new track they found online or whatever. These things have also gotten exponentially better. If you haven't heard a bose soundlink, you have no idea how much sonic information and especially even just straight bass can come out of a box the size of a small hardcover book. It makes no logical sense, it's like dr. who tesseract technology. If you position one of those things right it'll fill an entire medium sized room with sound. And not tinny all midrange and treble boombox sound, either.

I carry a small backpack most of the time. It's big enough for a couple thin bottles of water/beer, aforementioned speakerbox, and maybe one or two small things. I can strap it to a little bracket i made for the handlebars of my bike, and it sounds better than the stock stereo in my dads decade old subaru, or my partners recent nissan. I can pull it out anywhere indoors and it'll fill a decent sized room with sound. It projects fairly well for quite a distance outdoors too, with a proper presence even into the low end. Between that and my smartphone, i feel like this is the golden age of music. I can look up anything i want, old or new, and play it right then and there on my headphones or fairly loud out of a compact above-average sounding speaker.

I'm kinda just missing his point here. Since it comes off, as stated above, "make more npr crowd music" combined with a bunch of unfounded griping about technology. This feels like a fucking renaissance to me, compared to how it was when i was in high school. I would have killed for this smartphone+speaker setup.

Oh, and another point is that i can play any music i want from almost any local band off of bandcamp on my phone right then. That shit was impossible to find unless you bought tapes/CD-Rs at shows even a few years ago. The quality is perfectly good too, even as someone who also owns a semi-decent hifi setup at home...
posted by emptythought at 9:54 PM on August 3 [11 favorites]


And even the basic headphones now sound WAY better than cheapo headphones from the 90s

Yeah, I own, and have been buying for years, a specific brand of $8 in-ear buds from my local chain supermarket. They sound better than any earphones I ever put on my ears in the 80s or 90s or probably 2000s either. I love them to bits, for the 6 weeks they last before the cable breaks and I have to go grab a new pair. People are spoiled, these days.
posted by Jimbob at 10:26 PM on August 3


When Netflix decided to back House of Cards, they were willing to pay top dollar for Kevin Spacey—Snooki wasn’t good enough.

I'm trying to imagine Snooki in House of Cards and having a grand time doing so.
posted by Spatch at 10:29 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Well, at least release the audition tape.
posted by dhartung at 11:06 PM on August 3


I think the big point you're missing here is that, at least among everyone i know under 30, all they listen to music on is headphones. And you can get some pretty damn good headphones for under $100 now(sennheisers, grados, AKGs, even those monoprice ones are pretty decent). And even the basic headphones now sound WAY better than cheapo headphones from the 90s. A smartphone or laptop and headphone is the new "hifi".

Well that's the thing - headphones today may sound better than the headphones of yesteryear, but do the earbuds of today sound better than the speakers of yesteryear? Anecdotally, most of the music listening most of my social circle engages in is on earbuds now. Even ten years ago, most of it would have been on (generally fairly decent) hifi speakers. I love a good set of headphones (cans - my ear canals are too narrow to comfortably fit any earbuds I've tried) but I'm not convinced they give the same quality of experience as turning a decent set of speakers even medium-loud.

Then there's the issue of stuff being mixed and mastered for the earbud/car stereo experience, which is a crying shame. I still don't understand why labels insist on using the crushed flat master that they've got for iTunes or the Play store or whatever on CDs - if you're buying the CD rather than a download, chances are you won't just be listening to it from your iPod.
posted by Dysk at 2:05 AM on August 4


Let's watch the cheap shots about the over 30 NPR crowd. There are a number of us still around. I am not going to speak to the music featured on national and local NPR stations but the news and special programming is as good as it gets and may well be the beat there is. I would imagine I have listened to music on more formats than most of you. As a non-audiophile with minor hearing impairment there is no question in my mind that current technology is routinely superior to past formats. Dissing the entire article because of disagreements about point three seems a bit of overreaction. If it has to be either all right or all wrong leads to an fairly empty discussion.
posted by rmhsinc at 2:27 AM on August 4


Do you see them hiring the best graduates from Juilliard or Berklee? They would laugh at you if you even suggested it.

Barry Manilow went to Julliard, so that was great for pop music.

Actually a surprising amount of pop artists have classical music training anyway. There was heated debate on here the other day about the musical skills of Nicki Minaj, who is a clarinetist as well as a rapper.

But this was one of the more bonkers lines in the article.
posted by colie at 2:48 AM on August 4


I like the opening statement of the article, at least: "Of all the lies told to musicians, here’s the biggest lie of them all: you have to give your talent away for free." Damn straight.
posted by ardgedee at 3:58 AM on August 4 [4 favorites]


The numbers don't lie. As someone who rips a lot of music, both old and new, to FLAC and 320 MP3, I can say without a doubt that newer recordings are all both louder and more clipped than recordings from thirty years ago. They are, without a doubt, inferior.

I'll put my 1970s/1980s tapes played through my NAD and Advents up against even 320 MP3s played through headphones (no matter how good). I still listen to new music, but new recordings are in no way, shape, or form better.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:20 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Why not listen to FLAC through headphones?
posted by ardgedee at 4:26 AM on August 4


> Anecdotally, in the 80's, everyone I knew had a loud HiFi system blasting in the living room, and now everyone I know has either nothing or some awful tiny system. A lot of the compressed sound in modern mixes is so it can be heard on little headphones.

Headphones require neither dynamic compression nor data compression.
posted by ardgedee at 4:29 AM on August 4


The only one of his arguments that seems in anyway cogent, to me, is the notion that the music industry does not provide the kind of long term high level career development which would once be available to major artists who were signed on long term contracts. Part of the reason why Kevin Spacey stands out from an ocean of lesser known actors is that he has had the opportunity of starring in a large number of hugely expensive movies (and fairly expensive stage shows) - he carries with him not only his acting talent but also the results of the investment that the industry has made in him. The equivalent in musical terms would be those artists who have had the chance to work with the top producers, score their music for orchestras and perform in stadiums. In the days when selling recorded music was more profitable - and the channels for hearing it were fewer - record companies had the cash to provide this kind of experience for a reasonable number of major artists. These days we can all listen to a much larger number of artists - but its harder to find people whose career has been invested in by anybody other than themselves.
posted by rongorongo at 4:37 AM on August 4 [3 favorites]


Why not listen to FLAC through headphones?

My portable doesn't support FLAC. 320 MP3 is not as good, of course, but very close.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:37 AM on August 4


Out of interest have you ever ABX'd 320 mp3s and FLAC, Benny?
posted by Sebmojo at 5:01 AM on August 4


Out of interest have you ever ABX'd 320 mp3s and FLAC, Benny?

Wouldn't that be a useless comparison, though? Since, as Benny says, his portable doesn't support FLAC. Few devices and software support FLAC. It's sort of the new OGG.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Out of interest have you ever ABX'd 320 mp3s and FLAC, Benny?

Yes, I have, many times. MP3s aren't as good at either end; both the bottom and the top are just a little bit muddier. The high end end on the MP3 is sometimes duller and sometimes more sibilant, but muddier either way. Not a huge difference if you're not paying attention or comparing, but it's there.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:15 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


My computer (Foobar 2000) will play FLACs, BTW. And do ABXs.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:17 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Do you listen to music? Do you enjoy it? Yes?

Then there is nothing wrong with the way you listen to music.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 5:43 AM on August 4 [10 favorites]


There are also many many people who don't pay for TV, but use elaborate torrent setups. Allegedly.
posted by scruss at 6:02 AM on August 4


Not only has TV switched successfully from “giving it away” to a subscription model, but the shift has also spurred a new golden age of television.
All at the same time, increasing advertising rather than reducing it. it really is a capitalist marvel.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:23 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Headphones require neither dynamic compression nor data compression.

Good headphones don't, no. Crappy little earbuds used in a noisy environment, though? You're going to be working the volume knob constantly trying to listen to Dark Side of the Moon, whereas a more modern mix/master won't require that. Sit down with Dark Side of the Moon and a good stereo in a quiet room, however, and you will be rewarded with much subtlety and complexity. With the modern mix/master? Not so much...
posted by Dysk at 6:33 AM on August 4


"14-year-olds" are "the group with the time and know-how to use complicated pirating tools" to get music, according to the author. This is a strange statement to make. The technology is far too complex for an adult, but a child could operate it just fine? And I don't know if he's seen a torrent client or torrent website recently, but they have become dead simple, requiring little time or "know-how" - whether it's a teenager or an adult using them. This also kind of assumes no one is using torrents to watch TV.

He makes some good points but overall it reads like an apples-to-oranges comparison.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:37 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


"14-year-olds" are "the group with the time and know-how to use complicated pirating tools" to get music, according to the author. This is a strange statement to make. The technology is far too complex for an adult, but a child could operate it just fine?

Yeah, his point could easily be summed up as "I am a logizomechanophobe, but rather than admit this, I will pretend like all adults are scared of computers. Fucking kids, get off my lawn!"
posted by Dysk at 6:53 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


I'm even getting kind of sick of hearing about the loudness war, let alone data compression quality. The brickwall aesthetic isn't appropriate for everything (doing it to remasters is just dumb) but it *can* sound fantastic for some things done correctly. I mean it's a legitimate concern that it's so prevalent but just showing me those high RMS level numbers doesn't impress me because stuff like Noisia (or other high-production-value electronic music, or certain heavy rock etc.) is squashed as *hell* but manages to still sound punchy and lucid. I'd rather see it taken down a notch to 1990s levels than all the way back to the 60s.
posted by atoxyl at 7:28 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Even the best headphones don't offer the same listening experience as speakers, and should require a different mix. (An extreme example: early 60s stereo recordings with every track panned hard right or left sound fine on speakers, but on headphones, I'd rather listen to mono if that were the only choice.)

I'm old enough to prefer speakers by far, but I think this massive generational shift to headphones could be a good thing if it led to a revival of binaural (or simulated binaural) recordings, which don't really work on speakers.
posted by mubba at 7:49 AM on August 4


As a member of the over 30s NPR set, I can assure you that whatever you're doing, you're doing it wrong.
posted by nevercalm at 8:09 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


And yeah, TFA's extended analogy with the business of TV is just lazy. Very few people watch their favorite episode of Breaking Bad over and over in a loop while they're working or driving. Perhaps even fewer spend most of their evening hours on the couch eagerly listening to this week's new recordings by their favorite bands.
posted by mubba at 8:13 AM on August 4


The other side of point #3, that music is the only realm that embraces inferior technology, is also questionable. Many of today's critically-acclaimed video games imitate the chunky graphics of the '80s and '90s.
Point #4 is just as bad. Formula TV hasn't gone away. My family watches several murder-investigation shows in spite of their predictability. (Hint: If there's a minor character that had lines when he didn't need any, that's the murderer.) And then the other side of that comparison isn't even internally consistent: "Every album and song nowadays is marketed as part of a genre... Yet much of the best new music defies genre classification...."
As emptythought addressed regarding sound quality, he's comparing the best past music and current TV to the most popular past TV and current music. There was high and low quality forty years ago, and there is high and low quality now. All generalizations are false.
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 8:35 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


All generalizations are false.

I Magritte with you!
posted by Chitownfats at 9:33 AM on August 4


This is a deeply silly article.

The arguments about age and complexity are meaningless; there's already a shit-ton of music aimed at adults, from Postal Service-style schmindie to adult contempo Celine. "Complexity" is bullshit; AOR is a different market from radio singles. We have some of the best, cheapest music technology ever right now. Genres aren't formulas, and studies show that people actually prefer more familiar music. And "investment" means something different when you control a distribution method. Labels are not distribution methods; networks are.

But aside from that, shit like decrying networks for reality TV and Snookie forgets that 1) reality TV still makes money because it's cheap to produce, and 2) Snookie's from fucking MTV, man, a fucking paid cable network.

TL;DR: This guy's talking out his ass with some incoherent old man snobbery, and listening to him will save absolutely zero in the music industry.
posted by klangklangston at 10:08 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


This guy's talking out his ass with some incoherent old man snobbery, and listening to him will save absolutely zero in the music industry.

Yes, but that would certainly make for a helluva audition.
posted by hal9k at 10:37 AM on August 4


When Netflix decided to back House of Cards, they were willing to pay top dollar for Kevin Spacey—Snooki wasn’t good enough.

Nonsense! Snooki would have fit right in with that bunch, especially season two.
Go home, dude, you're drunk!
posted by Pudhoho at 10:57 AM on August 4


This is a strange statement to make. The technology is far too complex for an adult, but a child could operate it just fine? And I don't know if he's seen a torrent client or torrent website recently, but they have become dead simple, requiring little time or "know-how" - whether it's a teenager or an adult using them.

It rings true for me - in my purely anecdotal experience, I was able to jump much greater technology hoops when I was a schoolkid, because I had the free time (and more friends doing the same things), while as an adult I have less time but more money so I prefer to Just Buy It if doing so isn't insultingly more onerous than the path of least resistance. (Yet even today most purchase venues are so complicated and punished with DRM and infuriating usage restrictions that they'd have to pay me to endure it. Fortunately retailers like Amazon are moving in the direction of making that bullshit less viable.)
posted by anonymisc at 11:04 AM on August 4


What is really amusing is that I had a very (drunken) involved conversation with my roommate this weekend about music (particularly Pop music) and how the banality of it really does cause a problem, simply due to the enormous volume of it and how it is produced, packaged, marketed, and steals up space in the market.

Pop music rarely has anything depth to it. Some Pop music, done by a gifted and talented musician, can play within the genre to produce amazing results (Randy Newman, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, a few other big names, etc, etc) through a lot of skillful manipulation of key, tone, timbre, lyrics, etc., etc.

But a lot of pop music is utter dreck. I guess Sturgeon's Law would be a fitting adage to apply to the whole generalization.

But because of the sheer amount of Pop music on the market, unless you niche yourself and actively seek out truly alternative musicians who are not working in the Pop oeuvre, you find yourself feeling as if you are on a tiny island of very few works that are available through any kind of mainstream distrubution. The problem outlined in the article is not that Pop music sucks. It's that Pop music so dominates the market, and there is so much money put into selling Pop music, that other works, works that could be have a much wider audience, and could translate into much larger sales for those artists, is overlooked, marginalized, and often ignored by the business known as The Music Industry.

This is something worth arguing about, as it feeds into the blandness of our current monoculture. When the only thing that is considered profitable is rehashing the same formula and pushing it through a bad production process, the end product is going to be bad, no matter how popular it may seem on the sales charts. Where are we going to get our next David Bowie from if we don't have artists experimenting with the style and expanding their artistic expression beyond Pop songs? Who will be the next Pink Floyd?

My other roommate commented that his theory is basically the Industrial Records won, even though they were not the winners. The music industry has created a machine to churn out profit, and instead of trying to expand their possibly profitable assets, they have chosen to sit on their hands and just let things keep going until it doesn't work anymore (or fighting tooth and nail to maintain their profit, as seen by the File Sharing wars). But the end result is a monocultural and uniformly mundane product. Pop music outputs generic music. Listen to it enough and it all just become the same songs, with different singers and different instruments, repeating the same themes, using the same song structures and the only way to know the difference is to constantly forget everything that was released in the last business cycle. The hot new album featuring the latest hot new American Idol winner is no different than the previous one.

But where are the artists making music that they want to hear? Where is the next Autechre, or the next Aphex Twin? Where is J.G. Thirwell? Oh, that's right. Marginalized and pigeonholed into sub-cultures and forced into writing soundtracks for cartoons (admittedly awesome cartoons, but still), while DJ's who decide to be "producers" are earning $10,000 for a pre-recorded set at clubs with sound systems tuned to so badly that the only way you can hear the entire frequency spectrum is if they are at full volume (don't get me started on bad compander tuning at live venues).

But back on track; I have met a ton of musicians, and worked with quite a few either directly or indirectly through my former hobbies. Every one has been independent artists, on indie labels, or started their own indie label because the major labels just do not bother with A/R anymore. If you want to get signed, you have to somehow find one of the new gatekeepers to get you connected with an existing band, and that rarely works out unless you already run in those circles to begin with. YMMV, but it's like the ladders that might or might not have existed in the past have all been pulled up, and now the mainstream music industry is just not interested in finding new music to distribute. They have built a process to craft 'safe' artists, who are controllable and willing to fit an image and style, versus having anything individual to say.

Of course, I could have just been drunk and ranting incoherently, though when I reviewed the conversation the next day with my roommates, a lot of what I've said seems to at least hold together in some degree.

The comparison to the current television production industry, and the exploration of writers who do not stick to the old formulaic models of entertainment is an apt comparison and I think worth considering.
posted by daq at 11:18 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Oh, also, the analogue/digital comparison of recorded music quality is bunk.

They are two completely different technologies, and the methods used in both are equally difficult to do well.

The problem with digital recorded music is that for a long time you had audio engineers who knew analogue recording techniques trying to use those same techniques with digital, which was still figuring out how to do what it was going to do, and the transition period was very rough.

It is still rough, but that's mostly due to audio engineers not being used more and more and now the artist/producer being the one manning the console, instead of someone trained on how audio recording works. You add to that the abundance of cheap/free (or stolen) software, used badly, and you end up with the Loudness Wars, as stated above.

Of course, if all you have is a hammer, everyone's ear drums end up looking like nails, or some other bad mangling of that cliche.
posted by daq at 11:23 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Different mediums, different needs. Music and TV are pretty hard to compare.

A couple of points:

When Netflix decided to back House of Cards, they were willing to pay top dollar for Kevin Spacey—Snooki wasn’t good enough. These were both daring and expensive moves, and not all of them worked, but the overall impact of investing in highly-trained talent has been decisive. The new renaissance in television would never have happened without this commitment to excellence.

Really? I'm going to guess that ratings numbers for Jersey Shore and views of House of Cards on Netflix (it's really hard to get this comparison - Netflix talks in terms of percentages of subscribers, so you need to know how many subscribers they had at a given time) are pretty comparable - if anything, I would suspect House of Cards has less viewers than Jersey Shore. Just because we talk about this as a golden age of television doesn't mean that there still isn't a ton of cheaply produced "reality" shows that jam up the dial that still draw in millions of eyeballs every week. I think Andy Greenwald has a point in this column on Sharknado 2 about some of the cynical success and celebrating the reaction, rather than the product, that I think some TV is now doing.

The labels rely on formulas and rules because their genre categories are defined by them. Yet much of the best new music defies genre classification; great artists take chances and cross boundaries. Record labels struggle to promote and sell this music because they have created an entire downstream system defined by the old formulas. They need to emulate the boldness with which the leading pay TV networks have sabotaged genre recipes.

Hmmm. Well, book publishers have the same issues. And I don't have any problems with assigning "genre labels" to great TV series - Breaking Bad is a "crime drama", as was the Sopranos. "Drama" gives you a lot of ground to cover - and isn't Breaking Bad a pretty good example of a "Faustian bargain" - albeit one that the character is making with himself, rather than with a literal devil - that ends with the character in a hell of his own making? Put that way, how well have we abandoned the "recipes"?

Old production and distribution systems across a variety of media are being challenged. Methods that aren't useful (old or new) will fall away as better methods emerge; however I think that we're going to keep making music and telling stories while that happens. Because as a species, we seem pretty keen on creating. Monetizing that creative work is the challenge. I think systems that favour both the creator and making it easy for the audience to have access to the work will be the ultimate winners.
posted by nubs at 11:24 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Do you listen to music? Do you enjoy it? Yes?

Then there is nothing wrong with the way you listen to music.


An excellent point. But I'm of the opinion that if you're sitting there listening for "sibilance in the top end", you're listening to your equipment, not music.
posted by Jimbob at 4:09 PM on August 4


An excellent point. But I'm of the opinion that if you're sitting there listening for "sibilance in the top end", you're listening to your equipment, not music.

Couldn't be further from the truth. I've invested years and a fortune in formats from vinyl to tapes to CDs to, now, digital. I love the idea of being able to carry around a huge library, but I needed to know the best tradeoff between space and quality. Testing was in order. I am not critical when I'm listening for leisure.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:22 PM on August 4


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