What It Takes for an Independent Record Store to Survive Now [Pitchfork Media] Even as legacy music shops continue to shutter across the country, Midwestern institution Used Kids has managed to stay afloat for the last 30 years and counting. How do they do it?
As streaming has gone mainstream, these curators, many of whom began their professional lives as bloggers and DJs, have amassed unusual influence. Their work, as a rule, is uncredited — the better for services designed to feel like magic — but their reach is increasingly unavoidable. Spotify says 50% of its more than 100 million users globally are listening to its human-curated playlists (not counting those in the popular, algorithmically personalized “Discover Weekly”), which cumulatively generate more than a billion plays per week. According to an industry estimate, 1 out of every 5 plays across all streaming services today happens inside of a playlist. And that number, fueled by prolific experts, is growing steadily. [slBuzzfeed]
If You Do That, The Robots Win: Glenn McDonald, music critic and creator of Every Noise At Once talks about how algorithmic music recommendation happens:
So now I work at Spotify as a zookeeper for playlist-making robots. Recommendation robots have existed for a while now, but people have mostly used them for shopping. Go find me things I might want to buy. "You bought a snorkel, maybe you'd like to buy these other snorkels?" But what streaming music makes possible, which online music stores did not, is actual programmed music experiences. Instead of trying to sell you more snorkels, these robots can take you out to swim around with the funny-looking fish. And as robots begin to craft your actual listening experience, it is reasonable, and maybe even morally imperative, to ask if a playlist robot can have an authorial voice, and, if so, what it is?[more inside]
Enter your name and birthday here, and you will get a personal Spotify playlist. (This is from a fathering site, so it prompts you to use your children's names/birthdays, but beware - the songs are not screened for child safety).
Eagles Of Death Metal have announced their Play It Forward fundraising campaign for victims of and families of victims of the Paris terrorist attacks of Nov 13. Artists of all musical genres are encouraged to cover EODM's song I Love You All The Time and offer it up for purchase, with all proceeds going toward this fund. So far, a wide variety of musicians have contributed covers, and more are expected. Pearl Jam is also offering a 7" single. Music can help heal the world, or at least help support those affected by senseless violence.
Streaming service Rdio is filing for bankruptcy, and Pandora is set to buy its assets for $75 million. Never heard of Rdio? The service was a lesser-known competitor to the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, and did a lot of things right in a low-key way. Its userbase is savvy and fiercely loyal. The service is set to wind down over the next few weeks. The Atlantic: A Eulogy For Rdio. David Greenwald: What Spotify and the rest could learn from Rdio. The Verge: Streaming music has an economics problem. [more inside]
According this latest numbers from IFPI, while the music-buying audience in the USA is still the biggest in the world, the most valuable music fans are actually the proud people of Norway. This may be due, in large part, to the fact that since 2009 piracy in Norway has plunged by 76%.
The White House released two Spotify playlists of songs on Friday morning, one for day and one for night, that were hand-picked by President Barack Obama. [more inside]
Open the Music Industry’s Black Box by David Byrne [New York Times]
“Everyone should be celebrating — but many of us who create, perform and record music are not. Tales of popular artists (as popular as Pharrell Williams) who received paltry royalty checks for songs that streamed thousands or even millions of times (like “Happy”) on Pandora or Spotify are common. Obviously, the situation for less-well-known artists is much more dire. For them, making a living in this new musical landscape seems impossible. I myself am doing O.K., but my concern is for the artists coming up: How will they make a life in music?”
At Pitchfork, Marc Hogan has put together a long read on “how playlists are curating the future of music.”. He speaks to various folks in positions of power at the different services, including former Pitchfork editor-in-chief Scott Plagenhoef (now running music programming and editorial across Apple Music) and former Pitchfork associate editor Jessica Suarez (now lead streaming editor at Google).
Giant 800-track alt/indie-focused 90's playlist in chronological order "This is a behemoth of a playlist I put together, focusing primarily (but not exclusively) on the alt/indie/college side of the 90's experience. It's 800+ tracks, about 55 hours, and features plenty of songs that tend to get overlooked in the "remember these 90's hits?" pieces that pop up from time to time. Not definitive by any means, and extremely subjective, but it's a decent chunk of curated history in one convenient place. Also it's a fully chronological playlist, on a week-by-week level. So a track released on May 7, 1994 will come before a track released on May 14, 1994. Time and research went into this. Think of it as the Boyhood of 90's playlists!" (From Mefi's own naju, via MetaFilter Projects.)
About seven months after pulling her music from Spotify due to low royalties (previously), Taylor Swift posted a note to her Tumblr asking Apple to pay royalties for songs streamed during the free trial of its upcoming Apple Music service. Within 24 hours, Apple agreed.
Sony's 2011 contract with Spotify has leaked. The Verge's calculations have Sony making a pretty sizable sum off the deal, without much of it trickling down to artists. Meanwhile, Sony has begun pulling all of its artists' music from Soundcloud. [more inside]
The Morning News' Andrew Womack's Top Albums of 2014, with help from youtube commenters. (mlyt + Spotify and Rdio playlists)
Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. [more inside]
Let’s change how streaming royalties are calculated, and save the full-length album while we’re at it
Like blasted pecs or a little rhinestone flag pin, esoteric taste in music is an indicator of values. Under the heel of the major-label system in the early ’90s, indie taste meant more than liking weird bands. To care about obscure bands was to reject the perceived conformity of popular culture, to demand a more nuanced reading of the human experience than Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby” and therefore to assert a certain kind of life. That assertion was central to my identity as a young adult, and I found that people who shared it were more likely to agree with me on seemingly unrelated issues. Like all aesthetics, taste in music is a worldview.
Where is the Drama takes any song input recognized by Spotify and analyses it to find the 30 seconds or so of highest drama, defined as the portion of the song with the largest increase in loudness. [more inside]
Who says you can't make money as a musician in the 21st century? Ann Arbor funk band Vulfpeck have figured out how to use Spotify royalties to fund their tour, enabling fans to attend shows for free. [more inside]
CBS-owned music site Last.fm have announced an end to streaming radio services. In a move widely attributed to the punishing costs of licensing, last.fm will now source music from Youtube and Spotify rather than from its own bespoke music database. Existing subscribers, particularly Canadians, are not best pleased. With Pandora stocks already in trouble due to licensing costs, what does this mean for the future of user-curated internet streaming radio? [more inside]
4 million songs on Spotify have never been played. Even once. Let's change that. According to the Bay Area-based founders of Forgotify, 20% of the songs listed on Spotify have never been played. Their website randomly selects unplayed songs and plays them through Spotify's interface. [more inside]
On The Media meets Matt Farley, who earns around $23k per year thanks to the 14,000 songs he has has composed, performed and uploaded to Spotify.
Spotify marks today's death of Winamp (previously) by releasing Spotiamp, a winamp-inspired player for Spotify Premium subscribers with a built-in shoutcast server and compatibility with Winamp visualization plugins. More info and downloads here
While traditional music venues offer their usual Best Albums (or whatever) of the Year round-ups, Spotify confers with a different set of experts of find out what songs and musicians were most important to 2013: You.
David Byrne on making a living from music. 'Many a fan (myself included) has said that "music saved my life", so there must be some incentive to keep that lifesaver available for future generations.'
With the momentous series finale of Breaking Bad just hours away, fans of the show are hungry for something, anything to wile away the time before the epic conclusion tonight. So why not kick back and chew the fat with your fellow MeFites with the help of a little tool I like to call "The Periodic Table of Breaking Bad." [more inside]
"The music industry is being taken over by the back door. And if we don't try and make it fair for new music producers and artists, then the art will suffer. Make no mistake. These are all the same old industry bods trying to get a stranglehold on the delivery system." [more inside]
Do you like music? Do you like entropy? Do you have Spotify? If so, then go here to listen to a song chosen completely at random. It might even be good!
Metallica ends Napster feud: "Metallica has announced its entire back catalogue is to be made available on music streaming service Spotify, ending a 12-year feud with Napster co-founder Sean Parker. Drummer Lars Ulrich appeared on stage with Mr Parker, a Spotify investor, to discuss their bitter legal battle that took place in 2000."
"It feels strange to be active and highly visible on the Web for 15 years but it was only when I joined Facebook that someone from elementary school or high school ever contacted me." In which on Ev Williams's platform, Mr Haughey compares his experiences of Facebook and Twitter. [more inside]
"...the ways in which musicians are screwed have changed qualitatively, from individualized swindles to systemic ones."
"The "Tugboat" 7" single, Galaxie 500's very first release, cost us $980.22 for 1,000 copies-- including shipping! (Naomi kept the receipts)-- or 98 cents each. I no longer remember what we sold them for, but obviously it was easy to turn at least a couple bucks' profit on each. Which means we earned more from every one of those 7"s we sold than from the song's recent 13,760 plays on Pandora and Spotify. Here's yet another way to look at it: Pressing 1,000 singles in 1988 gave us the earning potential of more than 13 million streams in 2012."Making Cents: Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500 and Damon & Naomi breaks down the meager royalties currently being paid out to bands by streaming services and explains what the music business' headlong quest for capital means for artists today. [more inside]
"You know how annoying it is when you're sitting on the train with a magazine and the person sitting beside you starts reading over your shoulder? Welcome to every single moment of your future. Might as well get used to it. It's an experience we'll all be sharing." --Charlie Brooker on sharing, and why the world is doomed
"Two years after first announcing it, Spotify is finally coming to the US. The service will be launched later today, at 8 in the morning EST. The company has signed a deal with the fourth and final music label just hours before launch and the service will be virtually identical to the European one, except for the pricing which, while keeping the numbers, is switching pounds for dollars. " [more inside]
How much do music artsts earn online? A rather attractive yet sobering infographic showing how many units an artiste has to shift physically or online to earn the US monthly minimum wage.
Last year, Spotify made news as a revelation in music availability, by providing ad-supported free access or paid subscriptions to more than 6 million streaming songs. This year, Sweden is the home to another streaming media landmark, with Voddler. Currently limited to Sweden but with goals of reaching the world, the streaming video-on-demand provider was well-received, but initial movie selection did not impress all. That should change, as Voddler recently expanded the potential list of movies when they signed The Walt Disney Company Ltd and Paramount Pictures, netting access to the Disney assets and the Paramount library. A deal with Sony may be forthcoming. [more inside]