pop is fashion

Conversation about the rumored demise of casual fandom:

Piers Hollot: PBS programming is not intended for live performance, but they do go live for the purpose of fund-raising, and it is at this point that they flush out the “super-fans” with premiums.

Crosbie Fitch: [musical] populism is simply in a lull. As per Arnie, it’ll be back.

Victor: pining for the shared experience of U2 at the gym is just nostalgic old-people-talk.

gurdonark: how many bands and performers I like on a very casual basis [is] not going to change.


I wonder if the tight connection between music and fashion/identity construction isn’t at least some guarantee of populism. I was just looking back over a post I wrote back in 2005 on reading Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You where I was trying to explain with the trend of increasing complexity he describes in narrative popular media hasn’t been paralleled in music: http://www.urbanhonking.com/ideasfordozens/2005/08/everything_bad_is_good_for_you.html

More than any of the other consumable pop media, we use music to distinguish ourselves from other social groups and to construct our own identities. I think this will mean that musical populism will be around for a long time, even without any music that’s actually very popular.

My listening habits are a constant exploration. I find this and it leads me to that. Robert Johnson induces me to explore other bottleneck blues, bottleneck leads me to explore the influence of Hawaiian slide playing, Hawaiian music leads me to Sol Hoopi. What I find through friends and television is an influence, but I don’t have time to check in with anybody while I’m wandering the endless connections.

playdar ecosystem explained

Playdar, Playdar.js, Playlick, Spiffdar, Playgrub? Whaaaa? Playdar: Linux For Music explains the Playdar ecosystem.

If you’re at all familiar with the Linux command line architectural philosophy you’ll know that it’s all about tiny pieces doing one thing well and talking to each other via a standard interface. … The current Playdar ecosystem has very much embraced this idea. To quote James Wheare: “small pieces loosely joined innit”.

MAFF standardization project bootstraps

Work on the MAFF format as a standard for multi-file archives is underway.

Announcement: http://maf.mozdev.org/maff-specification.html

Home page: http://maf.mozdev.org/maff-specification.html (This is the best overview IMO).

Mailing list: https://www.mozdev.org/mailman/listinfo/maf

MAFF files are standard ZIP files containing one or more web pages,
images, or other downloadable content, with optional metadata. This
open format was first adopted as a real-world solution to save web
pages by the Mozilla Archive Format extension for the Firefox web
browser, providing an efficient alternative to the MHTML format.

Today, the availability of a technical specification for the MAFF format
is a great opportunity for extending MAFF support to other browsers and
applications as well.

This is related to digital music packaging formats like Apple’s LP format, the rumored CMX format, and ePub. Related posts on this blog:

content packaging tech explosion

MAFF day

MAFF snafu

the MP3 killer: cloud music

Sawnd (french-language) blog makes some predictions WRT digital music in 2010. The gist of their vision is that per-piece downloads are disappearing in the face of all-you-can-eat streaming services.

They think the iTunes music store has had its day, because of its dependence on per-piece sales. For the same reason they say MP3 and P2P will both start to fade.

There’s a real grain of truth to this. The way that streaming services offer value beyond any per-piece product is that they’re cloud-based. No install, no maintenance. No tag editors. No duplicate files. No need to make backups, no lost backups.

But the way that streaming services offer less value is that they aren’t scalable, their GUIs suck because they’re tightly coupled to their catalogs, and their model is prohibitively expensive for most publishers.

You can’t use Winamp for Spotify tracks, even if Winamp kicks the Spotify llama’s ass as a player. But if you could interface Winamp to Spotify, so that one was the player and the other was the service, then you’d have a real competitor to MP3.

Sawnd continues the sharing of playlists is going to becoming popular. …type “spotify playlist” into Google to see. So, well, yes and no. The sharing of song references across services will become common. But only a common infrastructure can do that. Spotify playlists not so much.

/via Remixtures.

Playdar pitch 0.1

This blog entry is work in progress on explaining Playdar. It’s not yet clear enough to be turned into an elevator pitch. In particular the third point needs to be broken out into separate points about convenience and quality.

Playdar is special because it is scalable, cheap, and uncoupled.

It is scalable because it is capable of supporting the entire internet.

No single music service can say the same, no matter how big. Every service has its own strengths and weaknesses, with the strengths of one counterbalancing the weaknesses of another.

Spotify is only in Europe, Rhapsody is only in the US. YouTube is the only place for a large pool of amateur content. File sharing networks are the only source for orphaned works that are out of print but still in copyright. Web search is the only way to locate recordings hosted solely by the creators on their own servers. Chinese pop is readily available in businesses that cater to Chinese customers, spanish-language pop is readily available from Latin American companies, and so on for every cultural group on earth, but no business serves all of these customers.

The internet is about federation, not balkanization. Playdar federates. It is a single API for many different sources of content.

It is cheap for web sites because they don’t owe royalties.

Webcasting and on-demand streams cost a lot of money. Web providers have a very hard time staying in business. Playing MP3s in iTunes or Winamp doesn’t cost anything. These companies have no trouble staying in business. Playdar allows web apps to use the same technique as software on your PC. This saves money.

Web sites can do music cheaply by ignoring the risk of lawsuit and hosting MP3s for themselves, but if they have bad luck it will cost them even more than webcasting or on-demand streams.

Playdar doesn’t evade payment and licensing, though! It reuses sources that are already paid for, which enhances their value. Playdar makes it possible for a user who buys an MP3 from Amazon to reuse their purchase on Pandora.

It uncouples MP3 sources from discovery and management.

With Playdar getting MP3s and other music media is distinct from using them, so that you use one tool for getting and another for playing or organizing.

This lets you use the best tool for the job. You should be able to have the best music player and the best source of music even if they aren’t from the same vendor.

It also makes it more convenient to share songs, because people can use the same link even if they have different ways of getting music.

Got a better word than “unbundling”?

I’m working on a pitch to explain the point that Playdar “unbundles” MP3 sources from discovery and management. The important thing is the benefit of unbundling, not that there is a mechanism called “unbundling.” That just sounds like a buzzword.

What it means that getting MP3s and other music media is distinct from referencing them, so that you use one tool for getting and another for playing or organizing.

The main benefit is the ability to use the best tool for the job. You should be able to have the best music player *and* the best source of music even if they aren’t from the same vendor.

The other benefit is convenience, in that people who prefer different music sources can share links to songs.

Ideas on how to express this in a more terse form? I’m looking for an elevator pitch — ten words at the most, one word at best.

whitelisting in Google Music

RT @cbrumelle:

Seems wrong that GoogleMusic puts results from their partners ahead of artists own website *regardless* of the pagerank of the artist site

Google Music is based on whitelisting providers. The stakes are about being a legit source of music with equal access to distribution, promo, and most importantly link love in the first slot of search results. The way you qualify is to be a licensee paying royalties to rehost song files.

DMCA notice and takedown is blacklisting. Things are considered ok until someone with reason to know better objects.

When a garage band posts an MP3 of their band practice on one of the member’s blogs, it would pass a blacklist but not a whitelist.

I’m ok with DMCA notice and takedowns. They create a self-policing system which is able to keep itself in good shape without a central authority. It’s a good thing when rights holders are able to do what they need to without having to go to court.

The only problem with takedown requests is that new instances of songs pop up too quickly for the requests to have an impact. If takedowns could be posted fast enough to keep up, they’d be perfect.

That’s predicated on takedown requests being accurate, so that they aren’t forcing authorized distributors off the net. The request has to go the right site — the host rather than the linker. And linking to an authorized third party site has to be vigorously protected, so that a label can’t sue bloggers for linking to it.

CCMixter becomes bandlabel

CC Mixter has changed hands and is now in private ownership. It’s a supercool development that reflects AIUI a profound vision of the future of record companies and recording artists:

Social sites generating music are the next generation of both bands and labels.

Have a local gathering of members making live music? It’s the same as the band doing a live show. Have more than one of these? The band is on tour. Etc. From this vantage point, 8Bit Peoples is both a label and a band, for example.

(Note that this is my own observation and not based on inside information!)