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Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

Love And Mathematics

I finally found an image from that American Analog set t-shirt I’ve gone on about in the past. And it’s topical!

The University of Leicster in the UK reports something that I’ve believed for some time now – music downloading creates listener apathy. It can’t be any surprise that the ease with which people can constantly access and download new music without any real effort has devalued, at least for many, music. If something doesn’t cost you anything, be it money or energy, why should you ascribe any real value to it? Combine that with the fact that we’re mainly now talking about something without any tangible, physical form and you’ve got a recipe for who gives a fuck. This isn’t to suggest that the advent of digital music has been a negative thing – no, it’s hard to argue that the great decline of the major labels is anything but a plus, but nothing comes without a price, and in this case that price is the commoditization commodification of music. There’s a generation of kids growing up now who have no concept of ever paying for music, and I have to wonder what it will mean when they become the primary consumer demographic. Will artists still find a way to get paid? One of The Big Takeover’s blog-columnists offers his thoughts.

I’ve rounded up a few more links of late that address some facet or consequences of the increasing insubstantiation of music. PopMatters ponders what it means to completists now that pretty much everything – rarities, demos, live shows – is essentially available to everyone, everywhere. I for one have basically stopped caring about live show recordings, unless it’s one that I was actually at. In the distant early days of the internet, I remember hunting down and treasuring every live recording, no matter how poor, as precious and rare. Now I could care less, to be honest. Though I can’t really explain why, even though every live Wilco show is seemingly available on bit torrent 24 hours after the curtains come down, I still felt compelled to buy the live album…

And more – Angry Robot wonders if the increasing popularity of downloads might somehow spark a reaction/revolution in interesting packaging to renew interest in the physical product, while Canada.com wonders the same thing, but in regards to album artwork. Sterophile eulogizes the independent record store (done in by the internet, natch), and you may recall my own personal reaction to today’s download culture – vinyl.

And a final iPod question – while mine no longer does the refuse-to-play thing (yay for reinstalling the whole OS), for whatever reason it refuses to play certain songs. Maybe three out of a few thousand on the iPod so not a great percentage, but annoying nonetheless. If I play the album, it just sits on that song for a second, then skips ahead to the next track. Reimporting the tracks don’t work. I haven’t tried re-ripping or re-naming to try and fool it, but that seems dumb. Any ideas?

Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene tells PopMatters that he thinks the digital music revolution is great, but that Pitchfork is silly.

B(oot)log has rounded up a slew of Feist’s radio performances in MP3 form for your listening pleasure, but unfortunately doesn’t have the Red Demos, from which much of Let It Die sprung forth from. They’re worth hunting down – they sound great and “Intuition” is still one of her best songs ever while the version of “Leisure Suite” is almost sinister-sounding.

The Scotsman talks to Scotswoman Isobel Campbell about her new album Ballad Of The Broken Seas. She’s at Revival on March 4 and while Mark Lanegan won’t be touring with her, her band will include some heavyweights including Eugene Kelly (of The Vaselines and Eugenius), who will handle Lanegan’s parts. Now THAT should be interesting.

Some more shows – Stars will be performing at The Docks on March 1 as part of CMW’s Indie Awards. Admission gets you into the awards ceremony to see all the artists not show up to accept their awards, followed by a full set from Stars. And quietly buzzy UK popsters Field Music will be at Sneaky Dee’s on March 11 for a show before heading down to Texas for SxSW. That night will be a mini British invasion in Toronto shows – in addition to The Subways at The Mod Club that night, Billy Bragg will finally be making good on his promise to come back and sing for us at the Opera House. I’m gonna have to go with the old guy.

Here’s a follow-up to yesterday’s expansive Jenny Lewis roundup – a couple more interviews with Paste and Chart. There’s also a video for “Rise Up With Fists”, but it’s a MySpace exclusive and apparently that means exclusive territorially too – I can’t see it since I’m in Canada, and I think the rest of the world (and some parts of America) are shut out as well. Can you say “bullshit”?

24: I want to punch the President. Oh surprise, the baddies have someone “on the inside” at CTU. It’s nice to see that they’re maintaining their high standards of employee screening and are placing a greater emphasis on interpersonal skills and overall professionalism. And evidently they’re grooming Chloe to take over from Curtis as chief interrogator – that woman is ice cold! And there’s nothing like a good old fashioned infirmary knockdown scissor-fight to liven up an otherwise talky episode. That final scene? That;s Walt’s spider-sense tingling.

np – Metal Hearts / Socialize

By : Frank Yang at 8:50 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Sean Palmerston says:

    Oh my god, Eugene Kelly in Toronto! Brilliant! Any idea if he is playing solo at that show as well as an opener, or if he is only in Isobel’s band?

  2. Eric says:

    "…nothing comes without a price, and in this case that price is the commoditization of music."

    Do you mean "commodification"? If not, do you mean music is becoming flush-able? I’m going to assume you mean the latter, because it holds with the tenor of the rest of your piece.

  3. Ryan Waddell says:

    I’d have to say that it’s pretty likely that the songs that aren’t playing on your iPod, are just corrupt mp3 files. Can you play them on your computer without any problems?

  4. Frank says:

    Sean – I don’t know, I don’t think so. I believe he’s on this tour strictly in the capacity as Isobel’s bandmember. I’m not sure who’s booking that show, but they might know.

    Eric – yeah, that’s what I meant. Typo on my part. You know what I’m talking about though – people with six billion songs on their computers and they probably don’t even know what half of them are, it’s just stuff they were able to download and put on as background noise.

    Ryan – They do play when I hook the ipod up to the computer, and I play straight off the ipod playlist. I don’t get it, really.

  5. Eric says:

    I tend to agree that the digital (free, in this case) distribution of music probably exacerbates the already present tendency to not "ascribe any real value to it", but hasn’t that always been the case? I mean, since the post-war advent of Muzak, pop music has been aural furniture, to use a John Cage term. Sure, we pay for it, and a (small) minority of listeners take the time to seek and seek until they found something, but the difference between walking down to the corner store and right-clicking is, for me, a matter of degree. Pop music is still, and always hase been, background noise for those who want it to be. I guess it’s the way you look at technology–as eternally "new" and revolutionary, or as a reflection of pre-existing, established societal norms. I’m in the latter camp.

  6. Frank says:

    that’s true, but in the past there’s been a balance between the two camps that I’ve been reasonably comfortable with. But now things are tilting heavily in favour of the "whatever" camp, and the market is adjusting itself to cater to them. While I hate the idea of compressed non-physical media becoming the standard delivery method, it wouldn’t shock me if that eventually happened. I just hope I’m dead and/or senile before that happens.

  7. Gary Campbell says:

    It’s impressive that you wrote that whole post without mentioning the election results once.

    I’m surprised to hear of all your difficulties with your iPod. I’ve had mine for 2.5 years now and never had a single problem — no non-booting, no unplayable tracks. I wonder if, as Apple’s ramped up production, some aspect of quality control has gone by the wayside. Certainly it seems like the newer generation models are more prone to problems than the old ones. You’re not the first to complain about the newer models.

  8. Frank says:

    Election? Was there an election?

    My quick take – it sucks that the Conservatives are in power, but it was inevitable and maybe for the best in the long term. Hopefully their minority-ness will keep them from actually accomplishing anything and we’ll be back to the polls in under two years, maybe with a far less corrupt Liberal party option.

  9. Eric says:

    Ha! I’m sure that our "elders" said the same thing about those confounded CDs. I mean, those buggers are compressed as all get-out! Ow, that made my rheumatism flare up again.

    What is happening and will continue to happen with the non-physical digital media is what happened with CDs–corporations will find a way to exploit and re-issue their back catalogs–I vaguely remember when the RIAA pressured retailers into carrying CDs by creating a regulation that essentially disallowed the return-for-refund of cassettes. Then we were saddled with those horribly hissy Elvis Costello "remasters" for 15 years.

    I mean, the labels aren’t going anywhere. Digital distribution (and, should I say, recording) has and will continue to expand (not level) the playing field, but just to the point where we get a massive influx of "indie majors" like Sub Pop and Matador (and soon, Vice–funded by Atlantic), who essentially practice the same business model as the "Goliaths" (to use a Love Monkey term).

    Now, to enter my string of characters (one of these days, it will randomly turn out to be my e-mail password):

  10. Five says:

    Claire had the same problem with some of her mp3 files. The files seem to be easily corrupted if your RAM is running high while you’re ripping them. The only solution I found was reburning the problematic CDs in full when I don’t need my computer for anything else.

  11. Frank says:

    yeah, I’ll try re-ripping the offending CDs. It’s weird though, they play on the computer alright – is the iPod less robust in terms of handling glitchy or corrupt files?

  12. Sean says:

    Some interesting food for thought in today’s post. I’ve noticed that music does seem to have less value to people nowadays… but I question whether or not mp3s are the cause. I think people are just becoming more apathetic in general. We are being flooded with media from so many different directions nowadays that it’s hard to care about any of it really.

    MP3 blogs in particular are an interesting phenomenon. The speed at which musical trends are starting and then dying has increased dramatically. When people are downloading albums months before they are released in stores, by the time they hit stores they don’t seem all that exciting anymore.

  13. Justin says:

    Are you using iTunes to transfer the music?

    The only time I’ve experienced your same iPod phenomenon was when I was using the Winamp iPod plugin, so I always just thought that the plugin (being third-party and all) was to blame.

  14. Eric Grubbs says:

    Last night I thought about how I got into file-sharing in the first place: to find rare non-LP songs. At the time, bands like Coldplay and Jimmy Eat World had a whole number of non-LP songs out there that I wanted. I didn’t get into downloading full albums until a few years later, but I stopped doing that completely when my computer melted from all the spyware that ended up on it.

    To some, music is very devalued now. For myself, the package of recorded music (the songs, the production, the liner notes, the sleeve) are still vital to the experience of enjoying music. Having a CD-R with a Sharpie’d ID isn’t enough.

  15. Kevin says:

    Great post, Frank. I’ve tried to monitor my own listening habits since discovering mp3 blogs and running my own, and I’ve definitely found myself getting caught up in the hoarding mentality. I stumble across files or even CDs that I realize I have yet to listen to. … One of the great things about listening to vinyl (God bless my Technics 1200) is that it kind of forces you to listen and pay attention. It seems trivial, but the simple act of having to flip the record over makes you concentrate on the act of listening. I catch myself skipping from song to song too much on my iPod.

  16. Ieinz says:

    Best post?

  17. rgsc says:

    Great post – very thought provoking. While I think that there will always be the music nerd who wants the entire back catalogue of their favourite bands in a physical format (vinyl preferred), including the art and liner notes, a new breed of casual listener has been created which undoubtedly has consequences for musicians and the music industry but only time will tell exactly what they will be in the long term. Right now it seems to be reaction and attempts to adapt.

    Thanks for the link – I just got the Red Demos from a Feist livejournal page. <a href="http://s50.yousendit.com/d….">Here is the yousendit link</a> for anyone else who is interested (via <a href="http://mligon08.blogspot.co…">For the ‘Records'</a>)

    good luck with the bloggies.
    r

  18. Brad O. says:

    Interesting post.

    (A long comment coming))

    Current State…

    I agree that downloading and ease of replication has lead to apathy. However I think kids do buy a lot of disks. My daughter (15) buys lots of CD’s. And she sells her homemade productions to her friends. She looked at me the other day holding a tattered envelope full of cash that she made selling 40 or so copies of her own EP and said "Wow…you can make a lot of money doing this. Is this how it works?" I said..yes it is. I told her she is lucky because it was at a time when artists routinely didn’t make any money on the music they made…in fact they owed money to the label. She looked at me with her face all screwed up. "That sucks." That was one of those great moments wathcing the realization wash over her face. That she controlled her own music career…holding that fat envelope of cash that she is going to use for an iPod. That is the image big labels have to contend with…ten thousand fold.

    Future…

    I think where music is moving, guided mainly by digital and online technology is the "personalization" of music. We are seeing a shift from the corporate control of discovery, production and distribution of music to a more direct creator to consumer model.

    Under the old model the listener and artist were seperated by layers upon layers of marketing, distribution and "image making" by the people fronting the money. That still exists today but we are seeing a shift. Young music fans (12-18) are making (and expecting to make) direct one to one connections with artists on a national and global basis long before they appear on major labels and on "MTV2". That shift is clearly evident in the success on Mp3 blogs in breaking new music. They want to be there when the band is making music just for them.

    The digital music generation have no reservations of "buying" direct from the artist if they know and like the band. Succesful young bands have learned how to make direct contact with fans outside of the mainstream media outlets…

    The real savvy artists know how to maintain that relationship as they grow in popularity. (Bright Eyes)

    What will happen in the future is that the major media corporations will no longer be able to dictate who, what and how music made, packaged and sold.

    Traditional big lables died the day Mp3 format was released to the world and the internet.

    Clap YOur Hands And Say Yeah! Illustrated exactly why that is…as did my daughter. They made the connections, they generated the buzz. They made the sale and the music.

    Labels will become simply a service industry. DiscMakers, CDBaby, The Orchard are pioneers in bringing the manufacturing and distribution serives direct to the artist. How to make a commercially viable release is no longer a issue for the artist.

    We will see all formats of music return based on the interest that the artists generate through one to one interation with fans. If a artists says vinyl only for this…that is what it is..,and you can bet fans will go buy a turntable to play it.

    We may one day will see charts for vinyl, mp3 ,CD, High resolution digital audio and yes even the cassette may make a small splash. (buy up those late 80’s and early 90’s cassettes while you can)

    The industry is ready to go…and it is up to the artists to stop relying on the sony, warner, BMG, virgin etc…to make the connections with fans and tell them what to do and how to do it.

    If a band wants to produce a DVD film of a tour and capture a live analog session and package the whole thing with a 12" vinyl and DVD release complete with Mp3s pre-ripped and high res master audio files on the datadisk…why not? If they DIY…it can be done. Ask a label to do that…yeah right.

    Technology plays into artists hands. There is no crisis for the artist …only crisis is in corporate profits. They know that the control of music is slipping away from them, and there isn’t a damn thing they can do to stop it.

    Artists recognize the value and power of digital anf internet technology and have quickly moved to take advantage of it. Corporations have big salaries, sky scrapers, jets, gold facets and walnut paneling to maintain.

    They now have to figure out how to minimize the losses and get on board.

    All in all for the fan…the theme is more, smaller, higher quality and more diversity in the distribution, packaging and delivery. There will be a time of chaos and apathy for some but as this younger generation grows older the music scene will grow incredibly rich. (not with money per se but content and quality) and MORE artists will make a decent living creating. Not just a selected few. The money that is available will spread out more over time.

    The artist and music fan will be the winners in the end. And that donesn’t sit well with media stock holders.

  19. satisfied 75 says:

    I have run into the same issue w/ my 40 gig ipod that is from 2004 (whatever generation that makes it). I agree, terribly annoying when it happens with no solution in site.

  20. Daniel, Esq. says:

    I had a similar problem with my iPod. A technician correctly diagnosed the problem as a broken hard drive. Since I was under warranty, I received a new iPod; I mention this merely to explain to you the seriousness of the problem.

    I agree with you that the easy availability of music leads to apathy about music. These days, I sample lots of new music via the Internet (all from blogs promoting acts outside the mainstream); if I like something, I buy it. But while I like much of what I hear, I don’t love much of it, in the sense that I don’t often go back to songs over and over again.

    I think — even with the filtering function performed by bloggers — that the Internet has lead to choice-overload with music. I have limited time, and I often can’t focus on a song for more than a moment. If it grabs me in that moment, so be it. If not, I often don’t have the time or energy to focus more deeply on the song, even if the song is (if I gave it a longer listen) ultimately more rewarding.

  21. Frank says:

    okay Daniel, that’s pretty much the last thing I wanted to hear… I don’t have the time to investigate it further for a couple months but will hopefully try to get it sorted out one way or another before my warranty is up. It *mostly* works right now, and it’ll do for the moment.

    Brad – thanks for posting a comment even longer than my original post! I’m of the mind that the while it makes good points for debate, the digital revolution won’t be nearly as fast or widespread as many think/hope/fear. Consider that Wal-Mart is something like the biggest retailer of music in the US – their customer base is NOT going to be going download anytime soon. There is still a huge market for the crap, flavour of the week pop schlop that are the major labels’ bread and butter. Their sales may be going down, but they’re still making huge money. Indie labels are definitely taking advantage of the opportunities afforded by the internet, but they’re not taking sales away from the majors – there’s just not that much audience overlap (save for Death Cab and the Shins). Joe Public didn’t need downloads to make them apathetic, they didn’t care all that much in the first place and aren’t likely to take part in anyone’s revolution. I don’t think the internet is going to slay any dragons, but it will make it a lot easier to live alongside them.

    As for the apathy angle being discussed, I dunno. I remember when I was 17 and had like five cassettes to my name – I wore them right out. Knew all the words, chord changes, liner notes, everything. Now I don’t even know song names of a lot of albums. And I remember when I first started receiving promos and mp3 links through this blog – I actually listened to them all and felt bad if I didn’t give one a shout-out whether I liked it or not. Now? Fuck, there’s piles (real and virtual) of stuff on my floor that god willing I’ll get to someday, but I’m just overloaded with music.

  22. Sean says:

    Maybe I have my head in the sand (willingly), but the mole inside CTU (whatever his name is) didn’t come across to me as "a baddie". He’s following orders from the White House, but I didn’t seem to me that he knows they are big meanies. So he’s been deceived himself and I dunno how employee screening would pick that up (but yeah, another season, another guy inside CTU helping out the baddies). In the next episode I’m sure he’ll reveal all he knows about his handler guy and be back working beside Chloe soon enough. Or not. Who knows.

  23. robert goulet says:

    The Red Demos, direct download:

    http://www.vanmega.com/arch

  24. Sam says:

    24: Spense isn’t a mole!! i seriously loved this episode. and this newfound excitement surprised the hell outta me. and i actually love Gregory Itzin. that guy is doing more than just being a pansy-assed president. i want to nominate him for next year’s Golden Globes as best supporting actor. i’m not kidding.

  25. Scarlet says:

    <3 AmAnSet!

  26. sarah says:

    First time poster.

    While I’ve to agree that downloading music can lead to apathy, I have to say that the Internet has been much of a boon rather than a bane. I’m based in Manila, and there are next-to-none independent record labels over here. I would have never heard of the New Pornographers, Broken Social Scene, The Velvet Teen, etc., without the Internet. These are all bands I’ve grown to love over the last few months.

    I remember reading a snippet of a music editor’s column over at NME (I think) complaining that his girlfriend was able to copy his entire 5,000-song library in her iPod in just five minutes; he spent over 20 years compiling his collection. He didn’t think it was fair. Hehe. And there I just might have to agree with him.