Liz Pelly’s Podcast Overlords → Pelly delivers another scathing, must-read broadside for The Baffler, this time focusing on the potential fall-out of Spotify’s love affair with the podcasting world. She sees musicians as the “canaries in the coalmine,” foretelling that only the biggest podcasting names will find success on the platform. The others will face diminished identities and fanbases in favor of Spotify’s platform branding and emphasis on ‘star’ playlists. And, unlike the music content, most exclusive podcast IP becomes the property of Spotify.
Many Spotify-focused musicians tailor their music to accommodate the platform, and Pelly sees podcasts similarly affected. She believes we already see shortened podcasts, such as Parcast’s three-minute Daily Quote, intended to fit automated personalized playlists like The Daily Drive and Daily Wellness. There’s also a real danger of producers optimizing their podcasts — a positive reframing of appeasing algorithms that encourage milquetoast and unchallenging content.
… as much as Daniel Ek wants to continue doing interviews pushing the same talking points about the democratizing force that streaming has been, it ultimately just reproduces and exacerbates the exploitative status quo, where those without the numbers are treated as disposable. The fact that podcasting staff are unionizing is of particular importance in this regard. Solidarity amongst podcasters and musicians could be useful in imagining new systems and practices that work for everyone.
As I’ve said re: music on Spotify, it’s not a game anyone has to play. Think of this as an opportunity to create (and strengthen) communities for podcasts existing outside of Spotify’s ecosystem. My often repeated analogy of ’80s commercial radio vs. college radio applies — there were many listeners satisfied with hearing the top 40. But there were also plenty of people enthusiastic about the fringe offered on college stations. What’s important is to embrace your lane. Let Spotify be Spotify (i.e., commercial radio) and instead reach out to the communities of listeners that reject ‘optimized’ content. [LINK]
A Documentary Called Eno → What’s this? It’s Brian Eno in 1973’s flamboyant “I wear make-up because I look better” glory. A 24-minute documentary called Eno popped up online this week, filmed during the recording of Here Come The Warm Jets. The opening scene sums up Brian’s modus operandi — he’s playing the piano well enough that for a second, you think, “he can actually play the piano.” But then you realize he’s not that good at all. It’s his enthusiasm and concentration that’s making it work. And, unless it’s buried in the mix, that piano part never makes it into “The Paw-Paw Negro Blowtorch” anyway (kind of like the sitar solo we hear seconds later — huh, what?). Says Eno, “I have attempted to replace the element of skill considered necessary in music with the element of judgment.” What a find, what a gem. Hat tip to Jon Curtis at Poke In The Ear. [LINK]
Chicha Libre & La Sonora Mazurén – “Caminito de mi Pueblo” → I’m in love with this song, a collaboration between NYC’s Chicha Libre and Colombia’s La Sonora Mazurén. Translated as “Little Paths of My Town,” it’s a cover of a tune originally recorded in 1976 by Ecuadorian accordionist, poet, and Moog pioneer Polibio Mayorga. This rousing single is a tribute to indigenous leader Cristina Bautista, heard speaking on the track, and was released on October 29, 2020, the first anniversary of her assassination. “Caminito de mi Pueblo” has an uplifting, rebellious feel that we can all appreciate — proof that resistance doesn’t have to feel angry. It also features some cool synth riffs amidst the layers of traditional instrumentation and bouncing percussion. Read more about this single here. [LINK]