Merzbow Inspires Podcast Reflections
A new underground music podcast has set itself a mighty challenge: to listen to and discuss one-by-one the albums of Japanese noise godfather Merzbow. Each episode of Merzcast sees Greh Holger of Chondritic Sound and another musician or noise fan sit down together to absorb a particular album by Masami Akita and reflect on it afterwards. […]
The podcast episodes are lengthy and detailed, with the contributors breaking down the album track by track, dropping thoughts on equipment, effects, track titles and more. Pictures posted online show sheets of paper with notes on each track written during the listening sessions …
I love the idea of this podcast. Merzbow is a tough swallow for most and it might be a challenge to keep the podcast fresh over hundreds of brutal noise releases. I’ll check out at least a couple of episodes and am curious how it’ll shake out.
I’m intrigued by the idea of a podcast diving into a singular sonic oeuvre. I’m sure something like this has been done before but I think there are unexplored ways to combine the album-listening experience with the podcast format. Of course, there are music clearance issues to consider. But the podcast doesn’t have to actually contain the music. How about a podcast host telling the listener when to start an album at home, and then the discussion is edited to coincide with songs as they play in real time?
Spotify’s Podcast Ambitions Are Clear
Not only has Spotify acquired Gimlet Media, a podcast producer and network, for around $230 million but it has also bought Anchor, a startup that makes it easier for people to record and distribute their own podcasts.
The company says it isn’t done — it says it has other podcast acquisitions in mind, and that it expects to spend up to $500 million on deals this year.
Spotify is taking the Netflix model, in short. As the company grows, it’s inevitable that established record labels will start charging higher licensing fees. Podcasts, however, is something that Spotify can buy and own as exclusive content. If it green-lights the right shows, it could pull users away from third-party podcast apps and then slowly persuade them to take out a premium subscription. Anchor, too, gives Spotify the potential to rapidly build a YouTube-style distribution network.
The Gimlet Media deal is a glimpse of where Spotify is headed, but, coupled with the Anchor acquisition, we’re seeing the platform’s transformation into a different kind of company. As Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek
Per the fiscal 2017 filing, SoundCloud has taken “significant steps to improve its financial health,” including renegotiating certain rightsholder contracts, retiring outstanding debt and cutting major operating expenses, and it achieved positive operating cash flow in 2018.
While its 2018 results will not be available until later this year, SoundCloud says it has surpassed its 2018 growth plan and remains focused on two major ideas: expanding its creator business with a suite of useful artist tools and offering a unique listening experience for its “young, trendsetting, global music fans.” The latter will be increasingly tough as Spotify, Apple Music and other big streaming services solidify their place as market leaders, but the former — a focus on music creation — is something in which SoundCloud remains unsurpassed.
SoundCloud is a popular subject on this blog and, yes, there was a time when we contemplated the service’s possible demise. It’s astonishing that SoundCloud once made a go at Spotify and Apple Music, and the ensuing failure was arguably the direct result of an overreach to attract a mass audience.
I’d say ‘SoundCloud rap’ saved the platform’s bacon. This phenomenon was bubbling hard during the depths of SoundCloud’s financial woes and surely pointed the way out: by doubling down on a core user-base of
We Would Call That a Demon
On a fascinating episode of Douglas Rushkoff’s Team Human podcast, “technologist, futurist, inventor, and mage” Mark Pesce has a fascinating observation about social media’s knack for social engineering:
What is Facebook doing? It’s watching your responses to build a simulation – simulacra, really – of you and then it can check against that simulacra what your emotional state is. Okay, so, it’s built an A.I. that can essentially read and tamper with your emotional state. If this were the 14th century and I talked about evoking something that could then tamper with you emotionally and that you would feed energy that it would feed back to you in a different form – we would call that a demon.
There’s also a meatier-than-usual post on Kottke.org by Tim Carmody about where the web went wrong and how the spirit of blogging might point to the desired way forward:
A lot of the efforts to reshape social media, or to walk away from it in favor of RSS feeds or something else, are really attempts to recapture those utopian elements that were active in the zeitgeist ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago. They still exercise a powerful hold over our collective imagination about what the internet is, and could be, even when they take the form of dashed hopes and stifled dreams.
These days I’m thinking about this stuff all of the time. I know I’m hardly the only one.
Blocked on Spotify: The Public Has Spoken
With an upcoming update, Spotify will let you block music from any artist you don’t like throughout the app. This means it will block music from that artist on your personal library, playlists, automatically curated playlists, charts, radios, and everything else. In fact, you won’t be able to manually play music from an artist you’ve blocked even if you wanted to — and you’d have to unblock an artist before you can play a certain track from them.
I’ve seen this being sold as a way to no longer hear artists that annoyingly keep popping up in algorithmic playlists — the feature is touted as “much-requested” and I think that’s originally why it was requested — but it’s obvious this is Spotify’s way of dealing with deplorable artists on the platform. It’s a passing of the buck, if you will, after Spotify’s disastrous attempt at self-censorship.
I can’t say I blame Spotify for putting this decision in an individual user’s hands. At least they’re responding and doing something. Knowing Spotify, I’m sure there’s some data-gathering at play, too. It would be in the platform’s best interest to learn of artists that are being blocked en masse by its users. Then Spotify would be able to quietly downplay those artists in playlists and features. The public has spoken.
Update: Another take, Spotify’s New Mute Feature Is a Patronizing Misstep
Word of the Day: Chimping
A candidate for ‘word of the day,’ via Shutter Muse:
What is Chimping?
Chimping is the act of looking at your camera’s LCD screen as soon as you have taken a photo. The term is jokingly derived from the noises that photographers often make when they see a shot they like on the back of the camera (oooh
ohh), followed sometimes by “ ape like” hand motions for others to take a look.
I look forward to my first opportunity to use this phrase in the wild. Also, it must be noted that Shutter Muse doesn’t necessarily consider ‘chimping’ a bad thing.
Put It Into the Fire Without Reading Any Farther
Brain Pickings reproduced a fan letter that Bram Stoker wrote to Walt Whitman and I’m going to steal its opening text for the greatest cold email template ever:
If you are the man I take you to be you will like to get this letter. If you are not I don’t care whether you like it or not and only ask that you put it into the fire without reading any farther. But I believe you will like it.
The Culture-Changing Rollable TV
Chances are you heard about the 2019 International CES debut of this revolutionary television:
As the host notes, these will be super-expensive at first, no doubt. But flat-screen TVs were expensive as well, and now almost everyone has one. Likewise, I think this ‘rollable’ TV (and the inevitable competing versions) will catch on in a big way. What interests me is how our culture is affected when the TV is no longer the centerpiece of our living rooms. A TV that’s made to be hidden— replaced by a painting or whatever is behind its previously allotted space — proposes a mindset that’s foreign to almost every generation. Can you imagine a house where a big screen isn’t the focus of the primary social room’s furniture and all the attention?
Immune to Misinformation
I’m happy that John Green is doing this Crash Course series on Navigating Digital Information. This is important and I look forward to all the episodes.
John recently gave up all social media for a year. Here’s his first-day video and here’s his one-month follow-up. In the