✖️ AI-driven layoffs? Amazon the future of streaming? What is Facebook?
Plenty to ask at the intersection of music and technology
In the next weeks I’ll be looking more broadly at general developments in tech and policy, and what that means for the music landscape. Concepts like data unions, data commons, and interoperability of platforms are discussed frequently, especially in the EU. Just in the last days DiEM25, a pan-European political movement, released a policy paper for internal voting. Last night I reviewed it on Twitter and shared some outtakes. Curious to hear your thoughts.
(I briefly covered this in the music business trends for the 2020s newsletter a few weeks ago under the headings Music x Commons)
This week, some thought around Facebook and lots of great reads on the current interplay of music and technology, and the emerging landscapes. Enjoy!
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What is Facebook?
I’d like to give you something to think about.
About 2 years ago I closed my Facebook account. I don’t miss it.
I now use a mix of Instagram to keep up with friends and connect to new people I meet, LinkedIn, Slack, and Twitter for professional connections, something called ‘Kleinanzeigen’ which is basically the German replacement of the marketplace, WhatsApp and Instagram for direct messaging, and usually Resident Advisor to find out about events.
It’s the events section where I think Facebook as a platform is strongest. It’s hard to replace. Same for Groups, although I have mostly replaced that with Reddit. Events are the only reason why I’ve ever considered signing up to Facebook again. I want to start organising late night events this year (alright, they’re raves), and I really wonder if it can be done successfully without Facebook.
But I digress.
Whenever I see someone using Facebook on their phone or laptop - it’s intriguing to me. I see elements that have been redesigned, and perhaps a new feature here or there. I used to think about how one can leverage these things to build value, and audiences. I even used to write about it. Now the platform seems oddly distant: nobody talks about it in my circles, unless it’s about advertising or events. Yet it’s pervasive. It’s ‘normal’. It’s default.
Which makes me wonder… If you had to describe Facebook, the service rather than the company, in one sentence in 2020, how would you do it?
The next person would likely give a different description. Ask a group of friends and they’d all explain it differently. Yet they all use it and interact with each other through it. How do you describe that?
For something that has so much cultural, political, and economic influence, Facebook is remarkably hard to define.
Do I have a point here? People that know me well know I eventually always get to my point, with some detours, if I don’t get distracted along the way and forget to come back to the original topic. The point for me to write this, is for you to think about it. How do we define our cultural, social, and economic space? How do we define one of the most important layers therein? Think about it.
Cherie Hu looked at recent trends in music listening for NPR and also shared key take aways on Twitter. A highlight: CD sales still make up ~80% of physical sales, so it has a huge market share when compared to vinyl. If that’s not a surprise to you, because perhaps you’re working with CDs, you should know that CD packaging-related emissions can be cut by up to 95% by switching away from jewel cases.
US radio conglomerate iHeartMedia has laid off a large number of its staff. At the same time, it has announced a “technology transformation and new organisational structure” specifically mentioning past investments in artificial intelligence. It certainly looks like automation plays a part in these layoffs. What also plays a part is a 2017 FCC decision to no longer require manned studios to be near the location of their broadcast license.
Screenwriters won’t have to worry about AI just yet, it seems. A duo named Josh & Dom created a short film generated by playing a text-based adventure game called AI Dungeon 2. It’s reminiscent of the old text adventures where you were limited to commands like “north” “open” “pick up” and “look at”, but since it leverages AI, the developers didn’t have to account for every possibility - they just let computers handle it. That’s the thing about AI software: it’s not written (fully), it’s trained. What comes out is a rather random, nonsensical but entertaining script for their video.
Instagram’s Sunil Singhvi was interviewed about promoting music on Instagram. Lots of common sense do’s and don’t’s, but also deeper insights into how their team works with music, and paid ads. He also chimes in on the full-profile tiled grid layouts, where people post chopped up images that form a whole when you look at the profile. Less than 5% of views come from the profile, so you should absolutely focus on the feed. Spamming fragments of images into that feed: not a great idea.
Props to Songtrust / Downtown’s Henry Schoonmaker for laying out how streaming services streams turn into royalties. This may well become my go-to piece whenever I need to explain it to someone.
Tim Ingham argues that Amazon is an example of the future music streaming landscape, with its diversity of price points and offerings. I agree with him, and also strongly believe in more low, mid, and higher tier price points.
Lastly, another mention for Cherie Hu, and Dan Runcie, founder of Trapital, a publication about the business of hiphop. They’ve been wondering why there aren’t any successful music equivalents of the ‘fantasy sports’ genre - where you put together a team of real-world players and get scores assigned based on their success throughout a season. Both of their pieces investigate why it’s never taken off for music, and what it would need to succeed. I’ve seen a few virtual “A&R” type concepts - the most recent one I played around with a lot was Tradiio (1.0), which has since pivoted (twice). Read both Dan Runcie’s piece and Cherie’s piece.
MUSIC x GREEN
Every week I share the new projects posted to MUSIC x GREEN: the directory for a more sustainable music business. This week: just 1. 😱 The submissions button is fixed, so feel free to submit important projects.
The Green Room: a consultancy agency for environmental and social change in the music industry.
You can check all of them out by heading over to MUSIC x GREEN and clicking on the “NEW ✨” filter.
A Greener Festival announced their yearly awards for green festivals at Eurosonic Noorderslag. They gave out 37 awards, all listed here.
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Written while listening to Granada 1013-1526, conducted by Jordi Savall, a fantastic musical overview of the Islamic and Christian music of the region - much of it recorded in the Alhambra Palace.