✖️ What are they building in there? And why they shouldn't necessarily care whether you know
And: DJ mixes in the world of streaming; Personal recommendations are best; Record Store Day harming indie shops; Pandemic lessons learned; Death Row NFT label
When you’re building something, it’s easy to get distracted by what others are doing or what they say to you. When you’re building something that utilizes new technologies or which try to reformat ingrained infrastructures of cooperation it’s even harder to focus on building. There’s always a danger of veering off track and getting caught up in discussions that actually don’t help you build. Take a ship’s captain, who keeps their eyes on the horizon even when it storms but also when the weather is great. It’s their job to stay focused on the true north, or true south, which is that end goal of achieving an overall mission. Of course, we’re quite used to thinking about this captain as a single person, often a man, who a general public considers a genius - at least until they show their fallibility. Slowly but surely, however, this ‘great man theory’ slips out of our view. In its place, we see a more distributed leadership with a shared goal of achieving a mission. Let’s look at three very different examples and I’ll try to show how a focus on building is more important than anything else if you want to change the world.
Water & Music
The industry problem
Consolidation of major trade publications has led to a journalistic field with few independent voices.
What Water & Music is
A paid newsletter transitioning into a research DAO
Focus on building
The kind of collaborative research that Water & Music is normalizing doesn’t quite exist anywhere else. In their recent Season 1 report more than 40 people worked together to create a survey, do interviews, write articles, and more. How do you organize collaboration while remaining an independent voice? DAO governance has the tools to do this, but it starts with people. A Water & Music community already existed and this allowed a quite organic growth of the collaborative research squad. Now, it’s time for next steps and more people will get involved, or at least want to get involved. There’s scope for distraction from the inside as new people require onboarding. Similarly, there’s scope for distraction from the outside as news cycles change by the hour. In both cases, the aim for the builders should be to keep their sight set on that horizon and make decisions based on how to best navigate there.
The industry problem
In a recorded music industry dominated by streaming the maximization of streams paradigm has whittled all music down to a single type of ‘music’.
What Audius is
A decentralized, community-owned music-sharing protocol
Focus on building
Audius gets some tough press every now and then, mostly related to piracy. In most of these stories Audius gets put into the same bracket as other streaming platforms. However, they do not want to be a platform but instead they’re building a protocol. Through this protocol artists and fans find an invitation to help create a new layer for music streaming. The team at Audius do not engage too much with the press about piracy issues. Instead, they’re building. This week, they’ve launched a new feature where $AUDIO, the token connected to Audius, gets distributed to both artists and fans based on their interactivity on the service. Both sets of users thus find themselves as active participants in the Audius platforms and get rewarded for their input. Currently, this isn’t about monetization. What it is, is a step towards that with a view towards things like micropayments and rewarding interactions. The point on the horizon that Audius moves towards is the fulfilment of their protocol. In doing so, they create a new mantle for artists and fans to connect outside of an economy driven by streaming rates. In other words, the protocol that powers the platform is the focus and while other elements - piracy for example - are significant, they are also a form of noise if they take up too much energy. In the end, a healthy artist-fan led environment won’t be a place where either of those sets of people benefit from pirated work.
GenesysGo/Shadowy Super Coders
The industry problem
Scaling activity on the Solana blockchain + a lack of utility use-cases for NFTs
What is GenesysGo/ What are Shadowy Super Coders?
A decentralized RPC (remote procedural call) server network where a shadow drive stores data coming through Solana and which allows people to operate validator nodes and participate in the Solana ecosystem. Shadowy Super Coders are the NFTs released by GenesysGo which represent participation in the SSC DAO.
Focus on building
Most of what GenesysGo released towards the public was done when crypto in general was peaking on a financial level. And yet, their use case is proven and their focus is on utility. There are potential external pressures to create short-term gains for NFT owners and people who own $SHDW. However, the true utility of this project is in building out the Shadow Drive. Get that to work and everyone who has invested in GenesysGo - one way or another - will find their reward, as will all the other project who will get powered through the Shadow Drive.
What builders should do to focus on building
Transparency & communication: be honest and open about why you might not be doing certain things to focus on getting towards your goals. Keep lines of communication open to your community.
Ethics: set rules for engagement for your community. If people know how they can best aid your efforts of reaching your goal then they will become even more invested in helping you get there.
Community-focus: this is why these three examples are all Web3-based. In the previous two points I used ‘you’ to refer to the builders, but actually the building is done through and with the community. Water & Music cannot be a collaborative research community without active participation of people from that community in the research. Audius cannot be a protocol if it’s not used by both artists and fans. GenesysGo cannot build the Shadow Drive without shadow operators.
Putting community first means that we move firmly away from any shape or form of the ‘great man theory’. Humans work best when they work together and find the most satisfaction in their work when they can share it. Building in the Web3 provides the guardrails to operate communities and grow ecosystems.
💿 DJ Mixes in the world of streaming music (and video) — Part 2 (Chuck Fishman)
“Imagine if all of a sudden an artist’s new release is appearing in multiple DJ mixes on Spotify and Apple Music, there will be dozens of new “Mixed” versions of the original song, along with unique product codes. Listeners trying to find the original version of the song will have to keep a keen eye and ear on which version that really is.”
👂 Perfectly Imperfect and the Growing Currency of the Personal Recommendation (Delia Cai)
“The commodification of recommendation has blurred the lines between taste-making and shilling, tacit endorsement and obvious sponsorship. No wonder indie media and Twitter personalities alike responded in kind with their own niche guides, picks, and the occasional viral Google Doc as a means for asserting cultural authority and minting a kind of social currency for audiences who are overwhelmed or turned off by the mainstream deluge of recs.”
🤔 Record Store Day is harming, not helping, independent music shops like mine (Rupert Morrison)
Critics have long derided the event’s penchant for novelty discs and lack of discerning curation. This year, RSD offers 411 new releases, a fact that should leave those in the physical music business seething. Thanks to Brexit and the pandemic, we simply can’t make enough records. There is an international shortage of the various components required in vinyl manufacture, as well as a backlog exacerbated by last year’s pop-heavy release schedule.”
🚩 Kanye West's Actions Are Stalking Behaviors (Caitlyn Cruz)
“This is not normal, and it should not be passed off as romantic or okay or fodder for our entertainment.”
⛓️ Snoop Dogg wants to make Death Row Records “an NFT label” (Surej Singh)
“Just like how we broke the industry when we was the first independent to be major, I want to be the first major in the metaverse so Death Row will be an NFT label.”
💚 Pandemic lessons learned by live: #6-10 (Gordon Masson)
“Alongside equality and mental health, environmental protection has become one of the key issues that the industry is pledging as a priority, going forward.”
I’ve been really enjoying Xyla’s music recently. It’s a hotpotch of styles but has its roots firmly in the kind of electronic music I tend to associate with Rephlex Records. Xyla, however, released Ways through Leaving Records. That label’s all genre motto definitely matches the music of Xyla.