✘ Not all music tells a story
And: CMA's final report on music streaming; This moment in crypto; The secret weapon to Music NFTs is collaboration; Web3's wallet opportunity; Where are we (in crypto)?
Whenever I talk about community, I talk about how everything starts with a story. Without that, there will be no binding tissue between the people within the community. You need that story to create the first connections; something external for people to latch onto and identify with before they can start weaving their own narratives. A lot of this relates to the characters involved. First and foremost the musician or musicians, but it can also rest on certain characteristics within the music itself. Think, for example, about a beat that reminds listeners of another piece of music, or a lyric that draws on the themes from another song. All of these things can be put together to form a narrative that creates a story that underpins a community. But not all music tells a story, and that’s okay.
What I’m trying to argue against here, is that not all music has to follow the same narrative. In other words, there’s a multiplicity of possible futures for music. This argument resonates with discussions in gaming surrounding linear narrative development and more emergent storytelling arcs. Take this example of Henry Jenkins talking about Tetris:
“… the abstraction of Tetris would seem to defy narrative interpretation, but that is not the same thing as insisting that no meaningful analysis can be made of the game and its fit within contemporary culture. Tetris might well express something of the frenzied pace of modern life, just as modern dances might, without being a story.”
To bring it back to music, every song might - does - express a feeling, triggers an emotional response, or at least can be analysed in a meaningful way through its musicological building blocks. But that doesn’t mean that every song holds a narrative. Moreover, the narrative that the creator of a song had in their mind isn’t necessarily what listeners will experience. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s what makes music so powerful.
Games, games, games
There’s a broader dynamic here around gamification. Last year, when Water & Music transitioned into a DAO, Cherie Hu wrote about how she wants the change how we understand gamification. In her case, specifically focused on onboarding people into the DAO. She wrote how most examples of using game mechanics in a non-game setting she had seen
“… copied-and-pasted a rather narrow, quantifiable feature set from games onto a non-game environment, instead of starting from the desired emotional outcome of the “game” and designing a specific, bespoke feature set around that goal.”
In other words, simply gamifying something isn’t enough. Instead, it starts with a ‘why’. Knowing why you do something and what you want to achieve will inevitably lead to unique set of features that will trigger people to become, or stay, active.
Just like narrative is too narrow to think about story as a starting point for communities, so is gamification too narrow to think about bringing people through a community. Of course, there’s great examples of where both work like a charm. Think, for example, of Jagwar Twin’s Happy Face release strategy. This is full of elements that gamify participants and fully focused on community creation. It worked, though, not because of any underlying theory, but because it resonated with Jagwar Twin’s existing fans and into those fans’ own networks. A game element can be a great tool to facilitate these network effects. However, it’s important to take the time to not just gamify something, but to align it with the feeling you want the music, and the community that’s created around it, to resonate with.
A story beyond narrative and towards emergence
So here we have it. The stories that musicians tell can be wildly different and based on different building blocks. Similarly, it’s no use thinking you can build from any story in the same way to create and foster community. Here, music has the extra benefit that every listener can hear something else in a song than what the original writer/composer had envisioned (or should that be ensoned?). The story, then, always immediately becomes something from the listener. This story is a building block, still potentially the first building block, from where a community starts. But instead of the story being a narrative led by the artist, it’s not necessarily a narrative at all. It could simply be a way to let every listener become a fan as they weave their own interests into it. Then, when these interests - the things people hear in the music - match other listeners’, that’s when community starts.
Going back to the title of today’s piece, not all music tells a story, but all music can be multiple stories in the ears of the listener. Take note when you decide to run your own community or when you aim to work with a community more generally: the stories that bind communities together are not the narratives that original creators come up with; they are the stories that come through and resonate between people, emerging through the connections as the community grows.
🤼 Music streaming report published (Competitions and Markets Authority)
“However, we heard from many artists and songwriters across the UK about how they struggle to make a decent living from these services. These are understandable concerns, but our findings show that these are not the result of ineffective competition - and intervention by the CMA would not release more money into the system that would help artists or songwriters.”
Sarah Cardell, interim CEO of the CMA.
✘ This is the follow-up to the report published January this year and it basically says that what the streaming economy needs is not more competition, because it won’t lead to better pay-outs. Instead it needs other measures, specifically focusing on breaking down the power that the majors hold. This is twofold:
Since the majors own the most catalogue music, they benefit the most from the increased revenues that streaming services generate for such music;
The persistent high market shares for the majors mean that its difficult for a different player to expand in the market.
I often feel we set up the Spotify’s of this world as straw men, whereas the real issue lies with the power of the majors. To tackle that, I think we need to establish new revenue models where the majors do not have an immediate advantage due to size and market share.
✉️ This moment in crypto (Abhijit Nath)
“However, as native forms of consumption emerge that will embrace the changing trends of deeper and more authentic engagement with people and things you actually care about, we will see far more interesting and impactful examples of harnessing Web3 technology to truly empower creators and value art as more than just a financial asset.”
✘ Abhijit is right, we need more good use cases of blockchain tech around music consumption that don’t just mirror what we already know.
The Secret Weapon to Music NFTs is Collaboration (Dave ‘BlackDave’ Curry)
“I think this is where we started to see collaboration start to become a bit more of a conversation. With the rise of PartyBid toward the end of 2021 in the music sphere, we understood supporting each other by working as a community to collect works, but it took a little bit before we really got into collaboration. It’s become commonplace now and I love to see it.”
✘ This is about more than just NFTs, as collaboration is one of the best ways to establish yourself and to grow your network in just any creative endeavour.
👛 Web3’s Wallet Opportunity (Amanda Young)
“Just as the Internet became more appealing and easier to use over time, so too will crypto. The next billion users will expect convenience and security in accessing Web3. As the entry point, wallets represent *the* critical infrastructure for onboarding mainstream adoption. In this article, I break down the wallet opportunity. I trace the historical origins of digital value transfer and explore what’s next.”
✘ Wallets are where it’s at. I suspect all the important innovations into onboarding many more people into the Web3 will happen through innovations around wallets. The concept of carrying your identity hardwired into a wallet with you is still so revolutionary.
Where Are We? Part II: The Cost of Being Right (David Phelps)
“Which is another way of saying: what we are witnessing in crypto is industry suicide, not only by the hands of scamming lenders operating out of hastily-labeled google sheets, but by investors who loved this technology for all the right reasons that they couldn’t help but smother it to death. We’ll see how many survive; we’ll see how many post any kind of returns. At the same time, if you take the long-view, we’re fine. Tulips are anomalous; most bubbles happen because a technology is genuinely revolutionary enough to incite mass fervor, and ultimately that technology wins out. There are few industries with crypto’s phoenix-like ability to continually immolate itself and rise from its own ashes.”
✘ I think we all need to read this. We’re in a much larger cycle of change than just the current bear market, or even the previous two bull markets. And yet, the problems are exacerbated through the overinvestment into the crypto market. If the reaction to 2018 was to focus on centralized services, let’s make sure we take in the full ethos of decentralization as we come out on the other side this time.
I really do love glitchy music and Three Oscillators creates the kind of music that brings me back to sifting through the records released by the likes of Rephlex, Ghostly International, or Planet Mu. I advise to sit back and take some time to really let this music seep into your bloodstream.