✘ Revisiting 1 billion music creators
And: Web3 Music: The utility dilemma; AI image generators and copyright; Art worlds and collaboration; MIDAS: measuring online audio listening in the UK; Decentralized autonomous media networks
A year ago I wrote a piece about how the rise of music creator tools should see us head to a world where we have one billion music creators - just like we have a billion photographers through Instagram and other image filter apps. Retrospectively, the ‘winner’ in these landscapes, Instagram for photos and TikTok for video, is the one who provides its users with a super easy to use interface. It’s not that someone on Instagram even understands how the filters work, it’s just that their images look better. Similarly, most users on TikTok have no idea what’s going on when they post a video. This is harder for music, because there’s a lot more intricacy. Last year I wrote how:
we’re moving into a world that’s thoroughly mediatized by the sonic in the form of melodies, beats, hooks. Some of these put together by people calling themselves artists, others by people who quickly threw together a few loops. The former might be looking to make a living from their art. The latter might just be enjoying themselves and have no ambition to share their creations beyond a few friends and like-minded people. The question of originality remains pertinent.
Now, we see Ableton releasing Note which is an app designed for playing around with while on the move. As their website states:
“Play just for fun, or start song ideas to continue in Live.”
In other words, this isn’t just aimed at those people who work with Ableton Live. This app is meant to bring a whole new group of users to Ableton and thus to music creation - those who just want to play around with an easy-to-use app.
🥢 Web3 Music: The Utility Dilemma (Blaire Michael)
“We cannot reclaim the inherent value of music and the financial worth of musicians’ creative labor while simultaneously requesting additional labor, products, or copyrights to justify the high cost of NFT ownership. Nonetheless, seeking ideological purity is challenging when faced with the realities of the music industry and the world at large. While we can recognise that the emphasis on endless, free creative labor has reduced independent artists into underpaid production firms, fans and consumers sit at the other end of the spectrum experiencing their own forms of exploitation and pressures to reduce personal expenses. When we look at it this way, we realize the dream of a web3 music culture driven solely by the inherent value of music is dependent on a small group of collectors with disposable income. Choosing to only cater to this perspective on utility alienates one group (the everyday fan) in favor of the other (the investor).”
✘ First of all, Blaire is amazing. Her music is great and she’s a very articulate speaker and writer. I wrote about utility myself last week and Blaire’s article here goes much deeper than I did. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in what utility actually means and how its deployment might develop.
🪞 Artists say AI image generators are copying their style to make thousands of new images — and it's completely out of their control (Beatrice Nolan)
“One of the most common prompts is to use the name of an artist to create something mimicking their style … Rutkowski, who uses both digital tools and classic oil on canvas for his work, is worried that this explosion in imitation art means his style — which has seen him land deals with Sony and Ubisoft — might lose its value.”
✘ A couple of weeks ago, Getty Images said it would remove images generated through AI systems from its database. We continue to see copyright issues crop up. How exactly this will flesh out is uncertain, but from the above article we learn that Stable Diffusion will look to provide an opt-out. Thus leaving the onus on the artist to actually do that, possibly with hundreds different tools…
✘ There’s a lot to unpack here, but first it’s good to know that this is UK-based research. I’m highlighting the above chart because it’s so clear in conveying how our listening habits are still shifting towards digital. Elsewhere, there’s information on what people do when they listen to audio and whether they’re alone (yes for podcasts) or with other people (39% for music listeners).
🤔 Ellen Mara De Wachter: art worlds and collaboration (Austin Robey)
“Art is one among many fields where there are certain taboos still that aren't discussed, and money is one of them. And how you author your work is still one of them, even though there's been a discussion around authorship for decades, or a century, really. But it kind of felt like I wanted to ask people questions about how they create art collaboratively — as artists, and also as humans.”
✘ I have a strong feeling that collaborative work will become increasingly common in the future of work more generally, but in art - and music - more specifically. The tools are there to collaborate with anyone and more and more it’s becoming common to let the collective speak instead of focusing on a single spokes person. This is a show of strength.
🕸️ DAMN Decentralized Autonomous Media Networks (Kiran Cherukeri and Gaby Goldberg)
“Today, participants of a centralized social or media network have no incentive to care about the quality of the network itself. The web2 economic model is a zero-sum game, and individuals are incentivized only to draw attention to themselves. Because there is no cost to create, every network inevitably becomes inundated with spam and noise at scale. DAMNs change this paradigm. Individuals still have incentive to draw attention to themselves, but they also need to care about the quality of the overall network. If a participant starts overposting or spamming irrelevant content, others may sell their tokens and leave in response, consequently lowering the token price and incurring a financial penalty to the spammer. In effect, individuals only need to worry about “self-governing” their own behaviors. The net result is governance minimization on behalf of the entire network, enabling dynamic innovation that leads to a content equilibrium in the DAMN.”
✘ The previous link to the Ellen Mara De Wachter interview reminded me of other examples of collectives creating. I like the ethos laid out here by Kiran and Gaby and see it as a great example of where Web3 tools can provide value - to allow people to work better collectively. Another example would be the interdependent nature of Channel.
I’m a bit of a jazzhead and love what’s been coming out of the London scene in the past years. Theon Cross has basically singlehandedly made the tuba one of the coolest instruments around again. You could also question how some of his music is ‘jazz’ beyond a certain aesthetic. Whatever the genre indication though, his new tracks bang!