Spotify

SoundCloud tries to allay fears, but streaming needs a business model

SoundCloud’s CEO published a post saying SoundCloud is here to stay and uploads are safe. But it isn’t just SoundCloud’s business that’s troubled.

Okay, first – the one thing you shouldn’t worry about is music you’ve uploaded to SoundCloud. As I wrote at the end of last week, you should worry if you have media that’s important to you that’s located in any one place without backups, SoundCloud or otherwise. But while there have been plenty of signs SoundCloud’s business is seriously troubled, that doesn’t necessarily translate to any indication you’ll lose access to the service.

SoundCloud co-founder and CEO Alex Ljung was left scrambling in the wake of deep layoffs to assuage user fears. He took to the phones with at least one celebrity user, Chance the Rapper, who reported a “fruitful” call with the exec on Twitter Friday.

Also on Friday, Ljung posted a plea on the company’s blog:

The music you love on SoundCloud isn’t going away, the music you shared or uploaded isn’t going away, because SoundCloud is not going away. Not in 50 days, not in 80 days or anytime in the foreseeable future. Your music is safe.

SoundCloud is here to stay. [SoundCloud blog]

Alex also refers dismissively to “an insane amount of noise” about the company.

But let’s back up. SoundCloud’s CEO can’t just shrug off fear and uncertainty when the company’s own messaging, actions, and even financial filings are largely responsible. Whatever’s going on with SoundCloud’s business, the company has lost control of its image. It’s hard not to view this “noise” as partly SoundCloud’s fault.

Co-founders Alex and Eric are each articulate and passionate advocates of music sharing. But the company has for years failed to articulate its business model. It’s talked about subscription services like SoundCloud Go, without being clear about how it can compete with entrenched competitors, and talked about advertising without being clear about how it will attract advertisers or how those ads will be effectively delivered. It’s been evasive about details of revenue and profit. It’s allowed bad press to accumulate, like allowing lavish office photos to spread just as financial filings were adding to concerns about its future. It has often failed to go on the record with press outlets (not mine, major press), while small rumor blogs flooded the narrative with leaked (and often inaccurate) information.

To see how badly SoundCloud’s media relations are going, look to recent reports by the likes of Forbes or even TechCrunch. That’s TechCrunch, who just last year were so bullish on SoundCloud that they said the company should be worth more than Spotify

Flash-forward to last week, and TechCrunch are reporting leaked accounts from inside the company’s headquarters and
questioning whether the company will survive.

The best SoundCloud could do by way of correction or response in this place was to say that the fourth quarter begins in 80 days, not 50, and that they meant they had money through the end of that quarter (that is, the end of the year) – but that means we’re not any further along than when Ljung initially made that same statement in a financial statement in January. You can watch the messy back and forth here:
SoundCloud Responds to ‘Extensive Inaccuracies’ in Article Claiming It’s Almost Out of Money

[Indeed, TechCrunch has reason to complain here – SoundCloud doesn’t specify what it means by “extensive inaccuracies,” and actually appears to confirm some of the main gist of the article.]

Presumably these layoffs were planned for some time, so why did SoundCloud appear to be improvising its message to the press and its own staff?

And this problem isn’t a new one in summer. Way back in January, the apparent failure of revenue plans to keep pace with growing costs were fueling acquisition predictions. Now we have vague platitudes from the CEO that the company intends to remain independent, without any material on how they will do that. (That is, even after 40% staffing cuts, they’re still not talking about having money after the fourth quarter, unless by “foreseeable future” Ljung only means he can forsee 2017!) Here’s Fortune back at the end of the year; we actually know very little new information since then:
Here’s Why SoundCloud Will Likely Look to Be Acquired Soon [Fortune]

I know SoundCloud can do better, having covered the company since its 2008 founding. I know its founders can do a better job of messaging than this, too, having known them almost as long. Rather than simply imploring its users to help, they need to provide a better picture as soon as possible as to how revenue growth will work versus costs – particularly now, having cut some of the staff who were responsible for making that revenue growth happen.

A Spotify timeline. Photo (CC-BY) Jon Åslund.

Not only SoundCloud

That said, I think SoundCloud are unfairly bearing the brunt of bad press and angry musicians.

Let’s not mince words: right now, the whole model of streaming appears economically broken, and surely all the major players deserve some share of the blame.

Talk about a rock and a hard place – maybe “buried under a pile of rubble” is more apt.

Content creators and owners believe they should get paid for music being streamed. So you’ve got the industry that represents them asking for higher royalty rates.

The problem is where the revenue to pay those royalties is coming from. Listeners don’t appear to want to pay much for subscription fees. That’s at least partly why Spotify and SoundCloud and others aren’t showing profitable results. Even if you don’t buy their arguments (lavish offices and huge headcount being evidence), there’s still a fundamental problem here. If users pay a flat fee for a subscription, then the company loses money the more they listen to the service – because royalty costs accrue. SoundCloud here actually has an edge, in that not all of the music uploaded requires a license – think spoken word and unreleased music. But SoundCloud hasn’t yet proven that they can make this work, either. (We’ll see if those staff cuts or other budget trimming helps.)

Advertising is the one thing that will grow with increased listening, at least in theory – more listening means more revenue for ads. But listeners and even content creators have been resistant to advertising. And selling ads in sufficient volume and with significant value means you need to have a talented staff able to liaise with big agencies and advertisers. Google is the one tech company who seem to have built a significant competency in the ad business, but they claim they’re not making money on ads, either.

And it gets worse. Largely missed in all the coverage of SoundCloud last week (but observed by some CDM readers), it’s really YouTube that dominates streaming. The Washington Post has just painted a bleak picture of the value of those YouTube plays to music.

Why musicians are so angry at the world’s most popular music streaming service

In a pot-calls-kettle-black argument, YouTube weirdly warns of the dangers of consolidation in big players:

“The industry should be really, really careful because they could close their eyes and wake up with their revenue really concentrated in two, three sources,” said Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s global head of music, referring to Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Prime Music.

Right, so it’s better if it’s concentrated in four, and the fourth is Google? Huh?

The real danger here seems to be a race to the bottom. Apple, Amazon, and Google can all afford to lose money on streaming, turning it into loss-leader business for other revenue streams. SoundCloud, Spotify, and other tech companies can afford to lose money by repeatedly turning to outside investment. (It’s absurd that we’re still calling this “runway” with those companies, as the business is now around a decade old at least. The runway metaphor only works if you take off at some point. A “hole in the ground into which you throw money” metaphor is what we seem to have here.)

I wouldn’t normally compliment the record industry, but to the credit of groups like the RIAA, at least they’re exerting some pressure up. The problem is, even a $7 royalty per 1000 streams may prove negligible to smaller artists and labels – and if the business that pays that royalty can’t survive, it’s a moot point anyway.

So, uh, how’s everyone feeling? Super… happy? No?

Of course, the buzzword that everyone seems to be running to at the moment is the blockchain – offering decentralized content and paying creators more directly. But describing one part of a larger solution isn’t the same as describing the whole solution. Will listeners embrace micropayments for music, or will they find it a hassle? What will make them migrate from services they’re already accustomed to using – and in which they’ve already assembled playlists and preferences? What about the fact that services like Apple’s are already integrated with the listening devices they own? How do you convince listeners to change their mind about what music should cost, when they’ve already grown accustomed to $10 monthly fees – or, very often, no fee whatsoever?

It isn’t all bad news. People are listening to more music. Streaming isn’t a nonexistent business – it’s US$7.7 billion in the United States alone. Someone, somewhere is actually earning money.

Also, because of the cost of PR and building fanbases, and the potential revenue earned from paying live (or selling physical goods), a lot of musicians I’ve talked to really do appreciate the promotional value of online streams. There are plenty of cases where giving away streaming music is viable – because you might then sell people vinyl, for instance.

And, look, while all of this shakes out, musicians and labels continue to pursue a strategy that caters to building relations on all these services. Some of them have great success stories with YouTube, with SoundCloud, with Spotify.

But maybe that’s the point. It seems to be the businesses in between that are non-functioning – or (in the case of futuristic blockchain propositions) just not ready for primetime.

Musicians and labels keep doing the hard work of making the music and fighting to get it heard. Yet investment and attention pours into the middleware between us and listeners – and that middleware really isn’t working terribly well.

At the very least, it seems totally valid to me that people who make music have reason to be frustrated. I think we should continue talking about our own solutions. And I’d like to see the captains of industry – music industry and tech industry alike – take some greater responsibility for what’s gone wrong and how it might go better. Well… one can dream, anyway.

So, uh… vinyl? Cassette tapes? Eight tracks?

Erm… happy Monday?

The post SoundCloud tries to allay fears, but streaming needs a business model appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

SoundCloud cuts 41% of staff as streaming music business melts down

There’s a famous line in business by Tom Peters, in his book The Circle of Innovation: “you can’t shrink your way to greatness.”

But shrinking is exactly what SoundCloud now has to do, with its survival – let alone any ongoing greatness – at stake. As founder Alex Ljung puts it in a blog post for the company today, massive headcount reduction and the closure of two offices is necessary to put the company “on our path to profitability and in control of SoundCloud’s independent future.” The implication is, without a buyer, the company may not last without cutting staff.

Asked for comment, SoundCloud pointed CDM to that post:

A note from Alex Ljung

SoundCloud will lose a lot of the people who made the service valuable. 173 out of 420 employees – 41% of staff – are being made redundant. San Francisco and London offices are closing, leaving New York and the headquarters here in Berlin. (That may have implications for Berlin’s reputation as a European Internet capital, as well, as SoundCloud has been its best known poster child.)

I know some of these people personally. I’ve seen what they bring to the service and our music community in general. I’ve also seen how significant SoundCloud has been in helping musicians share music and people to discover that music, its impact on record labels, on artists getting bookings … on daily life.

I think artists and ex-employees alike could feel legitimately betrayed by the course music streaming has taken. SoundCloud at least is increasing revenue. Ljung says the company has “more than doubled” revenue in the past 12 months, without citing specific breakdown of producer subscriptions, listener subscriptions, and advertising. But the issue is how revenue compares to costs.

Now, ironically, the writing has been on the wall for a decade. Ten years ago – and one year before SoundCloud was founded – Pandora co-founder and ex-CEO told CDM he thought streaming rates would shutter companies. The weird part of this is, he may have been right – it’s just that an ongoing influx of investment has prolonged that failure over the years.

If Streaming Rates Stand, “We’ll Have to Shutter”, Says Pandora Founder

If it seems greedy that he’d suggest such a thing, one reason is that there aren’t such royalties collected on radio broadcasts.

Whether you want to blame the services, tech giants like Apple and Amazon, or the music industry for setting rates, the business model just doesn’t seem to add up anywhere. And 2017 could be the “s*** hits the fan” moment as it becomes ever clearer that no one is able to turn that business model into a win.

Just last week, co-founder and returning CEO Tim Westergren left Pandora. That company has never made a profit, and it seems new investors Sirius XM (satellite radio company) have other plans.

Then there’s Spotify. As its revenues and number of users grow rapidly, its losses are actually growing even more rapidly. That should mean that Ljung’s comment about growing revenue is as much a red flag as it is encouragement.

Spotify’s Loss More Than Doubles Even as User Growth Surges [Bloomberg]

Noticing a trend here? Pretty much anyone in the streaming business is losing money. That overall picture also will rule out some acquisitions, or reduce the price. And it’s not surprising that this combination might frighten away some investors.

CDM readers and associates frequently compare Bandcamp to SoundCloud. But perhaps if any comparison is apt, it’s because of the contrast in business models, growth rate, and intended audience. Bandcamp remains a niche site for people to consume music, not only as free streams, but as downloads, physical media, and in the form of merchandise. It’s the always-on, “tap water”-style streaming that is having trouble.

To state the painfully obvious, it’s also troubling to look at the streaming players who are thriving. Facebook has stayed out of music (unlike Russian social media network VKontakte). But three other big tech giants – Amazon, Apple, and Google – are able to offer streaming services as “loss-leader” offerings, directing sales elsewhere. Apple may lag Spotify, with 27 million users to Spotify’s 50 million. But then Cupertino doesn’t need Apple Music to turn a profit, since the company can instead sell iPhones, iPads, and Macs.

It’s just as easy to find music on YouTube – which also spells further pain for artists and labels.

Music press have been quick to jump on SoundCloud, often without much to back them up. But now, I believe it’s reasonable to sound some alarms. Staff cuts this significant could slow growth and curb the efforts that would expand revenue. They suggest serious financial obstacles. And there’s still not a clear picture of how streaming will be sustainable as a business model – not for SoundCloud, and not for the entire industry.

And the implications there go far beyond SoundCloud’s offices. They should raise serious questions about what a record label is, how it collects revenue in the digital age, and how much control artists and publishers will have on their music being shared and discovered.

Of course, that absolutely means now is the time to talk about alternatives, including innovative solutions like Blockchain-powered sharing and the like. But the popularity of SoundCloud and Spotify for finding and playing music is going to be a tough benchmark to match.

Whatever happens next, it’s going to involve some major changes. And if these companies do start to contract, a lot of the talent that was working on the problem is going to wind up elsewhere.

The post SoundCloud cuts 41% of staff as streaming music business melts down appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Mastering The Mix Levels audio metering effect plugin updated to v1.2

Mastering The Mix Levels 1.2Mastering The Mix has released an update to its Levels metering plugin that help you achieve a technically excellent mix. The update

djay pro from Algoriddim now available For Windows

Introducing djay Pro for Windows – Algoriddim’s award-winning DJ software is now on Windows – seamlessly integrated with Spotify! djay

Producers and DJs can now sign up to get paid for SoundCloud plays

SoundCloud’s ambitious goals for being the place where people share and discover music has always left it with a challenge. On one hand, it has to keep encouraging you to upload music – your tunes, your remixes, your DJ sets. It can’t just be a site for major label content, because then it loses to Apple and Spotify by default. On the other, it has to satisfy the needs of right holders – including when you upload music that they own. That’s an issue with your DJ set, of course, but it could eve be an issue with your own music, if you’re signed to a label.

Musicians and DJs have often assumed that these two interests conflict, but that’s not necessarily so.

First, the more SoundCloud attracts popular, major label content, the more likely it is that people listening to that content will find your music, too. That’s true in theory, anyway – and SoundCloud’s discovery algorithms are specifically tuned to introduce other music. SoundCloud has popularized a breakthrough track here or there, and there’s even word via Chance the Rapper that streamed music (including SoudCloud) could be up for Grammy awards. So this is really a thing.

Second, SoundCloud’s legal battles have actually made it easier for DJs and producers to upload their music without annoying takedowns.

But the ultimate prize is, SoundCloud will pay you for streams. That on its own might not be relevant, but SoundCloud gives individual artists far more control than Apple and Spotify. Only SoundCloud lets you upload content directly, at will, and the statistics and social controls available far exceed anything else. So combined with the ability to get paid, even a little, this is a big deal.

Obviously, the way this works is for SoundCloud to use its paid options (and presumably advertising revenue, though we’ve not seen a lot of that) in order to direct funds to the artists.

The details are a bit sketchy, and the rollout isn’t instantaneous. (That’s unfortunately been a pattern with SoundCloud, though I don’t know to what extent to blame the Berlin company and to what extent to fault the byzantine entities of the record industry.)

Basically, what SoundCloud are announcing is that the Premiere offering will soon be available to DJs and producers. For now, you can sign up; there’s no word yet on who will get included when.

Maybe the most interesting detail here is actually that SoundCloud specifically calls out DJ mixes (that’s the first time they’ve done that on the record, officially), and remixes. The sets are a big deal, because licensing them has been a hurdle in the past. And while Mixcloud ostensibly offers better tools and more solid licensing, I’ve never once talked to a DJ who was as happy with the plays and engagement they got on Mixcloud as they were with SoundCloud.

Here’s the signup:
https://on.soundcloud.com/premier

The news comes at an interesting time. It seems increasingly likely that SoundCloud could soon face heated-up competition, especially as DJ mixes spread. Apple took some (small) steps into that space as far as licensing, and more recently, Spotify purchased technology that lets it better identify songs and stems.

The acquisition alone is bad news for SoundCloud – even if Spotify doesn’t use the tech, they just blocked SoundCloud from getting to it. (And in acquisition-happy tech, sometimes even that’s the goal.) But it could also be the basis of Spotify adding features that compete with SoundCloud. I doubt seriously that you’d get a Spotify/SoundCloud mash-up, but it could cover something like DJ tech.

I’m surprised, though, that no one has speculated that a Spotify acquisition of SoundCloud could go hand in hand with buying Sonalytics, since the latter would shore up the legal basis of the former.

Meanhwile, there are the usual swirling discussions about SoundCloud running out of money, which we’ve heard now for years on a regular basis. Since the company was founded, it has routinely had to go ask investors for more cash to extend runway – to the point of maybe “runway” isn’t really the word for it any more.

In other words, running out of money isn’t news. It’s a question of whether investors want to keep investing. But I wouldn’t trust anonymous sources for reliable information there, which is what some more speculative sites of relied upon.

Getting bought would be another route, and all of this could simply have to do with negotiations and asking price. Some of this uncertainty I think isn’t just a reflection of SoundCloud and their business model, but the uncertainties of streaming music in general. Because performing rights organizations and publishers and labels effectively set their share of money, and consumers have set their expectations of what they want to pay so low, businesses get badly squeezed in the middle.

Anyway, it’s a good thing we’re musicians. We have none of that uncertainty – we know most of what we do won’t make any money.

But I’m totally biased. I’m rooting for SoundCloud because they provide tools for musicians that no one else does, for the moment. And this move makes the stuff they make for us more useful. And for all SoundCloud’s flaws, right now, we need all the tools and control we can find.

DJs and Producers now invited to SoundCloud Premier

I will see if we can get SoundCloud management to go on record about any of this; stay tuned.

The post Producers and DJs can now sign up to get paid for SoundCloud plays appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Spotifyプレイリストの自動作成可能、デジタル時代のアナログターンテーブル

9a0e54db5fbb05f6d3aee393c9e5a027_original

 

イギリス・ロンドンのマスタリングスタジオ+レコードレーベルGearbox Recordはハイクオリティなサウンドとデジタル技術を合体したGearbox Automaticを発表しました。現在クラウドファンディングKickstarterにて出資者を募っています。

ここ数年間、急激に人気が復活しているアナログレコード。そのアナログレコード人気に後押しされ、現在様々なアナログターンテーブルの新機種がリリースされていますが、例えば昨年劇的な復活を遂げたTechnics は高級オーディオマニア向けターンテーブルSL-1200Gをリリース(およそ350.000円)。一方ではデジタルフォーマットへの変換が可能だったり、 アンプやスピーカーを内蔵していたり、手軽にレコードを聴く環境としての格安なターンテーブルも多く見かけます。

Gearbox Automaticはこの2つの溝を埋めるターンテーブルです。大きな特徴は真空管フォノステージ搭載していること。この段階でかなり高いサウンドクオリティが約束されます。また一方では、BluetoothやWifiとの接続も可能で、アナログサウンドをデジタルに変換することやBluetoothスピーカーからの出力も可能となり、今の時代のステレオ環境との相性もぴったりです。面白いのはプレイしたレコードが自動的に認識され、Spotifyのプレイリストに加えられることです。価格が£399(およそ57.300円)というのもかなり魅力的です。詳しくはkickstarterよりどうぞ。

bcb1765f2ceeb4fbb7388e96adec6193_original

 

 

djay Pro on iPhone is an afterhours gem – and a serious DJ, VJ tool

Could a DJ/VJ app on your phone be a serious tool? Absolutely. Not just could be – is.

Algoriddim’s djay Pro is here on the iPhone, and after playing around with it, I think it’s a must-have for DJs and VJs alike.

Are you going to do a serious DJ set with this? Probably not. You’re just going to use it for everything else. It’s there if you need to play a mix while a party is warming up. It’s there when you’re at a friend’s place, or at an afterhours/afterparty in the drowsy hours of the morning. It’s there when you’re on the bus and curious how some tunes might mix together, or lying in bed browsing through music and mixing, or listening at the office, mixing the latest promo tracks you’ve gathered.

And it’s a serious enough VJ/DJ tool that you might use it to run video in the background from your phone, or make it an ultra-portable companion to a controller in place of a laptop, or keep it as a backup.

In fact, djay Pro could be the solution to adding 4K video mixing to your live/AV set. Really. Like, on your phone.

What I like about Algoriddim is that, despite the “pro” moniker, their software doesn’t really make a judgment about what it is you’re doing. So they’ve crammed in a bunch of features here, for “pros,” but they’ve kept everything friendly so it’s just as handy for casual use. And casual use is something that both serious DJs and weekend music lovers have in common.

I mean, I’m mixing a set while I write this. (Okay, maybe don’t tell your boss you’ve got this app.)

Coupled with haptic feedback and Force Touch, this interface is surprisingly fun to use - certainly good enough for practicing and trying out mixes, or recording a quick podcast.

Coupled with haptic feedback and Force Touch, this interface is surprisingly fun to use – certainly good enough for practicing and trying out mixes, or recording a quick podcast.

The feature set that makes this possible:

Up to four decks. You actually have a choice of layouts – horizontal, vertical, two decks, or four. But that four deck mode means you can try a lot of what-if scenarios on the go with multiple decks when practicing, even when you’re far away from your DJ rig.

It’s a serious VJ tool. You can mix two simultaneous 4K video streams. You can output full HD at 60 fps. Yeah, stop thinking of lugging laptops, and start thinking of your phone as a computing device capable of the powers your laptop once had.

It works with AirPlay. Of course. (Hope that afterparty has an Apple TV.)

It works with your iPhone camera. Here’s another reason this might be a serious VJ tool – armed with a stabilizer and/or some extra lenses, it could be a powerful visual addition to a live rig.

Haptic, 3D touch. It’s funny that Algoriddim is making better use of touch feedback than even Apple. You get haptic feedback to make the touch interface more usable when working with the jog wheels. And on supported iPhones, “3d touch” (force touching the screen) lets you set cue points and preview songs.

Spotify integration. This is to me really powerful for music discovery, which is where mobile apps for me shine. Spotify’s catalog is pretty huge at this point, thanks to digital distributors. And djay Pro does everything – key, BPM, beat grids, colored waveforms – even with Spotify content. So you can navigate new music via Spotify and try out mixes and combinations, then go grab the downloads later from Bandcamp or Beatport or the like.

I’m sure I’ll offend some DJs here, too, but I like the occasional random discovery, too, so the “Match” algorithmic function in djay is interesting, as well. (And at this point, there’s so much music out there, there’s no reason algorithms couldn’t lead you to human curation – by helping you find an artist or label you might otherwise miss.)

Visual output can be coupled to audio if you want, so A/B audio transitions work with visuals, too. And this visual output also doubles as full-screen X/Y mix interface, too.

Visual output can be coupled to audio if you want, so A/B audio transitions work with visuals, too. And this visual output also doubles as full-screen X/Y mix interface, too.

It’s a serious visual tool. VJs might look to the iPad Pro-optimized djay Pro on iPad. But if you have some content you just want to present easily, your phone (um, with the cell radio turned off presumably) is actually a viable option. That could be a godsend for a traveling solo musician.

You get basic transitions (Blend and Luma for me is enough, but if you want to go cheesy, Cube, Swap, Grid, Mosaic, and Push are there). Those transitions also work with the music (afterparty time!) or split. There are also effects (Grid EQ, Kaleidoscope, Circle Splash, RGB Offset, Edges, Invert, Tiles, Splash, Ripples, and Radial Blur), and title and image overlays. So, yeah, if you just got paid to DJ a corporate gig, put up their logo, get cash, go. (Or put up your name, too.)

There are fun visualizers (afterparty), or 4K video mixing (actually, that could have some serious uses for AV sets).

External display support means all this goes to HDMI, Thunderbolt, to DVI devices, or via Airplay. And that’s why your phone is a real powerhouse here.

img_9346

Does all the DJ stuff, Automixes, too. You get all the usual EQ, filter, mixing options, plus even a simple 4×3 grid of one-shot pads. But Automix mode is also useful if you want to just play some of your music collection and hear how it sounds, at work or on the road.

A/V recording. Make some quick social media fodder or mixes, on the go. Remember that transitions work with the audio, so you can have a lot of fun with this.

DJ hardware support. The other way to look at this is, a controller now has full computational power by just adding a phone. A whole lot of hardware now works with djay Pro on the iPhone in addition to the iPad version – even the top-of-range Pioneer CDJs. (So, if you’ve got a gig and need to switch from a USB stick over to your phone library, say while people are milling at the bar, you can.)

You can use Split Output for cueing through headphones, work with MIDI controllers, use multi-channel audio interfaces (via USB adapter), and all of this works out of the box.

It’s five bucks?! Yeah. Crazy. That’s the intro price, then it’s ten bucks, which is still ridiculous.

So the nearest competitor, TRAKTOR on iPhone, has to me a slightly more elegant interface, and the excellent Freeze mode, but… that’s about it. This pretty much just blew it away.

And indeed…

This ought to be a wakeup call for Native Instruments and Serato. Why does Serato still not have a working mobile solution? (No, carrying a coffin-sized controller alongside my laptop does not count as a “mobile” solution, Serato, and yes, it is totally then just a huge dongle.) Why has Native Instruments not kept their (excellent) mobile app up to date? No Link support, no STEMS, no sync with the desktop TRAKTOR? Because at this point, even working with TRAKTOR on desktop, I’m inclined to switch over to djay on mobile.

Video (cheese me up!):

https://www.algoriddim.com/djay-pro-iphone

The post djay Pro on iPhone is an afterhours gem – and a serious DJ, VJ tool appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Enjoy the sweet sound of guitar just intonation on this album

Sorry. I’m terrible at writing headlines, actually. I’m also mostly terrible at writing reviews. So let me just say that if you haven’t heard Horse Lords, the Baltimore-based indie band, since their 2010 founding, you deserve to. And they make a great argument for why alternative tunings really do matter in music.

They do so not so much in the sound of just intonation as the interplay of tuning and rhythm. Those two are, of course, interlinked in the view of physics and the science of sound. What we hear as pitch actually is rhythm, the result of our perception fusing successive oscillations into a tone. But they’re also culturally linked, from the use of beating in Indonesian music to the association of certain tunings with certain rhythmic practice. Like spice and texture working together in food, tuning and rhythm tickle our brains with their forward flow.

As for Horse Lords, their work is best described as a hybrid – one aware (and crediting) its roots in Western African music as well as Western band structure and experimental composition. The quartet is Andrew Bernstein (saxophone/percussion), Max Eilbacher (bass/electronics), Owen Gardner (guitar), and Sam Haberman (drums). Evidently the likes of La Monte Young helped encourage them to explore just intonation, with Owen refretting instruments as needed. But as for the polyrhythmic structures, I think it’s significant to note this isn’t just appropriation of a particular culture – on the contrary, it’s finally that Western music has woken up to the language of the polyrhythm in musics from different corners of the world.

But don’t take my high-falutin’ Ivory Tower take on the matter – just listen. Because this spring Horse Lords released a spectacular latest record, and I think it’s their best yet.

I get lots of promos but buying this on Bandcamp is a no-brainer.

But if that isn’t enough to inspire you, there’s more. For one, us European residents (ahem) get to catch these Americans at Unsound Festival in Poland in October, so there’s that news. (No secret lineups in Krakow this year.)

And two, the boys have put together a nice Spotify playlist of compositional and microtonal/non-equal-tempered inspiration – suitable if you’re thinking of working with musical technology acoustic, analog, digital, or any combination. Love this one:

Your next four hours twenty minutes are sorted on that playlist alone.

https://www.facebook.com/HorseLords/

So if nothing else, guys, this does remind me that we really need to get on this matter of allowing easier alternative tunings in our software and electronic projects – a discussion a lot of us are having lately. Oh, that and — you can always reboot your musical influences to create wonderful new experiments.

Huge tip of the hat to Philip Sherburne on Twitter for picking this up.

The post Enjoy the sweet sound of guitar just intonation on this album appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Enjoy the sweet sound of guitar just intonation on this album

Sorry. I’m terrible at writing headlines, actually. I’m also mostly terrible at writing reviews. So let me just say that if you haven’t heard Horse Lords, the Baltimore-based indie band, since their 2010 founding, you deserve to. And they make a great argument for why alternative tunings really do matter in music.

They do so not so much in the sound of just intonation as the interplay of tuning and rhythm. Those two are, of course, interlinked in the view of physics and the science of sound. What we hear as pitch actually is rhythm, the result of our perception fusing successive oscillations into a tone. But they’re also culturally linked, from the use of beating in Indonesian music to the association of certain tunings with certain rhythmic practice. Like spice and texture working together in food, tuning and rhythm tickle our brains with their forward flow.

As for Horse Lords, their work is best described as a hybrid – one aware (and crediting) its roots in Western African music as well as Western band structure and experimental composition. The quartet is Andrew Bernstein (saxophone/percussion), Max Eilbacher (bass/electronics), Owen Gardner (guitar), and Sam Haberman (drums). Evidently the likes of La Monte Young helped encourage them to explore just intonation, with Owen refretting instruments as needed. But as for the polyrhythmic structures, I think it’s significant to note this isn’t just appropriation of a particular culture – on the contrary, it’s finally that Western music has woken up to the language of the polyrhythm in musics from different corners of the world.

But don’t take my high-falutin’ Ivory Tower take on the matter – just listen. Because this spring Horse Lords released a spectacular latest record, and I think it’s their best yet.

I get lots of promos but buying this on Bandcamp is a no-brainer.

But if that isn’t enough to inspire you, there’s more. For one, us European residents (ahem) get to catch these Americans at Unsound Festival in Poland in October, so there’s that news. (No secret lineups in Krakow this year.)

And two, the boys have put together a nice Spotify playlist of compositional and microtonal/non-equal-tempered inspiration – suitable if you’re thinking of working with musical technology acoustic, analog, digital, or any combination. Love this one:

Your next four hours twenty minutes are sorted on that playlist alone.

https://www.facebook.com/HorseLords/

So if nothing else, guys, this does remind me that we really need to get on this matter of allowing easier alternative tunings in our software and electronic projects – a discussion a lot of us are having lately. Oh, that and — you can always reboot your musical influences to create wonderful new experiments.

Huge tip of the hat to Philip Sherburne on Twitter for picking this up.

The post Enjoy the sweet sound of guitar just intonation on this album appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Listen to how pop hits have evolved over the years

There’s a simple antidote to the endless circular “pop music was better in the old days” debate: actually listen to the songs. A new interactive tool lets you do just that. But warning: it may not be as pleasurable to turn back time as you think.

We all know how this goes – music used to be better, and then accelerating in the digital / Millennial-driven age of the past decade or so, it got much worse.

The problem is that your memory of pop music past is already filtered to what you like, whereas a listen of the current top pop hits isn’t. That means that when we recall the great music of the past, while we will invariably think of some chart-toppers, we’re also likely removing a bunch of stuff that didn’t stand the test of time.

Now, I can explain that, but it’s much easier to hear it. And an interactive Flash-based tool, calling on streaming music, does just that.

http://polygraph.cool/history/

There’s a little subtle editorializing by the creators. Apart from hoping this will shut you up about music in the old days, the player by default whisks you to 1997. That’s two decade ago – so if music has gotten steadily worse, it should be at least marginally better than what you’ve got now – but it takes you straight to Hansen’s “MMMbop.” No amount of 90s nostalgia is likely to help you forgive that number, or at least you can’t rank it terribly high as far as lyrical sophistication.

Some other trends are clear. Musical genre and instrumentation have changed – literally, pop music now is basically unrecognizable from pop music in 1958. The year I was born, 1978, is dominated by disco. The constant is change itself, if anything, more than it is something we might measure in quality. Loudness wars are real, too, but we might recall that this is partly the impact of corporate-owned radio trying to sound as loud as possible, combined with technological advancements in both processing and listening devices (for better or for worse).

Nor is any of this linear. Cue up 2015, and you’re treated to Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!” – a clear stylistic throwback.

Another significant change is how much more dominant non-white and female artists are in recent music. It’s significant to note the impact of payola and out and out racism on the charts from decades past – another reason why I think, whatever musical merits they might have, complaints about today’s music need to be judged with some suspicion.

Even having made these arguments before, though, I’m struck listening by how much unremarkable music is on the older charts. Some stuff is simply terrible; other tracks are fine but dated or bland. Musical quality may not always progress, and no one who believes in independent taste is going to celebrate the commercial music industry to begin with. But one thing we do have is some benefit of distance in judging music.

Oh, and by the way, I also find that even as I’ve defended recent pop, the pop music on charts from the past few years is often actually pretty darn good. It’s louder, it’s more digital, to be sure – but it also shows some bravery in production and sound and there’s some good writing. Basically, whatever the year, pop charts have some cheese and some substance, and you have to do your own filtering. But isn’t that what you’d expect in a mass media popularity contest? Wouldn’t you expect that sometimes the masses do latch on to things you’d like some of the time, and at other times don’t?

Sure enough, the folks at Polygraph have other experiments hooking into Spotify and so on that explore these issues.

Most significant is a set of charts that compares chart performance from when a track was released to its play count on Spotify today. Some of those results are puzzling – I’m not sure why Spotify fans prefer the Bee Gees over Gloria Gaynor, exactly. Others are telling: Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” is simply a lot more popular than it was when it came out.

And, as usual, looking at the Spotify results – there’s no accounting for taste.

screenshot_363

http://poly-graph.co/timeless/

And these tools should tell you the other fundamental difference between Now and Then: now we have a lot more data. We have actual listening data, thanks to streaming, and not only sales. We have the ability to instantly listen to any song, ever – as this tool demonstrates. And I think we have so much data, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to predict what the impact of data will be on the business.

Tony Visconti got a little worked up at this year’s South by Southwest, fashioning a dystopian science fiction story:

Taking place 10 years in the future, the story revolves around a senior A&R expert at the planet’s only remaining major record label. (It’s called The Universe.) Businesspeople around the world sync their schedules by taking drugs that block their circadian rhythms, letting them control their sleep schedules; the label releases just one single a week, recorded by the winner of a lottery and crafted by the label’s employees. The A&R employee spends entire days listening to Jimi Hendrix records and dreaming of the good ol’ days. When he begs his boss to sign a talented street musician, he’s told signing artists based on talent is too risky. Distraught, the employee commits suicide by leaping from the balcony of his Sydney condo. Visconti started getting choked up as he read the story’s final lines.

David Bowie’s producer is terrified by the music industry’s ‘downward spiral’ [The Verge]

While I have indescribable respect for the man, it seems while he may think he’s some sort of combination of Philip K Dick and Arthur Miller … he should possibly stick to the music business.

It’s unclear how much real input Mr. Visconti has for this vision. For one thing, even his story is revealing – it’s fully rooted in the old music business, since it ignores the fact that recording and releasing and even promoting music now takes far less risk than it once did. It may get the big pop side of the equation right, but it ignores plenty of other trends. And no matter how talented he may be, Visconti lacks a certain humility in failing to recognize the fact that his own evaluation is effectively self-centered on the model of his own career. (Well, they did ask him to speak, so he’s certainly entitled to that perspective – and we should listen – but we should also assume it won’t paint a complete picture. Or produce great sci-fi.)

The real question I have: with access to data like Spotify’s, how long will something like a Billboard chart – or even the pop moniker – remain relevant? Is it great pop music that’s endangered, or old-fashioned charts? My money is on the latter. In the meantime, we’ll keep listening.

Oh, and the one thing that is definitely dead? Your productivity. Now that you have those links. Sorry. (Yes, what will kill music will actually be interesting interactive infographics, because we’ll all fail to get work done. I need some of those circadian-rhythm destroying drugs about now.)

Previous rant on the topic:
Music is getting worse, unless, of course, it isn’t

The post Listen to how pop hits have evolved over the years appeared first on cdm createdigitalmusic.