29.10.07

lotion

free tunes, or not

this guy wants you to pay cash money for his album or whatever. he writes:
Music files may be abundant, but listener value and attention are still
scarce.

By Hugh Brown

For some time, the independent music industry has been crowded with people discussing the benefits of giving music recordings away and the consensus, much to my disgust, seems to be that it's a great idea - nay, a necessity - for any indie. Just put the stuff out there and good things will come your way because that's what the new "economics of abundance" dictates. This argument is embodied in this Techdirt article, in which Mike discusses the economics of abundance and therefore the virtues for an artist/band of making music available for free.
This is an example of slightly muddled and mistaken thinking but before I show why, I want to get a couple of things straight.

1) Yes, there can be benefits to giving away recordings. But, as Mike puts it rather succinctly: "Giving stuff away for free needs to be part of a complete business model that recognizes the economic realities." Don't assume that giving recordings away will necessarily get you anywhere.

2) The belief that music should be free and that if it's not people are perfectly justified in ripping it off is a blight on society and must be stamped out (not that it ever will be). I'm all for the cyberpunk ideal and breaking down barriers to progress, but I believe in those things because I think they make for a more reasonable set of conditions for mutual benefit and development. Stealing music, just like stealing bread, cars or life savings, is not being more reasonable. It is being completely one-sided and depriving the other party of the opportunity to renegotiate. If you don't like the price, send a signal by not buying - it has the same effect on the seller but retains your moral rectitude.

Having set that straight, there are a couple of points I take issue with in Mike's article. The first is his quote from Jefferson regarding ideas: "Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it". This refers to what economists call a non-rivalrous good. One person having or using it does not prevent another from having or using it. The best example of a non-rivalrous good is air - anyone can breathe it without preventing another from breathing it. However, anyone who's lived in a polluted city like, say Tokyo, LA or Beijing will know that not even air is perfectly non-rivalrous. One person's "use" of the air can make that air unbreathable to other people. Similar limits apply to roads, trains, mail, etc. In any real case there are limits to non-rivalry.

Where this causes problems with respect to ideas, however, is in assuming that each use of an idea is identical - or at least equivalent. Jefferson, like Newton and Einstein, was subsequently proved slightly wrong. One of the problems with ideas, modern psychology tells us, is that no two people have the same ones and, as any teacher will tell you, transferring an idea from one head to another is an imprecise and frustrating process (sometimes that's a good thing). This is largely because everyone has a previously collected set of idea into which they must fit the new idea - and sometimes it doesn't fit at all. As the saying goes "a little knowledge is dangerous". The more complex the idea, the more difficult is its transferal from one to another.

When it comes to something as complex as artistic expression, as opposed to the sequence of ones and zeros that make up a digital file, the transfer is almost never perfect. While digital files may be perfectly reproducible (see my next point about that), music is not. The greatest art is ambiguous, and this is why it survives: it makes us question, debate and reconsider our lives and our place in the world. It does not supply answers, it asks questions, allowing us to find our own answers. This point lies at the core of why many of the arguments from those who talk up the virtues of music like water and treating music as a utility or paying for it via flat taxes or fees attached to digital player sales are just plain wrong: they assume that the value each consumer holds for each song, as with each digital file, is identical. It is not. In terms of their value to listeners, digital files are not songs, or games, or movies. They are merely the electronic embodiment of one version of them. To use the two interchangeably is to miss the entire point of human experience.

So when Mike says to "Redefine the market: the benefit is musical enjoyment" he is quite correct. But he is wrong in the next line - "the music itself" is NOT infinite. The value of the music, as opposed to the vehicle for the recording's distribution, lies in the experience of the listener - whether at a live show, or on the radio driving to work, at the time of a first kiss, watching a poignant moment on a favourite movie, or the birth of a child ... whatever. Even if you send me a copy of your favourite new song discovery, I may not attach the same value to it that you do, simply because of our mindsets at the time of discovery. And its value in an exchange between artist and fan lies in the relationship between those two, which does not necessarily lie in any particular song (or digital file). Radiohead understood this, and although many people (myself included) downloaded the album for free on a "try before you buy" basis, many others paid them handsomely. I have no doubt that they have more than recouped the costs of production.

The next point I want to object to is the use of the word "infinite" when talking about the economics of "abundance". Abundant and infinite are NOT the same thing. "Non-scarce" is closer to "abundant" than "infinite". And in any case, infinite does not exist, it can only ever be approached. Many web servers have crashed because of excess demand while attempting to distribute "infinite" digital goods - rendering them instantly finite as far as consumers are concerned. There are limits to bandwidth and many other factors involved in supply of digital goods. It is simply incorrect to refer to the goods as infinite.

Finally, releasing the "infinite good" does NOT necessarily increase marketsize. This is a well-documented furphy. The best it can hope to do is increase the potential marketsize, and many other activities will achieve the same thing. This is because in an abundant digital economy,marketsize is limited by attention scarcity. This is NOT a new condition for indies. Prince and Radiohead used this to great effect; their stunts garnered them huge amounts of attention. But it was not the giving away of the music they benefited from, it was the attention raised because of the novelty of that approach. Had Radiohead posted their new album as free streams for people to listen to before deciding to buy, they would have provided me with the same service and access - but would not have solved the attention scarcity problem because
that's been done plenty of times before. Now that that novelty has been realised, it will not work so well again for them or for anyone else. Incidentally, Prince did not give his CD away - he sold it in bulk to a newspaper for more than he probably would have made at retail. He's a smart lad. On the other hand, the poster child for online music business, Jonathan Coulton, does NOT give his digital files away for free (though he's probably not about to sue file-swappers for copying them). Every posting of music on his site links to a pay-for download (one of them is the "pay what you like" site, SongSlide), and you can listen to the streams for free.

The real problem is that if you don't find some way to tell people that the music is available, and find some way to make it relate favourably to their lives, you will gain nothing. This has been the experience of many artists - myself included - whose music has been available for free for months and whose marketsize remains negligible and unsustainable. Similarly, making the music is available will make no difference if it is bad. In fact, it may deter people from coming to shows and buying merchandise - such is the double-edged sword of attention.

The upshot of all of this is that what indies need to be discussing is the best means for overcoming attention scarcity, not devaluing music recordings by implying that giving them away is necessarily beneficial. As Bob Leftsetz points out, finding ways to overcome attention scarcity is one of the great assets that the major labels and big players retain. Giving away recordings without addressing the attention scarcity problem is playing back into the hands of "those who refuse to give up their old business models". The only way for indies to compete is to optimise their revenue streams, not compromise one in the hope of catching up with another.

Cheers,
Hughie

The Genre Benders: "I am leaving! I am leaving!"
- out now at www.genrebenders.com
www.cdbaby.com/genrebenders

so go buy the album eh. this is good stuff, but i think there are a couple of fairly big things wrong with this kind of thinking:
bread, cars, life savings, music. proudhon?
there's the reduction of music to commodity. there's an account of value which can't be tied to that commodity form. there's also a notion of artistic or aesthetic value, distinct from market worth, which is sort of essentialised and doesn't say much about why music might have values for those who use it. there's also a failure, i think, to acknowledge what is happening to attention and the way that disrupts older ideas of value. the most important thing for me, as a vociferous and obsessive downloader and listener, is that the way in which digital distribution completely opens up access is considered a negative inconvenience for those trying to make a buck out of their creativity (a chance'd be a fine thing! anyone want to pay me?). everyone is facing this attention economy, this glut of material with which their own output must compete. nonetheless, the music i listen to, i simply would not know it existed if i wasn't able to download it. also, p2p is a social practice, an exchange system, which is a process in itself regardless of the material so exchanged. people aren't just leeches, and they (consumers, pirates, whatever you want to call them) are sharing because they're trying to get the music they think is important to a wider audience. moreover, reductive music-as-commodity arguments seem to simply miss the whole ecology of music consumption. music as an industry is a recent invention, and it seems to me like we need a way of thinking about music which acknowledges the fundamental role it plays in our lives. this is why, anthropologically speaking, monetization and copyright seem like distortions, fallacies about cultural value which have been given scary powers by the commodity form and in consequence, the law. blah.

27.10.07

post 90s blues

this was written by one shane lawlor and posted to the ie-dance list:

There is more to life than techno
I only just found out
For I spent all of the 90’s
On a 4/4 roundabout

Record shops and E parties
Looking for a harder beat
Arguing with Detroiters in my head
About the merits of Code Red

There is more to life than techno
And fists pounding the air
It all just seems so vacuous
When you’re punching nothing there

Frying the link ups in my skull
Hazy chats about minimal
Which actually meant 3 bits in a track
As opposed to some lame tech house crap

There is more to life than techno
Now it’s another follower of the rule
That every scene begun misty eyed
Will end up embittered for the old school

I’ve met too many mercenaries
Simple customers of shops
Who inflict their bad taste on everyone
Because they’ve learned to chop

There is more to life than techno
It’s like water from a tap
I might be able to appreciate it
If it stopped gushing from our laptops

The endless stream, the dead mystique
Tired repetition of repeating beats
Try alliterating cymbols
To describe high frequencies!

There is more to life than techno
But I can’t remember what
Hankering after feelings
That won’t be coming back

But to expect more from a type music
Is probably just as absurd
As writing such a bitter letter
To a genre that grinds through words

There is more to life than Jungle
And hating techno beats
Forgetting which Rasta sample’s used
From smoking too much weed

Thinking there was so much more
When you were chewing your face
Because there was a real nation of brothers
And a stupid load of bass

There is more to life than breakcore
And angry dreaded men
Cutting chopping fucking up
Another bloody Amen

There is more to life than Electro
And looking pissed off on the decks
Convinced nothing else could possibly be great
That wasn’t written on an 808

There is more to life than House music
And sampling old disco tracks
Getting Funky, Down, Bootied
Higher, Lifted, Jacked

If getting older means to mellow
Appreciate things you previously couldn’t see
Then I still can’t seem to shake my association of House
With a neat dress policy

There is more to life than IDM
Looking serious and dour
Oh reliving the early days of Skam is bliss
When only you and 10 nerds know it exists

Bragging about the bargain bin
Where you found the best & rarest Aphex Twin
Buzzing off being a party wrecker
Spinning all your b-sides by Autechre

There is more to life than Hip –Hop
And hating everybody else
Boasting about how no one else’s skills
Could ever match yourself

Automatically believing that
Every single scratchy cut
Enhances a great record
Instead of seeing you’re in a squeaky rut

There is more to life than moaning
About how you feel let down
By music genres, sounds and scenes
That you will never own

It’s comically futile
To always insist on what is absolutely good
When the whole point about music
Is that it’s there for every mood

But the funniest dumbest lesson
I never seem to learn
Will guarantee I’m back again
Dishing out the scorn

Something worse than all our bitching
That keeps me morbidly enthralled
Is where any and every one of us
Would be if none of this existed ever at all

26.10.07

genres ending in 'core'


this is 'nerdcore' hip-hop:
mc hawking: uft for the mc
there's a link back here to a lori kendall paper which discusses nerdcore.
this is proper hardcore like they make these days:
tieum: q bazzz
in fact i think it might be 'frenchcore'. i hear great new tunes faster than i can upload and post them. this is passenger of shit:
passenger of shit: crush your enemy
this is landfill:
landfill: bruised circuit circus

the peter and the wolf section of this tune is now the ringtone on my new phone. it's an example of what lacasse calls "allosonic" quotation (as indicated on p. 242 of my thesis).
Lacasse, Serge. 2000. “Intertextuality and Hypertextuality in Recorded Popular Music.” Pp. 35-58 in The Musical Work: Reality or Invention?, edited by Michael Talbot. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
this is the back cover of a grind release, negligent collateral collapse's feynman art technique math grind core:
there's a whole nerd thing going on here.

23.10.07

23.10.07!

your inference, going by the url of this page, is correct. here's an image of the pressie:

i'm still figuring this thing out. the phone i had before was a dinosaur.

too good to pass up. i found it here. there's an example here of the mpaa paying someone to do to torrentspy more or less just what the mediadefender-defenders did.

19.10.07

shortwave numbers stations

i have this thing on my ipod, the conet project: recordings of shortwave numbers stations. i only every listen to stuff i haven't heard yet on the ipod, on (the suspiciously unrandom) shuffle mode. anyway, i kept hearing these recordings of shortwave numbers stations, which i think are kind of soothing (though other people i know can't tolerate them at all), but i never really got what these stations were for. it's a 4 cd set, there's also a remix project. i vaguely thought maybe it was something to do with mapping locations, like the stations were talking to each other in some way. anyway, today i finally looked into it. the conet project website. the audio hosted at archive. the wikipedia page. bizarre.

riaa to usenet: you're next

this should be interesting. the companies filing against usenet are:
Arista, Atlantic, BMG, Capitol, Caroline, Elektra, Interscope, LaFace, Maverick, Sony BMG, UMG, Virgin, Warner Bros. and Zomba.
as reported by torrentfreak.
unfortunately for slyck, the lawsuit cites thomas mennecke. a dubious honour indeed (still, nice to know everyone's reading the same things). at ars technica. i don't really see how this can work, it's completely unhinged. apparently, this is exactly the sort of thing you shouldn't say nowadays.

18.10.07

awesome

the chips: rubber biscuits
plus, it's about hunger.

swearing at work is good for morale

unsurprisingly. see here.
“The question is what should we do about it? We offer a model and some practical advice. Certainly in most scenarios, in particular in the presence of customers or senior staff, profanity must be seriously discouraged or banned”.
“However, our study suggested that in many cases, taboo language serves the needs of people for developing and maintaining solidarity, and as a mechanism to cope with stress. Banning it could backfire.”
“Managers need to understand how their staff feel about swearing. The challenge is to master the ‘art’ of knowing when to turn a blind eye to communication that does not meet their own standards.”
frontstage/backstage again. randall collins has a whole bit somewhere about reading frontstage and backstage as class distinctions. it seems swearing builds morale within the team, but ought not be encouraged in front of customers or bosses. there's a sort of slide towards insubordination depending on whom is witness to the swearing. the team is too strong if it is swearing in front of its social superiors.

14.10.07

virilio

i hadn't thought of that

a nice article here about the mediadefender thing. 'igor' has evidently been ploughing through the emails and raises a number of interesting points, notably the following:
  1. the legal campaign is based upon the notorious claim that an ip address can be correctly associated with a single, legally accountable person. however, the speed with which mediadefender ran through ip addresses (because constantly banned for uploading dud material) belies this possibility. in one four month period, mediadefender went through 5 million distinct ip addresses. an implication of this is that it is apparently possible that those subject to cease-and-desists inherited ips from mediadefender and their like. there are other well-documented issues with the '1 ip, 1 person' approach.
  2. because the riaa pay companies like mediadefender to flood p2p networks with spoof files, they cannot be certain that the people to whom they issue cease-and-desists have actually broken the law. the legal, cease-and-desist strategy, and the technological, flood-the-networks strategy work at cross-purposes to each other. they may be suing people who have downloaded the fake files they themselves are distributing.
going by the capitol vs. thomas case, as recording industry vs. the people also point out, the average cost per tune shared if you get sued is $9,250 (jamie thomas had 24 tracks in her shared kazaa folder, they got her for $222,000). the computer on which i access p2p has 32,140 songs on it. by my reckoning, holding cost per tune constant, that collection would then be worth $2970,545000. thomas is appealing by the way.

12.10.07

pottergrind

the suggestive link between harry potter and grindcore finally becomes apparent:

the back cover of eyetofuk's 2007 demo.

11.10.07

let's give old tennessee credit for music

carl perkins: tennessee
check your milage.

morning ireland

this links to an rte radio bit on the new downloadable 'pay what you like' radiohead album, featuring two soundbytes of yours truly. requires realplayer unfortunately, and i don't know how long they archive stuff. it aired yesterday morning and was recorded the day before. of all the dumb things i said out loud that day, two have now been preserved for posterity. dorking out on national radio! pretty cool.

10.10.07

still dead

as shown here:

Sean Whelan (1962) – R.I.P.
Born January 21st; died October 10th 2004


Sean Whelan, who died suddenly in Ankara aged 60 while serving as Ireland’s Ambassador to Turkey, was greatly valued in the Department of Foreign Affairs for his knowledge and experience of the Middle East. His expertise in this area, and also in European Union affairs, allowed him to play an important role in relations between the EU and Turkey in the first half of this year during Ireland’s EU Presidency.
As Irish Ambassador, Sean Whelan was the main diplomatic channel in Ankara between the EU and the Turkish Government, which has highly praised his conduct in this area. The President of Turkey ordered that an official aircraft be used to fly Mr Whelan’s remains back to Dublin earlier this week.
Sean was born in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, on January 21st 1944. He was educated in the local Christian Brothers School and went to Rockwell College for his secondary studies, where he sat his Leaving Certificate in 1962.He seemed destined for a legal career and studied law at University College Dublin. He was awarded a BCL in 1965 and an LLB at Kings Inns in 1966. He pursued postgraduate studies at Oxford University and was called to the Irish Bar but then decided to enter the Department of Foreign Affairs for a career in diplomacy in 1969.
After four years in Iveagh House, he was posted to Paris as first secretary. From there he went to the new embassy in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, where he once humorously described as “the land of the leaking armpit”. In 1978 he was promoted to counsellor and appointed charge d’affaires to Lebanon. He was posted to Beirut at a time when the civil war was winding down but it was still a very dangerous city. His two year stay in the war-torn city made a deep impression on him and he would often refer to it in later life. His liaison work with the Unifil contingent in the south of the country was much appreciated by the soldiers serving there at that time.
He served at Ireland’s mission to the United Nations in New York during 1985-1990 where his Middle East experience was again most useful. He returned to headquarters in 1990 and was a senior adviser in the political division. From 1994 to 1998 he was posted to the Permanent Representation in Brussels- Ireland’s largest mission abroad. One of his special duties was to liaison with the European Parliament.
In October 2001 he was appointed Ambassador to Turkey, where he would have been expected to serve a four or five-year term.
Over his long career, Sean made many friends who greatly enjoyed his wit and hospitality. He had an extensive knowledge of blues and rock and roll musicians and went to concerts whenever he got a chance. In New York he was able to enjoy the top jazz performers and would bring visitors along.
He is survived by his mother Sadie, brother,Donal (class of 64), sons, Robert, Andrew, Nicholas and Richard and partner, Alison.

9.10.07

hardcore

like they used to make:
spiral tribe: untitled
amiga shock force: ragga torture
christ of noise: here we come...
oh shit, they actually still do make it.

loltheorists

you know loltheorists? here are some of my efforts.
foucault:
works with anyone i guess, but especially foucault.
ethnography, writing culture etc.:
same thing, but with geertz:
and my favourite, bakhtin:

7.10.07

ethnography online

i like this paper:
Developing Cyberethnographic Research Methods for Understanding Digitally Mediated Identities

Abstract: In this essay, we discuss the production of subjectivities at the intersection of local/global and online/offline environments through an engagement with the contexts ethnographically, to illustrate a methodology based on epistemologies of doing. We suggest that researchers studying the production of identity in technospaces must engage in the production of culture and subjectivity in the specific context while interacting with others doing the same in order to gain a nuanced understanding of how identities form and are performed in such socio-economic environments. Identities thus produced are central to the workings of community situated in specific social, economic and cultural practices and structures of power. Through examining practices that shape these identity formations within various technological environments, we can work towards developing theoretical frameworks that actively shift hierarchies of oppression.

5.10.07

amen motherfucker

maladroit's fully reflexive about/by/with amen piece:
maladroit: amen motherfucker
on the recent epsilon/maladroit split:

the tune samples the aforementioned nate harrison documentary.
here's the nfo (right-click; open with textedit/notepad). commercial break:
duran duran duran: preview reel

3.10.07

nerds, and swearing

lori kendall's new paper, about nerd culture, race and representation, forthcoming in the journal of popular culture.
mike thelwall's paper about swearing on myspace, submitted to an unspecified journal. apparently:
There was no significant gender difference in the U.K. for strong swearing, especially for younger users (16-19). This is perhaps the first large-scale evidence of gender equality in strong swearing frequency in any informal English language use context. In contrast, U.S. male MySpaces contain significantly more strong swearing that those of females. The U.K. female assimilation of traditionally male swearing in the informal context of MySpace is suggestive of deeper changes in gender roles in society, possibly related to the recent rise in ‘ladette culture’ ... Younger users had more swearing in their MySpaces than older users, with a disproportionate increase for females. Although not statistically significant, the amount of swearing between U.K. male and female MySpaces was closer for younger members. As identity projections in MySpace, this broadly matches previously established conversational norms, except for an absence of the U.K. gender gap for swearing ... swearing must be seen as a normal rather than a deviant aspect of youth identity in MySpace.

this is a cool paper, and it has a good bibliography for stuff on swearing.
i've been trying to find this:
Bucholtz, Mary. 2001. "The Whiteness of Nerds: Superstandard English and Racial Markedness." Journal of Linguistic Anthropology vol. 11, no. 1: 84-108.
on nerd language use but trinity's library doesn't stock this journal, i didn't formulate plan b yet. also pertinent in this regard:
Eglash, Ron. 2002. "Race, Sex, and Nerds: From Black Geeks to Asian American Hipster," Social Text 71, vol. 20, no. 2: 49-64.

what's going on?





dialing in: ketalysergicmetha mother

2.10.07

notes on breakcore

in case you hadn't seen it:

also downloadable here.

1.10.07

deaf