Collecting music in 2017

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Image via Steinar Engeland

iTunes worked because it was essentially a spreadsheet where you could dump all your music and have it categorized by the basics of searchability: artist name, song name, album name, year, and so forth.

However, while iTunes excelled in organizing metadata, it wasn’t the place you searched for new music. Niche MP3 stores like Bandcamp and Boomkat, music blogs like Stereogum, and SoundCloud And YouTube we’re the go-to online record shops.

The music ecosystem is still fractured to this day. You’re never going to hear a track and play it back all in the same place. You platform-shift, finding a tune on YouTube but end up playing it back on Spotify where you keep your entire collection organized, or aspects of it.

The irony of paying for an all you can eat streaming subscription service is that you’re renting the music while you owned MP3s. The same can be said for Kindle books. Unless you own physical or the digital source file, you own nothing.

While music discovery is site agnostic — it doesn’t matter where or how you dig up new tracks — music collecting is anything but perfect. There is still no one-way to store and organize your collection. All of these MP3s of bootleg recordings and live shows you gathered back in the day won’t have a home until you spend hours or days uploading them into a cloud service.

The process of music discovery, collecting, and listening happens on an array of applications and a mix of file types. If you’re passionate about crate-digging, that’s just the way it is.

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The naked, karaoke version of you

Image via Kane Reinholdsten
Image via Kane Reinholdsten

It’s no fun if you’re good at karaoke. It’s equally annoying to laugh while you’re signing. You’re supposed to be so bad that your friends can’t ignore you. Said it’s Japanese creator Daisuke Inoue:

“I was nominated [as] the inventor of karaoke, which teaches people to bear the awful singing of ordinary citizens, and enjoy it anyway. That is ‘genuine peace,’ they told me.”

One could say we live in the “karaoke age” of social media, where posting stories on Instagram and Snapchat is supposed to reveal our strengths and our weaknesses. Of course, the opposite happens too: people share an edited version of themselves. Some people even become social influencers, turning pleasure into a business, forgetting that sharing was intended to be fun and unprofessional.

Says karaoke hobbyist Alexandra Molotkow in her essay Sing to Me:

Good karaoke performers are often likable for what they’ve forgotten they’re not: famous, or even all that good…Karaoke is a way of performing your shortcomings, which implies the hope of transfiguring them — flaws become eccentricities, which add up to character.

What makes karaoke genuine is what makes acting behind a smartphone screen look fake: it exposes your vulnerabilities in public. Anything less than acting poorly on the mic will make people think you’re a flake.

Most social events are transactions. It’s no surprise that at the end of the day, we make friends with individuals who strip us of our restraint and give us the freedom to express ourselves. The real you is already naked and famous.

Karaoke presents as much naked you as most strangers could possibly enjoy; but it’s still mostly an add-on, something you mustn’t confuse with the you that requires permanent renovation. Whoever you are, you are worthy of attention and approval. May we remember what to keep to ourselves.

Filtering out clickbait

Filter wisely
Filter wisely (via imgur)

Clickbait is the result of a 24/7 news cycle. Media companies create stories of unimportance so that they can get another click to drive up revenues. The entire operation intends to suck your attention and waste your time, along with depleting your brain cells.

In short, the news makes your brain fat. That’s why you have to step away from Twitter and reset your RSS feeds every six months. Delete the newsletters that contain links to useless articles. Or just read books. Consuming all the headlines makes none of them significant, leaving little room in your head for remembering what is actually important. Shane Parrish of the educational Farnam Street blog recently dissected the abundance of media in an article entitled ‘The Pot-Belly of Ignorance‘:

“Clickbait media is not a nutritious diet. Most people brush this off and say that it doesn’t matter … that it’s just harmless entertainment.

But it’s not harmless at all. Worse, it’s like cocaine. It causes our brains to light up and feel good. The more of it we consume, the more of it we want. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Be careful what you take in as it directly influences what you put back out. Even more, reflect on what you read since that’s where you connect ideas and start to develop your own. Of course, you need to identify the trustworthy sources. Start with the publication and curators you trust and make a list of potential resources based off of their hyperlinks.
Fill your mind with less, not more. And most importantly, work it off, trying to make sense of what you absorbed in the attempt to craft an original thought.

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Nicholas Carr on the religion of technology

Nicholas Carr on the religion of technology
What do you call it?

Below is a snippet from technology and culture writer Nicholas Carr’s new book Utopia is Creepy, based on the collective musings of his popular blog Rough Type, where he writes about the craving for everything technology, including the way it’s become a religion and the way we think of it as the be-all and end-all for solving all the world’s problems.

“So began my argument with – what should I call it? There are so many choices: the digital age, the information age, the internet age, the computer age, the connected age, the Google age, the emoji age, the cloud age, the smartphone age, the data age, the Facebook age, the robot age, the posthuman age. The more names we pin on it, the more vaporous it seems. If nothing else, it is an age geared to the talents of the brand manager. I’ll just call it Now.”

Read more: ‘The World Wide Cage

‘That time when I…’

taylor swift kanye west kardashian
Besties…

One of the ways mobile behavior has changed is that instead of sharing stuff at the moment, we edit and share it later with a caption like “That time I…”. According to Washington Post journalist Britt Peterson, the phrase, and its various iterations (“that time when,” “that moment when,” etc.) create immediate intimacy with your followers which is why it works so well for celebrities, who may not want to reveal their present location for obvious privacy concerns.

“That time I” works in real time to make readers feel like they’re part of an in-group, creating collective nostalgia for events that just took place. In some way, it’s a neat linguistic trick.”

One of the reasons I love using Instagram Stories versus Snapchat is because it allows you to suspend publishing now in real-time for posting within 24 hours later. The countdown clock leaves plenty of time to review your photos and videos later on. If you wanted to share highlights from the party the night prior, for example, you can do it from bed the next morning to reframe the past as the present.

However, using the “that time” expression is ideally suited for the moment too, especially to cement a memory that’s worth preserving in the future.

“It’s kind of like a sepia filter for language,” said Ben Zimmer, a linguist and the executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus. “Something just happened to me that will be super-memorable, and I will be remembering this when I’m older and saying, ‘Wow, remember this time?’”

Using “that time” promptly or later is effective either way. The catchword is intrinsically tied to nowness, creating both FOMO (fear of missing out) while permitting your audience to vicariously live in a scene with you. Peterson sums up the use of “that time” via the term’s master user, Taylor Swift.

“The intimacy created by “that time when” is a warm, engulfing fog, with no use at all for grammatical and logical scaffolding. Without having been at Swift’s party — and without the construction of the sentence reminding us that we weren’t there — we can all feel like we’re part of the #squad.”

That time when ‘that time when’ took over the Internet

Clack-clack: California Typewriter, the movie

The Hemingwrite, a distraction-free writing for a modern era
The Hemingwrite, a distraction-free writing for a modern era

“Keep ’em typing!” says Kenneth Alexander, a typewriter repairer with over forty years of experience. He works for California Typewriter in San Francisco, one of the last surviving typewriter repair shop in the United States.

California Typewriter is also the name of a new documentary out from American Buffalo Pictures, which highlights “the portrait of artists, writers, and collectors who remain steadfastly loyal to the typewriter as a tool and muse, featuring Tom Hanks, John Mayer, David McCullough, Sam Shepard, and others.”

The life of a computer is 3-5 years. The life of a typewriter is a century. The typewriter once made writing faster and louder. Today, the typewriter’s nostalgic noise may be the only reason people want to use them again. Says typewriter surgeon Paul Schweitzer who still fixes 20 of them a week from his Flatiron office:

“If you want to concentrate, if you want to write in your own mind, write with a typewriter. You see the words hit the paper. There’s no distractions.”

Tom Hanks grew so nostalgic of the typewriting in the digital age he recreated it as an app, eponymously named the Hanx writer. “I wanted to have the sensation of an old manual typewriter – I wanted the sound of typing if nothing else…cause I find it’s like music that spurs along the creative urge. Bang bang clack-clack-clack puckapuckapuckapucka… I wanted the ‘report’ of each letter, each line.”

Part of the typewriter’s appeal is its rejection of the multi-tasking and impulsiveness behaviour of ‘Generation Thumbs‘ on iPhone and iPads. The beauty of slowing down and Internet-less device is avoiding distractions enhancing your mind’s focus, developing a concentration that many readers experience with the Kindle. Note, however, you can replicate the pace of a typewriter on your phone if you type with one hand.

Don’t expect the typewriter to enjoy the same comeback success story as vinyl– typewriter enthusiasts are a small niche. But do expect the typewriter to be live on in new formats, whether it’s an app or a distraction-free writing tool like the Hemingwrite “with a continuous wi-fi connection to your Evernote account.”

Bandcamp is “one of the greatest underground-culture bazaars of our time”

bandcamp ethan diamond

You can make fun of the name all you want, but Bandcamp has been one of the great success stories for online music.

The New York Times calls it “one of the greatest underground-culture bazaars of our time.” Bandcamp feels like one of those specialized record shops, like the ones you find a section just for BEATS, which I never thought would be replicable in the online world.

Bandcamp is like all music platforms folded into one: you can stream, download, and buy merchandise such as tapes, CDs, and sweatshirts directly from the artist. Unlike the iTunes Store 30% take, Bandcamp keeps only 15% of each sale. Ben Ratliffe summarizes the company’s growth:

Bandcamp, which started in 2008 and is run out of a number of small offices in San Francisco, Brooklyn and elsewhere, became profitable in 2012 and sells a record every five seconds. It grew 35 percent last year and has paid $169 million to artists, according to its website.

Bandcamp also invested in editorial talent to curate the best music discoveries on site, a strategy another fledgling independent music site SoundCloud should have implemented long ago. I dig new gems on the Bandcamp Weekly radio show every week. The host, Andrew Jervis, connects the dots between Electronica, Hip hop, and RnB like Gilles Peterson.

The next best thing for Bandcamp may just be the status quo, that is, to stay true independent music and keep highlighting the best artists on its platform. Bandcamp’s success proves that there’s still room to compete in a world of online music hegemons like iTunes and Spotify.

Related: 

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“When the brain is listening to music, it lights up like a Christmas tree.” | WellsBaum.com Digest

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(@alexisohanian) | Twitter1. This too can be yours: Why ‘AirSpace Style’ is making all places look the same

“Digital platforms like Foursquare are producing “a harmonization of tastes” across the world”

2. The obsession with Kate Bush, explained

“I don’t believe in god, but if I did, [Kate Bush’s] music would be my Bible.”

3. This professor describes the future educated person

“In the online world the only thing you’re the master of is your collection, your archive, and how you use it, how you remix it. We become digital archivists, collecting and cataloging things.”

4. Avoid making backup plans

“For some people, not making a backup plan might indeed be beneficial in helping them put their best effort forward”

5.  Music is a performance-enhancement drug

“When the brain is listening to music, it lights up like a Christmas tree.”

6. Google Photos frees up phone space automatically

“It’ll delete your photos off your phone after syncing them to the cloud so you don’t have get that 16GB iPhone nightmare that says “storage is full.”

7. Do we have to be sad to be creative?

“Using econometrics, he calculates that a 9.3 percent increase in negative emotions leads to a 6.3 percent increase in works created in the following year. ”

8. How teens and hipsters stain the resurgence of Vinyl

“I have vinyls in my room but it’s more for decor, I don’t actually play them”

9.  How libraries stay current in the digital age

“a modern public library can be a place of exploration, play, performance and creativity, as well as of contemplation, reading and research.”

10. Lance Wyman reveals his creative process in unreleased “designlogs

“The reason I started keeping log books,’ says Wyman, ‘was that I wanted a record of what I was doing. It’s my way of keeping in touch with the complexity of the design projects that I’m working on.”

New Music


1. Combat – Jacaranda
2. Elementz of Noise – Clock
3. Minor Science – Naturally Spineless
4. The South East Grind – Secret
5. BadBadNotGood – In Your Eyes

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How teens and hipsters stain the resurgence of Vinyl


Vinyl artwork looks like framed Instagrams. No wonder the kids use them to decorate their dorm rooms. Vinyl covers are like the new posters.

“I have vinyls in my room but it’s more for decor, I don’t actually play them”

Note: She said ‘vinyls,’ the equivalent of saying something like ‘The Facebook.’

While records are meant to be played, vinyl enthusiast Liz Buckley also points out that at least these so-called hipsters are supporting music even if they never spin a record.

Music is an elastic medium — each format birthed its stigma. The iPod obviated the mini-disc, but MP3 files clogged the hard drive. Streams made music abundant but fungible. Tapes were an interim format, albeit they are still big in Japan. Meanwhile, CDs turned song names into unforgettable track numbers.

“It’s a sadness to me that the invention of the CD means I know far too many tracks by their number, not their name. “OK Computer‘s your favourite Radiohead album? Me too, me too. Bloody love track five.””

However, vinyl is the two-sided original. Its imperfections mirror the real and raw aesthetic of Instagram Stories and Snapchat that teens love today. Like an unopened vinyl, many of those social media posts go unopened — signal exceeds the noise.