A Manifesto for the Future of Music Technology Research

“Meaningful innovation happens when fields intersect – yet those who work in music technology are too often siloed in distinct fields within universities, industry, startups, journalism, hobbyist and fan subcultures. We don’t always know how to think together, and we often do not know what others can contribute. We don’t even know what we don’t know. When fields do come together, old hierarchies too often overshadow the spirit of collaboration and mutual learning. Institutional barriers challenge our ability to work together, from the way organizations are structured to reward-systems that encourage people to keep doing what they have always done.

Let’s Build Better Worlds

Music technologies make worlds. Let us make better worlds. Let music technology do good, serve public interest, foster belonging, justice, collaboration and sharing, enable greater access to positive musical experiences and personal connections, and create durable objects and practices.

We call for greater awareness of the cultural forces already in new music technologies, and the courage to challenge or change them when the collective good demands it.

Ask of any music technology: For whom will this make things better? How? Is it open or closed to creativity and innovation it has not yet anticipated?

Ask of any policy: Whose rights and opportunities are being promoted? Whose are being eroded? What idea of culture does it presume?

Ask of any practice: Who is invited to join in? Who is left out? Where will it find support?

Ask of any organization: How does it help people come together? Does it exploit them in doing so?

We must create more opportunities for people to engage one another through music. We must fight for people’s rights to create music and music technologies, and to enjoy music free of rent-seeking and unwarranted legal intimidation. We must stand up to abusive musical practices, from exploiting people’s dreams of making a living in music, to criminalizing whole classes of audiences and musicians, to subjecting people to hearing loss, to the use of music in coercion, warfare and torture.

We are Music Technologists. We work in science, art, engineering, humanities, activism, social science, policy and industry. We believe in music technology and we want to build better worlds. We invite you to join us.”

Via Music Tech Fest | A Manifesto for the Future of Music Technology Research

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Station to Station: The Past, Present, and Future of Streaming Music

“Listeners are well-served by streaming platforms, but for artists, they cast the question of compensation in a stark new light. While the value debates that dominated the mp3 moment pitted fans against artists, the emergent streaming era has so far seen the return of corporate exploitation, with a speculative twist: The rich or soon-to-be-rich build innovated products, convince an ailing recording industry to sign over their catalogs, acquiring the bricks-and-mortar of their operations–digitized recordings–for fractions of a penny on the dollar. These operations are mostly funded by venture capital, periodic rounds of investments, or as cogs in vast empires of information, and they can feel overwhelming for fans and artists alike.

[…]

As streaming takes center stage for music commerce, questions with long histories must be reframed. In what ways are the non-stop interactions between databases and algorithms shaping our musical tastes? Do streaming platform business models inherently exploit  artists when listener choice scales to infinity? Should speculative capitalism be the driving force for large-scale innovations in music technology, and is there a feasible alternative? Are we living in a technological golden age of creative possibility, cross-cultural communication, and sheer abundance, or a surveillance state controlled by privately-held brands promising endless access at the expense of imperceptible control? Answers to these questions are piloting digital music deep into the 21st century, but critically evaluating current technological developments means keeping an eye on the lessons of the past.”

via Pitchfork | Station to Station: The Past, Present, and Future of Streaming Music

Very Large Scale Music Understanding Talk at NAE Frontiers

“Scientists and engineers around the world have been attempting something undeniably impossible— and yet, no one could ever question their motives. Laid bare, the act of ‘understanding music’ by a computational process feels offensive. How can something so personal, so rooted in context, culture and emotion, ever be discretized or labeled by any autonomous process? Even the ethnographical approach — surveys, interviews, manual annotation — undermines the raw effort by the artists, people who will never understand or even perhaps take advantage of what is being learned and created with this research. Music by its nature resists analysis. I’ve led two lives in the past ten years— first as a “very long-tail” musician and artist, and second as a scientist turned entrepreneur that currently sells “music intelligence” data and software to almost every major music streaming service, social network and record label. How we got there is less interesting than what it might mean for the future of expression and what we believe machine perception can actually accomplish.

[…]

The core of the Echo Nest remains true to our dogma: we strongly believe in the power of data to enable new music experiences. Since we crawl and index everything, we’re able to level the playing field for all types of musicians by taking advantage of the information given to us by any community on the internet. Work in music retrieval and understanding requires a sort of wide-eyed passion combined with a large dose of reality. The computer is never going to fully understand what music is about, but we can sample from the right sources and do it often enough and at a large enough scale that the only thing in our way is a leap of faith from the listener.”

via Brian Whitman | Very Large Scale Music Understanding Talk @ NAE Frontiers

Music vs. The Web: Have We Reached Social Media’s Tipping Point?

“So could we finally be reaching a social media tipping point – at least in music marketing? My view is that potentially we may well be. Ever since MySpace arrived with public stats on friend and play counts, metrics have been central to music marketing – especially to those looking to land themselves on Radio 1. I’ve seen a few instances of unsigned bands being told by prospective labels that their social media ‘numbers’ just weren’t high enough yet. Now though, things are shifting once again – and the really telling sources for response may be less easy to spot. Of all the platforms teens still use, only YouTube really provides public data. Even Shazam only provides various charts; no numbers are listed to say how many times anything has been tagged (although the company manages over 15+m tags per day worldwide – so we know a lot of people are using it).

In many respects, this is all A Very Good Thing. For too long now, artists have felt an obligation of sorts to be social online. Accepted wisdom has long-held that it is necessary for a band to have some kind of social media page (originally MySpace, latterly Facebook) through which to engage fans. Not only was this considered a great means to sell more records, it was also playing nicely to the people in radio and other platforms who would see these social media numbers as a large indicator of popularity.

The reality, of course, is that great bands get marketed most by their fans. It isn’t necessary for any band to have a social media page as such; if their music is brilliant, people will be sharing it across their service of choice – be that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc – without the artist needing to do anything. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have presences; merely that their importance may be diminished and could hopefully no longer be essential.”

via Drowned In Sound | Music vs. The Web: Have We Reached Social Media’s Tipping Point?

TeraBrite’s YouTube Tips for Musicians

“We started out on Myspace around 2009 when all the current bands used it as their primary source of information, and some used it as their website. We only had one song at the time and didn’t plan to do too much with TeraBrite, it was just for fun. Our Myspace eventually had over 20,000 friends, yet we still didn’t get a whole lot of activity on our page.

Shortly after we started really producing content we found out that you can make money making YouTube videos. This was a thought that blew my mind. The fact that I could take two things that I love, combine them into one, and make money doing it was a thought that I could definitely live with.

[…]

The best way to engage with viewers is to have a vlogging channel on the side. TeraBrite is our main channel, but we created a second channel called VleraBrite (TeraBrite daily vlogs) where we simply record our lives and behind the scenes of our music career in the same way that SHAYTARDS and CTFxC do. We find that uploading videos daily gives a fantastic place for viewers to sort of check in daily and see what we are up to. There’s a strong community of viewers out there that have that same craving for daily vlogs that I had when I started watching SHAYTARDS.

The fact that the vlog community is so dedicated makes the vlogs a fantastic place to update everyone on what we are working on, dates, etc. It also provides a much more intimate connection with subscribers since you are giving them a piece of your life. There is a connection there that you really can’t get with anything else, and it’s awesome.”

via The [DIY] Musician | TeraBrite’s YouTube Tips for Musicians

Hacker uses bots to top music charts, bumps P!nk, Nicki Minaj

Rather than spend years practising an instrument and writing songs, he compiled music from clunky electronic MIDI files and later by applying algorithms that squashed together public domain audio.

He then purchased three Amazon compute instances and wrote a simple bash script to simulate three listeners playing his songs 24 hours a day for a month.

Filimore wasn’t bothered when online listeners dubbed the tunes “rubbish”, “horrible” and of a quality perhaps only appealing while “on cocaine”.

Rather, the payments security expert was curious whether fraud detection mechanisms were used across music services like Spotify, Pandora and CDBaby.

“I’m not a musician,” Filimore told SC at the Ruxcon security event in Melbourne this week. “But I kept hearing that artists were going broke and wanted to look into it.”

“As it turns out, you’re doing it wrong if you want to make money in music by being a musician.”

via Hacker uses bots to top music charts, bumps P!nk, Nicki Minaj – Networks – SC Magazine Australia – Secure Business Intelligence.

How Music Services Can Acquire, Engage, and Monetize High-Value Listeners

A report from MIDiA Consulting suggests that 60-80 percent of ad-supported accounts on services like Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer are effectively inactive. These inactive listeners contribute little value to the music service. After all, if someone never logs on, they’ll never see ads.

The MIDIA report confirms something we’ve seen happen with many services: A small segment of hyper-engaged users is responsible for the majority of overall engagement and listening hours in any given month.

Interestingly, we’ve noticed that the characteristics of these high-value users vary from service to service. The traits that make one user “high value” to one service don’t necessarily apply to another.

As such, it’s really important for a music service to understand who those high-value listeners are for their service specifically, and, ideally, to target acquisition and engagement strategies directly to those listeners. It’s possible. In fact, it’s exactly what The Echo Nest has been working on.

via The Echo Nest Blog.