Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Streaming round-up

This week, NPR produced a whole slew of articles about streaming music, and with Apple announcing its own streaming service today, it picked a good week. The articles, including the one I wrote about last week, cover a lot of ground. There a lot of interesting points in there, so I recommend that you read all of them. In case you want to be choosey, I'll just list the articles in no particular order with a few points I found interesting in each.

1. Why can't streaming services get classical music right?
I love that this article is about metadata and that it reads like an exposé. And you know what, it is not just classical metadata that streaming services get wrong, as I've written about before. But even Naxos, the hero of this article, could improve on its classical music metadata. Here's another true statement: "If classical recordings can't be found and heard, they functionally cease to exist." Because classical music recordings are such a small chunk of the American music industry, though, no one cares enough to fix it.

2. Streaming utopia: imagining digital music's perfect world 
This article interviews people about their ideal streaming music platform, but mostly focuses on figuring out how musicians can actually make money from streaming. I think that the most interesting idea from this article is from Bjork: why can't the audio streaming world be like video, with a lag between an album's release and the album being added to a streaming service? Sounds good to me.

3. How streaming services are remaking the pop charts
While YouTube, Vevo, and Spotify enter into the billboard rankings, Pandora (the most popular streaming service in America) does not. The article also has some interesting could-have-beens. 

Online streaming music is unstable—we can’t own it or preserve it. And it is not just the music that disappears, it is the context around the music: "When platforms go poof, a lot more disappears than awesome dance vids." There's also a lot of variety on how trustworthy the metadata is: ""Official" archives — those within public libraries, museums, or universities — are better organized, but have been slow to digitize. Spotify has complete albums, but no commentary. YouTube seems to have everything, but because anyone can contribute to it, it can't be trusted as a source." While the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC), the hero in this article, is putting forth a major effort preserve sound, funding can be hard to find for anyone. 

As I used to consider my musical tastes my defining characteristic, this article struck a chord with me. Streaming services are good for discovery, but actually pretty bad for keeping tabs on your favorites. Spotify seems to be much better suited to collecting songs for different musical contexts than personal playlists. On the other hand, playlists are now the mixtapes of the future.

Looking for some out-of-the-way music? This article might be for you. "Beyond these well-traveled areas lies a vast and generally unmapped terrain governed by collectors, hobbyists, fan clubs, and artists themselves, sharing gold that once could only be found through hours of prospecting in library reading rooms or at record fairs."

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