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Moving Past Free Downloads

The Downstream category expands – starting with Taylor Deupree's ongoing 2014 Studio Diary

The Downstream category on Disquiet.com is getting a slight adjustment. Henceforth, it won’t be restricted to freely downloadable music; it will expand to include freely streamable music, and space will be allocated, as always, for freely downloadable work, especially music and sound intended for reuse via a Creative Commons license.

A little background: Since August 2003, almost 11 full years — some 3,989 days — this site has published 2,268 entries in the Downstream category. A lot has changed in that time. For longtime Downstream readers, and listeners, and subjects, it may be a surprise to learn that initially the section wasn’t restricted to downloads. There were even some videos early on. In any case, the Downstream quickly became focused on freely downloadable music, with a long run emphasizing music released by netlabels, and then on music hosted by SoundCloud.com.

The thing is, listening today is quite different than it was a decade ago. Back then, today’s cloud infrastructure was just getting started (Dropbox wasn’t released until 2008, a full five years after the Downstream started), free downloads were rare, and full streams hadn’t really taken off as a normal part of everyday listening.

Today, many of the best artist-oriented repositories of music, notably SoundCloud and Bandcamp, are built with free streaming as the core of the service. People mourn the decline in music sales but the fact is that even freely downloadable music doesn’t have the appeal it once did. New business and technological models are trying to anticipate and keep pace with the manner in which culture is consumed and created. There are many nifty approaches — a key one is Bandcamp’s mobile app, which automatically makes any purchased music available for unlimited streaming. It’s an interesting concept: you’re “buying” the music, but the real benefit is the hassle-free addition of the music to what someone somewhere with a white board probably would call your “listening workflow.”

The rise in free streaming as a means to promote music while retaining some control over its dissemnination has led to massive amounts of experimental and interrogative music being uploaded and shared. Expanding the Downsteam to include such work is a big part of this decision.

A case in point is Taylor Deupree’s ongoing 2014 Studio Diary, which is housed at SoundCloud.com. It currently contains two and three quarter hours of freely streamable music, consisting of some 71 tracks. They are each lovely, tiny little sonic gestures, ranging from cloud formations to glitchy beats, each a sketch, a notion, and no doubt potential source material for Deupree’s future commercial releases (he runs the label 12k).

And so it is with Deupree’s work that I initiate this shift in — this expansion of — the focus of the Disquiet Downstream. As of today I’m going to retire the “free” tag and replace it with two new tags: “recommended stream” and “free download.”

Follow Deupree’s 2014 Studio Diary at soundcloud.com/12k.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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