Harding’s Hearing

On Cortney Harding's book, How We Listen Now: Essays and Conversations About Music and Technology

201602-chardingI just finished reading Cortney Harding’s book, How We Listen Now: Essays and Conversations About Music and Technology. Harding is, I think, one of the most actively curious observers of where popular music is headed. I first read her on Medium, where she was writing in detail about aspects of the music industry that befuddle me — like me, she wonders why “discovery” is presumed to be a thing for which there is any significant economic value or cultural demand — and, better yet, things that never occurred to me, like the role of messaging apps in music consumption or why musicians aren’t making more regular use of Twitch, the video-game streaming service.

Too much online writing is people trying to be first or loudest on a popular topic. Harding, to the contrary, spends at least half her time on things few people are even aware of, and what roots her work is that she connects her extrapolations back to popular music. Her book is a collection of such posts (the “essays” part of the title) and transcriptions of interviews and podcasts (the “conversations” part). This means a lot of it is out of date, but that’s not a knock, because the work was quite timely when it was first posted. Its timeliness is its strength. It’s also not a knock because Harding is entirely up front about predictions that don’t pan out and about her own interests, both cultural (she acknowledges that she can’t admonish a streaming service for not having music she discovered on a South African awards ceremony) and professional (she has worked and consulted for various tech companies, in addition to having worked at Billboard). It’s also worth noting that Harding self-published the book (through createspace.com), which ties in nicely with her occasional consideration of a “post-label” world in which musicians do what they need to get their music out there. More from Harding at twitter.com/cortneyharding.

This first appeared in the February 9, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

SOUND RESEARCH LOG: Sub Pop and Other Micro Streams

One of my long-standing discontents with iTunes is the absence of a metadata field for record label. Small labels in particular are now looking at private membership and specialized streaming systems to emphasize their curatorial role, [the New York Times reports]( http://ift.tt/1ktZDFC ):

> Last month, Sub Pop Records, an independent label that introduced artists including Nirvana and the Shins, announced a partnership with Drip.fm, a subscription streaming and download service. Fans who sign up for the Sub Pop feed on Drip.fm will pay $10 a month in exchange for albums, singles and special exclusives from the label.

> [O]ther younger, digitally savvy musicians are starting their own services to appeal directly to their fans, like Nicolas Jaar’s Other People and Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs.

This entry cross-posted from the Disquiet linkblog project sound.tumblr.com.

SOUND RESEARCH LOG: Music Wars, Mobile Plan Divison

“Mobile and music united at once.” That’s how Rok Mobile, which launched today in VIP/invite-only mode, is describing its phone plan, which adds a “music” category to the core talk/text/data plans. According to gigaom.com‘s Kevin Fitchard, Rok is likely reselling plans on Sprint and/or T-Mobile. More at rokmobile.com.

This entry cross-posted from the Disquiet linkblog project sound.tumblr.com.

SOUND RESEARCH LOG: Music Wars, Discovery Versus Inactive Listening

Over at venturebeat.com, Dwayne De Freitas weighs in on the purchase of Songza by Google. As De Freitas notes, the purchase comes at a time when “digital music sales volume is declining.” Songza, he argues, provides a “hassle”-free listening experience, with none of the effort required with other services. Ultimately, that’s arguably more about music as background listening than music “discovery,” which always seems to suggest more active listening.

“The key here is that when it comes to listening, users can set it and forget it. While services like Spotify and Rdio give users incredibly tailored experiences with access to hot indie tracks and an inexhaustible supply of songs to choose from, services like Beats and Songza are simpler — allowing the user access to the same or similar music with none of the set-up hassle associated with creating the playlist themselves. At the same time, users gain more control over what they’re listening to than they would with Pandora’s Music Genome algorithm.”

SOUND RESEARCH LOG: Music Wars, Shock and Awe

Samsung has a music service. It’s called Milk. They brought in some heavy hitters — especially heavy in combination — to assert this, via venturebeat.com:

While the majority of people may be happy with the plethora of options available when it comes to streaming music, Samsung would like to remind you about its own service, Milk Music.

Case in point, Samsung is debuting a new TV commercial today to help promote Milk. And as you can see from the video embedded below, it contains a handful of popular music artists performing their songs, including Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) in his underwear, Chromeo, John Legend, Iggy Azalea, Cold War Kids, Lady Antebellum, and Little Dragon. The commercial itself probably cost a boatload of money to produce, as is customary for Samsung.