Musicians need a SAFE haven

Agree with Mark here about avoiding sponsorship type things. Mostly for the reasons stated but also keeping it as simple as possible is always more sustainable and flexible. I think there was a blockchain project a while back that was trying to have some weird scheme where fans bought shares in artists they liked and then helped promote them or something. It died a pretty quick death.

Talking of blockchain, this project seems to have a reasonably good approach:
https://resonate.is/about/

I think streaming until a threshold where you own something (and can download it) can be a good approach, and could provide a relatively unique service. It’s actually not super easy these days to legally get hold of actual files to DJ or play around with except on Bandcamp, which obviously only tends to have ‘indie’ music.

However, worth bearing in mind that most people now aren’t all that interested in downloading stuff, so from a UX point of view I suspect most people prefer the look and feel of streaming focused apps.

Just to be specific about what I think Jim is alluding to here. Early on Spotify did a deal with the major labels where they persuaded the labels to put their catalogues on the platform for very small royalty payments, in return for giving the labels equity in Spotify.

As an underhand piece of powerplay by a small company this was of course very smart, but the victims naturally are both consumers and musicians, the consumers because it ensured Spotify had a near-monopoly, the artists because they just got the tiny royalties rather than any of the equity. And so we end up with artists and consumers pitted against each other! Classic divide and conquer! (see also Brexit, British general election 2019, British establishment in general, western intervention in the Middle East etc etc.)

To re-iterate something I said earlier that I think is important though, and which applies not just to music or even art, I think the way we discover (music) is crucial. Although it has the potential to do the opposite, I think the digital world actually reinforces the dominance of small numbers of (artists.)

By flattening out global markets and information stores, then there is less space for a few ‘unicorns’ (for want of a better word,) and everybody else is left having to fight harder and harder to be heard.

I know it doesn’t sound all that sexy, but a very comprehensive, granular system of categorisation, probably based on RDF, combined with a great UI for accessing that, could be a huge help in evening out visibility of content.

In addition a set of standards to allow different platforms to seamlessly interact with each other allows people to build more specialist apps and communities that are not too limiting, whilst artists can still retain control over their work.

3 Likes

Alright you’ve talked me out of it! I highly value your opinion Mark, thank you. I’m still teetering with the promoter matching though as it’s a real world thing and will increasingly become a digital thing BUT the match making could be direct also eliminating the promoter.

There’s so much to do and why bother with the old ways on a fresh start.

@david-beinn you hit the nail on the head earlier in the thread talking about solving the citation problem. I think you might latter be referring to bitunes which I think might have just been far ahead of its time and used BTC so not exactly user friendly. I think we can achieve what you’re talking about in one of a couple ways but the easiest and fairest imo would probably be PtP.
Also your point on RDF makes a lot of sense. When the Maidsafe team revisit that it will be important we take that on and @happybeing if you could ever do me a huge favor it would be then and I’d be forever indebted. There are existing ontologies from Musicbrainz and elsewhere I believed that may be of some use. Either way whatever is used MUST be shared openly for it to be beneficial.

3 Likes

Out of full disclosure I am aware of resonate and audius which frustratingly have had some parallel thinking. I had drawn up a few diagrams over the last couple years and I looked at the Audius white paper and saw one of my exact diagrams. My heart kind of sank like maybe I had told somebody and it got around but that seems impossible. It was very strange and alarming so recently I figure we should just be discussing all of this. After all as long as the problems get solved BUT personally I believe SAFE is the best medium for that to be achieved and well, here we are. :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Taken as a positive, maybe it shows you are heading in the right direction.

4 Likes

+1 for this. No need to reinvent the wheel always. The fact you’re doing it on SAFE is difference enough.

1 Like

One thing that none of us have mentioned yet surprisingly is how useful Labels will be. Not record labels but the Labeling/Tagging of the actual data upon upload. This will help us index, share, and categorize all data, also with RDF built in later I believe, @joshuef?

For anyone not up to speed on what labels are, please check here.

5 Likes

I agree - digital tends towards monopoly and music has seen more money and power rise to the top, with the various functions of the industry consolidated into platforms, and the real danger happens when the platform becomes the only game in town.

Music’s always been very steep pyramid: those at the top pretty much get the lot, and that pyramid is just the same shape, but much bigger now.

This article puts it well 'He’s Got A Point, It’s Just That His Point Sucks' – Artists React to Spotify CEO Saying They Need to Work Harder

Streaming itself is not the enemy, the problem is the current system. Spotify has become an unaccountable, Orwellian black box. Instead, streaming services need to operate like cooperatively owned businesses. Spotify might be proud that 43,000 artists now make up their “top tier” (those artists accounting for the top 90 percent of streams), but as Rolling Stone reports, this would leave “98.6 percent of the world’s artists – i.e. 2,957,000 separate performers” operating outside of Spotify’s “top tier”.

5 Likes

But why? Do we ask ourselves this? May I suggest it is the algorithms? They just feed the feedback and echo only what can be squeezed dry. Their business isn’t the little guy.

I have never had much if any luck being recommended “relevant” music that I actually liked on any streaming platform except Pandora. Pandora uses a totally different approach to music recommendations, I believe they called it the music DNA project. They would find music that had similar tempos, acoustic fingerprints, and so on. I was always impressed that I found so many new artists I’d never heard and loved them all but then I started to realize it only went so far but that is because they base it all off one artist where they should start to branch off of the other matching artists once you’ve gone through the full gamut so you can keep discovering.
My point is Spotify has so many AI engineers working to make algos that imo suck. Apple Music has some curation and tbh it’s not too shabby but they play it safe so it is predictable in a somewhat stale way, so not great either.
I think our official first approach will simply be incentivized curation and see where the cards fall. It might be a total shit show at first but the cream will start rising to the top and it will be organic. No BS algos or being stale. Hell this is a global network and once there are many translations for the app then you might be seeing Japan’s top tracks next to Afghanistan’s smoothest hits. You won’t see much outside of your geo located bubble on Spotify. All I know is there’s a chance it could be chaotic but at least it will be interesting!

5 Likes

Exactly this. Their algorithms are designed to maximise profits for Spotify and herding users towards the top tier does just that. But that’s really just replicating the way the music business has worked in the past.

Why we like the music we do is very interesting because it goes way beyond modulating sound waves. Do we choose music because of the music or because of who’s making it? Do we think liking a certain style of music means we’re more sophisticated, more down to earth, more interesting, a better person? Do we like music by people who look like us and share our opinions and ideals and how are those choices and opinions formed? It’s a huge topic !

The music industry has always been about image, myth-making, the primacy of the charts, specialised radio stations that only play country, rock or R&B, the tribal music press and more recently product placement in video games. It has very little to do with music, everything to do with shifting product.

In the digital age of abundance there’s just so much music and it’s so inexpensive to reproduce it’s and distribute it’s become even more of a commodity, which is why Spotify can pile em high and sell em cheap. They don’t even have to care about building a band’s profile anymore, which is one area where record labels did assist struggling artists, or at least those lucky enough to get a deal.

On the plus side, I find Spotify’s Artist Radio algorithms to be pretty good and a way of genre-hopping to a certain extent (I expect they use a combination of tempo, acoustic fingerprint etc plus ML recommenders based on what people with a similar profile like) and mixing old with new. Curation is possible on Spotify via sharing playlists, but that seems to be a pretty minor part of the operation.

None of which provides any answers whatsoever :laughing:, except to say that any successful music platform that gives more of a chance to the little guy will have to also be a tastemaker to a certain extent, if it’s not going to plug into the existing industry that’s there to tell us what we should like.

4 Likes

This is probably a huge over simplification but ever since I was a teenager riding on the bus I’ve wondered this. I would think “How could people like these boy bands and other pop music so much?”. At the time I certainly didn’t. Ironically now I have an appreciation for it in a nostalgic way but at the time I just thought people were tasteless. I don’t think the music is inferior per se, it is all subjective as we know and anyone can come off as a music snob and say what is or isn’t good. The main reason I would convince myself is that it is what the conglomerates are shoving down youths throats. It’s just like the magazines like cosmopolitan that give young girls a negative or self conscious body image. We’re very impressionable at those young ages and when we are marketed sex or hype and when MTV or the top 40 say “This is what is hot right now!” A majority will believe it and there you go. I hate to say this about humans but at least at some point all of us tend to be a bit sheepish and can be influenced to fit in and so on so we can make our best impression in a group and have our best chances at status and success. It almost takes some real guts to shape your individuality and break off into some smaller faction but let’s be honest, where those same rules apply.
So this may well be a self fulfilling prophecy at this point and maybe that’s even what people are looking for. I don’t know how many times people have told me they like Spotify’s daily mix. I am befuddled by that but I’ll be honest I need to try and understand. That’s part of my mission. I’ll also be approaching everything through the lens in which we are discussing though and I would like a non biased feed of new uploads, or newly registered artists to be front and center by default, along with most popular etc. This way we can get a real view of what’s new in the world and discover for ourselves.

3 Likes

We are very impressionable as teens and the marketing goes further than just boy bands. In fact, behind the scenes the same labels that promote the boy bands own some of the indie labels that cater for the cool kids too, and they play the two audiences off against each other. It’s a highly cynical business.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I think of the independent labels that sprang up in the UK in the 70s and 80s which were genuinely independent, at least for a while, and did offer an alternative to a reasonably sizable audience. They solved a different problem which was distribution, getting records into shops. Distribution is simple now: upload to YouTube. The hard thing is getting anyone to notice.

Back in the day I remember poring through the small ads in the music papers when you could mail-order singles for 99p from bands with great sounding names like the Notsensibles and Desperate Bicycles and I’d occasionally buy them on the name alone because you’d rarely hear them on the radio and I lived in the sticks, but you’d trust the label. Didn’t always work out by any means but playing them for the first time was always a thrill, and I don’t suppose the Notsensibles are billionares but at least they had an enthusiastic audience and an outlet for their talents. I wonder if that could be replicated in the digital age of abundance?

I don’t personally like the Spotify daily mix, but often the Artist Radio works for me. So if one day I fancy listening to a certain band while I’m working I’ll pick their Radio and will hear their music every few tracks along with “similar” stuff, which I often do find I like, and quite a lot tends to be new stuff from bands I’ve never heard of (for which they get 0.0005p rather than the 99p I might have spent in my yoof). So as a consumer it kinda works for me, but the supply side is problematic.

4 Likes

I used to have a similar tactic for music discovery and it was a hit or miss but it was totally worth it. To your question, I do genuinely think so. Like I said, it will be a similar experience to what we did and a hit or miss. A big company like Spotify or Apple would think this is ugly and try to prevent that with fancy algos and such. I think the key to not completely throwing off a users expectations is compartmentalizing a bit. Just have these new releases, new artists, new uploads be accessible and visible in their own playlists or stations but not forced on anyone or thrown in randomly to the point of irrelevance. Interesting topic and am glad to have the input so it can marinate.

3 Likes

Were they the band that did “I’m in love with Margaret Thatcher” ?
My mind is telling me it got a couple of plays on John Peel but it was a very long time ago in the hazy decades.

1 Like

They were indeed. A song I can still whistle to this day (not that I was ever emotionally attached to the aforementioned you understand)

1 Like

Fully agree that algorithms don’t help, and with @jpl’s posts in that regard too.

As with all things SAFE though, I don’t think it’s ever going to be quite enough to go in with the attitude of, oh, if we just get the algorithms in the hands of the good guys everything will be ok.

Fundamentally of course the challenge is of parsing down a potentially vast amount of (music) into amounts that are manageable and useful for us as individuals. Obviously algorithms can do a good job of that, especially when combined with data about people’s listening habits, either individually or collectively.

That’s when we get on the slippery slope though!

Regardless of nefarious intentions on the part of algorithm designers, personally I think anything that is reliant on pure numbers like this will have a tendency towards ‘feeding the feedback’ as you describe it, until a relatively small number of things are prioritised.

I’m trying to work on an alternative to this with my search app at the moment, seeing if it is possible to design something scalable that is based on a combination of curation and categorisation. Part of the key I think is designing it so people can very easily plug into other’s recommendations, and also organising things in a way so that there is some level of hierarchy or tree structure, to enable more efficient navigation, and to allow some element of the cream rising to the top, but not at the exclusion of all else.

As an approach I’m finding it quite interesting because it feels relatively novel compared to how things work at the moment, (particularly in the context of something like general search,) and because careful design rather than mad crazy technical knowledge can get you quite far down the road. It’s very much an experiment that might not work though!

Would be nice to maybe see if we can work together and share knowledge when both projects are a bit further down the line.

2 Likes

Great summation @david-beinn and absolutely. As we get further, what’s mine is yours and yours is mine in this regard. We’ll be much more effective sharing even similar if no the same ideals if we hold a united front. I know I’ve said it elsewhere but once we secure a domain we like and get our name out a bit then we’ll open source. Even before then though there will be no issue sharing these bits and pieces. Cheers

1 Like

Case point for JAMS here: Listeners like the concept of Bandcamp, they are deterred by the UI. UI/UX is VERY important when considering competing with Spotify.

6 Likes

Hey guys,

I was recently invited to the SAFE Network Forum.

I’ve had a flick around the SAFE website and have A LOT of reading to do.

I’m a philosophical explorer, and have concerns around people’s relationships with technology in the modern age.

Having been involved in internet technology and network infrastructure builds in the past, I have quite a good understanding of the layers involved in creating a network.

Blockchain I have familiarised myself with at a fairly basic level, and I’ve spoken with the founders of most music tech blockchain projects.

I’m interested to know how SAFE works, as it seems to indicate on the front page that it doesn’t work on a blockchain? I’ll be reading into that.

I’m a music producer, Music Tech business consultant and A&R in the music industry.

Most relevant to this conversation, I have been preaching for UBI for a few years now - and have found a crossover point in my ‘personal journey’ by trying to push that message harder using artists as a key example of how and why it’s plausible.

I’m pretty early in my journey with it, so far only sharing content around the ideology on social media. But I have already started considering that I could take the mission further and eventually push it to parliament in the UK when I have a more mature case.

Jobs & Productivity

The argument starts where the last 3 industrial revolutions end. Humans have reached a point where our relationship with technology means that we have created systems of efficiency that have outpaced and outperform human capabilities.

We’ve managed ourselves into the position whereby our ‘jobs’ are so efficiently structured, and based on execution and logic, that we allow no time for creative thought, relaxation, experimentation and play.

Neitzche spoke of the Dionysian and Apollonian man and how we have been stripped of our ‘chaotic, free, emotional and intuitive’ parts of ourselves in a trade off for a society built on rational thinking, order and logic.

Neitzche (and others) believed that we shouldn’t be wholly ‘Apollonian’ as people or as a society.

As a society, really amplified by our experience with remote working during CV19, we have seen increasingly that with some more time to think, relax and break up our working structure, we become more productive and happier as people.

Flexible Working

The BS of the 8-hour workday is being called out a lot more.

Flexible working hours and flexible working environments were still being enforced by BS companies, right up until CV19 lockdown disrupted the working norms.

Now, everybody is seeing the benefits of flexible working.

This is not particularly relevant to UBI, until we consider industries that don’t have a normal salary structure that means people get paid for their bursts of high productivity throughout that month.

Musical Economic Mess

The music industry is broken at the best of times. Rights ownership and royalties have needed attention for decades, big tech has cut in early in the supply chain and taken a large chunk of the industry’s previous revenue and major labels owned by big tech companies mean that there is effectively a monopoly over the attention economy on the music consumption channels that music consumers have been nurtured to use.

But when we consider crises like we have seen in CV19 that knocked out the major revenue sources for the industry, the instability of the music industry economy becomes blatant.

In the digital music industry, our economics work on an “accumulative return on investment” basis. Although there are artist roles that can allow for a consistent salary (such as composers for agencies, engineers etc.) most roles are ‘freelance’ style roles that are paid per-project.

The most high-profile and commercially challenging of these roles is the “commercial artist”, who’s revenue streams come from [piss poor] streaming royalties, publishing royalties, performing live, sponsorships and merchandise.

A small percentage of artists go on to make a huge amount of revenue for the music industry. The rest seldom break-even so can’t continue to work in this field.

The music industry has potential to be a far bigger economy, if it were not for artist development being interrupted due to artists needing to do a secondary job (that often has to become their primary job).

The music industry does not present opportunities to earn money whilst developing a career. This needs to change.

Consumers now have (and use) the technology to follow and support a large amount of artists. It isn’t a competitive marketplace - art doesn’t work on the ‘attention economy’ if it is not treated like content.

If artists are given the stability of a living income, many more will reach the point in their careers where they become viable commercial businesses. UBI is the gateway to an economic boom for the music industry.

Entrepreneurs, too…

In the same way as music, the majority of funding to entrepreneurs covers living costs for those working on the project. Human resource is the highest cost to any startup.

Without the barrier for entrepreneurs to have to pay high salaries, many more startups that fail could be successful.

If passionate skilled workers got involved with startups because of other motives other than money (which many do, riskily, seeing other potential benefits), then they would feel a lot happier in their jobs, a lot more committed to the cause and a great strain would be lifted from the innovation industries.

In the music industry specifically, the irreversible damage done to the recorded music economy because of technology could be fixed with “R&D investment” to sustain the recorded music industry and find new commercial models. This investment shouldn’t go in at the business level (venture capital), because this doesn’t allow the freedom to really experiment and develop new ways to support artists in this technological environment, whilst pleasing consumers and creating sustainable business models.

Where Does The Money Come From?

My case for UBI (especially for artists) is still quite juvenile and may not be convincing enough. So, I want to solidify that strongly before thinking too deeply about how to generate the money.

Roll-Out

To prevent the fears often uttered by those opposed to UBI about breeding laziness and decreasing job desire, this benefit could be vetted.

As a first step, post-grads with a project/business plan, or artists who have met some form of criteria, such as paying fans, who show themselves as likely to be commercially viable, should be the first to be offered UBI. There should be some project or business plan to qualify.

7 Likes

I feel Warren must already have some form of basic income to afford him the time to write what he has :exploding_head:

I’ve tried to give some input where I can, but the thread got really heavy. I’ll keep an eye out and get involved as I can in the conversation here on out :slight_smile:

2 Likes

Artists are not “lucky” they have audiences. You clearly have no idea what goes into creating and maintaining those audiences.

1 Like