Product Placement

There was a time when record companies paid music stores to have a CD in a listening station, or just to get the CD presented at the end of a row of album bins (end-capping). Or paid to get a song or an album played on an airline. At least the music had a chance to get listened to…

Now companies compete to appear on playlists of streaming companies, because that’s how you can rack up streams. I wonder how many promo people call Apple every week to get a song placed on a yoga playlist for the fitness app. Now, I assume, one has to be happy when the music is played in the background, barely audible. Do companies pay to get onto Spotify playlists? Is there a menu of services? 

I don’t know and am not sure I want to know. I remember how shocked I was–this was in the early 90s–that the CDs in a listening station weren’t there on merit, that a record company paid something in the neighborhood of $700/week for a CD to be in that station. 


Spotify created this mess. And the other music platforms are no better.

Boredom is built into the platform, because they lose money if you get too excited about music—you’re like the person at the all-you-can-eat buffet who goes back for a third helping. They make the most money from indifferent, lukewarm fans, and they created their interface with them in mind. In other words, Spotify’s highest aspiration is to be the Applebee’s of music.

Panic Among the Streamers – by Ted Gioia

Because, when you get excited about an album you might want to, well, get into it, you know, maybe by owning the files or a CD and by having a decent PDF or paper cover that you can look at, and which contains information about the musicians and the instruments they performed with, the studio, the producer, the engineer, the method of recording. Not to mention photos of the instruments, the players, the microphones that were used…

But getting into that one album means that you might not want to listen to that playlist of artist X, which the streaming company created, and which is usually sprinkled with “sounds like X” artists who signed away any payment, or a significant portion of their payment, because they were promised that they would appear on the playlist with X… 

For discovery, streaming is a great option, but for getting into an album or an artist it really is not. I find myself searching the internet for credits and anything else I can find out about any album I like.

I have to suppose it’s only going to get more so… because, until a law suit proves otherwise, AI will be able to compose in the style of artist X and won’t require ANY royalties. 

For light listening streaming is perfect. I have long playlists of guitar music or ambient music that I listen to during flights.

Playlists created by the streaming companies are similar to the algorithm-produced feeds for social media. It may be fine for occasional discovery but you can’t see under the hood, you can’t tweak it and it often feels like someone paid to be included.

Reasoning Reduces Satisfaction

There’s this behavioral economics study that completely changed the way i thought about art, teaching, and critique: it’s a 1993 study called “Introspecting about Reasons can Reduce Post-Choice Satisfaction” by Timothy D Wilson, Douglas J Lisle, Jonathan Schooler, Sara Hodges, Kristen Klaaren and Suzanne LaFleur:  LINK

Pluralistic: The art of Daniel Danger

Introspecting about Reasons can Reduce Post-Choice Satisfaction and it can make us miss out on creating something beautiful, too. Reasoning about why we like something, anything, can be a fun exercise, it can help us learn, and it can also ruin something tender that is being grown. 

The way I approach this problem is to record ANYTHING that comes to mind and then step away from it. Record first and inspect later. I often created something and my mind immediately got in the way: that’s not good enough. Why? It’s not serious enough, not complicated enough, not what it should be. Then I made the rule that I can, in fact I must, record anything that comes to mind without analyzing it right away. Call it a grace period. Walk away, and listen with fresh ears tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow it’ll sound terrible and maybe tomorrow it will sound amazing. I have had both happen.

And let the body decide. When the body moves, the feet move, the head starts bobbing, the mind gets overruled. 

A Letter to a Former Student

Discovered this letter to a former student, written by Max Alper, in the Spring 2023 issue of Klang Magazine. Interesting read. 

Streamfarming, algo-boosting, and paid bots have become quite profitable industries if you know where to look. If companies like Spotify can’t make a profit and are propped up by shareholders, how should you be expected to earn a living using their platforms unless you find a way to game the system? Do you have 20 smartphones lying around, per chance?

Lifers, Dayjobbers, and the Independently Wealthy: A Letter to a Former Student

This photo accompanied the article. 

I am surprised but not really. But what I do know is that I don’t want to play that game.

Alper writes:

For an artist, choosing to not engage in self-promotion via streaming or social media platforms is in and of itself an act of protest.



Tattoo + Music

Monday afternoon I was walking home after a very late lunch. Is a meal eaten at 1630 a late lunch or perhaps an early dinner? I noticed a poster of a tattooed arm on a wall. The text was: 

A Tattoo is a lifetime mark. Have it done by a Tattoo artist.

Aside from the fact that the sales pitch was obviously directed towards tourists, because English, I understood the sentiment. 

My mind immediately wondered how long it would take until a robot can give you any tattoo you want? It would have a searchable data base of tattoos – probably easily obtained by going through Instagram posts – and would be able to adapt any photo you might give it.

Then I changed Have it done by a Tattoo artist to Listen to Music by Real Musicians, in my mind.

We have sayings like You are what you eat to show that we should be mindful of what we put into our body. In computer science there is the term GIGOgarbage in, garbage out

Music is a type of food. Some music sticks around in your body for much longer than food does. Some music seems to ferment and develop and it can change us fundamentally. Perhaps we will need an *Organic* sticker for music, now that AI has already produced as many songs as humans have ever created. *Made by Humans* or *Human Music*? What would you suggest?

I don’t usually listen to pop music. It’s not part of my diet. ;-) But sometimes it sure can make you smile: as the sales person at El Corte Ingles was writing up the vacuum I wanted to purchase, I noticed that she was soundlessly mouthing words… and they seemed to be in English! Then I got the connection: a pop song was playing on the store’s sound system. I recognized the song but could not tell you what it is called or who recorded it. Eighties, maybe??? The song and her lips were in sync. I had to smile, because I had that experience with Sweet dreams are made of this just a few days ago, when I heard the song waft through an open window and started singing along, realizing that I knew most of the words. 

The Number of Songs

The number of songs in the world doubled yesterday. Did you even notice?

An artificial intelligence company in Delaware boasted, in a press release, that it had created 100 million new songs. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire catalog of music available on Spotify.

It took thousands of years of human creativity to make the first 100 million songs. But an AI bot matched that effort in a flash.

The Number of Songs in the World Doubled Yesterday

And the company that delivered this feat is led by a someone who studied Jazz Bass in college… A bass player. This is odd, I always liked bass players. They seem reasonable, grounded, solid. They don’t seem like somebody proud of letting machines make 100 million songs.

Read the linked article and let me know what you think.