Archives for posts with tag: music

I’m not much of a fan of infographics, or at least the things that pass for infographics these days (I’m pretty sure that Edward Tufte isn’t impressed by them, that’s for sure). Still ‘n’ all, I thought this one posted by Spotify to celebrate their 5th birthday was quite natty. Hypebot point out that the line about 80% of their inventory being played at least once could of course be turned on its head: that 20% haven’t been played at all. That’s about 4 million tracks. If a piece of music hasn’t been played even once by a user base of 24 million does that place it beyond even the long tail?

Simon

Yep, I know, a bit quiet here again, but we’ve been super busy organising this autumn’s run of Angel Academe Studio Events – and all that goes with them – and we’ll be reporting back on some of that activity I’m sure.

Anyhow, I wanted to have a little bit of a rant about streaming music, as a couple of bits of recent news have caught my eye. (It’s a bit of a long rant at that, so I’m going to break it up into some shorter posts which I’ll put up over the next few days.)

Anyone who’s been reading me on here or over on my own DGMFS blog will pretty much know my position on the streaming debate.  It certainly makes me smile wryly when I read Bob Lefsetz talking triumphantly about the triumph of streaming. Not that he’s wrong – in fact he’s dead right – it’s just that I’ve been convinced this is the case since going on the DTI Digital Music Mission to the US West Coast back in 2001.

That was quite a moment, looking back. The DTI (now BIS) took over about a dozen of us with various involvements of digital representing radio, the record industry, music practitioners, academia and so on. (I was, at that point, the BBC’s Head of Music Online.) Now remember: this was 2001.  It was years before the iPhone or iPad, the iPod had only just launched, the iTunes store was years away, as was Spotify. Furthermore, despite the advert of Napster, the record industry had only just (slowly) begun its decline, and that was from the astonishing peak at the end of the 90s (financially rather than creativity, of course).  Oh, and the dotcom crash was raging.

And yet, and yet… it was obvious to me at that point that in many ways the game was up. Moreover, it was equally apparent that while downloads were the future, they were a short-term future. Once ubiquitous, mobile broadband was a reality, then no-one would need to download anything – you’d simply stream it.

But surely, people would ask, consumers would want to own what they bought? Well, yes, if what they bought was a physical thing – but not if it was intangible data. Why would they? And I said (and still say) this as a man whose walls groan under the weight books, LPs and CDs (and who got rid of his VHS and cassette collection more or less at gunpoint). I simply didn’t buy then, and buy even less now, the idea that, given the choice of access to music on a rental basis, consumers would elect to buy downloads.

Now of course the decade plus since has given us the iTunes store and Amazon’s digital marketplace and, yes, the iPad, the iPhone, the Kindle. And so a lot of people have paid an awful lot of money to download digital content. Some have suggested I should eat my words, but I’ve stuck to my guns on this, and I think I’ve been proved right.

Oh there are still some big issues here. Certainly in the UK, ubiquitous high bandwidth mobile connectivity remains, well let’s say it’s an aspiration.  And frankly any compressed audio files are, once you “tune in”, something of a sonic travesty. But these are tech issues which will be overcome: ISPs and MSPs, somehow, will sort their shit out, and streaming lossless is, I’m assured, around the corner.

So the real issues, the real stumbling blocks, will remain around business and legal frameworks. And that’s where the various bits of news I discussed come in. So over the next few posts I’ll be discussing Frank Zappa, Ministry of Sound, Thom Yorke and, of course, Spotify. And jazz backing tracks on YouTube. Betcha can’t wait.

Simon

Culturally speaking, one way and another it was a pretty packed year for Sarah and me last year, so as we embark on 2013 I thought it might be nice to get some of the highlights down here.

Our rather late-in-life conversion to Opera – yes the artform, not the browser – continued apace. We caught Jonathan Kent’s splendidly delirious production of Purcell’s “semi-opera” The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne, Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann at the ENO (delirious in its own way) and two minimalist classics in revival: Glass’ Einstein on the Beach at the Barbican (which Sarah attended without me) and Adams’ Death of Klinghoffer, again at the ENO. It’s also worth mentioning a live relay from the Met of Glass’ much later piece, Satyagraha, which we saw in the cozy surroundings of our favourite cinema, The Duke of York’s here in Brighton.

The theatrical highlight of the year was undoubtedly Complicite’s adaptation of Bulgarkov’s magic realist classic Master and Margarita at the Barbican. It’s exhilarating stuff – if perhaps bewildering to those who haven’t read the book – and I highly recommend getting along to it as it returns this month. Runner up prize on the theatrical front would have to go to Punchdrunk’s immersive Macbeth-inspired Sleep No More, now into its second year in New York, where we were lucky enough to catch it.

Actually, the Barbican – which plainly had a stupendous year – deserves its own mention (full disclosure: the centre is one of our clients). As well as Einstein and Master, we saw: Água, the São Paulo piece in Pina Bausch’s World Cities season, revived by the Barbican and Sadlers Wells as part of the Cultural Olympiad; two truly remarkable blockbuster exhibitions, Everything Was Moving – Photography from the 60s and 70s and Bauhaus: Art as Life; and Song Dong‘s strangely moving installation Waste Not, which gathered into the Curve Gallery everything the artist’s mother had hoarded in her life. And of course we went along to the Barbican Weekender a couple of months back, which we reviewed here.

I’m getting together a review of my “year in gigs” over on my personal blog DGMFS, but of the gigs we went to together, several stand out: Susheela Raman at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (an absolutely intoxicating show), PiL at the Concorde 2 in Brighton, Bang on a Can Allstars at the Barbican and Faith No More at the Apollo (and was that Danny De Vito crawling around onstage towards the end of the gig or a hullucination?) Then of course we travelled to both New York and Berlin to see Meshuggah; still not sure Sarah really digs it, but I think if nothing else she enjoys the gurning look of joy on my face for a couple of hours. I should mention two shows Sarah couldn’t get along to, sadly: singer-songwriter Rufus Wainright at the Brighton Dome (seriously, one of the finest gigs I’ve ever been to) and jazz pianist Brad Mehldau at, you guessed it, The Barbican, as part of the London Jazz Festival. And talking of jazz, we’ve hugely enjoyed our old friend Jez Nelson and Jazz On 3‘s monthly Jazz in the Round shows at the Cockpit theatre in Marylebone; looking forward to many more of them in 2013.

We only made it to one of the Proms this year, but it was a pretty special one; the massive, 120-strong Aldeburgh World Orchestra was recruited online from 35 different countries for three weeks of concerts, including a Sunday evening prom at the Albert Hall. As though the logistics weren’t tricky enough, the band – conducted with the usual verve by Mark Elder – played an astoundingly tricky (but very, very powerful) set including Britten’s Sinfonia de Requiem and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, in possibly the tightest, most aggressive interpretation I’ve heard live.

As I write this Sarah has got the annual film marathon which comes with being a BAFTA judge, so I’ll reserve judgement on the film front except perhaps to say that Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is really quite breathtaking. Oh, and that the most fun we had in terms of cinematic experience this year was a very special screening of Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon in the appropriately baroque setting of the Brighton Pavilion’s music room (thanks to Brighton’s Cine-City festival for that one).

Three very different gallery shows highlighed the work of three very different (but undoubted) geniuses: the massive Cindy Sherman restrospective at MoMA in New York; Ferran Adriá and El Bulli: Risk, Freedom and Creativity at Palu Robert in Barcelona; and, almost certainly our shared art highlight of the year, Grayson Perry’s The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum which pulled off the remarkable feat of being simultaneously funny, deeply moving and, well, angry.

We finished the year off, appropriately, with a concert of Bach’s Christmas and New Year Cantatas given by period music specialists Florilegium at King’s Place. It was the opening show of a year-long season: Bach Unwrapped and we’re looking forward to much more.

So that’s it. A a hugely enjoyable year, and one that’s going to be difficult to top, although, that said, we’re already looking forward to, among other things, Kraftwerk at the Tate, Cirque du Soleil at the RAH, the Barbican’s post-Duchamp show, the Southbank’s Rest is Noise season, Neil Young, Richard Thompson… and maybe, just maybe, Meshuggah in LA.

Simon