The Spotify Playlist Problem

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.49.56Let me start this article by saying that I love Spotify. Great company, great team – and lately, rather ironically given the naysaying of Thom Yorke et al, emerging as something of a potential music industry saviour when you look at the machinations of Google, Amazon and other tech giants, who seem fairly intent on driving the value of music down to zero. So, to summarise: I’m a big fan.

Having said that, I feel there’s an awkward question that has to be asked, namely: why, in Spotify’s Browse section, are 99.9% of the playlists Spotify’s own?

If you’re not familiar, Browse is the “uninformed” discovery section – the editorial area where Spotify can push playlists of its choosing. At the top are more day-to-day relevant playlists, and further down are various mood-related starting points which then offer a variety of playlists to choose from.

Here’s the Browse section today (click to enlarge):
Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.53.40

Of all the playlists shown there, only the BBC’s Playlister one in the centre isn’t made by Spotify.

Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

Don’t Blame Radio 1: How An Obsession With Stats Is Damaging The UK Music Business

This article first appeared on Drowned in Sound on May 30th 2014

BBCRADIO1A recent article for The Guardian went behind the scenes at Radio 1’s playlisting meeting, chatting with those on the current selection board and generally revealing how decisions on what’s goes on there are made. Unsurprisingly, social media stats get referenced a fair bit, with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other public data being considered when discussing whether or not an artist should win a spot on the station’s playlist. Whilst exceptions are made (Clean Bandit are referenced as an example, where online stats remain low but R1 has still opted for support), by the end of the article the writer concludes that “it all feels so soulless”, lamenting the days when Peel could play what he wanted and took risks.

(I think the first myth to debunk here is that Peel ever represented the output of Radio 1. Whilst Peel was blowing my mind with weird combinations of Napalm Death, The Fall and even a band called Mousefart, the primary output of The Nation’s Favourite was still “characters” like Dave Lee Travis and Simon Bates. Whatever state Radio 1 is in now, I think we should remember that once upon a time the daytime output included a man who built a career on a sound effect that went “Quack quack oops!”. But I digress…)

For those of us working in the music industry, Radio 1’s obsession with public stats has long been a bone of contention. The main reason is because at different times it felt like that focus on the public stats was myopic. There’s also been whispers that labels were buying “fans”, views, likes or whatever other metric was rife, with marketing departments simply putting down £100 for 100k views so their plugger could then rock up to the R1 producers and excitedly squeal “just LOOK at those numbers!”.

Continue reading

Tagged , , ,

Must watch: Dean Ween on Guitar Moves

As a morbidly addicted guitar head, I’ve been loving Noisey’s excellent Guitar Moves series over on YouTube. Some are decent, some are frankly a bit poor (the one with Billy Gibbons and Kid Rock, where the ZZ Top legend is basically stumble-down drunk, is a fine example). This one with Dean Ween is a keeper though. I’m a longstanding Ween fan so of course it was going to appeal, but I don’t think you need to be to enjoy this particular episode. My favourite part is him saying that everything he plays is either drawing upon the Allman Brothers’ Blue Sky (for upbeat solos) and Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain (for introspective, moody solos). Its ace – take a watch:

Tagged , , , , ,

Album of the Week #3: edIT – Certified Air Raid Material

edit-certified_air_raid_materialI first discovered edIT when a friend of mine recommended I check out his first album Crying Over Pros For No Reason, which Planet Mu released in 2004. Pros was a staggering piece of work: whilst Glitch as a scene has long since worn itself out, edIT was always a class apart from the rest. His first album is almost devastatingly beautiful, delivering fragile, broken-hearted glitched electronica that was just utterly mesmerising. My good friend Laurent wrote a stunning piece over at FACT mag, explaining why its one of his favourite records of all time – take a read when you get a mo.

So why am I choosing edIT’s followup, Certified Air Raid Material over his debut? Because its pretty much where edIT took the gloves off and aimed squarely for your head with monstrous, tight production and a fairly nonstop flow of top-dollar belters. Its as if edIT sat there and thought “Oh you want it full-on? YOU GOT IT”. With the opening intro skit “I Slay Crowds” the man born Edward Ma sets out his stall – and when it leads into “Battling Go-Go Yubari In Downtown LA”, the intent is clear here: edIT’s come to blow your head off.

Continue reading

Tagged , ,

Album of the Week #2: The Band – Rock of Ages

The Band - Rock of AgesMention The Band and the first thing people will mention is The Last Waltz, the now-legendary live performance involving not just The Band but a host of guests – and, evidently, no end of cocaine, with Neil Young’s infamous ‘white booger’ debacle now being as famous as the music itself.

Here’s the thing though: to me, The Last Waltz is nowhere near as good as most claim, and indeed over the years I think its become something of a case study in one member of a group (in this case Robbie Robertson) meddling with a release and attempting to rewrite history. Robertson allegedly insisted that he get preferential treatment in the edit of the film, leading one site to call it “The Robbie Robertson show, starring Robbie Robertson with music by Robbie Robertson”. Bottom line? It felt like the whole thing was fake; fixed and tweaked here and there to suit the frontman and no one else. To me its not the sound of a band locked in and playing their hearts out; its all a bit… staged.

So, where The Band are concerned my favourite album – live or otherwise – is without a doubt Rock of Ages. Sporting arguably the worst cover in the history of music, this record may just be the finest live album ever released. This was The Band in their prime: full of swagger and groove. Hell you only have to listen to their opening gambit of Don’t Do It to hear a perfect example.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 36 other followers