AOIR Music and Sound Panel – Oct 18, 2007

This update is running quite late, but is still valuable, I think, in attempting to sustain the dialogue which was unfortunately given too short an interval at our panel on Music and Sound at the AOIR conference last week. As well, I particularly need to move among the “diaspora” of AOIR (As Nancy Baym phrased it) as, variously, splitting headaches and tons of work – both domestic and non- kept me from schmoozing to my fullest capacity. So much to do I couldn’t even attend presentations or panels that I really really needed to see (especially this one, this one and this one).

In the interest of, as I said, sustaining some dialogue about our panel, I’ll offer a brief summary from my notes, which are mainly comprised of questions that I didn’t get to ask. Where possible I’ll link to the various presenters’ webpages or blogs, and I’ll reiterate the link to my own slides with notes. Here goes:

Marj Kibby presented her paper on Myspace and bands. Having been part of a band on Myspace for several years, I came out of this talk with too many questions for one small panel. I believe her research is an excellent introduction to this sphere for the uninitiated, bringing a textual analysis directly to the live profiles of a number of her research subjects, but for a seasoned Myspace whore such as myself, there was nothing here I hadn’t already guessed. Still, my questions were numerous, as Marj’s work overlaps significantly with mine:

  • what of the myths of “overnight success” (Sandi Thom, Amy Winehouse, et al). how does the ‘gaming’ of these networks by conventional producers change the dynamics of fan-artist relations?
  • what happens when the “influences” and “genres” sections of profiles become oversaturated (as in cases where bands and fans alike list hundreds and hundreds of influences, or inappropriate genre categories)? doesn’t this degrade communication? what do fans make of this? and once certain modes of communicating identity are spent, to where does the communication of identity migrate?
  • how does one sample artists from the thousands on myspace for survey research? what strategies are there for (1) sorting through fakes, side projects, false starts, unofficial profiles, and other artifacts of the myspace ecosystem, and (2) ensuring the sample is representative of a particular slice of time in the life of the site?
  • aren’t the rules of fan/artist interaction mediated by the specificities of artists/genres/subcultures? is it the same to interact with Radiohead as with Tapes and Tapes as with SFIAS? can we make general claims about fandom based on a random sample of myspace bands?
  • how can we be assured of the value of the “long tail” value of the networks of Myspace, given the persistent power of mass chain buyers like WalMart in influencing trends in the music industry? and how can musicians monetize this in ways that subvert/get around the (parasitic or progressive?) intentions/profit of the parent corporations who provide the infrastructure of Myspace?
  • what does News Corp gain from fan/artist networks of Myspace? how are corporate goals consistent with or in contradiction with the goals of artists and fans who use the site for music discovery and sharing?

Next up, Andrew Ó Baoill presented his research into podcasting and community radio. I was intrigued by this talk, and I thought that he deserved more questions at the close of the panel. The engagement of these two worlds – community radio and the podcast community – has far reaching implications, especially for parts of the world where community radio is a primary source of news, information and entertainment for many. I’m curious about how this topic interlaces with mobile media and device adoption in developing countries, in situations where community radio is a vital communication resource, and where the adoption of mobile media outstrips that of tethered ICTs. But insufficient time prevented me from asking Andrew his thoughts on this.

Next, I presented my talk on technical micropolitics and independent music. I don’t have any questions for myself. This is just placeholder. I’m just following the timeline. O SNAP!

The last talk of the panel was by Klaus Bruhn Jensen and Rasmus Helles, tantalizingly entitled “Society Switching“. Their research into the phenomenology of sound is quite fascinating, although the talk itself seemed to be merely the tip of the iceberg. I’m particularly intrigued by the use of the concept of generativity (borrowed from linguistics) and structural-functionalism in developing their theoretical framework. I’d love to read any published work from this research (hint-hint, if you cats are reading this).

Question period followed, which included lively input from the erudite Tarleton Gillespie (who seemingly followed me all the way from 4S), panel moderator Mark Latonero and Hanson scholar Holly Kruse (whose panel I really wished to see but couldn’t due to a headache – hint hint, Holly, I want to see your paper!).

Please do chime in if you were a presenter or in attendance and didn’t get to sound off in the limited F2F session that we had. Otherwise, I’m busy trying to mentally connect all of this with Henry Jenkins’ ideas about the moral economy of Web 2.0…back in a minute or so…

Remake/Remodel

Clicknoise Logo (no text)I hope I haven’t used this Roxy Music song as a post title before…

While assembling my upcoming conference papers, I’ve been twiddling with this blog on the side in lieu of regular updates (well, alright, I’ve also been focused on the dupobs release schedule – you can listen to the newest tracks as they are released week-by-week here – among other things).

Today I dug out this logo (at right) I’d been working on a few months ago, but with which I was never completely satisfied. Upon reflection it seems more than appropriate for this blog: the somewhat smooth interweaving of issues around authorship and copyleft with the combination of concerns with wireless networking and music (sideways, the sound icons in OS X are almost identical to that operating system’s representation of wi-fi – a happy accident of usability design that lends itself well to my palette of concerns), and not to mention the freehand look of the uneven radiating lines, which lends some indie credibility to the whole thing, I think.

Ex-Perry Mental Geekery

Nice to be back in the swim of things. I just put a final report out the door on a research project that I’d been working on for 14 months. It was a difficult project – one that didn’t always go as planned, that got intermittently sidelined by other events in my life (buying an apartment, having a first baby), and included a whole feeling of responsibility and guilt unlike any other research project I’d ever worked on. More than anything, it was in a research area worlds away from poopular (yes, I mean poopular, it’s not just the baby talking) music, which is my number one research passion.

I’m not going to divulge any more details about that project here (details of it will soon be published elsewhere), but your takeaway from the above blurb should be that now that the project’s done, much more of my time can be devoted to my work in music and my work in mobile – both of which are central themes of this blog.

To wit, I’m TAing a 3rd year course in popular music studies this semester, and the gearing up is invigorating. We’re doing something of an experimental “taste laboratory” of sorts on Last.fm. I’ve invited the 76 students in the class to join so we can have some healthy backchannel in a music-rich environment. We’ll be sticking to the books and lectures in tutorial, but I figured having this optional addon for students who are so inclined can be instructive, and perhaps give some students some concrete experience with which to grapple whilst reading Hebdige, Attali, Adorno, McRobbie, and others (PS – I didn’t design the reading list, so if you have a problem with it, take it up with the Sessional).

The other thing I’m diving into now is a short ethnographic study (yes, the third in a series) of mobile phone use, using the Nokia 95. I’ve been playing with one of them for a couple of days now, and I am quite impressed with its ergonomic design. Something about this phone feels just alright, as Lou Reed would say. However, the phone keeps crashing when using the built in photo gallery app. Looking for a workaround.

Oh, and of course, there’s the upcoming AOIR, which I’m helping out with (and presenting at).

I’ll be keeping you posted.

Beercamp Vancouver

Tonight and tomorrow I’ll be mind-moshing with local geekerati at Barcamp Vancouver. If you’re signed up to be there too, come up and innerdooce yourself (you already know me by sight, or can figure it out via flickr or facebook, can’t you?). I always like to meet readers and fellow bloggers in the flesh. Or so I think.

OK – so maybe there’s only, like, three of you. At any rate, keep in mind for part of the night tonight I’ll be busy behind a camcorder, following Kris Krüg around, turning his seemingly insatiable gaze back on him for a research project I’m working on (for Mobile Muse). But hit me up if you’re around (like I will be) for the free drinks.

AOIR 8 Vancouver, 50 Parties, etc. (Oct. 2007)

Heya. I am presenting in a panel at AOIR this year (the title of my presentation/paper is “The Technical Micropolitics of the Online Music Industry, 1997-2007″, abstract here). For those of you who’ve followed my blog, you’ll know something of what to expect, except that I’ll be strictly framing up the narrative in terms of something called “technical micropolitics”, which, with any luck, I’ll have a competent grasp of by the time the conference rolls along. Theory, y’know? One minute you think you’ve got it, and the next minute, well, you sound like Daffy Duck.

Which brings me to another announcement of sorts – one more suited to quacking unintelligibly [& yes, readers coming in via The ORG should get that one]. I volunteered to organize (hopefully not all by my lonesome self!) the Vancouver instantiation of something Jimmy Wales started called “Heather and Jimmy’s 50 Party Club“. See the links I’ve provided for as detailed an explanation as you’re going to get (which admittedly ain’t much), but in a nutshell, you can expect a gathering of an international set of free culture/creative commons/open source nerds drinking together in the same physical space and engaging in as-yet-undetermined activities to keep each other vaguely entertained. Go to the wiki and pitch in! Your help is needed. Know of a potential sponsor (hint – local microbreweries or wineries love nerds because nerds drink lots!)? A venue? An entertainment source? A fax machine we can rig up to send loopfaxes to Larry Lessig for quitting the good fight? Or do you just wanna show up and make an arse of yourself? Get with our little planning wiki, whatever the case. Let’s have some fun.

On Last.fm and royalty payments

Clear Channel didn’t get away with it, and now Last.fm is taking heat for not paying out royalties to independent artists. Last.fm, recently purchased by CBS, is now heating up indie music business blogs with this policy, even though it’s been in place since the company started.

Why so, asks the intrepid indie music biz blogger/Last.fm enthusiast and indie label/band person? Well, it seems there’s some misunderstanding of how royalty collection works. Last.fm is in fact playing by the rules, paying royalties to collection societies when tracks are streamed.

The big difference between Last.fm and conventional radio (and indie labels and bands should take note) is that with Last.fm, playlist/track streaming statistics are not hidden from public view, and do not rely on the inaccurate and gameable conventional sampling methods used by groups such as BMI, ASCAP or SOCAN in tracking radio airplay. And it’s not a closed pay-per-stat-view shop like Big Champagne is. As if that weren’t enough, the problem of payola is curbed via the voluntary ‘pull’ nature of “airplay” on Last.fm. The critiques of radio cannot be transplanted to a service such as Last.fm so swiftly. It is simply a different animal.

And anyway – wasn’t the hulaballo about Clear Channel over the issue of payola in the first place? Lest we forget, “Clear Channel had responded to allegations of payola with a pay-for-play scheme“.

This is not to say that there’s nothing about which we can be critical with this Last.fm thing. I’ve blogged this previously, but I’ll say it again: it matters who owns what in Internet 2.0. And even though it feels like listeners are running the show on Last.fm, they might not be, and probably aren’t. Every boss must manage, and every company must profit, or die. It seems that the most important question is still – to invoke the terminology of radio, new and old – are we really “streaming” or are we being “programmed”?

FMC, A2IM force Clear Channel to pay royalties to independent musicians

There’s some great news in Future of Music Coalition’s latest newsletter about Clear Channel’s treatment of independent musicians. In just ten short days of campaigning (including blogging, negotiating with the radio giant directly, and filing a Request for a Declaratory Ruling at the FCC) the organization (with help from A2IM) forced the company to finally modify the wording of their court-mandated offering to indies so that royalties are paid when their music is played. Definitely a small victory in an increasingly concentrated music industry, and against one of its largest, most concentrated entities, too, I might add.

More background on the story at the FMC blog.

And if this liberation of the airwaves (digital or analog) stuff is your bag, then please pitch in however you can. Sign up for the FMC Newsletter, or help with their various campaigns to ensure a more democratic character for the music, internet and radio industries.