Youtube – BIG CHANGES COMING

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Offline video viewing is coming in November – as a channel partner I got an email about it (see below). Just the other day I was talking about this very subject with someone.. how annoying is it when you’re watching a video and you go into a tube tunnel and the video stops? So youtube are now adding the ability for users to ‘store’ videos for 48 hours on their devices.. interesting.. could this be a sign of the rumoured forthcoming music service?

Dear Partner,

We’re writing to let you know about a new functionality that is currently scheduled to launch in November that impacts your content. This functionality is part of ongoing updates to give users more opportunities to enjoy videos and channels on YouTube mobile. The functionality is launching with all partners enabled but if you wish, you can disable now. Below is more information on the functionality and directions for how to disable.

What’s happening
On the YouTube app, users will be able, through the “add to device” functionality available on videos and playlists, to designate certain content that they can watch for a short period of time when an Internet connection is unavailable. With this, if a user experiences a loss of connectivity, they will still be able to watch the videos that they’ve added to their device for a limited period of up to 48 hours. If the device is offline for more than 48 hours, the content cannot be viewed offline until the device reconnects. Once connected, the offline window refreshes and the viewer is able to watch the content again.

How it works for viewers
From the watch page through the “add to device” functionality feature, viewers will be able to designate certain content that they can watch for a short period of time when they do not have connectivity. At the time when the user no longer has connectivity, they will be able to watch the videos and playlists that they have added to their device by accessing the videos through an “on device” section of their guide.

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THE MYSTERY AND MAGIC IS GONE

 

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I had a really good chat with someone last night and it was about the ‘modern’ music world. Our shared feeling was that with today’s approaches to promotion we possibly know TOO MUCH about the music, the artists, how things are made. This means that by the time an album drops we’ve lost that magic and mystery that used to be there on first listen back in the day. Now this discussion was mainly focused on major commercial artists but I think it’s applicable to underground artists too.

Fact TV with their ‘Against the clock’, Point Blank/Sonic Academy/Manchester MIDI school with their deconstructions – these people are allowing us to know possibly too much about how people work.. It could be argued in some cases they are lowering the ‘stars’ down to our level.. showing them as being perhaps too human. I can see why many do it though, it’s often financial (certainly in the case of ‘courses’ from artists at some of the schools) – getting paid to go over one of your reject tunes is a good way of making use of wasted time and earning something for it. If it’s not financial it’s done on the promise of extra promotion.. bringing attention to the artist/school/channel – much more than helping the viewers to learn more.

Now i’m not against TEACHING/INSTRUCTING.. I class that as different. Showing people how to use techniques that they can adapt to shape their own sound is the way forward. Core knowledge, core skills.. these are the most important things to learn. Everything else is window dressing.. giving things context. I’m guilty of window dressing on my channel.. but I have little time and i’m not running it as a business.. others are and they have time and financial resources to do things better. I’m encouraging all of you focusing on deconstructions and behind the scenes stuff to consider the long term implications to the way people experience music as LISTENERS/CONSUMERS in the future.

I can see a backlash coming, in the future people might prefer to know less about the ‘names’ on their scene.. to bring that MAGIC back. To bring back the excitement of listening and experiencing the music for what it is.. MUSIC.

Those of you who want to learn can keep learning, i’m all for information sharing – it’s a major part of who I am. I just think we need more innovation, more individuals, more characters…. people who make something that sounds so unique, so interesting.. and we never know how it happened.. how it was made.. bringing back the MAGIC to music (Burial anyone). Stop focusing on what others are doing.. focus on yourself, your sound, who you are, where you sit in the big picture.. If you sound like everyone else out there WHAT IS THE POINT?

Beatmaking with audio in the arrange window. Why?

I was just watching the Roska Against The Clock video on Fact TV and noticed he (like many others i’ve seen over the recent years) uses audio events in the arrange window to make his beats. I still don’t ‘get’ this approach, it feels so limited to me. Here are some reasons why I feel this way:

Pitching

Say I want to adjust the tuning of the drum sound to match the musical elements in the composition, I’d have to ‘process’ the core sample. If I was using a sampler all i’d need to do is ‘tune’ the actual sample. Processing is something that changes the sample.. it’s destructive… tuning via midi keeps the sample the same and just transposes it. It just feels more flexible – you can change the pitch at any point without changing the source sample.

Structuring

Having to drag a large collection of audio regions that you have to drag around feels like it’s making structuring harder. If you put the regions into a folder of 4 or 8 bars it can help but it still doesn’t feel as flexible as using MIDI for the programming. The other thing is the video card has to work harder to draw all of the individual waveforms.. video performance is therefore degraded.

Velocity

You just can’t do this with audio unless you go in changing the gain of each sample or using automation to do so. You could of course use sidechaining to simulate this – hats being ducked by a kick for example.

Performance

Placing beats into the arrangement is not the same as ‘performing’ them. It feels soulless to me, although.. I have used the approach a few times. I can’t discount it as a technique as it can yield great results – it just feels like ‘you’ cannot manifest yourself into the beat properly.

Now i’m not knocking anyone who uses this technique, Roska for example makes great music. I’m just trying to get my head around WHY people use it so i’m all ears – please let me know the plus points I may be missing. Bear in mind that this is a technique that didn’t exist pre DAW’s – many classic club tunes were made using the traditional midi plus samples approach (and i’m pretty old school)

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Subtractive Structure and Arrangement

Like me you’ve probably got a large collection of unfinished track ideas. How do you get the motivation to finish them? Modern DAWs try hard to help you break free of this process; Ableton with its Session View and clip triggering, Cubase with its Arranger Track and Logic, well Logic hasn’t really done anything to help with this one except the antiquated environment touch tracks and the speed and simplicity of pushing L on a region to loop it. I’ve been using a multitude of ‘contemporary’ approaches over the last few years and have come to the conclusion that the plain old vintage 90s technique of ‘Subtractive Structure and Arrangement’ is the best method for me.

Back in the 90s, Cubase on the Atari was the most common sequencer I would see in recording studios. Everyone I watched used it in the same way, building 8 bar chunks of musical elements in cycle mode to start and then filling the screen with muted copies. The structure was then created through an un-mute process. The approach worked and still does today because it allows a visual approach to the arrangement. It’s clear to see the ‘shape’ of the structure and to bind it to the time domain. Using this approach today has enabled me to rinse through a stack of unfinished ideas and shape them up into nearly complete tracks, in a fraction of the time taken with other methods. It has truly revitalised my approach to composition and I can’t believe i’d left it behind in favour of more recent approaches.

I’ve created a video playlist featuring Cubase and Ableton examples of Subtractive Structuring. Give it a go for yourselves and let me know how you get on with it, possibly you’ll find the great results I have.

The Future Of Composition Through Big Data

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You know Shazam and Sound hound right? These companies have tech that ‘listens’ to the music you send to them via your mobile and identifies the track for you so you can buy it. I have no idea on ‘how’ they do this precisely but my guess is that it’s a time/frequency content ‘mapping’ process where the sonic EQ signature at various intervals is measured against the ‘master’ copy on the database. Variance will be accounted for in the algorithm in order for it to compensate for noise in the venue and often they’ll get it right. I wonder whether also they are mapping the texture at the beginning and end of each track; are there beats before the music hits? is that just a pad and piano on the intro behind the vocalist? Are the beats filtered on the intro? If so we could be looking at the early form of a database that could change the shape of music production forever.

Big Data

‘Big Data’ is slowly starting to hit the public’s consciousness. At the moment, companies such as Facebook and Google are at the epicentre of a staggeringly large amount of data gathering. Everything you do on the web is being logged and the database grows. In isolation much of this data will be pointless and irrelevant. When you think about this being multiplied by the amount of people using the web however, the amount of data is enormous and can be used by algorithms to spot trends, recommend better ads for you etc.. Most of you will have a basic understanding of how peer to peer file sharing works; multiple computers sharing the load of distributing a single file. If you’re a Apple Logic Pro user you may also have come across Logic Nodes. These allow you to spread the computation of various effects processes or instruments across multiple macs on the local network. The technology behind big data is similar where multiple computers are being used to process a huge amount of information quickly and efficiently.

The Gathering

Coming back to my questions about Shazam/Soundhounds sniffing algorithm, I wonder just how much data they are gathering and exactly what could be done with it? What if that database could be used to create music, algorithmically composed in a way that would mimic those who have released tracks that the public have loved. Firstly, the popularity of individual tracks IS being measured, and not just on Soundhound/Shazam. It’s also being monitored on every single music download and streaming site that exists. It’s not just used for charts, it’s used for profiling the customer base. If shopper X loves Kerri Chandler, it’s quite likely that he/she will like releases on the label Freerange. If shopper Y bought 3 tracks by Disclosure it’s very likely they will be interested in a mailshot about the new album when it drops. You get the picture? Now imagine if you improved the sniffing algorithm by incorporating something like Melodyne’s DNA tech, enabling it to pick out melodies, basslines, riffs etc and map them to MIDI. Algorithms could build a ‘structure map’ of every single track out there. Did the bassline come in at 32 bars? Was there a pre-chorus? A middle 8? All of these questions would be answered by the algorithm and put into a database. Combine this with additional data data sources; the streaming sites and the sales sites and also just for fun throw in a little social data such as facebook likes, shares, youtube insights data and you will be facing the SKYNET of music composition, something that could threaten every composer/producer on the planet.

The Future

Your laptop/home computer is unlikely to have enough storage space or processing power to do this. A distributed processing network spanning the web that you access from within Ableton/Cubase/Logic etc could be the method used. You and thousands of others will share the load in computing the best choice of instruments to use in combination with each other, the best time to drop that bassline, the best musical key to start with, the perfect length of the track for YOUR favourite DJs. The list goes on, every single possible permutation will have been analysed and the best of the list presented to you, with case examples from historic releases (which you can buy of course) Sliders will allow you to mix up influences; existing track a bit too Goldie? want a touch of LTJ bukem? Just move your sliders on the interface, dial the flavours up. And how about this? these sliders might be monetised. If you dial in a bit of an artist they will get paid for it 😉 It’s all gonna get crazy over the next couple of decades people… Strap yourself in, it’s gonna be a wild ride!

PS if you build something using my ideas please make sure you cut me in on the profits. THANKS!

Streaming Music – Give Albums A Chance

I had an interesting experience yesterday when checking out the new album from Elements Of Life. I’m a huge fan of Louie Vega and was seriously looking forward to this LP so when I saw it was available for streaming on Spotify I dived right in. I scan listened a few tracks and my immediate reaction wasn’t positive:

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The main issue for me at that point was the lyrical content. On a single track basis the examples I checked out sounded too sugar coated, bland even. I guess I was looking for an edge that just wasn’t there.

I’m too much of a hardcore fan though and needed to give it another chance. I cue’d it up on my iPhone and made it my soundtrack for the journey into work:

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The introduction track “Balance In All Things’ set the mood perfectly, Ursula Rucker bringing the serious words over a rather Robert Glasper-esque piano piece.

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I’m a huge fan of Robert Glasper so was into this for sure. The next track “Canto Para Ochosi” blended in seamlessly with lush vocal harmonies and turned into an afro latin jam..

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Sonically I found myself listening to something that was sumptuous, a luxuriously recorded ‘experience’ with true musicianship. It’s quite rare these days for an album from this scene to sound so ‘expensive’. The album actually began to feel like a ‘concept album’ where a story is told across the duration. We’ve had terrible weather in the UK and this album really needs to be heard in the sun…. I tried to put myself in a brighter world.. it helped..

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At this point It got me thinking.. streaming music is a relatively new thing in the lifetime of the music business. In the past we bought an LP or CD and because of the financial investment in it we played it from beginning to end, sat with it, lived with it, made it part of our lives.

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Spotify and other streaming services give us the opportunity to listen to any track from an enormous pool of music, our attention span is short, distracted by the attentions of something else to listen to. We don’t have to take the CD out, put it back in its case, go and get another one to listen to. It’s way too convenient.. but that’s also a great thing.

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I came to this realisation on the journey and decided to put more faith into this album and try to experience it properly, pay my respects to the creators..

So I got to one of the tracks I auditioned the night before, the one with the lyrics I just wasn’t feelin’.

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Now, after all of the tracks that had come before it this song made sense. In isolation I didn’t like it but as part of the ‘journey’ it worked. If I had heard it at this position in the album timeline before I would have been sold.

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So it’s got me re-appraising how I use streaming services. I have made an internal pledge to give albums proper attention and time when I listen to them. Taking tracks out of context just isn’t fair.

What’s missing from digital?

I’ve been into a lot of Conan Liquid’s productions over the years and when I see a link on twitter or facebook it’s always a definite listen. So I dashed over to Traxsource to take a listen to the new one. On first listen I didn’t ‘get’ it at all, I just thought it sounded nothing like the usual kind of Conan Liquid track. I looked at the artwork, looked at the waveform and still didn’t get it. Then I read the text; here’s an extract:

“The aim was to create a release that sounded like an undiscovered 80’s 12″. One that we stumble across in a second hand store on a label we’ve never heard of” (Conan Liquid).

This of course resonated with me, being a vinyl hunting teenager in the 80s (I actually worked in a record shop too) I decided to listen again, this time with my eyes shut. Everything slotted into place, I was transported back to that timeframe, back to that record shop and back to those early 80s parties I went to when I was under the legal age to drink. 

Why didn’t I feel this on first listen? Was I distracted by the identikit template format of the shop page? The artwork didn’t convey the music for me but I don’t want to go nitpicking, this is a nice release. I think something is missing, not just from this track but all tracks on digital stores – itunes included.

You can see why vinyl is so popular again, it’s the ‘experience’ of finding a track, taking it out of the sleeve and physically putting a record on a deck. Despite becoming an evangelist of the digital sound I do miss this aspect. If only there were a to recreate this experience somehow in a digital store? Traxsource’s website update is great but I wonder if instead of a generic template for ALL pages we need to start seeing stores where the labels have a large degree of customisation, almost like myspace of old. The selling framework is there but more of an identity is available. I don’t know, it feels like things could be ‘better’ in the digital world in the future, we just need someone to come along with creative thinking and good funding. Anyone got any ideas?

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Out now – http://www.traxsource.com/title/209749/the-basement-tapes-volume-1