Fortunately for the music video format, cheaper production workflows and negligible Internet distribution costs have allowed them to return with a vengeance. Everyone can pick up a camera and release a music video online. Exciting times. The problem? There’s more competition to hear your song now than ever before. It is much more difficult to grab an audience’s attention.
It’s time again to kick things up a notch. Watching your music is not enough anymore; it’s time to interact with it as well. I don’t mean Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band; I mean dynamic music experiences online. I’ve seen a few interactive music projects before, but Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” ranks at the top of my list. Built for the browser with WebGL, “Lights” takes you on a visual 3D journey of light and form through which you have some control. I STRONGLY encourage you to experience it for yourself.
In the digital age, we are saturated with music. It’s amazing to me that people aren’t more overwhelmed by it. I have 12,297 songs (nearly 700 hours of music, 56.2 GB) in my library, 82% of which I haven’t listened to yet. That does not include some 1,200 tracks that haven’t been added to my library yet. Almost all of my music comes from recommendations and shares by friends. Without some sense of order, I may never be able to listen to it all. But I’m going to try.
To keep things straight, I use the 5-star rating system integrated into the major audio players (I use both Windows Media Player and iTunes to manage my library). Inspired in part by the way friend Greg Stanwood rates movies, I assign each star a qualitative value. To get a 5-star rating, a track must:
Star 1: Demonstrate strong musical talent
Star 2: Be recorded and mixed well
Star 3: Have a captivating arc and appropriate duration
Star 4: Survive repeat listening
Star 5: Evoke a notable emotional reaction
Conveniently enough, the result of awarding these stars to tracks informs me how to handle them in the future (I delete tracks that get zero stars):
1 Star: Never again!
2 Stars: Not terrible, but no thanks.
3 Stars: Average, sweet enough to keep at hand.
4 Stars: Listen again!
5 Stars: Love and keep forever.
Only tracks that get four or five stars (636 and 265 tracks respectively so far) make it to my iPod or car stereo. With this level of organization, you can bet I have a pretty awesome party mix.
In hopes of discovering new music, I am methodically working my way down the entire library song list to listen to everything I own. Over time, I will share some of my data and ratings with you. Pulling the metadata into excel, I have already discovered my favorite music year so far was apparently 2003!
My MP3 play count for “I’m Not The One” by The Black Keys: 43
My MP3 play count for “Down for Whatever” by Ice Cube: 2
Who deserves more money, at least on my behalf? Well, obviously The Black Keys.
The way things are now, they each get the same. I purchased both MP3s for 99 cents and each artist collects a whopping 9 cents of that. Not fair, huh? The Black Keys should definitely get a bigger chunk of my money than Ice Cube (and a bigger chunk of that 99-cent MP3 sale, but that’s a different point). If an artist earns more plays, he or she should earn more dough. But it has never worked that way for consumer media ownership – pay for the album once and never have to pay for it again.
Artists theoretically collect more money per program their songs are used in. Current performance rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and SoundExchange) use abstract systems of surveys and credits to track television, radio and public space plays to determine artist payments. Their systems are just as arbitrary and myopic as the Nielsen ratings. Needless to say, artists’ residuals are not accurate and cannot reflect the actual popularity of their music.
As digital space envelopes us, tracking is becoming easier and easier. By the end of the year, I predict that our entire music library can be synced to the cloud (Grooveshark has offered library uploading for a long time and Google Music sounds like it will be a formidable competitor in this space). Eventually, all music will be trafficked through the Internet. When this happens, play count data can be synced and shared. Artists and record companies can finally get accurate reporting on their play counts (and even more accurate insight into audience reception). Artists can get paid the portion they deserve, at least next to other artists. Plays will become more valuable than pays.
The trick is getting money into the system. I don’t think Google will have a problem with that, though.