Users will understand that they are improving their experience by providing information about their tastes without linking that information to a name or address or other sensitive data that might endanger them, especially since they are exchanging pirated music.
This quote, from an email sent by Sean Parker to Shawn Fanning in the early days of Napster, was discovered by the prosecuting attorneys, thereby killing any chance Napster had at claiming the protections under the Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios precedent, or the Safe Harbor Provision of the DMCA. In short, it was proof that Napster knew people were trading copyrighted files through its networks—it wasn’t an innocent technology that happened to have pirates using it.
What I find interesting about this quote is Parker’s desire to ensure privacy for Napster users. They could provide information about their tastes to “improve their experience,” but the system should guarantee their anonymity so they’re indemnified against legal action.
Parker was more or less predicting the streaming platform model in a pirate version: delivering “relevant” music to users who provided activity/taste data to the system. Within the email that killed Napster, in other words, is the basis for every legal streaming platform that has emerged in its lengthy shadow.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you think the PBR&B "label or genre" has grown with The Weeknd being touted as the king of PBR&B. Is that something you regret saying?
I don’t regret saying it—it was a joke on Twitter I made one day amongst thousands of terrible jokes I’ve made on Twitter—but I’m fairly shocked at how far it’s traveled on its own. And yes, it’s stupid.
At this link is a CFP for a special issue of the Creative Industries Journal that myself and Kyle Barnett are co-editing. Please feel free to circulate to your relevant networks and forward any questions to me!
In other words, only those ‘at the center’—i.e., those with power, whether economic, cultural, or social—get to decide when the rules of taste are to be suspended or changed. This may be less true for pop music than it is for, say, conceptual art, but if Bourdieu’s sociology has taught us anything, it’s that basic differences in status (whether economic, educational, sexual, or racial) ramify in every cultural field until they add up to mammoth structural inequalities. Pop fandom may be a relatively diverse field (pop criticism rather less so), but a book-length defense of Céline Dion would not be as effective coming from someone unlike Wilson (a middle-aged Midwestern widow, for instance). Thus, Sterne sensibly concludes, while ‘[w]e should refuse to cast good taste—and all the trappings of social class that come with it—as a moral achievement … the abandonment of good taste can also function as a moral ‘achievement,’ as a marker of class and age distinction, in the same way that good taste once did.’
This gets to the heart of what bugs me about Wilson’s self-congratulatory final chapter, in which he gets a bit misty-eyed about ‘democracy, that dangerous, paradoxical and mostly unattempted ideal’—as if his good-faith attempt to appreciate the career of a global pop star should be read as not just a broadminded act of criticism, but a contribution to a more just society. Wilson’s utopianism, however attractive, is ultimately unconvincing. Understanding the passionate fans of an artist you hate is indeed an interesting critical exercise, and maybe even an interesting ethical one; but it’s going too far to see it as political, i.e., as providing the basis for some kind of realizable, universalizable community.
“Love, Factionally.” Evan Kindley’s detailed review* of Carl Wilson’s re-released Let’s Talk About Love is definitely worth a read.
*Here, of Jonathan Sterne’s contribution to the new volume.
How Not To Sound Like A Fool When Talking About Mastering, Vinyl, CDs, etc.
Today, I posted a mini-rant on Facebook around the old, current and perpetual audio medium war. It was inspired by a posting by Oliver Wang on his great blog Soul Sides. Here is that entry. I agree with the entry, but the resulting comments from it on various Facebook threads exhibited that there are certain technical issues that are still misunderstood by many. I posted most of the following off the top of my head earlier today, and I was kinda blown away by the positive response. So here it is, with some slight changes and amendments to make it a little less sloppy
Mastering vinyl from digital sources doesn’t universally suck, nor does it suck at all. It’s the majority of people who have no clue and/or no care for what they’re doing while mastering modern vinyl that suck. The issues that make these vinyl issues suck may easily be a different issue than any digital source or the vinyl part altogether. It could be the player. It’s often cheap headphones or speakers.
CDs and MP3s are not the same thing — especially 128kbps encoded MP3s. If you equate the two in an argument about “digital” media sucking, you’re a goddamn fool.
Actually, any debate about the “sound quality” of a certain medium is doomed from the start. “Sound quality” is far too vague a term, yet it’s a phrase that’s all too easy to blurt out. If it’s ever brought up in an argument, either clarify the phrase, or end the argument.
High-end open reel-to-reel tape has a better frequency range than both vinyl and CD. If you want to brag about Massive Frequency Superiority, show off your 2-inch tape machine instead of your turntable or high-end CD/DVD player.
Vinyl does not have a wider frequency range than CD audio, for practical purposes. Vinyl can handle higher frequencies than 20kHz, but these are frequencies humans can’t hear. Vinyl does more poorly with low frequencies — circa 20Hz — than CD because of rumble. That’s not vinyl’s fault. That’s your turntable cartridge’s fault. More to the point, it’s the turntable owner who needs to get a more boomin’ cartridge. Either way, CD audio frequency ranges are pretty much the same as vinyl, but without any contact-media complications
Vinyl’s technical advantage over CDs is its resolution. (Think of frequency range as the range of the color palette, and resolution as how detailed and life-like the painting looks.) Vinyl does not quantize its sound reproduction, which CDs and digital sources do, by definition. However, vinyl is only superior in resolution if the mastering source has equal or higher resolution, such as high-end reel-to-reel tape. That said, that same sound source as uncompressed 16-bit or preferably 24-bit digital audio is barely audibly inferior to reel-to-reel to most people. If the digital source is a low-bit-rate MP3, that MP3 will almost certainly sound better than the vinyl mastered from it.
A vinyl release with minor flaws can easily sound inferior to a well-done CD.
A CD release with minor flaws can easily sound inferior to a well-done vinyl release.
In the case of the latter two, you may blame the artist, the mixer, the studio, the mastering engineer, the record label, whatever. But don’t blame the medium.
Replace “vinyl”, “turntable”, “cartridge”, and “rumble” above with "cassette", "cassette deck", "playback head", and "tape hiss" respectively, and you have all you need to know about cassettes vs. CD as well — more or less.
Most people like the packaging and feel of holding a vinyl release than a CD release or MP3 release, for reasons of rumination, visual art aesthetics, and ergonomics. This is a perfectly valid opinion to uphold. It is no more than an opinion. Yet, that opinion is holding major economic sway these days, whether you like it or not. And "sound quality" has zero to do with vinyl’s high media profile today — except for when you buy and complain about horribly mastered vinyl, in which case go to the first bulletpoint.
I do want you to think about the culture of our criticism, because I feel like it’s ever more beholden to a kind of blind posturing that wants to stop it from saying anything useful or true. Let’s go ahead and call this posturing The Game.
The Game is largely played by people who are white and/or middle-class, and much of it involves trying to outmaneuver one another about precisely that fact. At the heart of The Game is fear and loathing and boredom concerning the possibility of being bourgeois. Being bourgeois is The Game’s great sin, and it is often referred to using the code word “white.” If you can’t avoid this sin by virtue of being working-class or Ghanaian or something, your best bet is to deftly corner the market on wary “whiteness”-based critiques of anything that smacks of being bourgeois. The critique will try to present itself as an incisive dismantling of class/race/privilege, but at its heart it will just be “oh noes bourgeois.” The great paradox here, of course, is that The Game is itself an incredibly bourgeois pastime, but never mind that (…)
Jessica and Vampire Weekend aside, this bit is Still Very Relevant.
I’m enjoying, though that isn’t the right word, Simon Head’s Mindless, which despite its stupid post-Gladwellian subtitle (“Why Smarter Machines Are Making Dumber Humans”) is mostly about the “working class-ization” of white collar and service work via Computer Business Systems (CBS’s), and the…
It is not an accident that across the space of a century, the interface between media ideas and food chemistry ideas moves from technological reproduction and preservation to synthesis and replacement. Where in the 19th century ideas about the preservative power of sound recording borrowed their language from canning and embalming, in the 20th century, ideas of artificial sound synthesis limn sound creation with food creation. In both fields, a processed world emerges.
Jonathan Sterne, in his #digitalkeywords draft for the word “analog.” The more I read about 21st century resistances to the ongoing effects of 20th century technologies, the more the trajectories of music and food align.
So yesterday I took a slew of photos from the August 1988 issue of Musician magazine, the same issue that contained the Gina Arnold story on indie rock finances I shared out last week. These photos, though, were of a number of the ads throughout. And they were very of the time…