Deciphering Culture

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Short Takes: Tracking Musical Taste — Trendsetting Cities

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Earlier this year, I prepared a literature review on changes in musical taste for a study commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony so the ephemeral subject of how musical tastes develop, shift, morph (choose a verb) is a little higher on my radar than usual. Discover Magazine recently published a quick summary of a research paper that maps the geographic flow of music on the social-networking music site Last.fm. There’s more to it than this but the researchers found that among American Last.fm users, Atlanta is the trendsetting city. There are some quibbles I have with how grand a conclusion you can make based on info. gathered from a single social media site but it’s interesting and they created some cool info graphics so I’d recommend checking it out: Which City Is the Musical Tastemaker for the US? Hint: Not NY or LA.

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

May 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm

The limits of GPS: looking for a labyrinth on the edge of a cliff

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Labyrinth at Eagle's Point (Land's End, San Francisco)

In an earlier post (Tommy on the edge of a cliff), I wrote about the experience  of walking the labyrinth at Eagle’s Point in San Francisco’s  Golden Gate National Recreation Area. What I didn’t write about was the role technology  played in finding the location of the labyrinth, which is a user-created feature of the GGNRA and not officially acknowledged. As I wrote in “Tommy on the edge of a cliff,” a Google search located three labyrinths in San Francisco and I decided to visit the one at Eagle’s Point along the Land’s End trail where the bay meets the ocean. Before I left to drive across town, I plotted and saved the journey on Google maps on my trusty iPhone. Once I arrived at the trailhead, I relied upon the GPS function of the iPhone to find my way to Eagle’s Point.  I was surprised to find the trails in the GGNRA clearly marked on Google maps but quickly found that the GPS that works so seamlessly on city streets and freeways was out of its depth. The twists and turns of the trails made simple instructions—”take the next left”— seem meaningless and vague. What on later occasions would be a 20 minute walk turned into a circuitous 40 minute hike.

The conclusion I draw from this experience is not the inadequacy of GPS in non-urban settings but how completely the use of GPS has infiltrated  my approach to  finding  my way. I later found that the trail markers in the Land’s End area of the GGNRA clearly indicate the directions to Eagle’s Point and following them creates a much shorter  route to the labyrinth.

As a note: this post was inspired by the Omni Project of Portugal Consulting, “a self-funded study about the impact that digital technology is having on our lives.” Well worth checking out.

 

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

November 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Short takes: Music industry trends in “recommendation & discovery”

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I spent a good portion of Monday at the latest edition of the SF Music Tech Summit. My name tag this time said “SF Weekly” instead of “Deciphering Culture” (I asked for dual identification) so a lot of people buttonholed me to get coverage for a new service. Not surprisingly, most of them fell into the “recommendation and discovery” segment although none of the pitches left me convinced of the efficacy of any of the new spins on the work of the established players. Also,  not surprisingly my blog post for SF Weekly’s All Shook Down blog focused on a SRO panel that featured some of the heavy hitters in R & D. The relevant excerpt below.

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S.F. MusicTech Summit: How Do Listeners Want to Discover New Music?
All Shook Down

  • by Jeffrey Callen on 5/10/11 @ 7:29 pm

….The standing-room-only “Recommendation & Discovery” panel offered one of the more interesting glimpses into the internal logic of the music industry machine. Chaired by Kevin Arnold of IODA (also creator of S.F.’s annual Noise Pop festival), the panel brought together some of the heavy hitters in the music search business, including MOGRovi CorporationThe Filter (a Peter Gabriel brainchild), and Slacker.

An interesting discussion on the nuts-and-bolts of music recommendation and discovery services offered some contradictory food for thought. Music consumers looking for recommendations “prefer a man-to-machine to a man-to-man relationship” (David Hyman of MOG), and if you focus on personalized user specs, you get information that is increasingly “granular” (David Roberts of The Filter). Yet R & D is a “human-centric task,” said Adam Powers of Rovi. Powers also asserted that when Rovi, a giant in the R&D world, was looking at other companies to acquire, it found 250 that thought they had R&D nailed. But from the number of R&D company reps in attendance at the SF Music Tech Summit, it seems that either that news hasn’t gotten out, or nobody’s actually nailed it.

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All Shook Down

  • by Jeffrey Callen on 5/10/11 @ 7:29 pm

SF MusicTech: Has Over-Tweeting Killed the Mystery Around Musicians? (SF Weekly)

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My first contribution to SF Weekly‘s All Shook Down blog:

SF MusicTech: Has Over-Tweeting Killed the Mystery Around Musicians?


By Jeffrey Callen, Tue., Dec. 7 2010 @ 8:09AM
The only discernable displays of emotion at yesterday’s S.F. MusicTech Summit — the seventh such gathering of musicians, techies, and industry types — came during the artist panel at the end of the day. Moderator Tamara Conniff (founder of The Comet and former editor-in-chief of Billboard) set the stage for a discussion of how the artists on the panel used social media to build their careers — but the panel took this subject and ran with it.
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​In response to Conniff’s question about whether musicians had ended the “mystery” that stars used to have through over-tweeting, Evan Lowenstein (of Evan and Jaron, the twin brothers responsible for 2000’s “Crazy for this Girl“) said the “romance needs to come back between artists and fans,” and plugged his website StageIt, a social media site designed for musicians, as one means toward that end. Oakland’s own Del the Funky Homosapien said all that was needed to bring back the mystery was to create “good product.” Lebo (of ALO) and singer-songwriter Raul Malo (formerly with the Mavericks) said what solidified their relationships with their fans was playing live, not tweeting or Facebook.
After some theorizing about where and how it had gone wrong, the entire panel agreed that the industry was ready for change, and stressed the need for creating one-of-a-kind musical experiences: live internet concerts (Lowenstein), a return to albums with artwork and credits (Del) and bringing back vinyl and analog sound (Malo and Lebo). Showing that they’d all talked with an MBA or two at some point, the panel disagreed about whether “the long tail model” had gone too far in opening up the music market, but agreed with Malo that, “we don’t need the wizard behind the curtain anymore.” It’s a new day for artists and fans; where it will take us is hard to say.
My interest at yesterday’s summit was captured by what the changes — tech, biz, and social — mean for the music-makers themselves. Is the landscape for creativity opening up or closing down? Are the new revenue streams offering creative independence for artists, or is “the new boss the same as the old boss?” (for the rest)

Short takes — The changing face of social media (4)

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Two interesting articles on social media:

  • First from Kyle Bylin of music industry site Hypebot.com on  how the pervasive use of social media to promote new bands is a double-edged sword, at best.

A New Age Of Extremes: Why The Social Media Hype Machine Kills What It Creates Too

An illuminating excerpt:

The emergence of the social web, one fueled by Tweets, status updates, and blog posts informs the same audience of what they should be listening to right now. This very minute. Artists that get caught in the stream, however delighted they are to be plucked from obscurity, oftentimes lack the resources to properly capitalize on their newfound stardom. Some have have the sites and the widgets. Some don’t. That or they’re just not mentally or emotionally ready to deal with it.

The slayer of these types of breakout artists—major label represented, indie, or otherwise—that same unfortunate paradox, is that the media hype machine that created them will likely kill them before it makes them stronger. Some may make it out alive. But, sadly, for most artists, the odds aren’t stacked in their favor.

 

  • And an interesting article by Jay Baer over at Convince & Convert on when the social media winners and losers will begin to appear — great opening line (see below). Baer predicts it will begin to shake out in about 18 months.

When Will the Social Media Losers Emerge?.

Today, social media is like a soccer league for seven year-olds: everyone gets a trophy.

The vast majority of press coverage and conversations around social media centers around the fact that businesses are DOING social media, not necessarily doing it EFFECTIVELY. Do you know why every article or blog post with even a scintilla of information about success metrics goes supernova? Because we’re still in the social media head-patting phase, and we’re handing out participation ribbons by the truckload. Thus, anything with real data snaps us to attention like a Taser. (read on)

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Short takes — The changing face of social media (3)

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iTunes Icon

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An email sent to iTunes users this morning touted its Ping music social network which “lets you follow your favorite artists and friends to discover the music they’re talking about, listening to, and downloading.” Unfortunately many independent artists are still left out of the conversation. That same email from Apple stated that just over 2000 artists were on Ping. This low level of artist participation is not, however, usually by choice. (from Hypebot.com)

Short takes — The changing face of social media (2)

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Image representing MySpace as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

 

The much-hyped inevitable demise of MySpace may not be the done deal that many commentators are presuming. MySpace has carved out a niche for musicians that may not be easily replaced. Contradicting much of what has been written on the site lately, Bruce Houghton of Hypebot offers 6 Reasons Not To Quit MySpace:

 

1.  Eyeballs

Nearly 60 million unique visitors viewed 500 million pages on MySpace last month. Those numbers may be smaller than a year ago, but they are are still significant. And I don’t buy the argument that most of them are other musicians.

2. Search Rank

Search for most bands and MySpace will usually appear as one of the top 5 results.  Can you afford to have fans click on that link and find a dead or out of date MySpace page?

3. MySpace Is Still Mostly About Music

There are some good music add-ons for Facebook, but MySpace is still about music at its core. A place about music attracts fans and bands should want to be where fans are.

4. It’s Easy

MySpace not be pretty, but it is easy. Services like Hoote Sutie to Sonicbid’s ArtistData make it simple to keep multiple social networks up to date simultaneously.

5. If Other’s Aren’t There…

Be a contrarian. If some artists are quiting MySpace or leaving pages unattended, that decreases the competition for those 60 million pairs of eyes.

6. The Makeover

MySpace is in the middle of a major makeover.  I’m as skeptical as you are that it won’t help. (Check out their absurd new logo). But is it smart to delete your account before we find out?

 

And David Harrell of Music Think Tank offers a nuts-and-bolts analysis of #2  — why MySpace has and will probably maintain its high search result rank for music acts: MySpace Still Rules Google Search Results for Music Acts

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