2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life


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Streaming services make charts meaningless

Streaming services like Spotify are making charts meaningless. No matter how many plays they say equals a bought track it’s not the same.

Music fans skipping through a whole album in 3 minutes is not the same as actually buying a CD or vinyl or even a download.

That’s why songs are staying in the charts so long or why one artist (the ginger busker for example) hogged all the chart places.

Not since the 1950s have songs stayed so long in the charts i.e. when  songs like “I believe” by Frankie Lane stayed at No 1 for 18 weeks or “Secret love” by Doris Day (9 weeks) and “Cara Mia” by David Whitfield (10 weeks).

Last year’s single “Despacito” stayed top for 22 weeks as did songs by the afore-mentioned Ed Sheeran, and Drake.

Of course we’ve had other long stays at No 1 when people actually bought records e.g. “Everything I do for you” by Bryan Adams in 1991, “Love is all around” by Wet, Wet, Wet in 1994, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen in both 1975 and 1991. But it seems that’s not going to happen again.

The chief pop and rock critic of The Times (which ran this story) said “The charts are essentially broken. They are no longer a representation of what people actually listen to“.

The way the system works makes it harder for new artists to break into the mainstream because the playlists offer up only a small sample of songs.

Streaming also has an impact on song-writing.

No more three-minute pop songs as streaming services start paying royalties after 30 seconds. So you don’t even have to play a whole song . Which explains how Ed Sheeran’s album dominated all the top 10 spots last year.

Slow build-ups are out. You have to get the hook or the song title in during the first 30 seconds. Like an executive summary so people know what to expect e.g. in Despacito

And choruses (or pre-choruses) had better get in early or, as Spotify’s head of songwriter relations says “if you’re not loving it you’re skipping it”.

An analysis of hundreds of hits over the past 30 years (published in Musicae Scientiae) found that intros averaged about 20 seconds in the mid 80s but only 5 seconds today.

So great songs from the past that wouldn’t get a look in the charts today include “Hotel California”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, Shine on you Crazy Diamond”, “Money for Nothing” and other Dire Straits songs I might add like “Telegraph Road“.

Is it the listening public’s need for instant gratification (brain-damaged by over-using smartphones) or just a commercial ploy by the streaming services. Whichever I don’t like it!


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Music while you work

Biz Psycho

Millennials are re-creating the war-time experiences of having music played in factories by bringing music into offices.

Last year PRS for Music, the music licensing organisation which collects royalties for musicians, granted 27,000 licences for offices to play recorded music, up almost 10% on the previous year.

And that’s good news for musicians who must be heartily sick of being ripped off by young people ripping tracks from web-sites in the belief that they are “entitled” to free music.

Whether or not music does help productivity is open to debate. Certainly the government thought it did during WWII when they promoted “Music While You Work“.

The American company Musak actually patented a “Stimulus Progression” system to keep factory workers focussed by varying the intensity of the music in 15 minute chunks; something I have posted about elsewhere

Many factories have scrapped music on health &…

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Young people think its OK to rip off musicians

vibe_headphones_speakers_1600_wht_5392About half of young people aged 16-24 are illegally copying songs off streaming websites such as YouTube and three-quarters of them don’t think they’re doing anything wrong!

Streaming has overtaken both physical sales and digital downloads as the most popular way off listening to music. When they do want a copy they use an app to “rip” the song illegally and download it according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

The most popular stream-ripping sites receive 900 million visits in July. “Stream-ripping” has overtaken file-sharing as the most common form of piracy.

And that’s what it is. Something for nothing? No stealing. Someone is paying to produce that music and it’s not these young people whose sense of entitlement appears to extend to depriving musicians of their livelihood.

The recording industry would like YouTube to pay more to artists as they say 82% of young people use the site to listen to music as much as music sites like Spotify. YouTube denies that saying users only spend an hour a month listening to music “far less than music-only platforms”.

Spotify and Apple music paid £1.5billion to record labels last year while YouTube paid a measly £480 million.

Surely the point is that these stream-ripping sites are encouraging people to break the law and steal the work of musicians. And the people who steal it think it’s OK to do that!


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Niche music

vibe_headphones_speakers_1600_wht_5392Spotify has published a list of the 50 most obscure genres of music from among the 1,371 that it recognises.

First of all I’m astounded that there are over a thousand genres but when you look at some of the categories e.g. Aussitronica, or drone music you realise where they’re coming from.

Some of the names I quite like such as vintage swoon, which says it all about crooners and their like.

New weird America is not so weird really comprising an indie folk/rock variant descended from psychedelic folk and rock from the 1960s and 1970s. Come back Donovan all is forgiven! St Vincent is classified as Freak Folk apparently, presumably a reference to the music and not the artist although it can’t be long before we have gender fluid indie music.

Military pop is self-explanatory you might think but it actually combines military music with industrial, dark ambient, neo-folk and neo-classical genres. I first came across dark ambient in a music shop in Vilnius, Lithuania called Baltic music – alas no longer there – where I bought some interesting CDs.

Spytrack music is self-explanatory and Nerdcore is hip-hop for nerds i.e. the lyrics focusing on sci-fi and computer games. Beam me up!

Mediaeval Rock  has elements of mediaeval, baroque and renaissance music whereas black sludge is black metal i.e. ethereal heavy metal and sludge or droning heavy metal.

Deep Liquid bass has sleek synths from liquid (flowing) electronica with bass lines from drum ‘n bass.

Bubble trance is bright upbeat trance (hypnotic electronica) whereas Catstep is aggressive filthstep (?) which is loud, heavy, bassy, distorted electronica.

Spotify describes these genres as “the secret rainforest dwellers and deep undersea creatures of the genre world

I would describe some of them as utter rubbish but then I like to hear a tune in there somewhere with a penchant for soft rock and country rock. Having said that I did buy a Russian electronic folk album a few years ago which features the sound of ping-pong balls among other esoteric instruments. And my friend has a penchant for death thrash metal.

Just for fun I found this youtube of a metal version of a Russian electronic dance folk song.

Spotify uses a music intelligence system which classifies artists into genres by matching music on the web with songs in its catalogue. The genres emerge based on how the music sounds and how people describe it. I wonder if narcocorrido or neomelodici music is in there?

Its most played tune is Lean On by Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring Danish singer MØ which is classified as electronic dance music.and has been played over 500 million times.

Bring back Spinal Tap!