How streaming has changed song structures

From Martin Connor, here is a list of seven mechanisms, you can read the explanations at the link:

1. Streamings’ Data Collection Makes Songs Simpler

2. Streaming Sites’ Social Media Makes Songs Confessional

3. Small Streaming Profits Make Songs Shorter

4. Streaming’s Customizability Makes Songs Built To Order

5. Content Digitization Makes Songs More Diverse [TC: does that contradict some of the other general claims?]

6. Free Content Makes Songs More Collaborative [TC: and here’s the explanation for this one:]

Artistic competition is so fierce nowadays that artists need to constantly release music. One way to do this is to make songs shorter and simpler; another way is to get a producer to make the beat, a singer to make the chorus, and another rapper for the second verse. This leads to Migos member Offset, DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Chance The Rapper, and Lil Wayne all appearing on the same 2017 song, “I’m The One.” It also means that fans start to see credits like those from Cardi B’s new album “Invasion of Privacy”. The 13 tracks on the album features 104 total writing credits, meaning 8 people per track. Its single “Be Careful” has 17 alone.

7. Video’s Increasing Dominance Makes Songs Into Soundtracks

Via the excellent Samir Varma.


6. Credits. Its how you get paid in perpetuity.

Eddie Van Halen - Beat It guitar solo

"Quincy had called me up and asked me if I wanted to do it. Honest-to-God's truth, the band's policy was 'We don't do things outside of the band.' And everyone was out of town, so I didn't have anybody to ask. I figured, who's gonna know if I play on this black kid's record? But the funniest thing of all, I actually rearranged the song." He also never got credit for it on the album cover: there's just a very big question mark behind the word guitar. Jones allegedly promised Van Halen a six-pack of beer as thanks, but that's never happened, according to the guitarist. Might as well jump.

Great story, thanks, new to me. That solo was pretty much the coolest thing on any Michael Jackson record.

"This black kid"? Geez.

what are you saying?

'does that contradict some of the other general claims'

Probably not - the ability to record still available physical media and then have it digitally available means that Armenia music of the period 1925 to 1940, for example, may now become accessible to a global audience, and not merely be pieces of vinyl in a library.

And since the basic cost involved is close to nil, that such ongoing digitization expands variety without have anything to do with current music production should be fairly plain.

(And for those with more eccentric tastes, every Sunday a WFMU DJ plays 5 songs on the air from Spotify, selected because they have 0 listeners. Of course she picks out listenable pieces, but the variety is fascinating - and has essentially nothing to do with current music production/creation techniques.)

Homogenization isn't limited to streaming music, it applies to books, home decor, you name it. Even political views, which have converged to form seven hidden tribes with the beliefs within each tribe almost identical with other members of the tribe but very different from the views of those in the other six tribes. The internet offers great diversity of music, books, political views, etc., but the effect of the internet is to actually narrow them.

Much of this sounds like "Streaming returns music to the way it really was on 1960s AM radio."

Artistic competition is so fierce nowadays that artists need to constantly release music.

Really? That must mean that guitarists and drummers might have to get out of bed before noon. Would that be competition between artists or competition between big recording companies like BMG and Sony? In fact, the most significant force in the music industry has been recording itself, which has eliminated many live acts while turning a few others into money machines. At the same time music from anywhere is available to anyone. Why should there be any complaints?

Agreed, the claim seems hyperbolic. If I don't like your music, will you making more of it change my mind? If I do like your music, who is your extra music competing with? Probably your own old music I liked.

It seems much more likely that rather than 'competing' with other artists for the 'hit', streaming has just opened up a new volume business model for artists. It's probably easier and more lucrative to churn short mediocre tunes that don't make people hit the thumbs down button than spend months or years crafting an album in the hopes it 'hits'.

The result is more artists making a modest living making music, but with neither the glamour of stardom or the romance of the starving artist; it's just a job... And I think that's really what is being objected to. Like healthcare people think art should be exempt from market forces.

If music is to be formulaic, is there any reason why it shouldn't be composed by AI and performed by synthesized voices and instruments?

Of course, you'd need to brand it with a human face, even if the "music star" only role is to be the front.

There are already many virtual pop stars, mainly in Asia unsurprisingly

Could be done, but AI systems have a big problem following real life changes that often play important parts in music. If you think about folk music, every nation has a tons of patterns, that are unique to them. Only in Spain there are like 40 easily distinguishable branches of folk music (each to it's own: Basque, Catalan, Andaluz, etc.) and many more sub-branches. The reason they differ can be as simple that the people creating it were living in a valley instead of the mountain top - two neighboring villages may have totally different kind of music. I used this example because contemporary music works in a very similar way. Now, the AI would have no problems mimicing the general differences between say goth speed metal and goth thrash metal, but when something new happens in the world (say a terrorist attack or a World War) the software would have difficulties figuring out how should it reflect upon it, and may come up with songs like "9/11 Almighty" or "Syrian swagster war".
That said, urban legends claim that many well established bands in the 70s/80s used so-called "lyrics cheatbooks" that contain a few thousand rhymes used by beat poets. Of course, the existence of such literature was never proven. When it comes to the instrumental part, it's even easier: the ill-famous 4 chords fit 90% of modern pop music.

Five people on a track titled "I'm the One" is kind of funny.

"7. Video’s Increasing Dominance Makes Songs Into Soundtracks"

I wonder if they said the same thing when MTV music videos were big.

There's plenty of indie & alternative bands making music -- not so commercial, often not played, sometimes a break out hit. Like Walk the Moon's "Shut up and dance with me" (I like a couple of their other tracks better).

I think after an artist makes 50 * the median wage (~$50k, *50 = $2.5 million), it would be OK to reduce gov't monopoly copyright protection -- decriminalize the free copying of songs from that artist, or movies starring that artist.

In this age of increasing wealth and decreasing meaning, there is no need of monopoly protection for rich artists - there's huge numbers who want to do the art of making music or movies.

Wow, I guess you can say some contemporary music has too many cooks (or "cucks" if you're a certain general...)

This is why today's music sucks...

No heart, No Soul, no meaning or personality or depth to connect to. You can't achieve this when 17 people are contributing, all from their home studios.

Just mail it in.

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