Here’s something cool, and something depressing – all in one.
What’s cool: Paul Lemere, participating at Cannes’ MIDEM Hack Day, built a tool that magically figures out where “the drop” is in a song.
What’s creepy and depressing – uh, to me, at least – it knows this because some of you apparently can’t resist scrubbing directly to that point in the song. Hey, wait a minute, isn’t the whole point some amount of anticipation before just immediately getting to the release of pl– I’m going to stop right there, as there is no family-friendly way to talk about this.
Paul Lemere has a great explanation of how he arrived at this knowledge – after some false starts using other approaches. He explains:
Every time you scrub your music player to play a particular bit of music on Spotify, that scrubbing is anonymously logged. If you scrub to the chorus or the guitar solo or the epic drop, it is noted in the logs. When one person scrubs to a particular point in a song, we learn a tiny bit about how that person feels about that part of the song – perhaps they like it more than the part that they are skipping over – or perhaps they are trying to learn the lyrics or the guitar fingering for that part of the song. Who’s to say? On an individual level, this data wouldn’t mean much. The cool part comes from the anonymous aggregate behavior of millions of listeners, from which a really detailed map of the song emerges.
The Drop Machine [Music Machinery]
Why do I think this is creepy, and alarming?
Because “Big Data” is already ruling music. When we talk about the so-called “Loudness Wars,” a lot of what we’re describing is a phenomenon by which brick-wall compression was designed to make music sound louder on increasingly consolidated, corporate-owned radio. Now, we live in a world where everything from ticket sales to streaming are owned by a handful of companies – and they all have access to this data.
That’s not to criticize the impulse of the listener, but rather to caution about what would happen if producers blindly followed that listener’s base urges – which could start to resemble the compilation video at top.
Top-of-the-charts EDM might already be a glimpse at just what that sort of application of mass market data could sound like musically, a sort of musical equivalent of the addictive science of snack foods. (In other words, I am arguing for the musical equivalent of choosing slow food over some laboratory-concocted nachos.)
I could go further, but clearly this is a problem better answered by science fiction – and speculative hacks like Mr. Lemere’s, which tells the story better than I can.
It’s also an excuse for me to leave you with this:
And, of course, if you want to hop on this gravy train, this plug-in:
Because… actually, now I want some nachos. And a Filet o’ Fish. Like me, it’s unique. Damnit.
Tell you what: let’s make a deal. Head to the convenience store / späti, by yourself some nice crisps to keep you focused, and listen to some damned songs from beginning to end. Okay?