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Spotify CEO: musicians can no longer release music only “once every 3-4 years” (thefader.com)
409 points by jakelazaroff 2 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 821 comments





I used to work in the music industry professionally, on the ground level doing booking and management. This trend has been happening slowly for nearly a decade but it’s finally here. Rap and Hip Hop figured out a long time before most other genres that rapid small releases was a far better way to keep hype and sales up. Before Spotify was a thing, the shift was happening with YouTube but it wasn’t as predominant. Now it’s basically assumed you’ll be releasing singles every month.

The music isn’t your product, the music is your marketing. The shows, the merch, your influence - that’s your product.


Except this very model has prevented hip hop from evolving and instead we ended up with mumble rap which feels like a step backwards in multiple ways.

Music has become all gimmick, fueled by celebrity gossip and social media bullshit. It's samey as hell and stagnant and lacks innovation.


I prefer good lyrics over mumble rap, but music is entirely subjective. You think it's a step backwards, but young people think it's a step forwards.

Mumble rap is essentially just natural selection. Some random rapper started doing it, people liked it, and so it propagated. If people didn't like it, it would have died out quickly. You just aren't one of those people.

> It's samey as hell and stagnant and lacks innovation.

I've said the same thing about metal since the first time I heard it. Metal fans disagree. Who's right? Does it even matter?


I don’t know what mumble rap is, so I’m not commenting on that in particular.

But, something being selected for doesn’t imply that it isn’t a bad thing. Even if we assume that “how much the typical person likes it” or “how many people like to listen to it” or something along those lines is a good measure of goodness, those are not the only things involved in the selection pressure. Things like cost to produce, discoverability, etc. are all also things that influence the selection pressures. And if there are contributions to the pressures which aren’t entirely aligned with the direction of good, then it seems entirely possible that the selection could make something worse (as in, not as good, not as in, less successful)


Here is an accurate depiction of mumble rap by Snoop Dogg https://youtu.be/g0OdmRtuQew

Warning: lots of exercising 1st amendment in the above video.


The point of my comment wasn't that mumble rap is good, it's that music is subjective. There is no good or bad music. There is only music that is good to some, and bad to others. Mumble rap is good to enough people that it propagated.

re: mumble rap ~ have you heard trap?

I think once or twice, but I don’t remember what it is really.

Everything is natural selection, so that isn't necessarily very insightful.

An implicit premise here might be that music is good if people think it’s good.

If a genre is taken up through “natural selection,” that means a lot of people like it, and it is therefore good music to those people - regardless of what some critic might think.


New Yorkers said the same thing about all southern rappers decades ago and now many of those artists and songs they panned are considered classics. Rap doesn't have to fit some narrowly defined category where all artists are doing the same style during a given period.

You can also like conscious rappers calling for social change and still enjoy a club banger asking women to shake their butts. They aren't diametrically opposed.


Ah, yes I remember the Great Laffy Taffy Debate that brought division between the North and the South

>Rap doesn't have to fit some narrowly defined category where all artists are doing the same style during a given period.

And yet thats where it's at right now, with some exception.

Hiphop used to have diversity of sound.

Now, as far as popular rap goes, it's all homogenized.

Same beats. Same cadence. Same flow. Voices indistinguishableffrom each other.


>Same beats. Same cadence. Same flow. Voices indistinguishableffrom each other.

This is how people used to talk about Hip Hop in the 90s. People familiar with Trap can easily distinguish between the different rappers and producers - just like people familiar with 90's Hip Hop could distinguish between Nas and Ghostface or DJ Premier and Pete Rock.

And, that's only Trap. There are still popular MC's and producers who operate outside of Trap.


>This is how people used to talk about Hip Hop in the 90s

This isn't true unless you're talking the bling Era of the late 90s.

Also, past criticisms existing doesn't invalidate new ones even if there's similarities in the complaint. So that's a side step.

Tribe, wu, west coast gfunk rappers, mobb deep, fu schnickens, onyx, bone thugs, cypress, busta, we're all wildly different. Even at the height of g-funk, I could have named 50 at least semi popular rappers who deviated from that style.

Now who deviates? Danny brown? He's like 40. RtJ? They're like 40 too. Kendrick tends to always be the modern exception to every hip hop criticism. So I consider him the exception that proves the rule.

>are still popular MC's and producers who operate outside of Trap.

And they're treated the same as Rhymesayers or DefJux rappers, Saul Williams or immortal tech were during the bling and Crunk eras. It's all "white" even if black, nerdy, back packing shit thats not considered part of the "culture". Thats the way most lyrical rappers are treated today. They're talked about like Atmosphere was in 2004.

So fuck the culture.


>Tribe, wu, west coast gfunk rappers, mobb deep, fu schnickens, onyx, bone thugs, cypress, busta, we're all wildly different.

I would argue that they all sound the same when compared to any southern rappers that came after them. You keep referring to the bling and crunk era like they are sneers but I would argue that if New Yorkers had gotten their way and got to be the gate keepers of hip hop and you were only allowed to rap in a style like Wu Tang and rappers like Outkast, The Hot Boys, and just the dozens of ATL rappers were not allowed on the air ways that the art form would have gone the way of disco and died. Sure its cool when a song has a multilevel meaning and deep metaphors spread through out the song, but its not a necessity to make a good hip hop song.

My hot take is that if you can only appreciate NY State of Mind, I Got a Story To Tell, 1st of The Month, but can't appreciate Back That Azz Up, Crank Dat, and XO TOUR Llif3 then you don't actually appreciate hip-hop. Just a very narrow subset of it.


You said wu and outkast are somehow the same and then defended juvenile?

And then gatekept who's "really appreciates hip hop?"

Freaking lol


It was a typo, I was grouping Outkast with the Hot Boys

> we ended up with mumble rap

> It's samey as hell and stagnant

I don't follow rap, but these two claims seem contradictory. Is the first not evidence of evolution in the genre, if in a direction you don't like?


If anything mumble rap is a devolution. Add auto-tune to this and you are left with a worthless corpus of shitty rap, hip-hop and also pop music.

It is samey, because everybody does the same thing. You can’t really differentiate music by different performers anymore. Each song is the same.

There used to be a cost to producing music; you needed a studio, producer, physical copies of the samples you wanted to use (in case of most rap), etc. Now you can just boot your computer and use one of the many digital studios.

It is a blessing in some ways, but a curse in most I think. Quality is by no means the element by which (popular) music is judged. It is all about presentation, which somehow means the most deplorable people get the most praise.

Note: I am talking about what is mainstream and played on still high quality radio. I don’t listen to rap stations and luckily there are stations that have a good selection of older music and only play some of the new stuff. The new stuff there is already worse than music from the past though.

If you look at the rap and hip-hop scene however, the quality has plummeted even more. It is just one homogeneous soup of crappy, lazy music. In no way like the music of 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G and Outkast but still all the same as the other new crap.


You’re just saying the same things older people have been saying about new music since time immemorial.

Generalizing criticisms as the same as past criticisms is a sidestep rather than a point.


How about from other established rappers?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0OdmRtuQew

Admittedly they are now "older" :)


You say they're older as a joke, but it's very much relevant. Old artists dismissing the developments and approaches of their younger colleagues is a tale as old as time.

And yet - dismissing criticisms of older people by younger people as "you're just old" rather than answering the criticism is just as old.

Older gens hated rap when I was a kid and I was thirsty to defend it with supported reasons

Kids today just say OK boomer and move on. Bc they have no defense .


Established older musicians hated The Beatles.

Generalizing criticisms as the same as past criticisms is a sidestep rather than a point.

That's true and yet the decreasing revenue, monetization, and relentless cost-cutting is real as well.

Concerns about making money are not going to destroy art. Almost all art through history has been made by people trying to make a living, not trying to express for its own sake.

We don't have a thousand years of portraiture of the elite because artists were just absolutely convinced that was the ultimate expression of the medium.


The lack of discoverability and gatekeeping (to some extent) ensures that unpromoted art will not be known. When did the last non-supported musician hit it big? Artist support and development is important as well.

You should say mainstream art in any era.

Andre 3000 is a big fan of Future fwiw.

I think the claim is that mumble rap dominates this new ecosystem, that this ecosystem is less diverse, and that this ecosystem does not seem to be changing significantly.

I have no idea about Spotify or mumble rap but that's how they might not contradict.


It doesn't matter. Just listen to what you like.

Even Mozart and Bach made crap music on a bad day.

I think in our time we are very fortunate to have the ability to discover music so easily. Personally I never listen to mainstream music but there is a lot more to discover.


Music generally lacks innovation for the same reason why phones and men's clothing lack innovation. Most of the easy low-effort ways to be appealingly different have been discovered already. Music's creativity has been spurred by a series of technological innovations, the invention of the electric guitar, then the invention of synths, multitrack recording, drum machines, then computers with sampling, loops and DSP. It's been artistically transformed by blues, country, jazz, rock and roll, urban, dance and rap. Each one had its own series of innovations driven by creativity (doo-wop? math rock? new jack swing?) but the genres have settled into their mature phases. Probably some entirely new genre needs to come along and shake things up, but that's hard. Until then we'll continue to get the artistic equivalent of a new coat of paint every few years.

Which is the sad reality. There are definitely talented rappers that work their tails off to produce great lyrics, in some cases their own beats / tracks and are being overshadowed by what I call pop rap (you can throw mumble rap under than umbrella). I can only imagine the same is happening in other genres. The one decent thing about rap was always all the mixtapes on the other hand.

That's just how popular music and pop culture works. Internet and streaming did enable long-tail though. Its way easier to listen to and find those underground rappers compared to 20 years ago.

I think "pop" music ( which now very much includes hip hop) by it's very nature has been this way. I can't think of a the when it wasn't.

A friend once explained this to me a decade ago. I would buy albums, but he would torrent everything. In his eyes, music has shifted to the public domain now. He said the best way to support a band now would be to buy t-shirts and go to as many concerts as you can. I still buy all my albums, but finally see his point. I mean now, all artists have their entire collection of music on YouTube. If everyone almost always has an internet connection, is buying music even necessary? Does Taylor Swift make more money off of the albums my wife buys from her or the 8 t-shirts and yearly concert she goes to?

I would say this is definitely true for big-label musicians. For independent or smaller-label musicians, they still have a large upside potential from certain retailers, like Bandcamp [1].

If you really care about them and they're listed on Bandcamp, it's pretty trivial to sign up for email announcements at an artist level, so you don't miss an opportunity to support them financially whenever they release new material.

Many big musicians don't even have bandcamp accounts, which (1) amazes me (2) implies that they make most of their money through other means, e.g. touring, private performances, etc.

[1] From their website: When you buy something on Bandcamp, 80-85% of your money goes to the artist, and we pay out daily. The remainder goes to payment processor fees and Bandcamp’s revenue share, which is 10-15% on digital items, and 10% on physical goods.


Bandcamp is great. If you're with a major, though, you will likely be contractually prohibited from selling through anything but the label's online store (I am).

I think that only applies to very few labels. Bandcamp isn't some kind of exclusively niche underground store. These days all kinds of big, critically acclaimed labels and artists sell through them.

Your friend was absolutely right. I never cared if people pirated my bands music (or later the bands that I was managing) because the real thing I wanted was them showing up at shows, buying merch, posting us on facebook, asking events to bring us on, etc...

At a certain point, Taylor Swift and larger artists _do_ make a good chunk of change from their actual music sales, but it isn't a feasible strategy to rely on that for indie and DIY artists.


> Your friend was absolutely right. I never cared if people pirated my bands music (or later the bands that I was managing) because the real thing I wanted was them showing up at shows, buying merch, posting us on facebook, asking events to bring us on, etc...

This model breaks down for people like me who are neither interested in merch nor in going to concerts. I just like the music.


You always represent value even if you don't pay. You might introduce the music to someone who will pay. It's freemium model applied to music industry.

You can always send money to your favorite musicians.

Can confirm! I've sent tips to musicians who put up music under free/Creative Commons music!

My theory is if you want to see something tomorrow, the best insurance you have it is to make it profitable for the people doing it today, so giving my money to musicians means a better chance there will be more music in the future <3


I listen to a lot of music but I’d never go to a live show (can’t think of anything worse) and I’m not going to wear a branded t-shirt. How do they capture revenue from people like me in your model?

Now I think about it I did once buy a video log of the production of an album. But that’s one artist from the thousands I listen to.


It's been mentioned a few times in this comment graph, but just in case: Bandcamp is where you should be putting your money.

80-85% of revenue from goods sold go to the artists [0].

[0]: https://bandcamp.com/about


To be honest - they don't. You're not the target demographic for them, and that's fine! But for this approach is optimized for the audience that will wear those shirts, go to those shows, buy the posters, follow them on instagram, etc...

I think these people may still provide some value in the form of Retweet, Gossip, Views, Media, Hype, Clicks that helps marketing. In the world of Social Media just having your name known is better than totally unknown. And will funnel back to other places.

>How do they capture revenue from people like me in your model?

It's not like bands stopped selling CD's/BluRays's, collectible box-sets, stickers, pins, access to behind-the-scenes videos and mailing lists. But the most someone like you can do for an average band/performer is promote their art through any channels available. The most valuable resource you have is your attention.


> selling CD's/BluRays's, collectible box-sets, stickers, pins

Hmmm... it's a shame they're trying to sell stuff like this. I want to support artists but the last thing I want is junk.


This is silly. If you want to support an artist, give them money.

So set up an organised way for me to do that, e.g. Patreon. Some artists already do.

This is crazy but we used to have this scheme where you actually just paid them for access to the recording. Weird, right?

Then we Spotifyd and that was the end of that and people got a new hobby coming up with justifications for why it's good that we replaced a revenue source for musicians with ... maybe giving them money? Or maybe having them run a T-shirt business?


Maybe they can work for a living. Like go on tour and perform live. Selling tickets and such. If they are any good, people will want to go see them live. Look at the Grateful Dead, they allowed people to copy their music. There are massive sites dedicated to archiving all of their music recordings and you are free to download and listen to it. Yet they made a fortune on touring and performing. Not playing the song one time and then trying to sell copies of it.

I have been saying this again and again, but not every artists is a rock band. There are countless releases that are best enjoyed in a home-listening environment and attract a mature audience that couldn't care less about t-shirts and merch. Thankfully the album still seems to be the primary product in those circles, but obviously even those artists will be affected by the expectation of having their discography available on Spotify.

> Maybe they can work for a living.

> Not playing the song one time and then trying to sell copies of it.

As in writing a few lines of code and selling copies of it? What a condescending and out of touch take on the issue. Those albums and songs aren't made of thin air - it's actual work that goes into them.


Making a recording is work.

Saying "maybe they can work for a living" is saying that people don't think that has value, in which case it's weird that anyone uses Spotify at all.

"Playing the song one time" is minimizing the work/time that goes into learning to play instruments, writing a song, coordinating the musicians for recording, and working on the production.

And it's a lot like saying software developers shouldn't be able to write a piece of code one time but get paid for people buying a copy or using a service running it on a server somewhere.


Yeah, it was weird. I don't want to have to keep track of a particular object, whether it's a physical recording or a downloaded file.

Make sure the music is available when I want it. Send a bit of money to artists I want to support. But don't couple them together with a bunch of transactions I've got to manage individually.


Retailed-recording doesn't mean you have to manage the file. That nut's been cracked for at least a decade. Every digital purchase I've made through outlets like Bandcamp or Amazon (and some of Apple, IIRC) is kept track of by the service and has a cloud player I can use. And the artist actually sees revenue from each track that's a fraction of a dollar rather than a fraction of a penny.

But you can actually download/manage the file if you want to. Which is nice, because it's the most practical distinction between owning and a long term lease, given the fact that few things are forever.


> Retailed-recording doesn't mean you have to manage the file. That nut's been cracked for at least a decade. Every digital purchase I've made through outlets like Bandcamp or Amazon (and some of Apple, IIRC) is kept track of by the service and has a cloud player I can use. And the artist actually sees revenue from each track that's a fraction of a dollar rather than a fraction of a penny.

You still have to keep track of what you've bought when and where. You have to answer questions like which release of an album you want (extended edition or not? Explicit or clean?). It's not a huge amount of effort, but it's extra faff compared to just listening to what you want when you want, and sending money to who you want when you want.

I gave up on buying after I moved countries and found I couldn't access my old cloud player and my new one at the same time. Yes, I have mp3 files of everything I bought in my old country, but it's such a fiddle to actually listen to them that I don't bother - particularly when I can find almost all of them in the service that I'm paying monthly for in my new country.


> It's not a huge amount of effort, but it's extra faff compared to just listening to what you want when you want, and sending money to who you want when you want.

While we're talking about extra faff, how do you figure out how to send money to "who you want when you want"? Doesn't seem to be just one service everyone's taking OR sending money through any more than there's just one service anyone might buy recordings through. Or do we just say "If they're not on Kicktreonattrpaymo when it's on my mind I guess they don't want my money"?

Doesn't sound easier than keeping track of a few places you buy music. I've certainly never had any trouble at all figuring out whether I bought a recording on Amazon or Bandcamp.

And I know that my ledger's clear and doesn't depend on when I decide to get around to kicking a donation over.

It's interesting how the tenuously more convenient value proposition of cloud recording buffets features the convenience of pushing the hop through the hoop of actual economic support out into the undetermined and perhaps entirely optional future.

If this is all about convenience, Spotify could probably largely solve the economic problems by bumping up what they charge 5-10x and directing additional listener revenue by specific listener choices.


> Or do we just say "If they're not on Kicktreonattrpaymo when it's on my mind I guess they don't want my money"?

Yes. I don't owe them a business model, they're the professional here, it's their job to be where I want to pay them.

> And I know that my ledger's clear and doesn't depend on when I decide to get around to kicking a donation over.

There's no ledger here. If you want to pay them, pay them, if you don't, don't. If that wasn't an arrangement they were content with, well, revealed preferences.

> If this is all about convenience, Spotify could probably largely solve the economic problems by bumping up what they charge 5-10x and directing additional listener revenue by specific listener choices.

What economic problems? There's no shortage of content being created, so evidently the deal for creators isn't actually that bad.


> But the most someone like you can do for an average band/performer is promote their art through any channels available.

I feel like you missed OPs main point.


Could you elaborate?

If you're talking about 'capturing revenue' then there's a direct link between more attention and more money a band can get.


Then buy their music on Bandcamp and pay more than the listed price, since Bandcamp gives you that option.

The model breaks down for people who write purely electronic music and are thus composers, not performers.

A lot of electronic musicians perform at clubs and parties

Or just bedroom musicians.

The simple truth is that success in any creative field is based more on chance and mass appeal than any creative merit. For every JK Rowling there are hundreds of published novelists who barely make a living, and thousands who a publisher wouldn't even take a chance on.

If you're in it for the passion, you'll do it whether you make money or not. Big successes are an anomaly, regardless of which mechanism the industry chooses to split up the loot. (Always in the favor of the publisher/label/whatever.)

If we want to encourage creativity, UBI is a better deal than worrying overmuch about trying to shoehorn creativity into revenue models. Because then at least the extra money, however much, would be extra on top instead of wholly inadequate.


Even Taylor Swift releases the full new Album on youtube the first day, which is unthinkable even 5 years ago.

I think the industry already accept it is the way forward.


>I think the industry already accept it is the way forward.

Yes but this sort of makes me question, if it is on Youtube for free, why are we paying for it on Spotify and Apple Music?


Because on YouTube we pay for it with time and attention to ads. Most people on HN have much more money that time and attention to spend.

Don't most people on HN have an ad blocker? My intuitions on this are weak.

Buying the albums mostly supports the music industry when you do the accounting and does little to support the actual band directly. The middlemen mostly exist to build a machine to allow people to profit from music... Which is an arguable indirect benefit to the content producers. Yet it does lead to the counterintuitive situation where a merchandise buying pirate is actually directly contributing to a bands coffers more than a law abiding citizen may be.

I feel like they must make a decent amount of money from ads on free streaming sites.

Correct! I’m not sure why comments here equate music on YouTube with giving it away - while it devalues it by making it free to listen, artists still get royalties from advertising.

Taylor swift likely makes major ad revenue from YouTube.

> I mean now, all artists have their entire collection of music on YouTube.

No they don't.


I absolutely hate this development. Admittedly within the genres and niches I listen to the album and the music itself is still the product, but I worry that this will change.

Concerning the single format: Going through and listening to my Bandcamp new release notifications is a weekly habit I enjoy. There are a lot of of those notifications and I gladly take the time to check them out, but I won't even listen to single track releases. I'm an album person. If an artist doesn't have enough quality material to compile an actual cohesive selection of his work and rather rushes from short-lived single to single, I'm not interested.

I'm even less interested in t-shirts, merchandise and live shows, though I get the appeal of the latter.


This is very true. One of the first artists I noticed doing this was a rapper, Curren$y. All the mixtapes were free on Datpiff.com (major throwback) and the tours / Merch were the $$$ makers.

This also allowed artists to go fully independent and keep all their profits.

Added into the mix now are independent vinyl / cd / tape makers who the artists partner with on Physical music releases. Yes, physicals are back in a major way thanks to platforms like Bandcamp.

*edited for a grammatical change.


Even without physical media, I'd rather pay for a copy of the music I can "own" (I.e. like a physical CD) from Bandcamp as the revenue the artist gets is _significantly_ higher than a dozen streams of the same album on Spotify.

At the end of the day, I want the artist to continue producing music, and prefer to find a channel by which they get the most revenue.

IMHO Bandcamp is one of the best things to happen to the music industry in the last decade. Love it!


If Bandcamp has better quality, that should be the selling point (IMO)

I disagree. Name your price is the selling point. Effectively a donation option for your favorite small artists.

The Dave Matthews Band had a very permissive bootleg policy (bootlegs are fine, we'll even help you place microphones for the best quality, you just can't sell the bootlegs) which was important to the early popularity of the band.

I know that DMB, Phish, and TGD have a BIG bootleg community. I think this is a great idea and key to their success as cult bands.

I wish more bands would do this. Something about a bootsy live album with all its background noise and character that makes it very entertaining.


yeah, Datpiff, worldstar, HHWW, etc... these sites were all at the forefront of this paradigm shift for backpack hip hop and rap. Hardcore and punk genres had similar approaches with BandCamp, PureVolume, and even MySpace, and if you actually look at punk and rap they have really interesting overlaps in these areas. Hip hop going independent was a major shift from the established late 90's/early 2000's tradition of signing with a label.

I prefer to listen to bands that produce an excellent album every few years, vs a pile of sameness every three months.

Examples: “Boy Meets Robot”, “Unwoman”, “The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets”, “Goldfrapp”, much of what is featured on “Dark Compass”.

Where do people go for music like this? Bandcamp? Other places?


The Seventies.

Services with recommendation algorithms can help. Mixcloud can be good, because it features longer mixes that often contain similar music, collected by someone who knows their stuff. You can also check the associated label's other artists, smaller labels often organize around a similar mood or style. I check the people my favorites collaborate with.

YouTube/some kind of streaming service for music, Facebook/Twitter to get information about tours and get pointers to official stores and sites

Progarchives is a site I have come to appreciate lately.

Korean pop music has been doing this for a while too. This group has pretty rapid releases, 5 singles a year, and 10 EPs and 3 albums since 2015. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twice_discography

While I enjoy Kpop, I don't feel it's necessarily a great model for artistic expression. It's an industry where fake is the status quo. Kpop is not selling people music per se. It's selling people this idea that you could be an idol or be friends with an idol or be a partner of an idol. It's an emotional hack like a carrot being dragged in front of you.

I personally like a lot of Kpop for the strange music production that comes out of it with bands like Red Velvet, Mamamoo, Stellar, Lim Kim, Dalsooobin, Dal Shabet, etc., but that is really more of a side effect of Kpop's main product.


To be quite clear I'm not endorsing it. It just seems to be a natural evolution of music industry in the digital age. South Korea was, if not is, one of the countries farthest on the digital curve.

In addition, Kpop groups put a huge amount of effort into their physical albums. Sales of physical albums are extremely high in Korea (Japan I think too) compared to other countries (just my impression, but if anyone has sources I'd be interested).

Albums are usually sold as boxes with a photo book inside and collectible cards, they are almost more like magazines. Some albums come in different editions with different idols featured - it's common for a fan to buy multiple copies of the same album in hopes of getting the edition or cards of their favourite idol (bias). The fans see album purchases and 'streaming' (playing their youtube singles on repeat) as ways to support their groups and increase their reputation.


Albums in Kpop world is a different thing.

Think of buying albums more like a kickstarter fundraising for fans to support their idols. The photo book or the chance to get a ticket for a fan meeting is arguably a bigger draw than that CD itself.

In fact, what I know, a lot of sales, especially oversee ones, those albums are not even physically sent back to the country where they originated at all. It is just a gesture to help their idols rank better on the music shows.


For this reason Billboard US had to change its rules and ban counting merch or ticket-bundled album sales: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/9417842/billboar...

Rap & Hip Hop are different because historically there's much less of a touring component than there is in Rock, Country, Soul/R&B, etc.

I'm not saying there's no overlap or that nobody can learn from anybody else, but to lump them all together ignores a lot of actual differences between marketing among genres. Heck, I bet TV talent shows are for country music right now what radio has been for hip-hop/R&B since the late 90s, which makes sense because country has (ironically) been appropriating just about all they can find in radio rap for the past many years (way before Lil Nas X).


Since independent venues have been gradually disappearing in the US in the 21st century, and ticketing is locked down by Live Nation, it sure seems that the only revenue stream American musicians can control is their merchandise.

Makes sense that everything else is just "marketing" these days.

I'm sure this has an impact on who decides to make music professionally. Why stick with it, only to sell your own t-shirts? (Note: I can't figure out how to get trend data for from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, to see if that question has merit.)


The 1970s golden age of making a concept album in a French villa doing drugs for two years on the record label's dime are long gone.

The only album that comes to mind is Exile on Main Street, but I'm not particularly into back stories. Were a lot of people doing this in the 70s?

I'm D'Angelo is as good as it gets. Voodoo and Black Messiah are two of my absolute favorite albums, and they're the only two albums he's put out in the last 20 years. Other than it being a long process, I don't know a lot about the Black Messiah recording process, but Voodoo was multiple years of jamming with super-talented musicians then condensing that material into an album. They'd listen to classics like There's a Riot Going On then use that inspiration to guide the jam sessions. I think this approach is pretty similar to what you're referring to. On the other hand, look at how quickly acts like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Stones put out music in the 60s. The Beatles released two albums in '67 then a double-album in '68; Dylan released two albums in '65 then a double-album in '66 - then recorded all the Basement Tapes material in '67 and released another album that same year.


Fleetwood Mac was definitely fueled by cocaine.

I never worked in the music industry, but hasn't it always been this way?

I have a lot of my grandparents old records, and when I first went through the collection I was surprised at the output of some artists both big and small. The obvious example would be Elvis. Just counting his studio albums, the guy put out over 20 albums over his career 24 year career, and that isn't counting singles, soundtracks, or whatever else he put out. If you factored in all of that, it's easily in the range of 150-200+ releases.


Nope, it definitely hasn't always been this way.

When vinyls were the predominant media form, it was prohibitively expensive for most artists to press a master, cut vinyls, package them, market it, and distribute it. I can do all of that in 10 minutes with Spotify now.

Tapes made this a little bit faster. And then CDs made it a little bit faster from there. And then MP3 players made it quite a bit faster. And then download speeds and prevalence of internet made streaming possible, and it made it a LOT faster. And then here we are - about 10 years after the emergence of Pandora and similar services.

To use your example: Elvis had a TON of funding and was able to maintain that rapid release cycle while touring because of that. Smaller DIY artists don't have funding, they're all working jobs, etc...


Oddly enough, in the decades before the phonograph, there was a sheet music industry with almost every feature of the recording industry. There were superstar composers, such as Scott Joplin, shady deals, composers getting rich and then getting screwed, the whole nine yards. People bought sheet music to play on their parlor pianos.

There was plentiful work for pianists and organists in movie theaters before the talkie. And so forth. Musicians have faced a constant back and forth relationship with technology practically from the git go.


> from the git go.

Not sure if this is intentional, but it's a great HN style eggcorn.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggcorn


For everyone who actually likes music, there is Bandcamp.

Fair. But doesn't that stifle genres that focus more on experimentation, deep philosophical lyrics etc.? I don't mean to imply that Rap is not that, just that some types of music, (including Rap & Hip-Hop in many cases am sure), require more time and experimentation to 'feel right' than others, they require research, studying history etc.

Not sure these are fit for a single/month type of release. Even on a 12 song album that used to come out every 3-4 years, you only have enough material for a single year now, at that pace.

Quantity is often said to come at the expense of quality and for a good reason.


I really don't think it does. If you spend 3 months straight on a single (which isn't out of the ordinary for my friends who are still in the scene) you're approaching the same level of time input per song, but you're still on a tighter release schedule.

See, but that's the thing. Many artists don't work in this way where they'd have a major project that is this single to get our in 3 months and that's like me having a sprint deliverable and that's that.

They'll write songs when there's inspiration, but maybe nothing for six months after. Then some don't feel right so they get thrown into the bin etc.

An album release is very much "when it's ready". Forcing it on a schedule only works when there's already a formula, which is mostly true only for very mainstream music.

As an example, look at the distance between these 2 albums[1], both great in my opinion, but technically it took 14 years after the last one to get it out, (abet not being worked on continually of course).

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawn_of_Solace#Discography


Spotify isn't saying that if an artist doesn't put out material every 3 months they'll be de-ranked. That's absolutely not the idea here. What they're saying is that in the current climate, you have to fight for attention, and rapid, small releases achieve that.

A quick check of Dawn of Solace's Spotify page and tour schedule shows me that they're active but probably not making full-time jobs out of this. And that's absolutely fine. They're doing their thing and probably enjoying it.

The article is saying that to be profitable and relevant, you're going to have to put out more frequent, smaller, rapidly-digestible bits of music. This was a model I applied regularly to death metal and hardcore bands that I worked with during my time in the industry and I can tell you right now- _it works_.


The CEO of Spotify was saying that we have a glut of music and customers don't care much about which music they get, and Spotify has won control of the distribution channel, so there's no money for artists but they need to crank out content to stay in the rat race and lower Spotify's costs even more, or somehow form a strong union and market themselves as premium content.

But he put an obnoxious self-serving spin on it because that's what rent-seeking billionaires do.


Yeah frankly I was shocked how obnoxious this argument he's making is. "No it's not that we don't pay artists enough, they just need to be working for us twice as hard to make money these days. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ " At least have grace to act like you can't pay artists more, instead of just saying "well you'd better work harder then, haha."

That's fair, my issue is that these sorts of schedules only work for somewhat mainstream, full-time musicians.

> Spotify isn't saying that if an artist doesn't put out material every 3 months they'll be de-ranked.

Not explicitly, but if someone releases 5 times a year, they're bound to be on the frontpage much more frequently. This of course makes sense and increases band awareness and engagement, but possibly puts pressure on smaller bands to release quantity over quality if they want to make it.

Saying more frequent releases == more press time is so obvious that I don't really get the point of saying that. This is true for software too, btw.

But as a software developer, I can tell you that while a minor release can generate almost the same amount of press as a major release for me, a minor release is in no way significant. It usually doesn't contain novel ideas, merely bug fixes and security patches, it doesn't push the software "forward" in any way, whereas a major release usually does.

I think DJs have a thing where they release a track and then slowly drip in various guest remixes of the same track.

As for metal, am sure it works to increase engagement and that's fine. But hearing from my musician friends, they tend to like to take their time to get things right and many fans there like big album releases.

Of course everybody enjoys teasers, but if we're talking full tracks here, you'd still want that 10-14 track album where many of the songs are surprises.

It's probably different if one goes to it commercially from the get go, with the express intent of making it a full time thing, rather than sort of failing into the full-time thing as you pick up steam.

Note that this is different from live shows, which I do believe need to be super frequent for these types of bands. But I am not as sure about Spotify digital releases.

It is worth noting that he gives an example of Taylor Swift as someone doing it right. That's Taylor Swift - one of the most mainstream artists right now, with an army of composers, producers etc. behind her. That's exactly my problem with his statements.


The medium is the message. This is the equivalent to amazon kindle self-pubbers needing to crank out 3-5 books per year to make a living.

Do you have links on articles on how many books are needed to make living and how much of a living it might be expected at median and high ends? I'm interested in the subject and your offhand comment makes me hope you have more insight into it than I do.

If you’re interested in kindle self pub, there’s a pretty vibrant community on the kboards (kboards.com) forum. Tons of info on producing volume as a marketing strategy but people are definitely making a living. It’s not my approach but I’ve certainly considered it.

Maybe if you want to be part of the eternal churn. I'd rather be no one and release real music on my schedule.

It is your choice.

Just like horse buggy drivers didn't have to become truck drivers...


Also, didn't the hip hop crowd just give away their music for free and make all their money touring? Until signed anyway. And mix tapes were more than a single. So to that end, music definitely was their marketing. To put it another way, they let the music market itself. That's all they needed, and was all they got. I would put influence under marketing though, unless we can settle that music and influence are both both.

You're basically just repeating what I said, but yes. I would say influence is a little different from marketing. Marketing is you trying to reach new fans, influence is you reaching established fans.

Id go even deeper than hiphop. Jamaican music that was essentially a big influence to rap, was “singles” market from the start and album stuff was more about pleasing the international crowds.

lol, all shit in the world is soon turning to an "agile" model. Soon enough there will be scrums and daily standup for musicians. Time to create a Jira like app for them and cash in on the gold rush.

Quality of the art is of course completely absent from any such discussions.



> The music isn’t your product, the music is your marketing. The shows, the merch, your influence - that’s your product.

In case anyone is wondering why all pop music sounds the same.


freemium business model

> The music isn’t your product, the music is your marketing. The shows, the merch, your influence - that’s your product.

Man, that's depressing.


>> The music isn’t your product, the music is your marketing. The shows, the merch, your influence - that’s your product.

> Man, that's depressing.

If the CEO of an open-source company said, "Software isn't our product, software is our marketing", would you feel the same way?


Kinda, yeah.

I think it's a little sad that you can't write some great software that solves a problem for people and get paid for it anymore. Or at least not as easily as in the past.

The changing business model has a lot of negative externalities, too. Like the temptation to monetize user data instead of monetizing the value of the software directly, and the temptation to push the line on privacy.


> I think it's a little sad that you can't write some great software that solves a problem for people and get paid for it anymore. Or at least not as easily as in the past.

I think that you're ignoring the fact that you were actually getting paid for solving their problem, not for great software per-se.

Just because the constraints on different parts of the value chain have changed, altering where the convenient bottlenecks are for extracting payments, doesn't make the past environment any better overall, just different.


The spiritual rewards of doing good work have never, in any field, reliably aligned with the worldly rewards of popularity and success.

This is basically an argument in favor of UBI.

I wouldn't.

But I think that's because open-source software development companies are the exception rather than the norm. No one expects you to open-source your software and then hope someone hires you for your services or buys one of your t-shirts. It's still the norm in our industry to write something and sell copies of it.

Plus, software pays more. Software developers generally don't get squeezed. Musicians, on the other hand, never seem to catch a break.

EDIT: Or, even better, it's the norm to sell a monthly right to use what we wrote.

Also, freemium games have business models very similar to music. Yeah, there are some successful freemium games out there, but in general it's pretty brutal and depressing.


Thank you; I think you answered my question.

Basically, in software, you can choose to open-source your software as marketing if you want, but proprietary is still a sustainable business model. The claim here (which I am in no position to evaluate) is that for music, you no longer really have any choice: selling music itself is no longer a sustainable business model; you can only give it away in hopes that you can sell something else as a result.

That is pretty depressing.


> Software developers generally don't get squeezed

Where I live, they do...go live in one of the countries where software gets outsourced. People are paid < $200 monthly here.

Software developers have skills that are easily transferable than musicians. If software developers stop learning, they will quickly be devalued with legacy maintenance as an exception. We used to value musicians more because of supply and distribution problems. It was an artificially constrained labor market. Now it is not. That's why they aren't getting paid the same. Similar to how writing html and css would get you a good paying job, not now though. Musicians need to change and adapt. They need to pick up more transferable skills.


That's literally what it is most of the time. Software is marketing and enterprise level support is the product

It's not comparable - music is art.

That's irrelevant. Both software and music are:

    * infinitely reproducible for near zero marginal cost
    * subject to changing tastes and style
    * easily obtainable through illegal means
This is especially true for games. Many software companies seem to have solved this dilemma by becoming surveillance or advertising companies that happen to make software. Games have solved it by peddling an increasing quantity of paid, high-margin add-on content and integrating gambling mechanics into their products. I hope the solution musicians come up with isn't as slimy as these.

Edit: I also find that most people treat most music as a commodity much of the time. Why else would random feeds of related music be so popular?


If you stop playing the huge AAA games and start playing smaller ones, you see another solution: lower prices for games that can be finished in an amount of time that fits into the busy life of an adult, and very often a grant from a national art fund.

Not for American games, of course, we basically destroyed the National Endowment for the Arts, thanks a lot guys.


I prefer art not selected by the government.

"Finishing" a game is a weird concept. I don't know anyone who finished chess.

Small games aren't necessarily cheaper than big ones; it depends on popularity to sustain a low unit price.


> I prefer art not selected by the government.

That's not even remotely how most art grants work though? The selection process in most (democratic) countries is quite detached from the government.


Chess doesn't have a narrative arc - unless I've been playing it wrong

And the King, having vanquished his foe at great cost, surveyed the empty field and muttered: "It matters not, for in the end the claw chooses who will go and who will stay".

I think you will find many here who would argue that code can be art, too.

The thing that people don't realize is that it is in fact quite comparable: the binary that one works with to hear a song is not intrinsically worth any more than the same bytes that produce a software application. I'm a musician who now primarily makes music with code. [0] I've decided therefore to always make my music available for free, without exception. We all agree software can and often should be free - music, to me, is exactly the same way.

[0] https://multipli.city


Musician and software developer here, and I'm calling BS on that. Here's a transcript of a talk I gave last year on "code as art" (apologies if this sounds like self-promo). You can skip the first half and scroll down to where it says "Which leads me back to code as an artform". There are a lot of ways to demonstrate that code IS art, and this was just a quick 5-minute overview of the subject. Cheers! https://www.johnluxford.com/blog/code-as-art

As an acquaintance of mine put it the other day on this exact topic (who happens to be a writer/graphic artist/programmer):

"First STEM says that the humanities are worthless. Then they say how, really, STEM should get all that glory too because, really, it's the same thing -- but better."

Or this quote:

"Great paintings, for example, get you laid in a way that great computer programs never do. Even not-so-great paintings - in fact, any slapdash attempt at splashing paint onto a surface - will get you laid more than writing software, especially if you have the slightest hint of being a tortured, brooding soul about you. For evidence of this I would point to my college classmate Henning, who was a Swedish double art/theatre major and on most days could barely walk."

https://idlewords.com/2005/04/dabblers_and_blowhards.htm


I forgot about Hackers and Painters! Pretty sure there's a copy on a bookshelf here somewhere...

Interesting quotes. Reminded me of a conversation I had with some local artists a while back who were staunchly in favour of their kids going into STEM because the humanities don't have a direct application to industry any more. They didn't want their kids wasting money on exploratory education, or in pursuit of the arts which they saw as a dead-end. I found that really sad, but it stemmed from an acute awareness of the direction industries like music are going.

Historically, the sciences emerged as areas of philosophy, but they've since become detached from those roots. Those roots have a grounding effect, a sense of the greater context of human life, that's missing in the culture around STEM today. I see echoes of that in the rationalizations made by Spotify's CEO: Who cares if the album is dead? Get with the new program, whatever the cost; it was inevitable anyway.


It is funny, all of those descriptors for STEM and detatchment seem to apply to the dying institutions which call themselves humanities far more than STEM. Now the fundamentals still exist strongly, there is plenty of phislophizing and art creation. But not through them.

Philosophy as a grounding context of human life? Talk about historical revisionism. Philosophy has long been about getting beyond the dreary context of human life into grand abstract universals. Even the ones which had pretenses otherwise like Marx-Engle's descendants or primitivists still engaged in the same thing. Revolutions were lead by college students instead of factory workers and farmers based upon theories that find validating observations not just inapplicable but rude and offensive to even propose. That they define themselves as fundamentally not scientists is the biggest tell to the ailment.

The Non-empiricists got left behind long ago, unchanging and then insist that the world has lost touch and not them. The split from philosophy and natural philosophy and from natural philosophy to science was from an inability to accept that they must acknowledge the world as it is, even if they wish to change it.

By doing so the old institutions and concepts refused to change and are "undead" - not truly gone but not growing or adapting to their environment like a living thing. To paraphrase from the Sixth Sense they're dead and don't know it. Now like Bruce Willis thet are wondering why their spouse silently refuses to speak to them at the dinner table and never listens to a word they say.

Harshly yes, you should get with the program because not doing so in some way (even if it is defiantly crafting their own path which may or may not fail) is denying reality.


Even the grouping of STEM together is a bad-taste-in-your-mouth industrial crime against human culture. The real acronym should just be M. (S, T, and E are just bastardized ways to get paid fat bucks for doing simpler versions of M.)

That essay was hilarious. The bit about how painters have figured out the most efficient and lucrative way to sit around staring at naked woman all day is a perfect example of the self-deprecating braggadocio that every man who writes a blog seems to be trying to achieve.

I'm often amazed by the negative attitude towards humanities and artists seen in this community. It it not that people hate art or culture, they just really hate the humanities department, art students and artists! (But at the same time they want to be recognized as great artists for writing a neat one-liner in Perl.)

It just matters where the zeitgeist is. Startup bros get laid by golddiggers too.

Good response. It's simultaneously true that coding (and engineering and science and maths) is more artistic than generally accepted and that "art" in the conventional sense has more in common with those disciplines generally considered to be it's polar opposite.

Art is one of the words nobody really agrees on the meaning of. You can only answer "is code art?" given some meaningful definition of "art".

According to Duchamp an urinal can be art. Presumably code can also then, but it doesn't really confer any addition prestige on code and developers.


The implication in your comment is that code isn't art, when code absolutely can be art. Functional things can be artistically beautiful too.

This is a really silly argument.

There is an art to building software, no doubt, in terms of it being a craft. But I think you've misspoken about functional things being artistically beautiful. What you really should mean is that functional things can be aesthetically beautiful, which is true and different.

Art is primarily defined by expression and exploration, particularly revolving around human emotions. Software products, in the end, do not fit this category. There is a vast difference.

Edit: I defined it elsewhere a bit smoother. I define art as the exploration of emotional expression. Art products are the end result of that exploration. Live acts or art or performances could be viewed as a sort of merger between the two, either as a reenactment of the exploration or as a new exploration happening in the moment.


I might be late to the party, but:

Software can be art in itself. Consider quines [1]. (Programs that, when run, produce themselves) They serve no real world purpose, and I consider them beautiful. Kind of like the restrictive format of a haiku. (Edit: Or perhaps tesselations, e.g. Escher's work [3])

I particularly enjoy what this artist(?) has done with their 128 language uroborus quine. [2]

Edit 2: I expect the objection will be that this is not functional, or a "product", however the uroboros quine does have practical uses. E.g. as a system stress test. If it were marketed as a stress test, its artistic value would still be apparent to a programmer examining its structure.

[1] https://www.nyx.net/~gthompso/quine.htm

[2] https://github.com/mame/quine-relay

[3] http://www.tessellations.org/eschergallery2.shtml


The statement of saying someone else's view of art is objectively incorrect or silly is in itself silly. I like your proposed definition of art, but as you know everyone is free to have their own conceptions.

I can agree with that to a degree. Of course, the gut reaction to any statement is typically the more emotional one. :)

However, I find that they didn't really make a statement about how they view art, although elaboration would help. I think people are confusing things being artistic versus being aesthetic. When people say "code absolutely can be art", I find it's too generic that it does indeed become a silly statement. It dilutes what art is and is overly biased to code, especially since it's likely to be coming from a software developer.

What I really think someone means by "code can be art" is that "code can be aesthetically pleasing", the latter of which I agree with. There's also a difference between "<some thing> as an art" as in doing the thing can be an art or craft and also calling the thing art.


The 80s underground scene had many zines that were programs.. the art would be part content part reader/application. The best part were the crazy menus.

The problem now is an application must look like all other applications or you would see more creativity. Making parts of the app 60% visible so the background came through had a cool visual effect.


Some software products. There are loads of artistic pieces of software.

Can you elaborate on what you're referring to or talking about?

Of course there are loads of software that people use in art. But in the end, those are still solving a problem and are not art. Examples are TouchDesigner, Processing, Logic, Studio One, Pure Data, vvvv, and much more. These software products are not art themselves but are rather solutions to problems to allow artists to create art easier. They are not art products, in my opinion, since they aren't the result of an exploration of expression.

Where the line is blurred for me is in live coding artistic performances. The software there is considered part of the art, as part of the performance. But even then, the software is a tool. If a person uses a hammer in a live art piece, is the hammer now suddenly art? No, I wouldn't think so. It's a tool serving as a utility or maybe medium. It isn't art itself. The art is the performance.

Of course there are always exceptions which cannot be captured in every argument. Something that blurs the line is something like DIN . But see, in such a software product, we begin to see expression and not just a thing solving a problem or being a tool. Similarly with Orca (although I wish they would change the name so as to not interfere with actual orcas which some populations are in danger of going extinct).

https://dinisnoise.org/


A tremendously important example is videogames which as well as being a multi-billion dollar industry akin to music are also a major medium of individual self expression.

In the broader set you have interactive fiction and a whole slew of art that shares a lot in common with time-based art. Demoscene is a good example of the latter.


Games certainly can be art! But I don't see how that conflicts with what I said or serves as a counterexample. Games are not just software products. They are the culmination of work by artists, designers, writers, and engineers. The end product is often an artistic piece, and a rather interesting one. Games being art doesn't suddenly mean software products are art. The software itself helps drive the art but is not the art itself. I feel a good way to think about it is that software and code running the game is not art in the same way that the paint in a painting is not art.

My favorite game designer is Fumito Ueda. His games of Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, and The Last Guardian are prime examples of games can be art.


Videogames are software products though so are a prime example of software products that are art. To quote your own recent definition of software:

"I have always viewed hard, firm, and soft as a description of the ware's malleability. Hardware is not easily changed or updateable, if at all. Firmware is typically code deployed to stay in hardware like an EEPROM, flash, or FPGA, where it can be changed but not necessarily dynamically or easily. Software is able to be easily molded and changed."

And whilst videogames do require traditional artists so do the construction of other mundane software products. Also invoking other disciplines rather ignores a lot of the work that goes into the gameplay itself which is entirely software driven.

Not to mention the other examples you studiously avoided.


> Videogames are software products though so are a prime example of software products that are art.

Did you think about or read what I described? Because I specifically addressed how I think video games being art does not make software products and code art. You aren't elaborating and then just restating an opinion I've already discussed.

If video games being art means that software products and/or code is art, then you need to consider that the material (paint, metal, etc.) used in paintings and sculptures is art as well and all the other repercussions of such a conclusion. No one would argue that. The paint in paintings is part of the medium and brushes and other such things are part of the tools of the process. In the case of video games, the software is a kind of both tool and medium of how that art is created and experienced. No one is saying software can't be a medium for art, but it isn't the art itself. And again, like I've already said, I don't think video games can simply be defined as software products. Other things called software products, like mobile apps, also have artists and designers, but there the situation is even more removed from art because the app is not expressing anything but is rather solving a problem, providing a service, or giving functionality.

> To quote your own recent definition of software

That quote has nothing to do with this discussion, so I'm not really sure why you're pulling it here. It was from a completely different post, and a non-native English speaker had remarked about how they had thought that the firm in firmware meant something else. I wasn't defining software but rather discussing how hard, firm, and soft in hardware, firmware, and software could be thought of.

> Not to mention the other examples you studiously avoided.

I didn't avoid anything. I didn't feel I had anything to say that adds to the discussion without repeating what I already said. Yes, they're examples. And?


Videogames are software products and are art. So my initial point that some software products are art was correct. Yay!

I didn't say that. And just repeatedly stating something doesn't make it true, especially if others disagree and you refuse to elaborate, discuss, or explain.

Is nethack (ASCII mode) art?

Plus the implication that music might not be a tool for a specific purpose (which it is also absolutely in some contexts).

The thing is that "music", is not "one thing". It all depends on the purpose, if there is one, and on the intention of the composer and of the players and of the audience.

Here, Spotify's CEO adresses a very specific market in the music industry, not "musicians" per se.


This is a tired argument that lacks much nuance. Ill believe this when people regularly gather in the thousands to see a brilliant coder at work or view amazing code in a gallery.

Are there not thousands of conferences each year? People giving talks at meet-ups, the yearly Apple developer conference draws thousands of people. All events that people sign up for voluntarily to listen to someone else talk about code.

As for viewing it; there are also many places where people participate in coding competitions or code golfs, where others judge and appreciate the code.

Is that really so different from going to a concert or an art gallery?


Sure, code can be art, but most isn't, and the software that the code comprises is almost always functional rather than artistic in purpose.

If I had one second to say the word that means the opposite of "art", I would say "engineering".

Sorry, it can't. It can be beautiful and amazingly crafted, but it's not art.

This is a stretch.

Code can be describe with aesthetic qualities like clean, beautiful, shitty, complex, delicate, etc. Just like music. Art is just a representation of human creativeness and imagination which is what software is.

Code (can be) a form of artistic expression and not every piece of music is art.

I think some software is certainly also art, such as games.

There is no art anymore, only products. Once you optimize for monetary compensation via popular consumption, all creative endeavours are seen as and become products.

Your sentence, while it reasonate with me, is seen today as naive and non realistic.


My immediate question to that CEO would be, "OK, so what is it you're marketing?"

In the case of open-source software, they're probably marketing consulting, books, training. (I think conferences would likely be part of the marketing.)

And that, folks, is how we end up with those crapulacious open-source software tools (libraries, whatever) that are deliberately incomprehensible to anybody outside the producer bubble. e.g. Bouncy Castle: Utterly shite API to the point of unusable, despite the undoubtedly well done implementation underneath; completely absent documentation in any useful/usable form. Everything around it is just, "Buy our books, come on our courses if you want to use this library." The code itself is obfuscatory. Not a design document or user-guide in sight.

(Other examples abound. I just pick on the one that burned me the worst.)

So, back to music. How is this a good result for the "market"?

We end up with a flume of mediocre-to-crap music (but frequently! as if that's a good thing all by itself) all in the name of marketing,... what precisely? Where's the passion gone? Where's the art? Where's the music I'll listen to over and over again for decades?


> How do I land a decent software engineer job?

Publish your work on github. Software is not your product, it's your marketing.


Music is different from software in my mind.

Software, with rare exceptions, is solving a problem—music is not.


I would disagree. I would instead phrase it as "addressing a need", and with that phrasing, I don't see a clear distinction between software and music.

That is really diluting the difference between art and software, so much so that it's almost comical.

I define art as the exploration of emotional expression, and software simply does not fit into that category except in the cases of using software as a tool or mechanism in the exploration.

The "need" in creating art is often described by artists in that the act of creation is fulfilling an internal need. Writers, musicians, etc. often describe their works as pouring out of them, almost by necessity. This is rarely the case for software and engineering products which seek to fulfill an external need. Software, like engineering, seeks to solve problems. Art can but does not in general.

I personally find it mindblowing and a bit disturbing that I see people in this thread equating software to art. It's a bit disrespectful and elitist to claim that they're the same. Artist make pennies and are being forced by market dynamics to change their expression to merely survive. Meanwhile, software engineers make six figures and retire early playing a game of connect the dots. It's flippant to those artists who struggle for years and years in the hopes of even a modicum of support or recognition and live on pennies.


It is elitist to claim they are not the same.

Software is the product of expression.

Music is the product of expression.

They both can use emotion when creating.

They both can evoke emotion while experiencing.

Who retires first debate: the famous musician or famous programmer is still unsettled.

Classically an artist put themselves in difficult situations in order to grow as a person so the art can say more. Don't be angry at others making money because an artist has choosen a different path.


I define art to be the exploration of emotional expression. If you disagree with that definition, that's fine, as the debate as to "what is art?" is certainly a valid one. But please note the discussion context. The original comments I've replied to are "software is equivalent to art", and I disagreed. There are vast differences. My assumption is that it is people involved in software making this claim, and that is where the elitism comes from.

> Software is the product of expression.

What emotional content are you expressing when you write software? When someone writes a book or music or paints a painting or live performs an art piece, they are expressing emotional content, feelings, stories, etc. Please view my other responses, as I don't want to repeat myself here, but art is different than "<thing> as an art", which relates to art as in craft, and it's also different from things being aesthetically pleasing.

If we're going to dilute the term of what art is so much, then it's pointless to just stop at "software is art", as we should then just say "everything is art" and stop using the word.

> They both can evoke emotion while experiencing.

That's a poor definition. If something simply evokes emotion, that doesn't make it art. Literally everything evokes emotions in humans.

> Who retires first debate: the famous musician or famous programmer is still unsettled.

It's usually not best to discuss edge cases and is better to stick with the general population. Your general software developer is going to be many times well off than your general artist.

> Classically an artist put themselves in difficult situations in order to grow as a person so the art can say more. Don't be angry at others making money because an artist has choosen a different path.

You're implying that artists intentionally suffer? Some artists may, but I think it's more the case that most artists are not given a choice, which was basically the original discussion here. The discussion started off as musicians are now having to compromise and shift from creating music as their end product to simply using music as part of the marketing component of a brand, image, lifestyle, etc. And no one said to be mad at people making money. But the people sitting in one of the most well-paid positions in history, i.e. software developers, shouldn't be making loose allusions to what they do is the same as people living in poverty and the lower class struggling for society to recognize as what they do as useful.


I disagree with your disagreement.

You can also phrase brain surgery and movie watching as "modifying the inner thought processes of the subject", and as such there isn't a clear distinction.

One is art, the other is trade.

One can of course make art one's means of substinance, and one can master one's trade artfully.


Can you name something that doesn't address a need?

by that logic, breathing and eating would also fall into this category, as would literally any action taken by a living thing.

What if they said, "Our product isn't our software, our product is our marketing"? This makes more sense because there can me many products offering the same service, but the one with the best marketing can win, even if it's not the best software.

"Software isn't our product, software is our marketing"

I think this is fairly accurate. In software, you can write some for marketing, but keep some proprietary.


> If the CEO of an open-source company said, "Software isn't our product, software is our marketing", would you feel the same way?

Yes, absolutely, 100%! By all means care about image and marketing, but if your actual product isn't good (software, music, or anything else), then who cares?


What defines "good"? Marketability to the lowest common denominator?

For software, actual usefulness. A word processor that's trending on Twitter but which makes it hard to actually edit documents is not useful. A graphics driver that actually renders my screen is useful even if nobody's ever heard of it (although I grant that below a certain size maintenance issues might come up).

For music... I'm far less qualified to say, but there's still a notion of (subjective) quality, which is only loosely correlated to marketing. I suppose we could say "good" music is that music which people enjoy, which still is driven by the actual music and not marketing.


My (implicit) point was that software can be optimized for one factor, which is usefulness. By evaluating usefulness, we can evaluate whether a piece of software is "good" or not.

However, use-value makes for a very poor metric for evaluating music (I am ignoring arguments about the "usefulness" of music when it's played on a factory floor, making workers slightly more productive). So what must we use to evaluate its "good"-ness? Anything you propose here will have certain people agree, and others disagree, e.g. one set of people say good music must make you dance, and another set will say good music must make you feel relaxed (the opposite of dance).

When aggregated, these individual differences will cancel out. So the average most marketable music must, therefore, be as bland as water.


Usefulness of software is not universally objective. Perhaps a paint-mixing simulator would be very useful to me. Probably most people don't care.

In the same way, everyone likes different music. It's just that some music is "harder to like" than others. Just as in software utility.


I am speaking of the usefulness of software in a much more general sense - does it work?

Adobe Photoshop and GIMP are two competing softwares for a specific task - editing photos. Not everyone needs to edit photos. Those who do are voting with their money, because Adobe Photoshop worked faster and more easily at the same task than GIMP. (This can change, with the recent subscription-model only Adobe is pushing that is irritating its core users, but that's a different topic)

Let's return to dance music. Let's say we create a category on spotify and call it - "does it make you dance"? Well, for a swath of youth, EDM makes them dance. But for a swath of Latin-speaking users, bachata music makes them dance. Let's say they are of equal number in the population. You can see here that even averaging based on the category of "does it make you dance" will produce some rather unfortunate results (a combination of half-EDM-half-bachata that will fail to tug at the heartstrings of anyone at all, but might be vaguely palatable vaguely dance-y playing in the background of a grocery store). However, this kind of music - the one that can vaguely capture both audiences - is exactly the one that will get the most people to listen to it, and based on Spotify's model of quantity over quality, it is the one that will get most rewarded.


Let's talk about editors.

Some people like vim. Some people like VS Code.

I still don't think it's really different.


But some open source software is marketing, is it not? The big open source frameworks released by tech companies come to mind. These projects shape the industry and advance the company's recruitment goals. Bootstrap. React. TensorFlow. Kubernetes. WebKit.

Isn't is? open-source company typically don't sell 'software'. They sell 'support' ans 'service'. And even microsoft, a typical software company do this now

If that CEO was in charge of Redhat, sure. Or maybe one of those open source SaaS companies, but many of them are realizing that maybe giving away the software was also a product decision that is now harming the bottom line.

> "Software isn't our product, software is our marketing", would you feel the same way?

It did happen. We call it "In App Purchasing". And we ALL loathe it like the plague.


I see your point. But I still think that if the CEO said "software is our marketing- our real product is our influence", I'd still find that depressing.

isn't this true now for gaming?

With the success of things like Fortnite seeing games being released for free and relying on the DLC's and skins and rewards as the product.


Yeah, and I’d argue that sucks too.

I agree with you on DLC. I'd rather just pay $100 upfront (or whatever it needs to cost) to get a finished product.

on the other hand, I think F2P monetized with cosmetic items is a pretty good model for a multiplayer game. anyone with a computer can enjoy the game, and the people who care the most (or have the most disposable income) support ongoing development without messing with the balance.


More like Fortnight realizing that they need to push merch hard at target, etc.

I would definitely feel the same way.

Music isn't functional...

But then look at games - companies release X games yearly or rely heavily on fans.


The primary value of OSS is marketing. Education is a distant second.

I think it could be depressing if we think of "your product" as "the most important part of what you do". But we could also think of it as "the thing that you need to make money from". If the music itself isn't the thing that you need to make money from, then instead of charging a bunch for it, now you want to spread it as widely as possible as cheaply as possible. That's a good thing!

> When books or pictures in reproduction are thrown on the market cheaply and attain huge sales, this does not affect the nature of the objects in question. But their nature is affected when these objects themselves are changed, rewritten, condensed, digested, reduced to kitsch in reproduction, or in preparation for the movies. This does not mean that culture spreads to the masses, but that culture is being destroyed in order to yield entertainment.

-- Hannah Arendt, "The Crisis in Culture - Its Social and Its Political Significance"


> If the music itself isn't the thing that you need to make money from, then instead of charging a bunch for it, now you want to spread it as widely as possible as cheaply as possible. That's a good thing!

It is, but only if the music gets better in the process. Unlikely to happen if you rush for faster releases. More production doesn't equal to more novelty.


> but only if the music gets better in the process. Unlikely to happen if you rush for faster releases

Actually, if you are constantly working at it, you'll probably get really good at it and the quality will get better and better.

There's a story about a ceramics professor that would divide his class in two at the beginning of the semester. He would grade one group by the quality of their best piece at the end of the semester and the other group by the weight of all the pieces produced during the whole semester. The professor said that invariably, the best pieces were produced by the people in the group that was graded by the weight of their pieces. His hypothesis was that people graded by the weight would produce a lot more pieces, so in the process they would also get really good at making the pieces, whereas the people graded by their best piece would just spend too much time on their pieces trying to make them perfect and wouldn't get enough practice to actually become better at making them.


I really like this anecdote, I find it very prescriptive for life, but I don’t think it applies. Professional musicians aren’t learning how to make music like the students of the ceramics class, they are mostly fully developed artists with their own artistic style and voice. I think that constantly producing art leads an artist to become a slave to his prior work, a sort of creative fatigue. In order to foster development of an artist’s voice, they need space to get away from that style and explore other styles and forms of art.

Not a popular opinion here, but I really don’t think that coding is very comparable to pure art like music or painting, and I think that a lot of these ideas come from that place(that coding is art). Coding is art like electrical work is art—there is certainly a distinction between work crafted by a master and something muddled together by an amateur, but at the end of the day it’s functional. In these trades it’s perfectly okay to have creative fatigue as long as all the parts are good. If you have great variable names, nice modular form, terse functions, excellent descriptive comments, etc, its actually better if you have a monolithic unchanging form. Pure art, that is art meant to be consumed in the form its created, by contrast, brings with it all kinds of aesthetic values that are put by the way side in coding, and novelty and creativity are front and center.


> Actually, if you are constantly working at it, you'll probably get really good at it and the quality will get better and better.

That's true for engineering, but for music it only goes so far. A lot of musicians working this way will, after a while, find a formula that repeatedly sells, but loose a lot of originality in the process.


You don't necessarily have to "rush" for faster releases, you just have to think about releasing in a different way.

Think of it like a software roadmap: Is it better to wait 6 months and release a bucket of features twice a year, or to release features gradually throughout the year and measure their effectiveness? Some might say that releasing features gradually is "rushing things out", while others might say that it's the only way to ship non-broken software that people actually want to use.


Faster, smaller releases, compared to one new album every few years do not necessarily need to compromise on quality.

It's rare that an album contains all gems.


That's not the only argument that Ek is making.

That's one of the aspects of the new economy... only a very small minority of artists can literally go dark for 3-4 years to write something that will rise to the top instantly.


Not if you’re coerced into having to produce a piece of music every month/couple of months to keep the machine running.

That’s just producing a commodity.

Some groups have got it together and are able to fund years of quiet work before releases, but no matter how much I enjoy creating I would hate to be so bound as outlined above.


I am reminded of the story about ceramics students being told that half would be graded on quantity and half would be graded on the quality of a single piece of work.

https://excellentjourney.net/2015/03/04/art-fear-the-ceramic...

It turns out that the students who were just churning out pots ended up making the pots that were ultimately better.

I think there's probably something to be said for constantly creating.


Just FYI this story originally was about photography as clarified by the author at https://jamesclear.com/repetitions

In photography, you can get lucky. When I come back from holidays and review a thousand of random snapshots, a couple of them look great. Take 200 shots of a single thing, and one of them might be pro-level due to pure chance. Yet I'm not sure how well this "randomly great" percentage would translate to me playing the violin, dancing ballet, or writing a song.


I am not a musician but my guess is that they don't sit down and say "I'm going to record an album with 9 bad songs and one good one."

They do their best on every song and that's just how it turns out.


It definitely works for the "writing a song" bit.

A lot of things can be said and some expressions of the same thing are just better...


After hearing this story for years and finally trying to source it, as far as I can tell it's not entirely clear this experiment was ever actually run -- and in fact is sourced in the link behind your link as a "parable."

I can imagine it's true that churning out quantity is its own education but I can also imagine there's a plateau past which deliberate practice and polish matter quite a bit.


A lot of creative endeavors run on this timeline. It's just a shorter cycle and it's not new.

You’re right. It’s not new. Not for pop music anyway.

I’d argue that it’s worse, though. Shorter cycles are even less healthy.

And just because it’s been done before(-ish) and other endeavours run in this timeline doesn’t make it good or beneficial to anything but those who aspire to only make money off of it.

The fact is, good music doesn’t require business to be good music. And the business doesn’t necessarily require the music to be good—it just requires that it directly or indirectly generates revenue. From the perspective of commerce the rest is incidental.

Encouraging the commercial perspective over something more balanced is a net negative for culture and society. At least I think so.


It’s still possible to batch composition and production with this release model. The lead time saved from releasing digital only can be used to polish the earlier tracks in the schedule.

Especially when Spotify is telling you this because they pay you so little for streaming rights.

I dunno. I've known a few people who dreamed of being in a band, and they weren't excited about the part where they sit at a desk revising lyrics; they were excited to perform their songs, to get up in front of a crowd and have everyone hear them.

That’s the classic line between a performer alone and a songwriter.

It’s not tho! It means tighter release cycles which means a tighter feedback loop which means bands can find their sound faster and grow their backing faster.

It's also not universally true.

Some of Steve Albini's interviews are really on point with regards to this stuff. Really worth listening to if nothing more than to provide contrast to comments like the one above (which seem pretty reductive and flippant): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRAc3hx5pok


That's not depressing. That's one part of the "music industry". It's a huge sales channel, per se.

Now, being a musician or an artist, you decide what you do with it. If you consider that what matters is your sales and nothing else, Spotify's stance might apply to you. But you might have different point of view as well, still make music, and still live from it, perhaps.


It's a bit disrespectful to reply to someone saying something's depressing by bluntly saying it's not. It's not up to you to judge what they find depressing.

I also find it depressing. It's a societal problem that we do not value art in the same way that we value science and technology. We see it everywhere from the STEM myth to arts educational programs and artists struggling just to survive. Even earning my living in science and technology, I personally have grown to believe art is far more important for human progress and development than science and technology. It's a real problem that we blindly let markets decide what is important because it is in fact humanity's lack of progress emotionally, which is unfortunately tied strongly to our biology, but our insane progress in technology that causes almost all of our problems.


Huh? Someone's saying "that's depressing" is a statement. It's not "I find this depressing" or "I'm depressed by that". It's not disrespect, it's bringing a different perspective that does not see the depression there.

I don't find this depressing. I don't even find this societal at all. What would be depressing would be to take Spotify's view of "what music should be" or "how musicians should work/behave" for a relevant, world-wide truth. When it is only a very specific, skewed and biased take by someone's who's got a direct interest into making people believe that it is the only way to go.

That many people go this way does not mean they are right, neither they are winning.


I think I vaguely agree with much of what you said, but just want to point this one out.

> It's a societal problem that we do not value art in the same way that we value science and technology.

Want to give a couple of examples against this:

- some of the most valuable software out there is free and open source. The authors of said software don’t get compensated anywhere near the softwares value. Coz everyone uses it for free.

- I very much value the games I play on my iPhone, but I have never paid any money for them.

- I will buy Opeth t-shirts, and Akerfeld custom guitars, but I’m never going to give Spotify as much money.

So, I don’t think your claim is so clear cut as you state it.


This is more a reflection of the royalty structure for recorded music than anything else.

Well this is only true if your music is good. You can release till the cows come home, if the music sucks nobody will buy anything from you

I think it's just inaccurate. People go to shows to hear the music, therefore the music is the product still.

And the most common business tactic for content creators is to gain a loyal following and milk them forever.

It's the same for fine art honestly

Also for open source projects

not really considering artists can actually get paid now

in exchange for not being artists, ironically.

If you instrumentalize music to maximise your influencer career with the content of the music as an afterthought what you get isn't art but a mediocre commodity.

It's like Ricky Gervais remark at the Globes, the actors aren't actually actors any more, it's a competition for the best looking, most ripped steroid junkie.


It's amazing, not depressing. Music is an incredibly effective marketing channel.

And why most is utter dross. People still buy millions of classic albums from the 70's and 80's, in 30 years time very few artists will have that same comfort.

> People still buy millions of classic albums from the 70's and 80's, in 30 years time very few artists will have that same comfort.

We are only listening to the best stuff from the 70s and 80s, and in 30 years people will only listen to the best stuff from today.

Now, I think a major difference will be the "best" music people will be listening to will be very different from each other. 30+ years ago the popular music people listened to on the radio or MTV was much more broadly known and shared than music today, whereas today different demographics have increasingly siloed music tastes.

I hear a lot of good stuff my teenage sons play on Spotify that I would never hear if it wasn't for them.


Also don't forget that what you saw at MTV and your local record store was heavily manipulated by the big music labels.

I agree with this. There's definitely way more available today, and in many more niche genres than there was available in the 70s and 80s. Arguably there is also a higher proportion of trash because of the ease of entry, but because the fanbases can be so segmented people can find stuff they really like that's more geared toward their specific tastes. Plus, there are greater search tools than before, like Spotify.

If you think modern music is bad you should listen to more music.

There are artists that can publish work now, thanks to the internet, that publishers wouldn't even dream of going near let alone giving them deals. I really like microtonal electronic music for example, not exactly radio friendly.


Ah yes, the "new music sucks" argument. I've definitely never heard this one before. Please tell me how Metallica is relevant right now.

People still listen to Metallica's music, and their music still ends up in movies.

I don't really think all new music is bad, just most of it. The same could be said for back in the day though. Metallica is a bad example for you to use cause they are still widespread because they are really good. There are other bands you haven't heard of from the 70s and 80s.


Unless you're really, really into music, your taste in music essentially stops developing by the time you hit your 30s. If you're listening to Metallica today, it's because you were listening to Metallica when you were 15 (I was, and I still do).

This "all new music is dross" argument is repeated every generation as new music out-ages the outgoing generation.


Everything you said is either false or inapplicable.

I like Metallica just as much as the next guy, but they're not relevant anymore. They've been laughed out of the music industry ever since they got upset about their music being pirated - which is actually a great example of how the music industry has changed and left them in the dust. Do they still sell records? Sure. But that's not what I'm talking about. Would I listen to their opinions on modern music industry trends? Absolutely not.

Of course there are bands I haven't heard of from the 70s and 80s. That doesn't mean the ones I have heard of are relevant. It means they're memorable.

unrelated but I love your username.


> Do they still sell records? Sure. But that's not what I'm talking about. Would I listen to their opinions on modern music industry trends? Absolutely not.

I bet they feel just terrible to only be making money off of people buying their music, but not paying attention to their opinions.


People not caring about your opinions is nearly the definition of irrelevance, so I don't see how I'm wrong here.

every generation has older people thinking the new generation of music is bad :)

Well, maybe they had a point. We went from Bach to 50 cent…

You’re not from the generation that produced Bach though.

Hopefully, we'll soon have the means to ask an AI-based Bach model what it thinks of 50 cent!

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