Tag: music

Songs are getting shorter

A new study finds that pop songs themselves are getting faster as listeners’ attention spans diminish  and young people have the attention span of goldfish

The study was penned by Hubert Leveille Gauvin, a doctoral student in music theory at the Ohio State University who looked at the year-end top 10 on the US Billboard chart between 1986 and 2015.

He found that instrumental openings to songs have shrunk dramatically over the past three decades and, to a lesser extent, the average tempo of hit singles has been speeding up.

In 1986, it took roughly 23 seconds before the voice began on the average hit song. In 2015, vocals came in after about five seconds, a drop of 78 percent, he found.

His study was published in Musicae Scientiae, the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music. He linked the trend to the rapid rise of Spotify and other streaming sites that give listeners instant access to millions of songs.

“It makes sense that if the environment is so competitive, artists would want to try to grab your attention as quickly as possible and the voice is one of the most attention-grabbing things that there is.”

Apparently if you like to concentrate, you like instrumental music.

As an example of the shift, Leveille Gauvin pointed to Starship’s 1987 hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which takes 22 seconds for the vocals to begin and more than a minute for the chorus.

On the 2015 hit “Sugar” by Maroon 5, Adam Levine gets to the point within seven seconds with the lines: “I’m hurting baby / I’m broken down.”

Leveille Gauvin doubts that many pop stars are clamouring in the studio for shorter intros, he just thinks it is a steady evolution in songwriting conventions.

He connected the trend to scholar Michael H. Goldhaber’s concept of the “attention economy”—the quest to hold attention in an internet overflowing with information.

“You can think of music as this double role. Music has always been a cultural product, but I think that more and more songs are also advertisements for the artists,” Leveille Gauvin said.

Big Content Blames Canada

Big content pressure groups the MPAA and RIAA have waded into Canada, claiming that it is a “safe haven” for copyright infringers and pirate sites.

It moaned that the Canadians “notice and notice” system is ineffective at deterring pirates and that the broader legal copyright regime fails to deter piracy.

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has released its latest 301 ‘watch list’ submission to the US Government which is based on the numbers of complaints Big Content has against nation states.

Canada is discussed in detail with the recommendation to put it on the 2017 Special 301 ‘watch list.’

One of the main criticisms is that, despite having been called out repeatedly in the past, the country still offers a home to many pirate sites.

“For a number of years, extending well into the current decade, Canada had a well-deserved reputation as a safe haven for some of the most massive and flagrant Internet sites dedicated to the online theft of copyright material,” IIPA writes.

It all seems rather unfair given that the Canadians shut down the popular torrent site KickassTorrents, which was partly hosted there. The IIPA is worried about the emergence of stand-alone BitTorrent applications that allow users to stream content directly through an attractive and user-friendly interface. Basically, they are moaning about Popcorn Time.

The IIPA reports that several websites offering modified game console gear have also moved there to escape liability under US law.

The group specifically highlights R4cardmontreal.com, gamersection.ca and r4dscanada.com among the offenders, and notes that “This trend breathes new life into Canada’s problematic ‘safe haven’ reputation.”

Big Content claims Canada’s legal regime fails to deal with online piracy in a proper manner. This is also true for the “notice and notice” legislation that was adopted two years ago, which requires ISPs to forward copyright infringement notices to pirating subscribers.

But the main issue appears to be that there is no evidence that any of the anti-piracy crackdowns have worked. Big Content thinks that this is because there are no punishments involved for frequent offenders. Despite the failure of any measures to stop online piracy Big Content wants  to see crucifixions.

“…simply notifying ISP subscribers that their infringing activity has been detected is ineffective in deterring illegal activity, because receiving the notices lacks any meaningful consequences under the Canadian system,” IIPA writes.

It admits that the ‘notice-and-takedown’ remedy that most other modern copyright laws provide does not work but it does provide some incentives for cooperation, incentives that Canada’s laws simply lack,” Big Content muttered.

Sony tried to kill copyright professor’s YouTube lecture

Liberty-Net-His-Masters-VoiceCopyright cops at Sony Music bit off more than they could chew when they attempted to take down a Harvard professor’s YouTube lecture about fair use.

Harvard Law professor William Fisher put up his lecture to illustrate exactly how the law on fair use works and he included snippets of well-known covers.

However Sony did not like that and when its automated bots detect and reported that their rights were being infringed Fisher’s lecture was taken down.

Google recognises the problems and recently offered to pay the legal bills of several people who argued that their removed videos are protected by ‘fair use’ legislation. But its Content-ID system still flags a lot of legal content.

Fisher’s videos had the title: “The Subject Matter of Copyright: Music.” None of the tracks, which include covers by Joe Cocker, Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughan, are played in full. Instead, Fisher highlights small segments ranging from 15 to roughly 40 seconds.

Fisher could take Sony to the cleaners, after all he has the huge weight of the Harvard Law department to help out. Sony must have realised this because his videos have been re-instated.

However the question remains how much content is being taken down without “fair use” being properly defended.

Big Content gets legal poke in the eye

US court in texas

US court in Texas

Big Content’s methods of automatically issuing take down notices of material it considers pirated received a poke in the eye from the US courts.

A US appeals court ruled that copyright holders must consider “fair use” before demanding the removal of videos that people post online.

In a closely followed case over a home video of a toddler dancing to the Prince hit “Let’s Go Crazy.” In that case Stephanie Lenz of Gallitzin, Pennsylvania had in February 2007 uploaded to YouTube a blurry 29-second clip of her 13-month-old son Holden happily bobbing up and down to “Let’s Go Crazy,” a 1984 song by Prince and The Revolution that played in the background.

Lenz said she thought her family and friends would enjoy seeing the toddler, who had just learned to walk, dance as well.

But Universal, which enforced Prince’s copyrights, persuaded YouTube to remove Lenz’s video, citing a good faith belief that the video was unauthorised.

Lenz had the video restored and sued Universal over the takedown notice, seeking damages.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has now made it tougher for content providers such as Universal Music Group to force Internet service providers to remove material.

“Copyright holders cannot shirk their duty to consider – in good faith and prior to sending a takedown notification – whether allegedly infringing material constitutes fair use,” Circuit Judge Richard Tallman wrote for a 3-0 panel.

In January 2013, US District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Francisco said copyright holders must consider fair use, but denied Lenz’s misrepresentation claim.

Upholding that ruling, Tallman said there can be liability if a copyright holder “knowingly misrepresented” in a takedown notice that it had a good faith belief that a video “did not constitute fair use.”

But he also said courts should defer to a copyright holder who has a “subjective good faith belief” to the contrary.

The 9th Circuit said Lenz failed to overcome this hurdle, and instead may seek nominal damages for the “unquantifiable harm” she suffered.

Corynne McSherry, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation representing Lenz, said the decision “sends a strong message that copyright law does not authorize thoughtless censorship of lawful speech.”

Apple Music is 10 years out of date

radio_farm_family_ca1930_dbloc_saEric Schmidt the chairman of Google has written an op-ed piece for the BBC talking up artificial intelligence.

He said that much of Google’s focus as a company has shifted to artificial intelligence, with projects such as Google Now embodying the company’s aim of using a computer to work out what humans need before even they know.

However Schmidt said that Apple still has not got the hang of this with its Apple Music project.
Apple employs real DJs who curate what is heard, something that Schmidt thinks is so ten years ago.

He said: “A decade ago, to launch a digital music service, you probably would have enlisted a handful of elite taste-makers to pick the hottest new music.

“Today, you’re much better off building a smart system that can learn from the real world – what actual listeners are most likely to like next – and help you predict who and where the next Adele might be.

“As a bonus, it’s a much less elitist taste-making process – much more democratic – allowing everyone to discover the next big star through our own collective tastes and not through the individual preferences of a select few.”

To be fair to Apple, Google is not close to producing a music service that can guess what you want to hear. It is easier for old-farts like me who don’t listen to anything that has been created in the last ten years. Google AI just deletes popular beat combo artists like Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Wayne, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Rihanna and Kanye West.

Apple let off the antitrust hook

150276-ebc7898c-84b3-11e3-90a9-2f6f5b597dd3European antitrust watchdogs will not take a bite out of Apple’s rump over the Fruity cargo cult’s music streaming service.

Antitrust authorities in Europe failed to find evidence that Apple deals with record labels and online music streaming services are blocking rivals’ access to its music streaming platform.

The European Commission started an investigation in April and sent out questionnaires to several record labels seeking information about their dealings with Apple.

The investigation did not turn up evidence of any illegal activity, but the European Union will continue to monitor the market.

Oddly the investigators have not heard from Spotify and other music streaming services on the restrictions Apple places on apps offered through the store.  This means that Apple’s alleged victims failed to take advantage of the situation to stick the boot in.

US government antitrust regulators were also looking into claims about whether Apple’s treatment of rival streaming music apps is illegal under antitrust law.

Apple crumbles after Swift attacks

Swift - Wikimedia CommonsThe mighty marketing engine that is Apple was forced to eat humble pie after a minor pop star said she wasn’t happy with the company giving away her music for free.

Taylor Swift, a US crooner, penned a note to Apple saying there was no way she’d let Apple stream her music in a three month free trial the computing company is offering with Apple Pay.

That led to a frenzied situation at Apple Central in Cupertino with its top music executive saying it respected her and independent artists and grinding the gears as it performed a massive u-turn.

Swift said in an open letter to Apple that three months is a long time to go without being paid. It was “unfair” for people to work for nothing.

She said: “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Apple crumbled at the idea it would be considered as unhip by people playing in popular beat combos and gave in without a fight.

Some people shouldn’t code says Linus

Creator of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds, said that some people do not need to learn basic programming skills.

The idea is being touted by those who think that programming should he taught alongside learning to read, write, and do basic adding up.

Torvalds said that the concept is silly and he did not think that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code.

The skill is reasonably specialised, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It’s not like knowing how to read and write and do basic maths, he said.

Getting some form of exposure to it would be good, since it would allow those who have an interest to be able to identify that interest and foster that and turn it into a skill, which could ultimately lead to a career in programming.

In that sense computer courses in schools are a great idea, even if he did not believe in the “everybody should learn to code” thing.

We guess he means that if you learn it at school you will hate it so much that you will never want to do it again. There is also the risk that what you learn in school will be so out of date that you might as well never have bothered. Sheesh my computer studies teacher insisted that we learn Pascal and most of my six form life was spent searching for missing semi-colons. 

Google does evil to independent music business

The search engine Google has been accused of doing evil to independent music labels by forcing them to sign up for its streaming music subscription service.

The service has not officially been announced and will compete directly with Spotify, Deezer and their rivals.

But Google is using its control of YouTube to force indie labels to sign up to the new service according to the music industry trade association the Worldwide Independent Network (WIN).

YouTube is approaching labels directly with a “template contract” and threatening that if they do not sign it, all their music videos will be blocked on YouTube.

It also claims the terms of the contract are non-negotiable, and undervalue the music of these labels in comparison to Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and other subscription streaming services.

WIN had a press release saying that all planned when planned to issue a press release lambasting YouTube this morning, with quotes from YouTube opened new talks. However the press release was released to AFP under embargo and WIN forgot to retract it.

WIN chief executive Alison Wenham said in the original release that the small labels are businesses who rely on a variety of income streams to invest in new talent. They are being told by one of the largest companies in the world to accept terms that are out of step with the marketplace for streaming.

“We believe, as such, that these actions are unnecessary and indefensible, not to mention commercially questionable and potentially damaging to YouTube itself, given the harm likely to result from this approach.”

Sending contracts directly to independent labels would be a controversial move; many are members of another trade body, Merlin, which negotiates collective licensing deals with new digital music services on their behalf.

Merlin chief executive Charles Caldas recently criticised YouTube in a speech at industry conference Music Connected, referring to a quote from musician Billy Bragg suggesting artists who criticise Spotify for its low royalty payments “should be marching to YouTube central with flaming pitchforks”.

Caldas said YouTube pays the least but is the service that is the most well-funded and run by the biggest company in the world. Their figures are by far the worst, whether you measure them on a per-stream basis or a per-user basis.

WIN is concerned is over the “termination” letters that it says have been sent to labels, threatening to block their content on YouTube if they do not sign up to the new service. WIN has now given YouTube a 24-hour deadline to rescind those letters. 

Rock the Linux kernel module

A popular beat combo from the town which bought us Nirvana has released a debut album as a Linux kernel module alongside the usual formats.

Netcat, which shares its name with a networking tool of the same name, told the world+dog on its Facebook page that the world was ready for Linux kernel module music.

“Are you ever listening to an album, and thinking ‘man, this sounds good, but I wish it crossed from user-space to kernel-space more often!’ We got you covered. Our album is now fully playable as a loadable Linux kernel module.”

The album has the catchy title Cycles Per Instruction and the kernel module can be found on GitHub.

Reddit users are enthusiastic and some of them are planning to port it to a specialized raspberry pi image and build a strange dedicated Walkman to play it.

Oddly the band are also releasing it on cassette and we are surprised there are any of those still around.

Needless to say having music as code is always going to find an open sauce pedants who are going to complain. One moaned about the unnecessary intermediate compression of the audio, others who played it just think it sounds like shit.

We would have thought that it would have been better to have used Flanders and Swan as a test for it – a song like “I’m a Gnu… how do you do”.

What is strange is that while many bands pitch at the teenage girl market, Netcat appears to have thought that Linux programmers were a better bet.

Their website said that the group wanted to explore the intersection between “technology, complexity, and free improvisation.” This means bringing together conventional instruments and combining it with computer generated sounds and computer instruments, like the Chango, a novel synthesizer that is played with light.

It case you were wondering, the mixture of these ingredients is “textural, long-form structured improvisations” which requires you to “laying down on the floor with expensive headphones on and enjoying the solipsism”.

We are guessing that solipsism is not just a euphemism for being under the influence of hash… er the hash key.