Reverie on music streaming and YouTube

by phil on Monday Aug 29, 2011 1:10 PM

I posted on Twitter the other day an observation, that all I've been listening to is Spotify and Pandora lately. That means all my music listening is streaming now. In some ways, this is not profound, because people go through stretches of only listening to the radio, which is streaming.

I think there was a point when owning an album was a big deal. It was an artifact to behold. You spent hard-earned money on it, and you just looked at the cover art while listening to it. This carried over to music piracy a little, and finding a download link to a full album gave you a little hit of triumph. This was a hold-over from the purchase-music days. By now, though, there's no accomplishment at all to music piracy. Just YouTube it. Just Google it. Just torrent it. Maybe the album is dead. Or it was dead 10 years ago, when Napster broke everything down for everybody.

But what I really want to highlight is when my friend Dusty and I played Spotify-tennis. I picked a song that I knew we both liked, then he followed up with a song similar to it. Then I followed with another song, and so on and so forth, like we were DJs. What's nice is that we were drawing from a shared box of vinyl, i.e. the entire Spotify catalog. We came up with some beautiful stretches of 80s/90s music of high pitched singers, like Madonna's "Lucky Star" or Kim Wilde's "Kids in America".

I wonder, though, how much of the Spotify-tennis was inspired by listening to so much Pandora. Listening to Pandora, in a way, is like floating down a stream of music. You don't know what bends or turns it will take, but you're curious. Or maybe it's more like a Markov (?) chain, where each new iteration feeds back into the system as a whole to change the chain going forward. I like the idea of upvoting your way down the rabbit hole. When you seed a station on Pandora, after 2-3 upvotes over 15 minutes, you get to the core of what musical itch you didn't know you were trying to scratch in the first place.

Which leads me to what I really want to talk about, which is this impromptu video play list I constructed at a party on Friday. There were five of us on couches at my friend's house, drinking wine around a TV with a Mac Mini, and it was 10pm. For some reason, I just wanted to stay in, while I could tell the group had a destiny of eventually going to a house party or a club or something. So I did my best to draw people into YouTube, and I plucked out video after video from my years-long memory of YouTube videos I've seen, all with music, and all interesting or notable in some way. I think if you're of a certain inclination, you will really enjoy watching these videos:

Anita O'Day (from Jazz on a Summer's Day)

Sandie Shaw - "Always Something There to Remind Me"

Wang Chung - "Dance Hall Days"

Elton John - "Border Song" (earliest surviving performance of Elton John)

"Walk it Out" (to Bob Fosse choreography)

Cocorosie - "Hairnet Paradise"

"Crazy" (Theremin version)

Chatroulette (Merton)

Chatroulette (Ben Folds)

"Womanizer" (ASL music video)

"You're So Gay" (ASL music video)

In a way, this list is a big giant ode to the medium of the Internet clip. It starts out with how great it is at ressurrecting old footage (Sandie Shaw, Elton John). It provides a platform for really creative remixes, drawing from vastly different sources (old variety show dance numbers and recent rap music in "Walk it Out"). It gives a platform for super-niche, rare, but wondrous and raw amateur performance (Cocorosie). More remixes (Theremin "Crazy" version).

The stretch on Chatroulette to me really is the pinnacle of what I think this medium is great for. For all the criticism people have of reality TV shows, the unscripted filming of amateurs has an art to it, and I think that art hits all the right numbers in those two Chatroulette videos. Those are all real people, all unscripted, and it provides us something that you simply can't sit down and just invent. It has to happen spontaneously.

And the last two I just threw in there because they're interesting to me. You didn't even know ASL music videos existed before this. Now you do. That's so often the reaction you get when watching a YouTube video emailed to you, "I didn't know this existed."

(I want to add an extra coda here. It pains me a little to sing the praises of YouTube. Each time I've blogged about it, the service reached yet another milestone. But at their first milestone, when they were looking to hire their first employee, I turned them down.)


Buy mobile phones said on September 23, 2011 11:47 AM:

you tube rocks i cant live without you tube and music

Darren said on October 4, 2011 8:01 AM:

Love the Wang Chung video! Been a long time. Its amazing what you can find on Youtube these days. I miss the old MTV that actually had something to do with Music.

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