from the radio: analysis of digital media and a cool sounding college class

December 4th, 2007  |  Published in Defiance Ohio, note to self

This radio piece had interesting statistics on the financial viability of the latest Radiohead album which was also available as a free download.

Adam Greenfield, the person interviewed in the piece teaches a class in Urban Computing at as part of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU.

Link

Update:

My friend Peter, had the following to add:

Regarding your recent blog post ( http://blogs.terrorware.com/geoff/2007/12/03/from-the-radio-analysis-of-digital-media-and-a-cool-sounding-college-class/). The statistics cited in the NPR story are indeed interesting, but not for the reason most people (even in the “quality” mainstream press) think they are.

As I reported in a recent issue of The Nation (http://www.thenation.com), the stats were gathered by Comscore, an internet marketing firm that gathers data from 2 million poor souls who let their every point and click be monitored in exchange for some free software and sweepstake entries. Their software doesn’t work on macs or in firefox. They provide no detailed information about the type of statistical analysis they use They don’t even publish their relevant sample sizes ( i.e. how many of the folks they monitor actually bought the album – the way they phrase it leaves). Their findings are not accepted by many trade groups, and have been widely (and justly) critiqued across the web. Yet the AP, the NYtimes, NPR, etc. etc. are all regurgitating their Radiohead findings, never once noting that the evidence isn’t there.

Why would they do such a thing?

While reporting my first story (a reported personal essay, also in The Nation) on the Radiohead album, I noticed that all the industry people I talked to were not-so-subtly trying to put down Radiohead’s effort. One exec told me he’d heard they were just demos they were dumping on the public for laughs. When I pressed him, he told me he got the info from a members-only industry message board. I weaseled my way into a membership and guess what? No talk of “demo dumping.” Others told me “just look at the reviews, no one thinks its any good, etc.” It’s aggregating in the high 90s at metacritic.com!

To quote one of my own articles:

“It’s hard to resist some cynical conclusions: Comscore’s client base includes several media conglomerates, media conglomerates want In Rainbows to fail, newspapers want stories, and failure sells.”

Update 2:

I read on my friend Jenny’s blog, Greater Detroit, about a Detroit-based artist who also released his latest album, DETRO!T BE!RUT, as a free or donation-based download.

From the artist’s website:

This music comes from South Lebanon, was born in Lansing and lives in Detroit.  A sound declaration.  This music is rhythm for revolutions, rebellions, empowerment and progression.  Through audio and images, history is projected onto the future, terrorific stereotypes are rejected, a slandered heritage is reclaimed, the ruins of a city are rebuilt.  Sound and visions express the struggles and share the beauty of Detroit, Beirut.

Honestly, I’ve only just started listening to the recording, but it makes me think about refocusing the question of downloadable music.  I think the question is often asked as whether free or donation-based music is viable for the music industry or for artists in the context of the music industry.  I’m not sure if it is viable for the industry, or artists trying to operate within that system.  However, I don’t think that’s problematic.  I think that the Internet and digital music is less interesting as a tool that can be assimilated into the current music industry’s business model, or even as something that will shift the direction of the music industry, and more interesting as something that allows for a completely separate space for the dissemination of music and ideas.

It’s easy to see downloadable music and the social and technological network infrastructure that supports it as something that can be exploited by those who wouldn’t succeed within the confines of the record industry.  This casts those who utilize these networks as failures within the mainstream media market.  However, I see the recording industry and mainstream media as failing to produce media that is multicultural or culturally critical and that speaks to or from those for whom the traversal of these cultural boundaries is personal and important.  Digital media offers an opportunity, not just as reform or critique, for artists to succeed where existing cultural systems has failed.  It offers a tool to create something that is completely new and separate, not a music industry, but, hopefully, music culture.