Streaming is Doomed, Slash Heads a Hackathon, and Why Not a Musical First Person Shooter?: February 17-23

Generator Research has an alarming study for Pandora, Spotify, and other music streaming services: at their current business model, they are doomed to be unprofitable. The Generator report offers information on the top thirteen music streaming services, and one gloomy outlook. Meanwhile, last week saw the launch of yet another social streaming app (musx), and a potential partnership between Steam and Spotify. Also, Pandora is trying to take fate into its own hands by taking music publishers to court over a century-old royalty agreement. While Generator’s study found that the biggest suck on resources were the royalties that subscription streaming services had to pay to publishers, rulings against music publishing giants could upset the entire industry.

Our official response:

Colbert eats popcorn

Colbert don’t care

Our weekly nerdout is a little bit more metal than usual because Slash is holding a hackathon at SXSW music festival! An 80s hair metal icon holding a hackathon makes them cool, right? Like, not just nerdy cool but cool kid cool? Right? Okay, we might be reaching a little. But we do love our hackathons, and we just wish other people loved them too.

Speaking of love, how deep doth our love flow for music? Well, we love music a whole bunch, but the “our” in that sentence actually refers to humanity. The National Geographic notes that every human civilization has engaged in a form of musical development, but a sense of rhythm doesn’t just start at humans

…and doesn’t stop in just this reality. Video game creator Harmonix (of Guitar Hero fame) is creating a first person shooter. Based around music. Chroma, a collaboration with Hidden Path Entertainment, will allow players to use their musical prowess to jump higher, reload faster, and generally have all the advantages that are imbued to musicians in real life.

Finally this week, Slate has printed the words of one of NYU Music Tech’s own. Grad student Ethan Hein took on the issue of pop music pedagogy vs. more traditional techniques in response to a Quora question. Is he right? Shoot us an email or let us know in the comments!

Got a tip? Send us a message at scienceofmusicnyu@gmail.com , or Tweet to @NYUSciOfMusic, or post it to our Facebook page.

NAMM, Loudness Wars, and Grammys (but not in the way you think): Weekly Roundup for January 19-26th

We’re trying something new here at Science of Music: from now on we’ll give the low-down on all things that are at once science-y, tech-y, and music-y in the news once a week. Watch this space for more.

NAMM 2014

We’re keeping our eye on the “best of” lists and products coming out of NAMM since we can’t actually be there…which we’re still getting over for more reason than one. (I mean, just for the weather alone, right?) xlr8r has a take that covers the good, bad, and weird while Line 6 has created an unholy guitar-amp-bluetooth-speaker-iOS-integration combo.

But what we really, really want is this right here. Korg has announced a build-it-yourself kit that will let you build your own MS-20 synth. This analog, monophonic synth comes pre-disassembled (which is a little sad, because some of the fun is tearing something apart) giving you the chance to put it together. For the ultimate consumer-tinkering-friendly experience, no soldering or knowledge of schematics are required. The MS-20 kit is expected to be out in March for around 1,400 USD.

Breaking Genre

British Singer Katherine Jenkins says her record sales game is too strong to ignore. She claims her “crossover” pop-classical style of singing has become so popular it’s “becoming its own thing.” In fact, the Telegraph is referring to it as the “crossover” genre. To this, we say: what defines a musical genre, anyway?

A 1981 study by Franco Fabbri defines genre as “a set of musical events (real or possible) whose course is governed by a definite set of socially accepted rules.”

More recently, companies like Echo Nest (which supplies Spotify with data) are mining for these rules with—according to their website—over 35,000 songs and over 1 trillion data points. With user data refining such an enormous machine will the algorithm become the ultimate genre codifier?

A quick borrowing of my sister’s Spotify account showed a biography that called Jenkins “classical” but that her related artists contained singers like Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, and Charlotte Church, all of whom are known for their pop take on classical singing. Then again, it also had serious classical musician Howard Blake and non-classical songwriter Emmy Rossum.

Crossover as a genre? Maybe.

Peace in Our Time

Hugh Robjohns of Sound on Sound covers the protracted end of the “Loudness Wars” in the magazine’s February issue. Mastering engineer Bob Katz declared an end to the wars at AES in October, but how will we keep the peace?

In the noise of modern society, everyone is clamoring to get heard. In particular, recorded audio has been trying to “out-loud” itself for some time now, which has led to the loss of dynamic range, over-compression, and just bad sound in general. But with new technology that will put a smarter limit on audio, either broadcasted or streamed, the war may be over. The rub? Overly loud mixes will probably end up sounding “feebler” over the new system. So shut up or sound bad.

Dead Musicians’ Society

The Providence Journal ran a commentary piece about the importance of music education in schools while an upstate New York music teacher receives the first-ever Grammy in Music Education.

Of note in the PJ commentary is the idea that musicianship is not a 21st century skill. Of course not: it’s a 23rd century skill. Who else is going to teach our cyborg overlords how to play the violin? They’re going to want to be proper gentlemen, after all.

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