Results of the Innerspace Labs’ Music Discovery Survey

The results are in for the Innerspace Labs Music Discovery Survey!  A huge thank-you to all who offered their input.

I created the survey out of a personal curiosity.  Sadly, I have very little contact with the general public outside of the few members of my digital publishing team at the office, and I wanted to know what impact the web has had on the ways listeners discover new sounds.

I suspected listeners utilized multiple media resources in their musical explorations and that certainly proved to be the case.  Contributors cited an average of 6.44 sources for new music data.  The majority of the music sources I offered as options for the survey were widely-used, save for rateyourmusic.com, music subreddits, Gnoosic, and Usenet groups which each accounted for fewer than 3% of users’ musical resources.  I found this particularly interesting as I visit RYM frequently as my primary ratings and review aggregator and find its information invaluable when researching artists and genres.

Survey Tablepsd

As expected, Youtube ranked as users’ most-used resource when sampling new sounds.  I was surprised, however, to find that radio, motion pictures, television, or other forms of mass media were the third-highest ranked information resource, right behind user’s own friends.  While I only see ~3 new films annually, and have no exposure to television or radio, it still appears that mass media is still a significant part of most people’s lives.

Spotify and other streaming services were the next-highest ranked source, accounting for 10% of listeners’ discoveries.  While they are not a viable source for non-commercial or analog-only recordings, they still offer an incredible convenience for quick-and-easy personalized radio stations and there is no shortage of articles proclaiming streaming the new standard for mass media.

Crate digging was another significant source, as were vinyl Facebook communities and private music forums.  I’m curious whether this is representative of the public at large or just for Innerspace readers, but it is exciting nonetheless.

I was similarly please by the results for music lit and other periodicals, which accounted for more than 5% of musical discovery.  While 5% doesn’t sound significant on the surface, bear in mind that users cited an average of 6-7 sources for new music, so I’m considering 5% a threshold for this survey.

Other sources of note are independent music blogs and local music performances, both of which were a delight to see still holding their own in the survey.  After attending the latest concert at my local university, I will certainly be visiting their music library for further research into works by their professors.

I’m also curious to see if torrenting will grow in popularity for general music research in the years ahead.  Personally, torrenting is a critical step in my music purchasing process.  I’ve yet to find a better system, whether for surveying the catalog of an artist or to compare various masters before investing my hard-earned cash.

I consider the survey a success as its certainly given me a better understanding of how users find new music.  Thanks once again to everyone who contributed!

How Innerspace Readers Discover New Music

Last Change to Add Your Voice to the Innerspace Music Discovery Survey!

A huge thank-you to all who’ve participated in The Innerspace Music Discovery Survey!  I need just a few more contributors before I begin my write-up, so if you haven’t answered the single-question survey yet – now’s the time!

It takes about 1 minute, and the results will be published in an upcoming article.  Add your vote now and tell us how YOU discover new music!

Click here to answer the single-question survey before it closes!

musicstreamingservices

Hearkening Back to 4AD

This evening I found myself feeling emotionally and intellectually nostalgic for 1984-1994 ethereal wave / jangle-pop / neo-psychedelia / slowcore / art punk music which I’d only superficially explored in my college days.

This was music I emotionally-associate with the new-found independence and freedom (before the crushing reality of student loan debt sank in.)

As I’m never one to take on a task lightly, I charged full-speed to RYM, building custom charts of heroin-inspired jangle-pop and dreamy drone music of the late eighties and early nineties.

I consider these years sacred, before the industry latched on to the budding “alternative” rock scene and everything went to hell. These are the years before grunge hit full-swing, before megastars like Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, and Gavin Rossdale were featured every three songs on every commercial radio station in the US.

The free-form college rock scene was instead dominated by unlikely and reclusive rockers like J Spaceman and Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins.

Now armed with a roster of essential recordings, I’ll begin compiling the necessary albums for what will fill many evenings with the music from artists such as:

Spacemen 3
Spiritualized
Belly
Cocteau Twins
Curve
Galaxy 500
The Jesus & Mary Chain
Lush
Medicine
My Bloody Valentine
Sisters of Mercy
Slowdive
Sparklehorse
Suicide
The Church
Throwing Muses

…and a score of other essential artists of the dreamy early-alternative and pre-grunge scene.

I also count among these artists American Analog Set for their whisper-core indie music which came after the heyday of the shoegaze genre.

Spacemen 3 so adequately summarized the entire scene – “Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To.”

spiritualized_3

The Best Concert of 2015

Tonight I was privileged enough to be in attendance at a small but incredibly exciting musical event in Buffalo, NY.

At 7pm my beloved musical cohort and I braved the maddened event parking at the local university, and worked our way past the velvet ropes and bustling crowds who apparently were awaiting a performance by The Decemberists. We continued down a nondescript narrow corridor to an intimate black box theater – the locale for the REAL excitement of the evening.

Black Box 2015 was presented by The Lejaren Hiller Computer Music Studios at The University at Buffalo. The annual multi-channel electroacoustic event was hosted by the Studio’s director, Professor Lippe. Lippe’s compositions have received numerous international prizes, and he studied under composers including Boulez, Stockhausen, and Xenakis – some of the most prominent figures of 20th century electronic sound.

Below is a brief summary of the featured works of the evening.

Lippe’s Ivocean (1978) was created using early analog synthesizers (Moog IIIP, Buchla, et al.), using these instruments to craft new timbres which still sound exciting and undated nearly 40 years after their recording.

Maggie Payne’s Crystal (1982) consists of muti-tracked shimmering tones which slowly washed over and around the theater much in the same way that light plays upon a crystalline prism.

Gayle Young’s Avalon Shorelines (2015) is a multi-channel soundscape which uses recordings of the titular waterfront toward the construction of an elaborate and multi-dimensional sonic landscape. Field recordings of crashing waves were accompanied by her performance on an Amaranth – an instrument of her invention played with two bows and reminiscent of a Japanese koto. The instrument produced a range of sounds all of which conjured images of a steel ship groaning and rollocking against the waves of an angry sea.

Brett Masteller’s electro-acoustic work, Trio of Duets was a modern drone piece built from instrumental sound samples, enveloping the theater in an impenetrable fog somewhere between high-volume broadcast static and moving through a gale in slow motion.

John Chowning’s Phoné (1981) was an exciting experience. Chowning is best-known for having discovered the FM synthesis algorithm in 1967, which allowed for the synthesis of simple but rich sounding timbres. The sounds experienced in Phoné calls to memory many of the pivotal recordings of electronic sound. There are skittering, playful melodic fragments, sudden bursts of white noise, and microtonal runs much like those employed by Stockhausen, Subotnick, Louis and Bebe Barron, Perrey & Kingsley, and Beaver & Krause during the 1960s and 70s. There is even a delightful and mischievous touch of Raymond Scott a la his adverts for the Bendix Corporation.

But the crowd-favorite of the evening was the Ethan Hayden’s “…ce dangereux supplément…” (2015), a dynamic and engaging piece for live and recorded voices. Hayden stepped up to a podium with several sheets of what appeared to be a random spilling of pronunciation symbols and odd scribblings. They were, in fact, intricate experimental notation in the classic form of musique concrete. For the next eight minutes, he stood, wearing a headset microphone, and produced a captivating performance of furious jabberwock-speech, tongue clicks, grunts and pops. Both his energy and skill were truly mesmerizing, and for nearly ten minutes he made an incredible amount of noise without once venturing near what anyone could call a coherent sound. His performance ended with thunderous applause – surely one to be remembered.

I spoke briefly with each of the performers about their work and was excited to learn that much of the professors’ sound catalogs are available to the public at the University library. I’m planning the first of many visits this summer for further research.

My readers should also take note that Hayden published a book on Sigur Rós’s ( ) for the famous +33⅓ series in August of 2014. I’ll certainly be securing a copy for my library.


Gayle Young’s Amaranth

The Illectrik Hoax – Waking up from a Lifelong Retromusical Hibernation

I’m feeling incredibly inspired.  It’d been a week of stagnation; I’d looked at my record collection and had said to myself, “wow… I’ve successfully built an autobiographical library of the greatest examples of each niche genre I love – downtempo electronic, avant-garde jazz, the Berlin School… and many others.  But NOW what do I do?

With the purchase of Underworld’s 20th anniversary deluxe edition of their masterwork, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, I’d come full circle to the album which first-inspired my life-long musical journey.  But something was missing.

Dubnobasswithmyheadman 20th Anniversary Edition

The 20th Anniversary Box Set of Dubnobasswithmyheadman

The majority of my knowledge of electronic music focuses on early revolutionaries of the genre – the tinkerers and innovators of monstrous noise machines.  I’ve archived classic milestones from the grating clamor of Luigi Russolo to the soothing sounds of 20th century ambient music, concluding with Basinski’s soundtrack to 9/11.

But I’d really lost touch with modern music, instead obsessing over the rich and vibrant sounds of 1969-1973.  Thankfully, a siren sound lured me to the official website of DJ Food in the last few weeks, and, on a whim, I compiled an archive of his 35 Solid Steel Radio shows, and with the entire weekend ahead of me pledged to dedicate some serious listening time to these programs.

Solid Steel Radio

These would be the first “modern” recordings I’d heard since the dream pop halcyon revival of the late 90s and first years of the new millennium.  And with the opening minutes of the very first set, my ears piqued and I was swept away.

His “A Weird World Reader” mix is described as a trip through the recent EP ‘One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World’ featuring tracks, samples and influences that make it what it is.  The first track is a 17 minute tour de force collaboration with The Amorphous Androgynous – a track called, “The Illectrik Hoax.”  10 minutes passed in a single breath and as the track concluded and I returned to the physical world, I leapt from my listening chair.  Locating my girlfriend and fellow music junkie, I fit my studio monitors firmly upon her ears and cued the track up a second time.  Her eyes closed and her head began to groove with the rhythm.  I paused the track asking what she thought, but her only response was a whine of discontent translating to, “play more!”

A Weird World Reader

The wonderfully weird “Weird World Reader”

Minutes later I had the full album playing in my studio and was absolutely enamored by the mysterious, sci-fi soundscapes of the record.  Best-absorbed in its entirety from start to finish – this is a concept record of infectious rhythms and strange sounds which successfully transport the listener to the “Weird World” Food alluded to in the Reader mix.  Long before the end of the album, I’d searched Discogs.com for a copy and phoned my local shop to order one for my library.

The Search Engine is a 4LP set of 45RPM discs housed in a magnificent quad-gatefold sleeve.  True to DJ Food’s usual form, it features eye-popping artwork that is best-viewed in its proper 12″ format.

Search Engine 1

Search Engine 2

Search Engine 3

Search Engine 4

Search Engine 5

Discogs classifies the record as “Abstract, Breakbeat, Broken Beat, Downtempo, Experimental, Hip Hop, Leftfield music.” – effectively a mishmash of all my very favorite words.  Thank you, DJ Food for breaking me of my pretentious retomusical fanaticism, and for initiating me into the music of the now.

UPDATE: New findings reveal that the 17-minute mix is exclusive to the 2012 Record Store Day smokey psychedelic vinyl edition, limited to 1500 copies worldwide.  I’ve just tracked down a sealed copy and it’s on its way to me now.

Here’s the complete track – “The Illectrik Hoax (A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Mix by the Amorphous Androgynous.)”

RSD Edition AA Single

Highlighting a Classic but Effective Discovery Tool

I’m a tremendous fan of music recommendation systems, and love to put them to the test.

Pandora’s song-characteristic matching system is intriguing, but I wanted to highlight one of the first examples of a music recommendation engine that I can recall. Marek Gibney’s Music-Map was the earliest incarnation of his Gnod (Global Network of Discovery) engine. Enter an artist and it will visually cluster related artists in an animated plain-text cloud.

Music Map

Give it a try!

Gnod.com went on to expand and now includes recommendation systems for art, film, and literature, but where it really shines is its fantastic visual product mapping system for users shopping for smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

Tablet Chart

I’ll be giving the literature engine a try this evening for classic dystopian fiction and for music non-fiction.

While I usually swear by rating aggregation systems like metacritic and rateyourmusic, Marek’s project has a simple yet effective interface and the interactive cell phone and hard drive maps are impressively useful.

Have at it!

Published in: on March 26, 2015 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Shortest and Easiest Music Survey Ever… for SCIENCE!

I’m putting together a piece on music and technology where I’ll discuss the various ways listeners discover new music.  To help gather info, I’ve put together a fun and easy one-question survey asking How Do You Discover New Tunes?

Slide the sliders for each of the methods you use for a total of 100% of your musical discoveries.  Give it a try and please – share it on your social media networks – the more users that take the poll, the better the quality of the info I’ll compile!

Take The Innerspace Music Discovery Survey!

Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 3:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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Super-Deluxe: Marketing Physical Music Media to MP3-Enthusiasts

In the age of digital music, it takes a little something “extra” to entice consumers to spend their hard-earned cash on physical media.  The enormous convenience and portability of high-bitrate MP3 and lossless FLAC libraries have removed the necessity for dedicating walls (or in some cases, entire rooms) to house and proudly display our favorite albums.

But the beauty of a masterfully-designed and packaged album is one characteristic with which digital audio cannot compete.  The same can be said for the experiential element of removing a vinyl LP from its sleeve, placing it upon one’s turntable, and carefully dropping the needle into the groove.

Record labels are fully aware of this key advantage, and in recent years have funneled an incredible amount of energy, time and resources into developing “super-deluxe” limited editions of albums both old and new to win customers over to buying the real thing.

Compilations, deluxe and limited editions have been an explosive trend in the last 10 years, and albums previously only available as bootlegs are resurfacing as official special releases, all in an effort to earn collector’s patronage.  Official multi-volume Bootleg Series editions are now available featuring live material by Dylan, Miles Davis, and perhaps the kings of the bootleg market – The Grateful Dead, as the classic 36-volumes of Dick’s Picks are being sequentially reissued for the first time on vinyl.

Of course, the concept of deluxe and special editions is nothing new to the media industry.  Deutsche Grammophon produced an impressive 16-volume library of hardbound 5LP sets celebrating Beethoven’s Bicentennial back in 1963.  The complete collection of 80 records and a handsome oversize hardcover book made a perfect gift item for the classical fan in your life… though the set also burdens the recipient with the task of dedicating considerable floor space to accommodate the collection, and is a nightmare should they ever need to move.

Thankfully, the CD era granted increased portability with its more compact format.  DG wasted no time and followed up the Bicentennial Collection with a 111 Year Retrospective of the label’s finest recordings.  The two volumes released in 2009 and 2010 comprised a monumental 111 CDs marketed to completists and obsessive collectors of the finest classical music.

Still, even with all the conveniences of the CD, some deluxe sets take collectability a little too far.  Perhaps the best example is the absurdly-overcomplete 500-disc World’s Greatest Jazz Collection – a compilation of apparently every jazz track that wasn’t nailed down.

These and countless other deluxe releases demonstrate how the market for physical music media has evolved to adapt to the convenience of digital audio.  Listeners have become cultural curators, carefully selecting which recordings they will purchase in physical form to best-fit their personal collections and to tell their own stories.  The act of investing in an LP or CD is now a significant and deliberate decision which serves to contribute to one’s autobiographical library.

In 2014, marketing guru Gene Simmons fully-understood this consumer desire, and produced what is one of the finest implementations of a music product designed for the collector’s market.

This is Kissteria – “The Ultimate Vinyl Road Case.”  Thirty-four LPs, featuring nineteen studio albums, five Alive releases and their four solo albums pressed onto audiophile 180g vinyl.  To further appeal to discerning audiophiles, each of the recordings has been newly remastered in ultra-high definition DSD.  And as an added bonus, the set includes twelve archival posters, a KISS vinyl cleaning cloth, turntable mat, dominoes set, lithographs, and a certificate of authenticity – all of which is housed in an Anvil case weighing in at nearly 50 pounds.

The set was limited to 1000 copies – clearly an exclusive for KISS’ biggest mega-fans.  The set symbolizes the perfect execution of a music product for the digital age.  Listen up record labels – if you want to compete with the convenience of digital audio… this is how its done.

Kissteria Box Set

The Reclamation of Pop: A Musical Manifesto

Every few days I find myself writing an impassioned and somewhat crappy music manifesto.  Here is one of them.


From at least the 1950s forward, with the popularity of the 7″ single and the commercial boom of post-war FM radio, music marketing exploded and marketers sought not to predict the future of popular music, but to direct it.

Console radios (and later their transistor offspring) moved music from the reach of the listening elite who would attend evening classical events to the masses, most of which had no particular ear or preference for music.  The consequence of democratizing music listenership was that radio was forced to pander to youth culture masses who wanted the short, simple and familiar structure of rock & roll 24 hrs a day.

The 60s were a time of great revolution, reflected in both folk music and in new experimental sounds inspired in part by the drug culture of the day.

The 1970s offered the first hint of an audience demanding more than blues-based guitar riff rock with the rise of progressive rock and kosmische musik, incorporating madrigal song, classical, elements of jazz, and complex polyrhythms and time signatures.

Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”, released in 1977 was the first dance track to forego a recorded orchestra and instead consisted of entirely synthesized sounds and voice effects.  This was a warning sign on the path to the cultural “distillation” process, and was quickly gobbled up by the pop creature hungry for dancefloor rhythms and processed vocals.

By the 1980s, Video Killed the Radio Star, making popular music all about image at the expense of content and talent.

Still, a dedicated art rock and post-punk scene prevailed, with acts like Pere Ubu, Einstürzende Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle, and Wire further demonstrating the survivalism of substance in music.

By 1989, ambient music which had (ever-so-quietly) exploded onto the scene with Eno’s Music for Airports found a new audience.  After clubbers heard Dr. Alex Paterson spinning in the White Room at the Land of Oz albums like The KLF’s Chill Out, Space’s Space and The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld were released (all by the same few DJs).  This sparked an experimental ambient culture soon embraced by Aphex Twin, Biosphere, and the then-newcomers Boards of Canada who would gain international acclaim for their LP, Music Has the Right to Children.  This was the new heady music of 1990.

So-called “alternative rock” dominated the FM airwaves for the remainder of the decade with an indie sound that spoke directly to its generation of angst-riddled listeners.  Seattle grunge died gracefully with the release of Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York and rock finished out what would be the last of its 40-year life, signing off with No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom in January of 1997.  Save for a few rare exceptions in the world of pop music, there was a clear path of rotting decay which followed –

Later that year, The Prodigy released Fat of the Land, a best-selling sell-out record whereby they left the rave scene and embraced radio-friendly big beat.  Spice Girls’ Spice followed, recycling the Monkees factory-assembled-band concept for another commercial success, and the nail in the coffin was the album, …Baby One More Time released on January 30th 1999. True to form, another polished and squeaky-clean band released their third album – Backstreet Boys’ Millennium in 1999, a record which secured their super-stardom.

By 2002, rock was dead and buried and the Core Media Group rebranded popular music as a reality program – a vehicle by which to market and directly profit from manufactured acts.

Over the next ten years, pop decayed into the most distilled essence of artificiality.

– An outrageous and exaggerated Madonna-facsimile became a pop icon

– A sixteen year old boy said the word “Baby” fifty-six times becoming the most-watched video of all time on Youtube

– and Rebecca Black happened.  (Mrs. Miller is likely upset.)

f955511d5e7e1e2c650f6a706700713d_r620x349Pop Music.

In 2012, Reuters reported the results of a study which concluded, Pop Music Too Loud and All Sounds the Same: Official.

In fulfillment of The KLF’s The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way, pop has consumed hip-hop, electronic dance music, R&B, country, and everything else around it.  It has stripped itself clean of substance, fidelity (thanks to the Loudness War), character, style, and any element of unique identity it once bore.

In a now-legendary article about Jamie Wednesday in the NME, written by David Quantick, David mentioned that pop music is ever-recycling its ideas and that eventually, ‘pop will eat itself’.  We are witnessing the realization of this prophecy right before our culture’s eyes.

Pop is now a self-parodying, purely ironic, insubstantial, auto-cannibalistic animal.  It cannot sustain itself for much longer without a supply of original material to consume.

Are we due for a spontaneous generation of classically-trained musically-educated instrumentalists, manifesting in clear defiance of the education system which has long-abandoned arts education?

Instead we are left with a millennial generation who has been carefully conditioned from their earliest years to consume pop and to be collectively uncomfortable (or even repulsed) by the cerebral sounds of polyphony, afro-inspired polyrhythms, or improvisational compositions like jazz.  All they want is a hook and a four-on-the-floor synth beat.

This is the musical incarnation of the newspeak Orwell warned us about – a culture raised from birth to see and hear only vapid, formulaic, 3 minute commercials and to buy the associated line of merchandise.  This is what Clear Channel tells us that “music” means today.

I implore you to play your children classical, play them jazz, opera, experimental electronic music, and the countless micro-genres from around the world.  Maybe, just maybe some of them will pick up an instrument, (whether lute or laptop) and learn to make beautiful new music.

right-col-img

Published in: on March 15, 2015 at 12:09 am  Comments (3)  
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A Bit of Eno

I’m so very excited – just a few days ago I was browsing Discogs and by a sheer stroke of luck happened upon the newly-released first-ever vinyl pressing of Fripp & Eno’s Equatorial Stars.

Recorded in 2004, the album marked a 30-year reunion for the two musicians, who last collaborated on the Evening Star LP in 1975. Evening Star was the follow-up to their premiere frippertronic album – the monumental classic, (No Pussyfooting).

My Eno LPs to date…

Eno Collection 1Eno Collection 2Eno Collection 3

Brian Eno is an incredible hero of mine. From his genre-defining masterpiece, Music for Airports to his 77 Million Paintings project, from his zen-like Oblique Strategies deck to The Long Now Foundation, I’ve been following his work for more than 15 years and loving each new discovery.

One of my favorite (and sadly lesser-known) works by Eno was his January 07003 / Bell Studies for the Clock of the Long Now which features chimes for a timepiece that operates with minimum human intervention for ten millennia.

I’m still missing a few of the albums from Eno’s primary discography on vinyl, such as Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, Music for Films 2 and 3, and Thursday Afternoon, but I do maintain a 64-album digital discographic archive for added accessibility.

Eno’s recent collaborative projects with my other hero, Karl Hyde were a dream come true. Both are highly-acclaimed visual artists as well as musicians and have been wonderful inspirations for my own creative ventures.

Their collaboration drew inspiration from the repetitive minimalism of my other favorite composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, and from the polyrhythmic music of Fela Kuti and funk.  For those who missed my post from the album’s debut, check out the fractured groove of “DBF.”

At age 66, Eno has no intention of slowing down, and I look forward to his next innovative project.

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