🔵 2023 winds down but the AI stories just won't quit
Why 2024 might just be the year where we all take a more nuanced view on everything
Hi there -
Here we are then, crawling towards the finish line of 2023. This won’t be the final Network Notes of the year; that will come tomorrow with some reflections, predictions and a ‘greatest hits of Network Notes” roundup too.
Unsurprisingly it has been a quiet news week. AI continues to dominate headlines in a manner that is making Web3’s occupation of last year’s press look positively demure. Wherever we look, AI is either a great threat, or an agent of a techno utopia, with little nuance in between.
A theme I keep noticing in my own day to day life - that is, amongst friends, colleagues, other newsletters I read etc - is that people are tiring of social media in general, at least as we know it.
This is why I don’t see things like Threads succeeding in its bid to replace X/Twitter. Ditto Bluesky, Mastodon and any other imitator in that space.
Joe Public feels somewhat done with this now. Sure, if you’re a highly polarised left- or right-winger I’ve no doubt you might be camped out on X, shitposting for kicks, but in my world, that of the music industry, there’s simply a pervading sense of exhaustion about the whole thing.
The same can be said for streaming services. Dunking on them now feels almost pointless. We all know they’re not great for artists below a certain level. Talk to any artist I’d term as a “working class” one (which I would define as someone signed to a label, releasing music, but likely also holding down a second income stream of some kind) and they’re likely to roll their eyes at the whole topic, as it just means so little to them now.
That, in itself, is something we should reflect on.
On innumerable levels, 2024 is likely to be another hard year. The middle east situation rumbles on. Trump continues his bid to gain power in the US, and I think if he succeeds, it might well spell the end for democracy in the US as we know it.
And yet, I still have faith that things will improve.
Why? Again, because of what I see around me. Granted, I am wary of confirmation bias here, but in general I think people are now seeing these antics for what they are, and everyone is craving something with a little more substance. Populism will burn out eventually.
So for those of us in music, I hope positive changes will come. But let’s dive into that some more in tomorrow’s edition, which will be the last for this year.
Have a great day,
🎶 listening to “Gettin’ Down For Xmas” by Milly & Silly. Is this the funkiest Christmas song ever? I put it to you that it might be. Thanks to my colleague Pete for the recommendation!
🤖 playing with XLN’s Life plugin. What’s fascinating about this plugin, which lets you take ambient samples and then turn them into complex rhythms, is the way it is multi platform. You sample using your phone, which then syncs to the cloud, and then down into your DAW, letting you quickly pull in all manner of taps, clicks and whistles to make amazing top loops and beats.
Stories from the Music Industry:
After selecting the option, users are presented with a screen where they can type their prompt into an AI chatbot-style box, or browse through a list of suggested prompts to get started. The video showed off prompt ideas like “get focused at work with instrumental electronica,” “fill in the silence with background café music,” “get pumped up with fun, upbeat, and positive songs” and “explore a niche genre like Witch House.”
👆🏻Hot take: it only makes sense for playlist creation to go this way, though I find the examples telling. This is all about “some music” i.e. something to just have on in the background and not about decent deep dives etc. That’s not a shock, but it shows how Spotify is basically radio at this point.
Users can enter prompts into Copilot like “Create a pop song about adventures with your family” and have Suno, via a plug-in, bring their musical ideas to life. From a single sentence, Suno can generate complete songs — including lyrics, instrumentals and singing voices.
👆🏻Hot take: I still feel the whole matter of creating entire songs from a prompt to be little more than a novelty, sorry.
Luminate sticks to its guns over change in reporting that will impact physical music sales on Billboard charts
In a letter to Luminate, Richard James Burgess, President and CEO of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), said that only a “small fraction” of physical music retailers, amounting to between 5% and 12% of all stores, have been onboarded and are reporting their sales numbers. “Unless/until at least 75% of Luminate’s 642 identified shops are onboarded and reporting – repeatedly, durably, and with troubleshooting behind them – the weighted data modeling must continue,” the letter stated.
👆🏻Hot take: I can only keep repeating the same point on this: if the UK can have a sensible, functioning means to track sales across indies, why can’t the US?
Algorithms on large scale platforms once super-served users, encouraging them ever closer to their respective niches. Now algorithms are increasingly pushing users to the content that supports platform monetisation priorities over user priorities. Users end up feeling that the algorithm is not listening to them anymore. This trend will accentuate in 2024 among the world’s biggest consumer platforms, resulting in user dissatisfaction and creating a window of opportunity for new, user-need-focused platforms, starting the cycle all over again.
👆🏻Hot take: some great thoughts here from the MIDiA team. I agree with all of them.
Spotify and Deezer slam French government’s plans to introduce a ‘music streaming tax’ in the market
Euronews reports that the proposed tax will fund investment in the Centre National de la Musique (CNM), created in 2020 to support stakeholders across the music sector. French Senator Julien Bargeton presented the proposal in April, calling for a 1.75% tax rate to be imposed on the revenue of music streaming apps like Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music and YouTube Music.
👆🏻Hot take: I’ve no sympathy for DSPs here. Plus the whole argument that Deezer is a small indepedent European company is BS. It might not be Apple, but it is far from a minor player particularly if you look at who owns it.
“It was particularly pleasing to see the Academy Music Group take the decision to reduce commissions to 15% at their largest venues,” wrote David Martin. “It’s not perfect, it’s not 0%, but it’s a hell of a welcome step in the right direction. And, most importantly, it will result in substantial sums of revenue being retained by the FAC’s membership when they perform in those rooms.”
👆🏻Hot take: great to see, though I agree that the fact a cut is taken at all is wrong.
SoundCloud is forecasting a €2 million positive EBITDA for 2023, Seton tells MBW, representing a significant improvement from the €29 million negative EBITDA the firm posted in 2022. What’s more, says Seton, SoundCloud has now achieved eight consecutive months of profitability on an EBITDA basis.
👆🏻Hot take: good to see though the bigger story hidden in here is how music tech companies are now desperately chasing profit to show they can actually make money.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
After a five-month wait, Meta’s latest social media app Threads is now available to people living in the European Union. “Today we’re opening Threads to more countries in Europe. Welcome everyone,” wrote Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg on the platform.
👆🏻Hot take: I think some might hope that this will increase Threads’ chance of challenging X, but in truth I feel people are just moving on from this type of social media in general. Ergo, I doubt this will change much.
X may be in violation of five DSA articles "linked to risk management, content moderation, dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers," EC EVP Margrethe Vestager said in a statement today. "We take any breach of our rules very seriously," Vestager said, "and the evidence we currently have is enough to formally open a proceeding against X."
👆🏻Hot take: inevitable.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
Nostalgia retains its stranglehold on music. Many high-profile reissues and rereleases throughout 2023, however, suggest a new path forward to talk about (and profit off) the past—from Taylor Swift’s rerecordings to the Replacements and beyond.
👆🏻Hot take: a compelling argument looking at just how much reissues dominated the music landscape this year.
As technology accelerates, we need to stop accepting the bad consequences along with the good ones.
👆🏻Hot take: much food for thought in this essay, not least that we are in the age of the technopoly and that now more than ever curation of what penetrates ever corner of our lives is necessary.
Who am I and who are Motive Unknown?
I’m Darren and I’m the MD of Motive Unknown. I started the company back in 2011. Since then we’ve grown to a team of 20, representing some 25 indie labels in the marketing strategy space, as well as working with artists directly.
Our artist clients cover anything from top-tier pop (Spice Girls, Robbie Williams) through hip hop (Run The Jewels, Dessa), electronic (Underworld, Moby) and more. Our label clients take in Dirty Hit (The 1975, Beabadoobee) Partisan Records (IDLES, Fontaines DC), Domino Records (Arctic Monkeys, Wet Leg), Warp Records (Aphex Twin, Danny Brown), LuckyMe (Baauer, Hudson Mohawke), and Lex Records (MF DOOM, Eyedress) among others.
Recent recorded music clients to join the family include Because Music (Christine & The Queens, Shygirl), Dangerbird (Grandaddy, Slothrust) and London Records (Bananarama, Sugababes).
In addition to our recorded music division, we also have a hugely successful growth marketing division which has a strong focus on the music creation space. Our clients in this space include Beatport, Plugin Boutique, Loopmasters, UJAM, RoEx, Krotos, Rhodes and more.
Want to chat? Just hit reply to this email.
Thanks for reading Network Notes! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.