🔵 Could the biblical tech layoffs yield music's next solution?
Things are bad now... but they're definitely looking to get better
According to the Layoffs.ai website, there have been 25,135 people laid off from tech companies in January alone. Over the last 12 months or so, we’ve been in a troubling phase wherein tech businesses announce record profits, then appear to celebrate that milestone by making significant redundancies.
For those working in the space, it does not paint an inspiring picture: fail, and you get laid off. Succeed… and you get laid off.
Alongside this, we are also in The Age Of Enshittification. All services just feel like they’re getting worse, whether it is Google’s search delivering useless results, Uber’s prices rising to meet the cabs they sought to replace, or Netflix and co increasing prices to the extent that they’re not much better than Comcast and co.
It certainly feels bleak when considered in these terms, but I do wonder if this is going to yield the next period of real creativity and innovation - and all under better employment circumstances than we see at present.
Mass redundancies are teaching people in the tech space two things: firstly, that Big Tech is not the wonderful employer it claimed to be, and secondly, that unions exist with good reason.
Soon then, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see two things emerging: tech companies with a smaller and more niche focus, all destabilising the increasingly weak offerings of Big Tech, and better employment control such that staff simply cannot be treated like this again.
What does this all have to do with music? Well, I see it in quite simple terms: if you displace hundreds of thousands of tech workers, a good number of whom will be burned by Big Tech in general, you create an environment perfect for plucky startups and challengers - and right now, that is precisely what the music industry could also benefit from.
A lot of this is touched on in The Register’s chat with Cory Doctorow below, and I’d urge you to make time for it, not least because it is quite an optimistic read - something I think we’d all welcome these days.
We’re already seeing the likes of Insidr Music stepping up with new possibilities, and I sincerely hope more contenders will enter this whole space. There remains a spectrum of fans to cater to, and right now so much focus is quite narrow. Broadening that, and potentially improving it with new, innovative solutions, could get really exciting.
Have a great evening,
PS - Motive Unknown is hiring! Full details at the bottom of this email, or just go here for the full skinny.
🎶 listening to “The Troglodyte Wins” by Busdriver. I fired my NAS up over the weekend, restarting the Plex server on it that hosts all my MP3s. That led me to Busdriver’s amazing “Roadkillovercoat” album, and this is a gem of a track from it. Enjoy.
📺 watching “The REAL greatest white rapper of all time” on YouTube. Obviously I am biased, but I loved this very articulate explanation as to why El-P is the greatest white rapper of all time. Take a watch and see if you agree.
Stories from the Music Industry:
The post goes into depth on what Spotify thinks is farcical about Apple’s plans, including its new €0.50 fee per download for apps that get more than 1m downloads, and 17% commission on external in-app purchases. “This equates for us to being the same or worse as under the old rules,” claimed Spotify. “With our EU Apple install base in the 100 million user range, this new tax on downloads and updates could skyrocket our customer acquisition costs, potentially increasing them tenfold.”
👆🏻Hot take: it does feel tough to dispute the logic presented by not just Spotify but other detractors here. I also wonder if Apple’s sowing seeds of its own undoing, because we’re already seeing the likes of Netflix and YouTube refuse to develop apps for Apple’s Vision Pro headset.
Republican congressman Tom Kean Jr said: “It is clear that AI technology is advancing faster than the necessary guardrails. Whether the victim is Taylor Swift or any young person across our country, we need to establish safeguards to combat this alarming trend.” He has co-sponsored Morelle’s bill, and introduced his own AI Labeling Act that would require all AI-generated content (including more innocuous chatbots used in customer service settings, for example) to be labelled as such.
👆🏻Hot take: if there’s one positive to come from this rather bleak situation, it is that by messing with Taylor Swift and her gigantic fanbase, the perpetrators here have only succeeded in speeding up laws to prevent this ever achieving this level of exposure again. (Sadly I’m not naive enough to think this will eradicate it completely - it will just get pushed underground)
The partnership aims to bridge the gap between aspiring musicians and the resources typically only available to artists that have access to large marketing teams, the companies said in a joint release recently.
👆🏻Hot take: a smart partnership here. That long tail of artists will require tools for marketing, and I’d imagine SymphonyOS and Unhurd are the two front runners in that space right now.
Other recommendations are for the music industry. They include labels committing to regularly publishing data on the diversity of their creative rosters and workforces, as well as gender and ethnicity pay gaps. The report also recommends that recording studios should be licensed (including a sexual harassment risk assessment); a mandatory accreditation programme for music managers; and including conditions around tackling bias, harassment and abuse in the licensing rules for music venues.
👆🏻Hot take: depressingly there are no shocks here, but the primary question now is what will actually come to pass in tackling this.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech:
Link-in-bio company Linktree announced new features today, including link scheduling, archiving and the ability to automatically fetch your latest video from YouTube and TikTok. Linktree now lets users schedule a link to go live on the page at a certain date and time. They can also choose from multiple time zones to align their drop or release according to the geography they are targeting.
👆🏻Hot take: a smart addition from Linktree here.
All of that cost cutting – it's estimated that around 400,000 tech workers have been let go in the last few years – might backfire. For a start there are a lot of smart techies trying to decide what to do with themselves, and – despite some belt tightening – there are still plenty of venture capital firms keen to support what could be the next big thing. More importantly, the past few years have seen a growing movement towards labor organizing in the tech industry – across not only coders and designers, but also blue collar workers like Amazon's warehouse staff.
👆🏻Hot take: a great read with no small amount of optimism about how things are changing, and how this all might yield better outcomes in the end.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
To mark the recent reissue of FM3’s Buddha Machine, Steve Barker tells the story of its origins, a tale which takes in Chinese temples and a Hong Kong branch of McDonald’s, a Beijing foot massage parlour and dinner with Brian Eno.
👆🏻Hot take: I love my Buddha Machine, largely because it’s something that could be rendered as a website or app… but isn’t. And that’s the appeal.
Sitting for too long is bad for your health. Here’s how to move your body throughout the day.
👆🏻Hot take: spend too long sitting at your computer? Here’s some handy pointers to introduce a bit more movement into your working day.
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