Ah! The cognitive dissonance, it hurts!
Read to the end for an important thread about the world “vermillion”
Eve 6’s Max Collins On Where We Supposed To Go After Spotify
On Monday, I waded into the Joe Rogan/Spotify fight and the piece got a lot of attention! My Twitter mentions are still jam-packed with either conservative men with under 100 Twitter followers telling me that I have Trump derangement syndrome or liberal boomers fighting with them, calling Joe Rogan a mind virus. Can’t tell which I dislike more tbh. lol jk yes, I can.
Now, I was pretty deliberate to not say that Spotify should end their professional relationship with Rogan. Spotify is a private company. They might be a tech monopoly, which is, of course, a problem in and of itself, but they’re a private company and they aren’t using public airwaves to broadcast Joe Rogan. Plus, the lion’s share of Spotify’s revenue comes from its subscription service, which is ad-free. So, really, they can do whatever the hell they want. Instead, my main point was that Spotify should take responsibility for the show they exclusively distribute and not try and hide behind a content moderation argument. Though, one thing I found fascinating about having Joe Rogan’s audience tweet at me nonstop for 48 hours is that they seem extremely angry that I called Spotify Joe Rogan’s “publisher” — like violently enraged at the idea. They seemed convinced that I wanted to censor Joe Rogan and were extremely happy to tell me that Spotify had no right to tell Joe Rogan what to do. Which I think is a pretty telling detail about the allure of Rogan’s show.
He might be an eccentric weirdo who is obsessed with hallucinogenic drugs, eating elk, videos of big foot, and using a sauna to literally cook himself alive, but he is extremely careful to portray himself as “just a regular dude who tells it like it is” and doesn’t answer to anyone. So the suggestion that Joe Rogan has a boss seems to really, really piss off his fans. Except, as of May 2020, when Rogan chose Spotify as his exclusive distributor, he does have a boss! Spotify is the only place you can hear both his current episodes and his back catalog and until that changes, he works for them. Oops, your independent media personality actually works for a massive tech monopoly. Ah! The cognitive dissonance, it hurts!
The question now, for most people, is what should we do about this? So I decided to ask an expert and I consider Eve 6’s Max Collins both an expert in online platform dynamics, thanks to the incredible impact his Twitter account has managed to achieve over the last year, and also an expert on the thorny machinations of the music industry.
“Right now we’re trying to keep the message real simple,” he told me. “Use any platform except for Spotify and Amazon. Most other platforms pay better and didn’t have the audacity to give a podcaster 300 million dollars of artists’ money.”
According to Collins, the Spotify dilemma is a totally different issue than what we’ve seen with platforms like Facebook or YouTube. Which I agree with. Spotify is not a user-generated content platform the same way Facebook or YouTube is. For instance, I was in a folk punk band in my early 20s. We eventually shifted to a more mathy emo revival revival sound, but, if you ever went to a DIY house show in Philly in 2012, there is a possibility you saw me playing ukulele and screaming about being depressed while wearing very filthy cut-off jean shorts. ANYWAYS… That band’s music is on Spotify. Years ago, I made an account on site called DistroKid, which at the time cost money, and it then uploaded our music to Spotify and gave us an artist page. (No, I will not link to it here.) I also have a podcast which is available on Spotify. I use a service called Anchor, which is, incidentally, owned by Spotify, and it, once again, uploads our episodes to the platform.
This is wildly different from posting on Facebook or YouTube, which, though they offer partner programs that give creators a share of the ad revenue they bring in, basically allow anyone to directly publish whatever. Spotify is essentially unusable without middlemen. And this opens up Spotify to all kinds of conflicts of interest that aren’t true for similar music hosting platforms like Soundcloud or Bandcamp.
“Spotify has been in the business of doing flagrant artist exploitation since well before they gave Rogan his first hundred million dollar check,” Collins said. “Neil Young facilitated the critical mass necessary to actually start a boycott and that’s great, but we are fighting for fair pay.”
Collins said his band is a perfect example of how messy Spotify deals can get. Eve 6’s master recordings are owned by Sony. And Sony used to own more of Spotify, but as of last year owns a little under 3% of the the company. But that still means that the money from Eve 6’s 1.3 million monthly streams is going to Sony and a company that Sony has a stake in and not them, the band who made them.
As for actionable advice for any podcaster or musician out there, Collins stressed that there are other platforms you can use. In fact, the platform that I personally think is the best, while definitely skewing more emo and punk, is Bandcamp. I’d almost go so far as to say it’s one of the best UGC platforms to ever exist? Not even just for music, but in general.
“I hate that the responsibility and sacrifice is again falling on artists who are the ones who’ve been getting summarily fucked by the industry since it’s inception, but like here we are,” Collins said. “Now is the time to collectivize and demand fair compensation from Spotify. They are weakened. They are losing billions in this moment. The artists’ side of the story is only beginning to be told and more and more people will be joining the fight. I’m getting messages every day from artists who are like, ‘fuck yes let’s do this. The time is now.’”
This would normally be the kind of original reporting I put at the end of a post for paying subscribers only, but I mean, you can’t put Eve 6 behind a paywall! Though, if you like this kind of thing, hit the subscribe button below!
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The r/antiwork Meltdown Continues
r/WorkReform was started last week after drama engulfed the massive Great Resignation subreddit, r/antiwork. One of the longer-running mods of r/antiwork went on Fox News, was cringe, got owned, and then went on a banning spree after users got upset. So users started r/WorkReform. Now, in a development that will only be shocking to someone who has both never been part of an internet community before and has never spent any time with anarchists, there is drama in r/WorkReform, as well.
A user named u/RIOP3L published a gigantic post on Wednesday, detailing how the subreddit was taken over by “power tripping people who have no intention of empowering you to democratically shape our movement.”
What seems to have happened here is that u/RIOP3L started r/WorkReform, not really having a game plan in place for what would happen if it blew up. It gained half a million users within a matter of a day or so and, according to u/RIOP3L, Reddit admins then forced them to bring on mods. Now, u/RIOP3L is claiming those mods have taken over the subreddit.
u/RIOP3L said the mods that have orchestrated a “fascist takeover” of the r/WorkReform subreddit are also mods of other socialist subreddits like r/SandersForPresident. u/RIOP3L filled their post with tons of Discord screenshots which are pretty damning. Also, they made a visually overwhelming website containing a ton of information about what’s been happening in the mod Discord chat.
u/RIOP3L’s account was corroborated by another mod named u/ItzWarty, who wrote, “Like the subreddit's founders, I trusted [the mods], and my trust was violated. BTW once this gets deleted elsewhere anyone who mentions it is totally getting banned by the powermods. It'll also get auto-filtered by a bot.”
u/ItzWarty also added what I think is important context to all this. Based on this post, it seems like there is A LOT of drama on socialist Reddit in general.
“When Bernie lost the 2020 elections, [the mods] became irrelevant. They tried to start another progressive subreddit, but that has not taken off (~60k subs after 1.5 years),” u/ItzWarts said. “They saw WorkReform's mods as naive and decided to exploit them to gain a larger audience because, y'know, internet power. The chat messages are all here in the post, it's undeniable.”
Can A Waffle Maker Make A Hamburger?
Click through for another incredible installment of “Twitter user @KLobstar tries to cook a type of food with a kitchen gadget that isn’t meant to cook that kind of food”. @KLobstar was the same user who air-fryed a hot dog and then a Big Mac. SPOILER: Yes, it seems a waffle maker can cook a burger, but that would depend on a very loose definition of “cook” and “burger”.
New NFT Cease And Desist Speedrun Champion
Last night, a bunch of musicians discovered a Web3 platform called Hitpiece was selling “NFTs of their music” without their consent. I tweeted about this a bunch last night, but, aside from using someone else’s intellectual property to profit, selling an NFT of a piece of media you aren’t providing to a user is functionally meaningless. An NFT is basically just a spot on a database that someone made. They can say it represents a JPG of a lion’s cum face or a monkey in nazi regalia, but it isn’t actually any of those things — as the Super Fungible Token project from last week illustrates. This is why, if NFTs are going to have any place in culture, I’m more interested in how NFTs could be used for things like memberships or subscriptions. But even that use case seems kind of stupid tbh.
Anyways, everyone got extremely pissed off at Hitpiece and this is what their website looks like today lol:
As Waxy’s Andy Baio pointed out, Hitpiece seems to have just lifted Spotify’s library and created an OpenSea-esque NFT platform with it. The site did not contain any music, but heavily hinted at, well, something.
Hitpiece put out a statement last night, writing, “like all beta products, we are continuing to listen to to all user feedback and are committed to evolving the product to fit the needs of artists, labels, and fans alike.” But I’m not convinced this is a case of a bunch of crypto bros just doing a dumb thing.
A few readers pointed me in the direction of a couple threads diving into who was behind Hitpiece and it’s interesting, to say the least. The project was spearheaded by Michael Berrin, formerly known as MC Serch from 90s hip hop group 3rd Bass. But it also involved Rory Felton, a founding member of the American Association of Independent Music, and venture capitalists Blake Modersitzki and Ryan Singer. And Rory Felton seems to be a huge fan of both antivax content and, currently, the Canadian far-right trucker convoy.
So if this project involved a bunch of folks who clearly understand the music industry, why do it? Why try and set up an NFT marketplace for the most legally-guarded type of content on the web — music. Well, seeing as how all four men behind Hitpiece are hardcore NFT evangelists and at least one one of them is following far-right extremists on Twitter, I think this was meant to cause to this exact reaction. NFT investors know that NFTs will only reach mass acceptance if everyone agrees they’re valuable. Many of these people are also convinced an NFT is the new domain name. So what better way to spook record labels into proactively making NFTs of their own songs than transforming all of Spotify into a crypto marketplace?
And, in case you think I’m being too conspiratorial here, Twitter user @thehumanfly_ found this LinkedIn blog post (lol) written by Felton in 2019, titled, “How to Win the Music Industry of 2019-2025,” in which he outlines how he intends to use data surveillance to build a truly creatively bankrupt music rights company of the future, writing, “Blockchain digital collectibles can create large new revenue streams, a modern take on a fan club with gated content and access, and enable audiences to participate in the economics of the music ecosystem in a way that hasn't been possible before.”
How To Hack A Tezor Crypto Wallet
This video is honestly unreal. I would absolutely watch an entire TV show about this guy hacking stuff. My fellow Sidechanneler Kim Zetter wrote a great story for The Verge about this, as well.
The Metaverse Is Such A Boring Nightmare
Sorry! A few more good Web3-related odds and ends for you today. First, Input Mag, the preeminent destination for ape JPG reportage, dropped not one, but two big hits yesterday. First, one-man-decentralized-internet-culture-brand Chris Stokel-Walker (seriously, this dude’s output is nuts) interviewed the previous owner of Paris Hilton’s Bored Ape NFT. And then Matt Wille went long on the seemingly overwhelming amount connections between the Bored Ape Yacht Club and the American neo-Nazi movement. The verdict? It’s not as overwhelming as Azealia Banks’ scorned ex-fiancé Ryder Ripps makes it sound in his blog post:
“Some of it is clearly offensive,” [senior researcher at the ADL’s Center for Extremism Carla Hill] says. “It’s not exempt from criticism.” But [senior research fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism Mark Pitcavage] notes that this is a very small subset of the 10,000 available apes. “Some look problematic out of context,” he says. “They look less so in the context of all the others.”
But while we’re talking about Web3 conspiracies, Max Read has a truly incredible chart documenting the growing “celebrity NFT complex”. And, finally, the metaverse is already here and, boy, is it sad looking:
Oh, actually, one more thing. Click here to see how Web3 is going.
The Casio Preset That Birthed A Genre
OK, so this is super fun. Nippon.com has an interview with Okuda Hiroko, the Casio employee who programmed a preset on the Casio MT-40 now known as the “sleng teng riddim” beat. This is the first time that Okuda has ever done a full interview about it. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s a preset on the Casio MT-40, a keyboard released in 1981, that went on to span an entire subgenre of electronically-produced reggae known as “sleng teng riddim”. The first song to use the preset was written by an artist named Noel Davey in 1985 and primarily uses the Casio MT-40’s preset as the bassline.
“At the time I came up with the part, I was listening to reggae all the time, and had even written my graduation thesis on the music,” Okuda said. “It had happened because Casio was an export-oriented company that had started to develop musical instruments, and had been bold enough to give a new employee like me, straight out of college, the responsibility for coming up with these parts. In that sense, it wasn’t a total accident. In a way, it felt almost inevitable.”
If you’re looking for more on the origins of sleng teng riddim and the preset that gave birth to it, I thought this video was really neat!
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s an important thread about the world “vermillion”.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***