Tag Archives: london

Things July 2015: Royalty Redistribution, Live Train Data, Future Cameras and Robot Art

Fairer Royalties, Better Music

I’m very interested in how the internet is changing the music industry. Some things are better (from some viewpoints): it’s cheaper to make music and distribute it; it’s easier to find and listen to a wider range of music. Some things might be worse, but it’s hard to tell: has the average amount of revenue made per song, or per minute of music, gone down? What about for the most popular 10 artists? What about for the median artist by income? Are there fewer full-time musicians, or more?

I’ve not seen good data on that, but this piece in The Economist is suggestive at least: the average age of festival headliners has gone up by 10 years over the past 20 years. But it’s not clear if that’s just because demand (for festivals) has gone up, and supply (of festival-pleasing artists) has risen more slowly, driven by older artists whose audiences now find festivals cater to their needs.

Over on PopJustice (which has my favourite cookie warning message), they suggest the move by Apple to streaming is the final nail in the coffin for not just paid downloads, but a thriving new music industry in general. If this seems hyperbolic, bear in mind that music buying doubtless follows a Pareto curve, and the small cohort that account for most of the music-buying have the strongest (short-term) incentive to switch to streaming.

With all this going on, it’s interesting to take a look at royalty distribution on streaming services. Superficially it seems simple and perfectly fair: they collect subscription fees and ad revenue, and then distribute them to artists based on how often their tracks have been played. This is how it works on Spotify.

But as this thoughtful article points out, that’s not necessarily the fairest. It would be fairer to directly distribute the revenue from a particular customer to the artists that customer listened to. That doesn’t sound like much of a change, but it really is, so I do recommend reading the article to see why. The author also argues that such a situation would be better for everyone, even the labels, and as such should be adopted. I’m less convinced by that. It’s true ‘on average’, but I suspect the current system benefits the bigger labels more, and they have a lot more of the power.

On the plus side, with Apple and Google (and others) getting into the game, perhaps this might emerge as a competitive strategy from one of them…

 

Dan Deacon: WIWDD

On the subject of new music, well, Dan Deacon is one of my favourite musicians, and it seems Adult Swim had a bunch of animators contribute segments to go with the track “When I Was Done Dying” from his most recent album, and all of those animators seem to have put in about twice as much effort as I was expecting, with this mind-boggling result:

 

Noticing Racism

For an eye-opening insight into what one might term ‘soft’ racism, I highly recommend reading this sermon followed by these excerpts on prosopagnosia. Primed by the first article, the last couple of paragraphs of the second hit pretty hard.

 

Real Time Trains

(via @PlanetTimmy)

I found it absurd that I could be on a train with internet access and yet be unable to find out when that train was expected to arrive at the various stops along the way. Evidently I wasn’t looking hard enough, because it turns out this brilliant website has that covered: RealTimeTrains.co.uk

There’s also a wonderful site with much more precise data than most people would know what to do with regarding the exact positions and statuses of trains at various key junctions. Each day a random map is free, and it’s £10 for a full year subscription. I haven’t done that yet but it’s very tempting. Check it out!

Of course, once you have this data, you want to make more efficient use of it. For instance, it’s possible with many clicks around RealTimeTrains to figure out if you can make a more efficient connection by boarding a delayed train that was originally supposed to depart before you arrived. So the next thing I need is a service that will tell me not just the best route, but the best route based on where trains are right now.

 

3D Maps of London Underground Stations

If, like me, you ever wanted to see maps of all the underground stations (specifically the 120 that are actually underground), Ian Mansfield has cleaned them all up and presented them nicely here.

 

Here Comes The Future

Finally a couple of things that gave me a bit of ‘future shock’.

This (proof-of-concept) camera is powered by the light that its sensor receives. Which, given the similarity between a digital camera’s sensor and a solar panel, actually makes sense. So cameras don’t need batteries. Wow.

Secondly, neural networks can make art. Okay, there is a human operating the controls and deliberately manipulating things to make cool-looking stuff, but maybe later a neural network can figure out what ‘cool-looking’ means better than us, and start producing all kinds of cool stuff. Okay, that bit’s probably a lot further away, but this does make me lose a bit of confidence in the belief that artist’s jobs are robot-proof. Nobody’s job is safe from the robots. The robots are coming. We have been warned.

- Transmission abruptly ends

Things March 2015: Cap D, Bad Advice, The Books, Tube Trivia

I like to share individually great things in Things. But some people just churn out consistently great things, no one of which stands out as a notably better thing… and as a result, they don’t tend to feature in Things. So, this Things is all about those things.

Captain Disillusion

I originally linked to a Captain D video way back in Things 17, but his recent launch on Patreon reminded me that really just about all of his stuff is great, so you should see it.

The Books

If you like the idea of music formed out of obscure samples layered up with surreal folk and an electronic sensibility, The Books are about twice as awesome as you could have hoped. Now no longer together, they leave us with four albums and sense of fathomless loss. Some highlights:

The Animated Description of Mr Maps – notable for the striking synchronisation of percussion and speech at 2’30″:

 

Take Time – a great example of how they weave samples from a mix of sources to create a strangely resonant overall effect:

 

Bad Advisor

The Bad Advisor is a Tumblr founded on the observation that in some publications, people write in to advice columns clearly looking for endorsement of terrible decisions they have already made. I used to think sarcasm the lowest form of wit, but the Bad Advisor elevates it to new heights by posting responses explicitly giving the bad advice that was sought.

Some sample moments might help. Concluding remarks on “Help, Our Daughter Believes She Has A Right To Define The Terms Of Her Own Lived Experience“:

It’s strange and disappointing that your daughter has decided to become “cold and uncommunicative” toward her parents, when all you did was inform her that she’s a lying liar whose entire life is a sham and that you prefer the company of the man she says has abused her for the entirety of her adult life so far to entertaining the possibility that your mean old daughter isn’t just trolling everyone she knows for fun, but who knows why an apple would fall from a rotten, crumbling tree and then try to get the everloving fuck away from said rotten, crumbling tree, gravity is a huge mystery and no one knows how it works.

On the subject of “The Only Thing I Love More Than Accepting People For Who They Are Is Telling Them What To Wear When They’re In My Presence“:

The whole entire population of planet earth anxiously awaits your ruling on how they should act and dress in your presence, lest a pair of slacks singularly usher in the end of everything you have ever known or held dear. After all, what if someone thinks your sister-in-law is a man, and then they saw you hanging out with your sister-in-law, thinking she was a man that you were hanging out with?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Just go check out the whole archive, and be sure to read the tags at the bottom of each post which sometimes serve as a kind of Tumblr-version of the mouse-over-text-style extra punchline.

 

Londonist Londonist: Secrets of the London Tube

A lovely series of videos documenting interesting things about each of London’s tube lines. There’s some nice easter eggs and twists revealed when you make it to the Waterloo & City:

 

 

Transmission ends

Things 103: Troll Hunter, Algorithmic Price War, London from Above

Video
I just got back from Edinburgh International Film Festival, which had some problems this year, but as an individual punter I nonetheless carved myself out an even better time than last year, thanks mainly to Clare’s choices from the programme and also to Twitter for alerting me to a few late-announced events. A full write up will naturall follow, but for now, I will simply recommend this, which will apparently see some sort of UK release in early September:

Link
I suspect we will start to see more and more of this kind of thing: algorithms written to handle clever tasks in a not-perfectly-clever way, interacting with one another in ways their creators did not forsee since they did not anticipate the other algorithms theirs would be interacting with, to produce bizarre results like this Amazon marketplace book being listed for $23m. Hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

Question
A bunch of sci-fi stories (most recently some Dr Who episodes) confront us with the question: if you encountered an exact copy of yourself, how well would you get on? Very often in these scenarios, the duplicates end up fighting one another. Does that seem realistic for most people? For you? (I have a slightly tangential self-test for this one)

Pictures
For those of us that live in the UK, it’s hard to imagine that for some people London apparently has the same kind of Destination Appeal as New York, Paris or Tokyo. These pictures of London from above help me to start to see their point of view.