Saturday, July 20, 2013

Chris Ott is doing a series of interesting posts related to Retromania over at Shallow Rewards

here's the first

and here's the second

from the latter, Ott asks:

"What is the modern response for subjugated fans now that music distribution and recommendation platforms are profiting from their attention, regardless of the nature of that attention. You might be listening to something and just retching over how bad it is; you would never pay money for it, but because you landed on it, someone’s using you as proof of their popular (read: advertising) footprint. How can anyone delude themselves a referendum based on this kind of binary tallying is valid? This system cedes the same corrupt control over music promotion the industry had in the physical media era to digital publishers and the PR firms they’re coziest with."

Yeah, often thought that as a measure of popular taste and popular desire, a system based around buying records is much more revealing, I think.  For most people, the expense of buying a solid-form music commodity is significant, so it represents either A/ real desire or B/ real curiosity (which could be susceptible to hype, but hype so powerful that it might be considered a form of social reality in itself, indicating serious commitment on the part of the operators of the hype machinery).

The casual, aimlessly drifting, itchy-click-trigger nature of net browsing means that all kinds of very weakly or barely at all cathected attention accrues to things.

In response to this other part of post #2:

"At fourteen, I paid $28 for a copy of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s The Impossible Dream because Robert Smith said he loved Alex Harvey. Not only was I stuck with an expensive and impenetrable piece of glam-era lunacy, I had to confront that my biggest idol had really questionable taste. Granted, I’ve come to appreciate SAHB in my golden years—particularly "Anthem"—but I endured repeated listens of a record I could not understand or stand because I had nothing else to do but work out why it mattered to someone I worshiped and not to me. That will never happen again, not the way we’re set up. You will click away the second a song loses you, and you’ll never learn anything about yourself. I mean it: you will never unlock or awaken new neural paths in your brain if you continue to gravitate toward music that satisfies your expectations. That is Easy Listening"

... Tom Ewing speculates intriguingly:

"My suspicion is that listening (and watching, etc.) is ultimately going to enter the grey realm of willpower: people will have attention regimes, in the way they follow dietary regimes and exercise regimes*, and will have them in public: a proclamation of one’s listening regime will become a kind of social marker. Demonstrating you can pay attention in a world of instant clicks will be a mark of presumed character (and bragging rights) in the same way demonstrating you keep fit in a world of chairs and screens is among white-collar workers now.

"Exactly what form these attention regimes will take I’m not sure. They won’t be quite the same as having rigid or even ‘refined’ tastes. But we’re seeing signs of their rise now - the vogue for #longform posting (mostly regardless of density of ideas or quality) for instance. They will go some way towards solving the problem Chris Ott outlines, assuming you feel it’s a problem. They will also introduce their own neuroses and snobberies, which might be even worse."

Related to the cult of the long-form post, it's interesting that a couple of high profile web-only magazines (in one of the cases, very high profile: indeed synonomous with the internet and making a success in that medium )  (I'm not naming them because I'm suddenly not sure it's been publicly announced yet) are in the process of putting out print-only versions of themselves on a quarterly basis. Presumably a really challenging undertaking, going from digital to analogue -- learning from scratch everything from production to distribution.

It is possible of course to flick desultorily through a printed magazine in the same way one drifts shiftlessly across the infosphere, but something about the bounded, enclosed nature of the magazine seems to encourage getting pulled into a story... and staying with it until the end. And I do mystically believe that printed words somehow imprint themselves better on the brain than electronic type.


  1. I feel like what Tom Ewing is speculating exists in some form via Resident Advisor lifestyle culture. I've noticed in passing observations at parties and just from being on the internet that this social marker and pride factor to distance oneself from every other church except for RA kind of exists. Their dj charts the users subscribe to inform what the users themselves usually go on to play, what they buy, and ultimately what they take seriously. They then proceed to decorate their life with these artifacts and we see it on instagram under either a 'poprocket' or 'nashville' colored filter. I imagine a distant future when pickfork launches a member service (a la "gate them in" theory) as Resident Advisor has. Members are then encouraged to RATE THEIR FAVORITE ACTS with stars. They'll then feed users festival and content incentives. Go forth they'll say! Decorate your lives! OK though! I have to stop but you could imagine the implications there. So I reverberate back and think the listening/subscribing regime exists in some places in the music community and maybe the church of RA is worth hypothesizing what that could look like?

    a fellow mystical believer

  2. Estoy leyendo Retromania. Muy interesantes tus ideas. Saludos desde Argentina!

  3. Muy interesante Retromania! Saludos desde Argentina!