The Next Big Thing In Music

By Shamus Posted Monday Jul 21, 2014

Filed under: Rants 98 comments

This commercial is probably the stupidest thing I’ve seen in ages. It’s for the music service Milk. The actual pitch:

Welcome to Milk, a new way to discover music. Just turn the dial and listen. [Shitty manufactured auto-tuned pop music plays.] No lists. No searching. Just millions of songs. You’ll find songs you like, ones you haven’t heard yet, and ones that make you dance.

Milk. The next big thing in music is here.

That’s right millennials! We’ve invented a BRAND NEW way to listen to music. Instead of picking songs you like, you TURN A DIAL and a giant company will CHOOSE FOR YOU.

Congratulations. You idiots just invented RADIO.


According to the website, it’s ad-free. For a limited time. This is assuming you don’t count the stations themselves to be ads. Even though they are.

I can just imagine the 50-something record exec who came up with this, wide-eyed and cry-laughing, “See? Once we get them hooked on the music, we can put in some ads. Then we’ll gradually ramp it back up to 15 minutes of commercials per hour of music, just like back in the old days. Oh! Oh! And the music we play can be chosen based on which artists we want to promote. We’ll be back in control again. And then everything will go back to normal. It’ll all be okay again. It’ll be okay. It’ll be okay…

For decades the big publishers decided what songs got played. No matter where you went in America, we all somehow preferred the exact same 40 songs that were forgotten a year later. Horrible mass-produced dreckYeah, you millennial hipsters think it’s so funny to listen to that thing ironically, but I lived in a world where that song was on the radio ten times a day. For real. And nobody was kidding. that became popular not through artistic merit, but through an aggressive campaign of musical force-feeding. Record companies would choose the artists they had the most power over. The ones with the most exploitative contracts. The ones that were least likely to cause problems. They pushed that music on top 40 stations, and they pushed it hard.

Record companies were overbearing middlemen who ate something like 95% of the profitsYou can nitpick Courtney Love’s numbers here and there, but the overall point is solid: Pre-internet record deals were a long, complicated con.. I’m sure it was nice while it lasted, but those days are gone.

Normally when I see a Dumb Internet Venture I just laugh it off. But this one makes me a little angry. The old record company paradigm was a sick, broken, corrupt, and exploitative thing. It’s been fun watching that thing burn down and sink into the swampIt’s not dead yet by any means, but the labels don’t have nearly the power or control they used to., and seeing this pitch for Milk is like seeing a political ad for a NEW class of WORLD LEADER who has the NEW IDEAS we need for the future, and it’s actually just the desiccated corpse of Richard Nixon in a Marilyn Monroe wig.

Yeah, I’m sure the millennials will give up their smartphones with gigabytes of hand-picked music so they can listen to someone else’s iPod shuffle. Guffaw.

Header image found here.



[1] Yeah, you millennial hipsters think it’s so funny to listen to that thing ironically, but I lived in a world where that song was on the radio ten times a day. For real. And nobody was kidding.

[2] You can nitpick Courtney Love’s numbers here and there, but the overall point is solid: Pre-internet record deals were a long, complicated con.

[3] It’s not dead yet by any means, but the labels don’t have nearly the power or control they used to.

From The Archives:

98 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing In Music

  1. DaMage says:

    Its a radio station in an app form……I doubt this is going to hit big.

    Younger people into this music might be interested, but anyone post 25 most often not enjoy the music provided by a service like this and will stick to their favorite radio station stream (which at least here nearly every radio station has an online stream) or to their shuffle of music.

    1. ET says:

      Yup. The only pre-selected music I listen to is the local indie station’s stream, or the many, diverse streams of the CBC. (Huzzah for tax-funded radio? :P )

  2. Agrippa says:

    So how does this compete with, say, Pandora, which also selects new music for you but bases it on your tastes*?
    Oh, I know how, the record companies won’t be trying their hardest to fuck it over.

    *In theory. In practice it’s about 2/7ths nickelback.

    1. Akri says:

      Apparently it functions basically like Pandora, except you can’t pay for unlimited skips or get rid of the ads.

    2. Lachlan the Mad says:

      Being a classical music fan, my problem with Pandora isn’t “2/7ths Nickelback” but “5/7ths moody piano covers of Time We Say Goodbye”.

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        Being someone who doesn’t really care too much about music, my problem with Pandora is that it *still* is offered natively in my country.

        *Even* when apparently people who bother to go through VPN steps to get it to work, they’ll listen to Justin Bieber, a *Canadian* singer-songwriter.

        Which just feels like the equivalent of driving 100 kilometres to the nearest grocery store to buy produce created at your neighbour’s farm.

        1. DIN aDN says:

          So, a completely normal and accepted part of modern life then? :P

        2. kdansky says:

          Pandora does not exist here either, but grooveshark does.

          1. CraigM says:

            Grooveshark is great, except for when it’s not. Perhaps it’s just my taste in music, very deeply ingrained in the progressive rock and metal scenes, but there are some glaring gaps. By and large it works wonders, but when I hit an artist that isn’t on then it gets annoying.

            Plus their radio feature is underwhelming. When I want to build a radio off of an existing playlist, I’d like that to add in bands I’ve not heard of, or barring that (since really that’s pretty unreasonable based on my awareness of the scene) to add in a wider variety of artist. Sure I get good songs, but do you really have to cycle the same 5-6 artists? I personally know you have more than that what would fit. Plus some of the genre classifications get weird. I’m sorry but Threshold is most certainly NOT Hardstyle, whatever that is.

            I could level the same complaint at Pandora. The algorithms get wonky when you start to get deep into certain more obscure genres. Unfortunately that’s where I live musically.

            That said the beauty is that this is the internet. If you know what your tastes are there is a stream for you. I’ve found a internet station that perfectly caters to my musical preferences. Wide variety within the specific genres I like, listener requests for all plays, community features with a message board, and a small group of friends to talk about music with. My station is, for those interested, but really I guarantee there’s a station for everyone out there. So I agree with Shamus, this ‘Milk’ is beyond stupid, it’s actively offensive to me in how it seeks to supplant the richness of choice we have now.

      2. Akri says:

        My problem is that it never seems to play precisely what I want to hear at that time. Be more psychic, Pandora!

    3. Trevel says:

      Pandora has yet to give me a single nickelback song. It seems you just like nickelback, or at least everything remotely similar to them.

      The key to a diverse Pandora experience is to not thumbs up the same song on multiple stations, IMHO.

    4. Scott Schulz says:

      If you wish to remove an artist entirely from a station, start a new version of the station, and then thumb-down the next two tracks that appear by that artist. As long as the artist is not a seed for the station, and does not have any tracks already thumbed up for that station, two thumb-downs will prevent any further tracks by that artist from playing on that station. It is not clear whether removing tracks by that artist from the list of the thumbed-up tracks in the browser-based versions Pandora will allow the next two thumbs-down for an artist to block that artist (but it might), and so it’s safest to start a new station.

      Of course, if you’ve thumbed up Nickleback tracks on multiple stations, and are using shuffle, then you deserve your eternal Pandora punishment.

  3. MaxEd says:

    Personally, what I need is a good recommendation service. One that’s better than, anyway, because recommendations usually are either trivial or bad. The problem is, we don’t know how to categorize music. Sure, I like 70’s glam rock. But I like it not so much for being glam, but for being lighter than heavy stuff I can’t stand. It’s no use to recommend KISS to me, just because they wore a lot of make-up. They play WAY too noisier than Slade or Sweet. But recommendation service can’t know this, it just sees that MOST people who listen to Slade and Sweet also listen to KISS and stuffs it into my recommendations. That’s no way to treat music (or any other art), which is perceived very individually, very subjective.

    On the other hand, I, as a programmer, can’t see any way to change that. Sure, you can introduce a number of dimensions and ask users to rate each song or artist, but a) the number of dimensions will be limited, and a lot of people’s reasons to like/dislike still would not fit into such decomposition, b) users will find it too much work and c) matching algorithm will require too much memory and CPU compared to modern, one- or two-dimensional systems (which usually use rating (or number of listens) plus some service-specific magic).

    1. Bropocalypse says:

      Like games, music has no Mendelev. There’s a TON of differing variables, and to go off on a brief tangent, trying to find a way to classify them by their properties is a bit like trying to figure out the periodic table by dissecting a frog. Plus, as you say, everyone values a different part of the, er, frog.

      1. MaxEd says:

        Yes, but this problem has to be solved, or we all will surely drown in, er, torrent of new art and other information. Information filtering is one of the greatest problems of XXI century, I think.

        Or maybe robots will replace us and the problem will solve itself. Although… Would robots like music recommended by robots?

        1. Vermander says:

          I disagree. I don’t have a lot of time to spend exploring new music (or movies, games, etc.). If I can filter the choices based on things I like then I’m more inclined to give new songs a try. Otherwise, it’s more trouble than it’s worth, and I’ll probably stick to the stuff I already know or just listen to whatever’s on the radio.

        2. perryizgr8 says:

          It is already happening with me. The 32GB of music on my phone is now about 4 years old, and I’ve gotten bored of it. It was collected meticulously over the years through recommendations by friends and sometimes by radio. Nowadays I don’t have time to do that, and less interest too. It would be great if someone would look at my library and point me to new music I might like. But I have found nothing like that. I would really love an app like Milk, but apparently no music company wants Indians to listen to their music. Oh there are apps which let me stream random songs, but they are limited to Indian music, which I get bored of in some time (but would not mind if it is equally interspersed with other music).

    2. GiantRaven says:

      It gets even worse when you only like a single album by a band.

      How can I find recommendations for ‘sounds like White Pony by The Deftones, but not like The Deftones in general’?

      1. Cuthalion says:

        On Pandora, I believe you can make stations based on songs rather than artists. But I suspect they’ll still give you lots of stuff by that artist.

      2. Vorpal Smilodon says:

        Single album? It’s worse when there’s a single song from a band that you really like, but hate everything else they’ve made.

    3. DrMcCoy says:

      Well, I found that listening to hobbyist internet radio streams is actually a good way to discover music. At least it works with small / underground doom/stoner bands: Hand of Doom Radio, Heavy Handed Radio and Grip of Delusion Radio play a lot of music I like, and you can buy the music nearly always directly from the band’s bandcamp pages.

      1. I never would have expected that kind of thing to be Dr. McCoy’s taste.
        At least tell me Scottie doesn’t listen to hip-hop.

      2. Andy_Panthro says:

        Bandcamp is rather brilliant. I prefer to buy music, and it’s the best website for it that I’ve found so far.

    4. Daniel says:

      Every Noise at Once has a great way of visualizing how “near” music genres and artist within those genres are to each other. It is built on data from The Echo Nest, and unlike a recommendation service that just spits out songs that it thinks you like, you can click around and go in any direction. I'll sometimes find myself clicking around on the site for an hour listening to how the genres and artists relate.

      Although, since the song samples are picked at random it may be hard to find stuff you’re looking for if it’s that specific.

      1. ET says:

        That is such a cool site! Now I have an easy way to select certain genres, and also see how genres relate! :D

      2. Cuthalion says:


      3. Gravebound says:

        I clicked the ‘metal’ tab, and it listed Iron Maiden next to Slayer, next to Cannibal Corpse…?

        I’ve also learned, today, that there is a genre called ‘skinhead reggae’. Huh…

    5. Tom says:

      There are some problems for which technological solutions, though technically possible, are not the best approach. Maybe just leave the recommendation of music to occur naturally as people have regular conversations with each other, either in person or over other media of communication?

      1. MaxEd says:

        Doesn’t work for me. All my friends listen to metal and endless Tohou music covers, but I like rockabilly, country and swing. I haven’t yet met a single person who shared my tastes enough to recommend me anything. Mostly, I know more about my favourite genres than anyone around.

        1. ateague says:

          That certainly sounds intriguing…

          What are some your favorite bands/songs in your eclectic genre?

          I am more of a blues/hard rock/metal person myself. I discovered most of my favorite new bands through Pandora. Bands like Left Lane Cruiser (blues metal), Cashman (blues rock), Volbeat (Danish hard rock/rockabilly/metal with Johnny Cash and Elvis influences), and HURT (hard to define–Wikipedia almighty labels them as “alt-metal”)

          1. MaxEd says:

            Uh, let’s see…

            I love:
            * Louis Armstrong (especially his spirituals; I’m not religious, but his singing is just SO cool!)
            * Ella Fitzgerald
            * Louis Prima
            * Red Caps (less-known American swing band with nice vocals)
            * The Cats & The Fiddle (another less-known swing outfit with distinctive vocal style)
            * Comedian Harmonists (German 30’s vocal band)
            * Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee duets (acoustic guitar + harp = awesome)
            * Red Foley, Ernest Tubb and some other classic country
            * Doc Watson (Freight train boogie, aaaaall the tiiime…)
            * Joe Maphis (though he makes me want to stop trying to play the guitar myself)
            * Bill Haley & His Comets
            * Elvis Presly (I know, pretty mainstream)
            * Little Richard
            * The Irish Rovers (man, I wish Russian folklore songs were THAT good)
            * Lonnie Donnegan
            * The Beatles (but I dislike Stones for the most part)
            * The Beach Boys (but I HATE “Pet Sounds”)
            * The Kinks (even some of the later albums)
            * Slade (especially “Nobody’s Fools”, which no one else seem to love)
            * Sweet (including early bubble-gum period)
            * T.Rex (and especially early hippie stuff; Marc Bolan rules)
            * Mud, bits of Roxy Music, Wizzard, some ELO songs (rock’n’roll-oriented ones)
            * Creedance Clearwater Revival (it was the first “heavier” rock band I discovered after listening to classic 50’s rock’n’roll; at first, I considered it too loud and noisy, but then grew to love them)
            * J. Geils Band (but only some songs, including cheesy-but-fun “Concealed Weapons”; I have my own music video for this song in my head)
            * Huey Lewis & The News (mostly “Workin’ for a Livin'” and “Heart of rock’n’roll”, but they have some other nice songs)
            * Manhattan Transfer (especially their version of “Topsy Turvy”; it’s an audio orgasm for me)
            * Dire Straits and solo Mark Knopfler stuff
            * Dschinghiz Khan (German disco with interesting lyrics)
            * Arabesques (German disco with nice looks :) )
            * Boney M
            * Ottawan
            * Status Quo (in small doses, since all their songs sound alike)
            * Matchbox (English rockabilly band, NOT Matchbox 20)
            * Stray Cats
            * Brian Setzer Orchestra
            * Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
            * Squirrel Nut Zippers (especially Kathrin’s vocals in “Put A Lid On It”)
            * Boppin’ B. (German rockabilly band that does great covers of pop and rock)
            * Мистер Твистер (Russian rockabilly band)
            * Mishouris Blues Band (local blues band with awful accent that I love)
            * Drunken Sailors Band (the best live band in Moscow)

            I’m sure I’m forgetting someone, but here’s the main list :) Also, it’s never a good idea to ask me about favourite music, because I can talk for hours about it… Dammit, I did it again, didn’t I?

    6. Smile! says:

      Pandora technically uses the Music Genome Project. That’s their big claim to fame, that they analyze the musical elements of work you like and put in similar things.

      In practice, my art rock fan friend keeps getting Spanish dance music, and no matter what I put in I get wheepy indie boybands. IDK how Pandora goes from Weird Al and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to wheepy boybands, but it’s somehow inevitable. Whatever elements they’re analyzing are obviously the wrong ones.

  4. spicy says:

    I’ve never liked any of the songs that were suggested to me by the robots. I’ve had better luck scrolling though a music subreddit I’m subscribed to.

    1. neothoron says:

      You mean the people posting to Reddit are *not* robots?

      1. Phantos says:

        No robot is that defective, or that predisposed to hating humankind.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          But that’s what they WANT you to think!

    2. MaxEd says:

      I found’s recommendation to be SLIGHTLY useful, mostly because growing up in 90s without much background in western culture, I had very little notion of bands that were popular at some time, but are nearly forgotten by now. helped me discover Mud and Roy Wood’s Wizzard. Sure, everyone’s in Britain probably knew about those already, but I never heard of them, and I happen to like their sound quite a lot.

      But generally, automatic music recommendations are bad. I had far more success with books, somehow (are books less individual? Or are my tastes are more maintream in books? I don’t know).

      1. The best recommendation system I ever saw belonged to the old (not sure what it is now) MP3 site, Audiogalaxy. It went down about the same time Napster did, for the same reasons, but the user-built recommendation cloud was pretty impressive.

      2. swenson says:

        See, that’s funny, because I’m the opposite way–I’m not too picky about my music, so Pandora is fine, but I only read books on recommendation.

        Different strokes, I suppose!

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Sooooo,why would I download that when theres this thing called internet radio?So instead of getting this dumb app,I could just bookmark one website that has a bunch of internet radio stations(which i actually did),over half of which have no adds.And thats not a limited thing,thats how they operated for years now.Yes,there are visual adds on the site itself,but Im not watching a radio,Im listening to it.

    And yet,people will still buy this crap.*sigh*

    1. TMTVL says:

      It’s almost like they don’t know stuff like Icecast, Jamendo and exists.

      1. ET says:

        I didn’t know those things existed! But now I do! :D

  6. neothoron says:

    “Yeah, I'm sure the millennials will give up their smartphones with gigabytes of hand-picked music so they can listen to someone else's iPod shuffle.”

    Problem is, it *is* less hassle to use a subscription/streaming service than to manage one’s own library. And there are a lot of such services now (Spotify, Pandora, Beats Music, Google Music, iTunes Radio, Xbox Music). And I seem to understand that at least Spotify and Pandora are working all right…

    But yes, they are basically reinventing radio, with many of the same limitations. And yes, the artists earn peanuts (if even that) from these services.

    Wait… You mean it is actually honest-to-god radio? You mean without the possibility to either skip, or even to have a marginal influence on the music you hear based on your declared tastes/existing library/social network? Weird.

    Edit: They seem to have a set of sliders, so that you can choose a mix between “favorite”, “new” and “popular”. How much effect they have is anyone’s guess.

  7. Alrenous says:

    They wanted to milk you so they called it Milk. The only question is whether they lack self-awareness or they did it on purpose.

    1. Humanoid says:

      Now all they need is to use Marlow Briggs to spearhead the marketing campaign and all will be well.

      1. Bryan says:

        I take it you mean “scythehead the marketing effort”…

    2. syal says:

      Music I Like, Kinda.

      1. ET says:

        Music Industry Loves Killing-everything-that-is-good-and-ruining-evrything :P

  8. Erik says:

    I would have dismissed it except that I noticed on the website that it’s “powered by Slacker”. happens to be my internet radio station of choice at work. Unlike Pandora, its primary focus are preformed stations that are human-curated instead of completely algorithmic. I find it throws up more new things that I would otherwise not have heard, rather than re-playing old favorites and things that aren’t much different.

    If Milk does the same thing, and the automation selects songs from human-selected playlists, this could be more interesting than it sounds. There’s value in human selection from someone with compatible tastes.

    So while the commercial is lame, and you’re dead right that the old record company model is broken, the “radio” model isn’t, as long as a single service doesn’t become dominant enough to set general public taste all on its own. And I *really* don’t see that ever happening again. The internet has changed the paradigm from broadcasting to narrowcasting, and having another narrowcast option to choose from can’t be a bad thing.

  9. MadTinkerer says:

    I recently learned that Weird Al has said in an interview that his most recent album is going to be his last traditional album. He’s not retiring or anything, he’s just done with the traditional record companies altogether. And good for him.

    If the record companies can’t make an artist happy, who has been making music for longer than I’ve been alive, they deserve to go the way of the dinosaurs.

    1. Mind you, Weird Al has always been cool. Genuinely cool people don’t lose that just because they’ve been around for a while–or so I keep telling myself.
      Take that song waxing sarcastic about the horrors of music piracy. Theoretically that would be his own ox being gored, but clearly that was not enough to make him lose perspective.

      1. Tizzy says:

        3 qualities of Weird Al: musicianship (obviously!), an excellent sense of the zeitgeist, and he is super-smart. With the last two, he had figured out before many people how youtube and social media would change the nature of his occupation, and it’s only the shackles of his contract that held him back from changing entirely his approach. And even then, his latest media campaign has been astounding, and he has rightfully reaped the benefits; that #1 spot was earned.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Oh, I’m sure he would have taken that step much earlier, but apparently this last album represents his final obligation on a 32-year-old(!) recording contract. And it makes perfect sense: just about every music parody on YouTube owes him a huge cultural debt–with a freer rein, he could have dominated that space for the last 5 or 6 years, instead of now having to compete with the second and third generation disciples of his form. But I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s stayed consistently strong for three decades–even some of the greatest musicians have been lucky to pull off a third of that.

  10. Eruanno says:

    Wait, was that Troy from Community?

    1. Mr. Ambiguous says:

      Yeah, he raps under the name Childish Gambino. He has some decent songs, the one in the ad is called 3005 and is my favourite of his.

      1. Eruanno says:

        All I could think of was this clip from the Community credits (apologies for potato quality, only one I could find on YouTube)

  11. Corpital says:

    Nope, I don’t even care enough to write a snark. I can barely tolerate hearing the same songs over and over every single day, but then a few years ago most local stations here decided they have to be funny, resulting in open hostility towards radio in general.

    I mean, seriously, how do people manage to produce daily parades of stupidity that are bad enough to actually induce pain? Ugh.

    1. Rodyle says:

      Do you by any chance live in the Netherlands?

  12. Raygereio says:

    I can just imagine the 50-something record exec who came up with this, wide-eyed and cry-laughing

    Knowing corporate culture the idea probably came from a young, promising, new lad. The ancient lich of an exec just approved of it. And why wouldn’t he? Because companies have doing stuff like this for ever. The most absurd example is probably shreddies.

    The resources these guys will spend to continue clinging on to their old, familiar products and models and avoid having to come up with something new is baffling though.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Re: the Diamond Shreddies link – I still can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. Amazing.

    2. Blake says:

      This is clearly both terrible and wonderful.

    3. Trevel says:

      The Shreddies ads were the most awesome ads on television for a while. They got thousands of points for being self-aware.

      1. ET says:

        Yeah, I liked those ones. Looked like an actual human, with at least a tiny sense of humour was in charge of them. :)

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        I loved the Diamond Shreddies campaign. It was such a brilliant, simple solution to the problem. “How do we make a simple, reliable, 70 year old product seem fresh? Turn it on its side and get people to laugh about it.” I might have applauded the first time I saw it.

  13. N/A says:

    Take it as a hopeful sign, Shamus. Like you say, this is never going to work. This is the dying gasp of the old record company paradigm, so smile as its inevitable death proves that people have moved on.

  14. silver Harloe says:

    MILK’s motto should be:

    meet the new boss, same as the old boss

  15. Klay F. says:

    I legitimately like Starship. :(

    Maybe its because I was born long after that song was popular.

    1. Perhaps Shamus is referring to the message of the song, rather than the song itself.

      Now, “Starships” by Nicki Minaj, that’s total drek. The lyrics are meaningless rambles that sound like they were written on a napkin by a drunk. And it’s just one of many songs that are practically assembled, like a cheap Huffy bike. I can’t find it at the moment, but NPR had a story where you heard a producer put the bits together for a song, and one of the components that was thrown in was a meaningless rap “bridge,” which made the whole thing resemble the movie industry these days: Parts that are “standard” go into music in the same way that every major studio movie MUST have a romantic sub-plot, comic relief, cute toy-oriented character, etc.

      1. lurkey says:

        Probably not what you were looking for, but the idea is same, methinks. :-)

        1. Pretty much. It’s getting to the point where pop music is assembled, like a car. Creativity and craft went in there somewhere, but the majority of the offerings are going to have the same basic features. :(

          1. ET says:

            Anyone want to write a program which auto-generates pop songs? XD

            1. I believe someone in the band Radiohead did just that, for the music hooks, anyway. He had a program that could analyze whatever tracks you fed into it (according to what I heard) and it would rate it as having X-percent chance of being a hit. It may have even “written” music designed to be a hit as well, but I’m not 100% sure.

        2. DrMcCoy says:

          “Unfortunately, this video is not available in your country because it could contain music, for which we could not agree on conditions of use with GEMA.”


          1. lurkey says:

            Media Hint is your friend. And should be everyone’s friend.

      2. Heh, I came here to post the Brett Domino link as well. One of the reasons that a sincerely-ironic video like Domino’s can go viral, or that Weird Al can have a decades-long career, is that they are still recognizably working within the pop music idiom. How they feel about those conventions and the industry which nurtures them is another thing altogether. (For the extreme version of this, see The KLF, a prankster collective that had a legitimate hit single with
        a mash-up of Doctor Who and Gary Glitter, wrote The Manual on exactly how they did it, and then burned a million pounds sterling to make a point.)

        The fact that music has hooks and components is not, in itself, a problem; it’s the nature of popular music. The obligatory rap section isn’t inherently better or worse than a shredding guitar solo, the soulful middle eight of a singer-songwriter pouring out their heart, or the extended section in big band jazz where the bandleader improvises on the melody before bringing it back for the big finish with the whole band. Fundamentally, they are all conventions of the form; whether a specific example of the form is well-executed or not is an entirely different issue, and subject to Sturgeon’s Law.

        1. Perhaps what bugs me most isn’t the music or how that’s expressed, as that’s, as you say, the hook. I can enjoy the music from a song like “Louie, Louie” while the lyrics remain incomprehensible.

          When the singer is singing (or rapping) loud and clear, it’s where I’m going to derive most of the song’s meaning. That meaning can be completely empty in a “let’s all party down” kind of way, it can be serious and/or tell a story (Pink Floyd’s “When the Tigers Broke Free”, for example), or set the tone or mood (soundtracks from films).

          What bugs me is when it’s a word salad trying to be something it’s not. The song “Unwritten” is an example I often cite. It’s supposed to be this “oh, wow, your life is an open book and you can do anything” song that goes absolutely nowhere. It’s like singing a song about getting ready to run a race that then has nothing in it about vague references to the starting line, the undisturbed starting line, yes it’s a starting line all right, yeah. And that’s fine for a lot of people, as it was the most played song in 2006. I suppose in a lyrical sense, the song was “Twilight” compared to “Interview With The Vampire” for me.

          Of course, I’m the kind of person who often rages at the TV when someone has picked a song that sounds all happy and bouncy for a kiddie movie or a family product/service without realizing the lyrics are about drug use or depression or what have you.

    2. DrMcCoy says:

      I admit, me too. But I prefered them when they were still Jefferson Airplane.

    3. Geebs says:

      The vocal arrangement on that song is actually kinda clever

  16. Hal says:

    I’d never heard “Fancy” until I saw the aforementioned ad at a movie theater. A week later, I’m hearing that song all over TV, seeing it mentioned endlessly in my twitter feed, and Weird Al releases a parody of it.

    It was definitely out there before that, but from my perspective it seems as though its popularity sprang fully formed from the side of a music executive’s head.

    1. ET says:

      Oh, man. I totally remember hearing that song all over the radio for like, two months straight. So forgettable. So generic. It’s pretty much like Shamus’ example, but for the modern age! :D

  17. CraigM says:

    As someone who loves music this angers me. It angers me because it contributes to the depreciation of music in our culture. Simply put the corporate control of radio, the arrogant leeches of music labels, and the generally abusive treatment of artists and the public has, for many, destroyed one of the core forms of human expression.

    I bet almost every single person here knows someone, most likely many someones, who don’t care much about music. They listen to ‘whatever’ or ‘I don’t really listen to music’ or ‘I don’t have a favorite artist/ song/ style’. My wife is like that to large degrees. This is because of the way music, and specifically radio, treated it. The passion, the emotional/ intellectual connection was sapped in favor of generic catchy beats, and marketable stars. Many people never discover any deep appreciation of music, it’s merely background noise. Innocuous, innoffensive, and trivial.

    The massive amount of music out there makes discovery difficult, sure, but it is possible. Now you can look beyond the corporate pushed drek and discover something that reaches YOU. To willingly put your musical exposure back into the hands of entrenched corporate profits baffles me. It’s like having access to a buffet catered by chefs of every type, from Michelin rated chefs making every type of food, cooks from the local greasy spoon, passionate amateur home cooks, and yet going and eating nothing but McDonalds.

    Grrr, why does this exist… scratch that I know the why, corporate suits desperately clinging to control, but why do we allow it? Hopefully the answer is we don’t, and this dies a messy death within the year.

    1. I enjoy the delivery of music via Pip-Boy, for what it’s worth. :)

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      Indeed, I used to be like that. I treated music as merely background noise, and didn’t feel much for it. Things changed a long way with the introduction of digital music. Now I don’t depend on some corporate jerks choosing what I get to listen to.

      Today I’ve built a massive library of music by myself that caters exclusively to my tastes, and I couldn’t be happier.

  18. Phantos says:

    Someone could make a fortune selling these guys on the concept of a horseless carriage.

  19. Dreadjaws says:

    Oh, ha, ha. Imagine if a service like this existed for games. My guess is that all we’d get would be “Free-to-play” games, because even though there IS a bunch of mass-produced dreck in mainstream gaming, they’d still want to charge full price for those.

    But F2P? They can shove all of those down your throat all the time. After all, those games have their own ways of milking money out of you when you play them.

  20. Dev Null says:

    “No matter where you went in America, we all somehow preferred the exact same 40 songs that were forgotten a year later.”

    Have you listened to the radio anytime recently? (No, of course you haven’t. No one does.) Those 40 songs weren’t forgotten… they’re still playing them! I moved out of the country for 15 years, and it still freaks me out that, now that I’m back, I find radio stations playing the exact same music they were playing when I left.

    1. ET says:

      Yeah…it’s even worse when you think about all the other songs that they aren’t playing. For example, radio station plays “Sharp Dressed Man” to death, but completely ignores all the rest of ZZ Top’s music. I mean, arg! Even sticking with the same artists and feel of the music, they could stop playing the same exact same songs repeatedly… :C

      1. A recent sample of one week in U.S. major-market “classic rock” stations found 37,665 plays consisting of 2,230 unique songs by 475 unique artists, with more than half of the songs played coming from 1973 to 1982. There is regional variety as to which artists are over-represented—in my market, Led Zeppelin tracks are 7% of the station’s entire playlist, and Billy Joel is played more than twice as often as anywhere else in the country—but otherwise it’s incredibly homogeneous.

        1. What really makes it irksome is not only the saturation of similar tracks, but when (like me) you have a daily routine in your car (I take my kid to school), and you hear the same song during the same time slot (about 7:45am) for three days in a row.

          1. Trix2000 says:

            Makes a decent way to tell if you’re on time or not, though. :)

    2. HeroOfHyla says:

      The grocery store where I work has started playing Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears almost constantly. I guess they got tired of playing “Shark in the Water” five times a day.
      They occasionally play Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants though so that’s something they’re doing right.

      1. Dev Null says:

        And I agree on the They Might Be Giants… but that’s kind of my point all the same. They don’t occasionally play a TMBG song, they occasionally play that one, and that one only. I mean some of the stuff the radio plays endlessly I actually _like_ (at least, until I’m bludgeoned into hating it the 5th time around…) but I listen to the radio maybe a couple of hours a month? If I’m hearing the same tunes enough to notice? You need a longer playlist…

    3. urs says:

      That makes me share the story of that german radio dj who one morning locked the door to the studio and proceeded to really play the ‘big hits’ only. All two of them, “Dancing Queen” and “No Milk Today” (hah;) – for four hours straight.

      But yeah. Commercial Radio. Spent about 8 hours driving a car recently and… it wasn’t pretty.

  21. mwchase says:

    Guh. All of the talk about radio stations going back to the well of the same old songs… At my old dentist’s office, the radio has been tuned to the same station (“CONTINUOUS SOFT ROCK”) for almost two decades, and in that time, it feels like that station has never not played “Drift Away” at some point during my appointment.

    Point of confusion: I’m sure they also overplayed “Stereo Hearts”, but I can’t find evidence that that song existed more than three years ago. Is there some previous Maroon 5 song that their ft. totally overshadowed, or did I seriously manage to get overexposed to this song in the space of a single visit? (Seriously, I swear there was some purely Adam Levine-based version of this song, that is more than three years old. This is going to really bother me; anybody know if there’s something going on besides some seriously decontextualized overplay?)

  22. Csirke says:

    When I’m looking for new music to listen to, I often turn to Musicovery, and so far it usually worked okay. This Milk thing seems similar, but less customizable. Also, the one thing they successfully showed me was that they had a lot of money to blow on advertising.

  23. These guys should hook up with Neil Young so they can Milk that Pono (Know what I mean? Know what I mean? Nudge, nudge. Wink wink. Say no more.)

  24. Anachronist says:

    Um. Perhaps you should try Milk. I’m no millennial (I’m at least a decade older than Shamus), but I think Milk is a pretty cool app. I like, for example, to be able to “tune” it to a kid’s music genre (like Disney hero songs, or whatnot) to entertain my child. I’ve also discovered unusual genres that I had never heard of before that I like. It isn’t at all like broadcast radio, which is canned into a handful of audience groups.

  25. This may be late to the party, but I just heard of a “find music similar to what you like” site/tool: Liveplasma.

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