Reading

Stereogum’s Tom Brei­han on the Pitch­fork Music Fes­ti­val:

I find some­thing quizzi­cal and hon­or­able in this: A whole fes­ti­val built around music that is not, in any way, designed for par­ty­ing. In a way, isn’t that the log­i­cal end­point of a decade-plus of inter­net music con­sump­tion? We’ve all spent all this time find­ing music on our com­put­ers and pip­ing that music direct­ly into our ears, rarely if ever hav­ing real-life con­ver­sa­tions about some of the artists who mean the most to us. Why shouldn’t we be ded­i­cat­ing entire fes­ti­vals to that same anti­so­cial expe­ri­ence?

Need a #latepass here, but I’m not alto­geth­er sure what this is about. I attend­ed the show Sat­ur­day with a friend, cour­tesy of Pitch­fork, and found myself chat­ting with present and for­mer Pitch­fork crit­ics, as well as the Super Fur­ry Ani­mals in the VIP.

There was also a mas­sive crowd in Union Park singing “Bar­bara Ann” as I left. It sound­ed about the same as when I first expe­ri­enced the Beach Boys 30 years ago at the Great Allen­town Fair.

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Doing

The Runner Returns

I last wrote about run­ning on this blog in Novem­ber 2013. Look­ing back at ear­li­er posts, it’s hard to believe how chal­leng­ing it was to run after Char­lie arrived. I’m remind­ed that my run­ning bud­dy for my first Philly Dis­tance Run, Mark Gat­ti, promised his wife that he’d take a break from run­ning until his son turned five, a sto­ry he told Jen A. Miller for the Inquir­er back in ’08.

Con­sid­er­ing how many sleep­less nights and impos­si­bly ear­ly morn­ings I had with Char­lie from ’09 to ’11, I couldn’t find the ener­gy to get out and run and when I did, I over­did it and injured myself repeat­ed­ly, cul­mi­nat­ing in a pret­ty seri­ous adduc­tor strain in 2012.

I’ve peri­od­i­cal­ly got­ten out for runs since rehab­bing, but those were very short stints. I imag­ined mov­ing to Jer­sey would trans­late into fan­tas­tic runs along the Coop­er Riv­er, but I still couldn’t find the time.

Now that we’re in Michi­gan and have set­tled in our new home, I’ve start­ed get­ting back after it. I start­ed out in late March with the idea that I’d ease back into shape and not make the sort of com­mit­ments that have end­ed in injury and inac­tiv­i­ty. Welp. I don’t think it was May before I signed up for the Freep Marathon in Octo­ber.

Unlike what hap­pened in 2012, I’ve man­aged to baby myself just enough to get into decent shape. My goal is to qual­i­fy for Boston, just as it was 8 years ago. I’ve set an ambi­tious goal to get as close to that 3 hour thresh­old, but if I come in under 3:10, I’ll be thrilled. Hope­ful­ly this will be my last couch-to-marathon train­ing!

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Thinking

#PublishADraft

Here’s a lit­tle secret to kick­start your per­son­al blog: pub­lish a draft. Sure­ly, you’ve been ago­niz­ing over some post for ages. It’s right there in Drafts. Pick one, clean it up a bit and pub­lish.

In fact, I pub­lished one last week. It was there the whole time!

 Stop being such a per­fec­tion­ist. Let Twit­ter be your chan­nel for #hot­takes. Let the world know you can be thought­ful again and #Pub­lishADraft. If you do, you’ll feel amaz­ing. Promise. 

Use the hash­tag #Pub­lishADraft and let’s see if we can’t reboot a per­son­al blog or two.

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Thinking

Fixing a Hole in the Social Web

Last sum­mer, my friend Karl Mar­ti­no shared this post from Scott Rosen­berg on Face­book some time ago and I got a lit­tle excit­ed. Could blog­ging real­ly be back? I’ve writ­ten about the death of music blogs and Jere­mi­ah declared the gold­en age of tech blog­ging dead back in 2011. What Rosen­berg hit on in his fol­low up — the migra­to­ry pat­terns of the “hive mind” — made me think less about plat­forms and more about the sin­gu­lar tool that enabled blogs to real­ly become pop­u­lar: RSS.

Google Read­er rode off into the sun­set back in 2013. Noth­ing real­ly replaced it, despite a race to rebuild it. Before any­one declares blogging’s back, let’s be hon­est with our­selves: RSS made the blog­gy core of the web pos­si­ble. Right now, I have a bunch of tabs open and I’m click­ing through to addi­tion­al posts and form­ing thoughts and respons­es. This was only pos­si­ble using “read it lat­er” tools.  In the blog­gy hey­day, I would sub­scribe to count­less blogs and refresh Google Read­er end­less­ly to keep up as they col­lect­ed through­out the day. You’d think I was describ­ing Twit­ter or Tum­blr or Face­book, but these leaky net­works are sieves com­pared to the net RSS pro­vid­ed.

Two reflec­tions:

  1. the social web cre­at­ed the sense of FOMO that keeps us refresh­ing feeds cease­less­ly so we make sure we don’t miss a thing. It’s impos­si­ble to be a part of the dia­logue if you miss it com­plete­ly.
  2. The notion that “if news is impor­tant, it’ll find me” is true only if you hope to cement your solip­sism.

In many respects. the social web has evolved into the online equiv­a­lent of Jacques Lacan and Judith But­ler cor­re­spond­ing in pub­lic via aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nals. We can all read the arti­cles, but they’re not real­ly talk­ing to “us.” Sure, the social web enables us to par­tic­i­pate, but that par­tic­i­pa­tion too often feels like tweet­ing at celebri­ties, in the hopes of the odd fave or retweet.

I’m not sure any­thing can be done about that last bit. Part of the prob­lem of say­ing “blog­ging is back” in any mean­ing­ful way ignores how the scope and veloc­i­ty of infor­ma­tion online with­out new ways to cap­ture a dai­ly digest of what hap­pened. Remem­ber when you’d check Google Read­er and it would be loaded with updates from every blog you fol­lowed that reflect­ed the lat­est press release hit­ting the wire? Now the social web is the same echo cham­ber that rever­ber­ates to reach every time zone online. What’s miss­ing from the social web today — and what made blog­ging in the ear­ly days so great — was that peri­od where it felt like you “knew” “every­one” online. To bor­row from Bene­dict Ander­son, we can’t recap­ture those “imag­ined com­mu­ni­ties” that cre­at­ed a sense of inti­ma­cy and shared under­stand­ing on the web.

The clos­est I’ve seen any­one come to acknowl­edg­ing this gap is ThinkUp, which takes stock of your activ­i­ty in the social web. But quan­ti­fy­ing activ­i­ty isn’t the same as chang­ing behav­ior. Bene­dict Evans tweet­stormed about “dis­cov­ery” and I think it sums things up nice­ly as it relates to how con­ver­sa­tion has evolved online. I’ll end here.

 

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Thinking

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Playlist

When Music 2.0 first arrived on the scene, it treat­ed users like data entry clerks. Sure, every­one dressed it up as “user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent,” but it all hinged on some moti­vat­ed indi­vid­ual updat­ing a data­base for a ser­vice that wasn’t pay­ing them. Those ser­vices most­ly died out, either because peo­ple lost inter­est or some­thing new­er and shinier replaced them. In any case, they asked way too much of users.

The music ser­vices that sur­vived from that era under­stood fun­da­men­tal­ly that their users chose their ser­vice because they want­ed to lis­ten to music. Beats Music takes that a step fur­ther; rather than focus dogged­ly on “dis­cov­ery,” Beats recon­tex­tu­al­izes the music you love. For me, that means Beats rec­om­mends artists whose albums lan­guished for too long at the bot­tom of a box in a clos­et. Now I can fall in love with them all over again.

But that on it’s own isn’t enough to dis­tin­guish a music ser­vice from the rest of the pack. Curat­ed playlists and push noti­fi­ca­tions do. Plen­ty of ser­vices offer the same library, give or take, but none were espe­cial­ly good at antic­i­pat­ing what I want­ed to hear. You could go search­ing for things, but that’s over­whelm­ing. Beats Music makes it sim­ple and offers sug­ges­tions. Instead of search­ing end­less­ly for a par­tic­u­lar album, I just dive into an intro­duc­to­ry playlist of an artist I’ve over­looked.

Best of all? They hired real­ly out­stand­ing crit­ics to pull togeth­er fan­tas­tic playlists. Beats didn’t just hire them to cre­ate playlists willy nil­ly; there’s real strat­e­gy at work. Try as I might to lis­ten to every­thing, I still sought crit­i­cal short­cuts or a point of entry into an artist’s body of work. If you’re a recov­er­ing com­pletist, you can famil­iar­ize your­self with Luke Vib­ert one moment and Way­lon Jen­nings the next. It doesn’t hurt that most playlists were curat­ed by the same crit­ics I came up with in the Augh­ties.

Most­ly, I’m just jeal­ous of kids who get to expe­ri­ence music like this. For more, here’s Eric Harvey’s essay on the devel­op­ment of stream­ing music over at Pitch­fork.

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Thinking

The Art of January Releases

Malkmus and Jicks

It’s March and SXSW is wrap­ping up in Austin, which is the kick­off to the spring push in the music indus­try. What am I still pay­ing atten­tion, too? The lat­est Jicks record, Wig Out at Jag­bags. What else? The Against Me! album, Trans­gen­der Dys­pho­ria Blues.

Why? The answer is sim­ple. Both are Jan­u­ary releas­es. Jan­u­ary is a great month for media Mon­ey­ball. The owned the media cycle for a qui­et month and noth­ing real­ly rose to dethrone them in Feb­ru­ary, at least from a cov­er­age per­spec­tive in the social streams I fol­low. Will these albums be over­looked or giv­en short shrift come year end? Sure, but who cares? How much are year end lists worth in 2014 any­how? (Could be a lot; tell me if I’m wrong.)

Jan­u­ary is the per­fect month to release an album. Ever since LCD Soundsys­tem released their debut in Jan­u­ary 2005, I’ve asked why more bands don’t do this. Break away from the March and Octo­ber cycle, make as much noise as pos­si­ble and then tour if you can. This is espe­cial­ly genius with a “lega­cy” artist like Malk­mus, who has a pret­ty well-defined fan base. Maybe this bought him some addi­tion­al expo­sure. Jan­u­ary offers more “run­way” for an artist than the com­mer­cial claus­tro­pho­bia of March.

But why is it so smart to push an album before March rolls around?

A few rea­sons:

  • Crit­ics are just like us! They make res­o­lu­tions! Things like “I will lis­ten to more music this year.” Put out an album in Jan­u­ary and you’re the sole ben­e­fi­cia­ry.
  • There is no oth­er news. I must’ve read 4 or more fan­tas­tic, gen­er­ous inter­views with Malk­mus and prob­a­bly twice as many with Against Me!‘s Lau­ra Jane Grace.
  • Release an album in Jan­u­ary and you get expan­sive “nar­ra­tive space.” Malkmus’s sto­ry is nowhere near as grip­ping as Lau­ra Jane Grace’s, yet the nar­ra­tive that he’s been with the Jicks longer than Pave­ment shone through and the cov­er­age human­ized him unlike ever before. The inter­play with his kids’ lis­ten­ing habits was fan­tas­tic and the image of him singing to Avicii in a mini­van amazed me.

If you still think release dates are mean­ing­ful inas­much as it allows you to pre­pare for a news cycle, break free of the old meth­ods. To apply some busi­ness speak from Havard Busi­ness Review, adopt a blue ocean strat­e­gy and get your client out there in the open. To bring it back to Bil­ly Beane, find the mar­ket inef­fi­cien­cy and take advan­tage.

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