Arms race among new luxury apartments includes live-in musicians

If you have the resources, you have some options in shopping for a nice new apartment including a building musician:

Amenities for high rise buildings are generally culled from a well-honed list of known popular offerings—a lounge, gym, a pool, an outdoor deck, and grilling stations wouldn’t really lead anyone to blink an eyelash. Being LEED certified is often expected.

At the 34-story, 298-unit Exhibit on Superior, amenities for the studio, convertible, and 1 to 3-bedroom units include those, as well as keyless entry with smartphone integration, stainless steel appliances, in-unit washer and dryer and more. Quite nice—but the downtown luxury apartment market glut has led to an arms race to attract new residents and keep rents from being slashed.

And even though the price point is comparably lower (and the floor plans are comparably smaller) than other neighborhood offerings to attract a younger demographic, developer Magellan Development Group and MAC Management wanted to bring some artistry and magic to their building (and to their other properties, if this catches on). Here’s the idea.

A contest is open for the best acoustic guitarist and vocalist to live and play for one year at Exhibit on Superior. The winning musician gets free rent at an unfurnished studio for a year, the title of Musician in Residence, and the chance to hone their skills while playing against any number of cool nooks and spaces in the bKL Architecture-designed building. The residents get in-house live entertainment and bragging rights to live in a building with the first so-called Exhibit A-Lister.

My first thought was that sounds like the arms race among colleges to provide amenities for prospective students ranging from excellent food, state of the art gyms, and private and luxurious dorms. Then it hit me: these luxury apartment buildings may be going after that same demographic: college graduates who want the excitement of the city. If we could narrow it even more, perhaps they are employed in a creative industry or field.

After thinking this through a bit, it is clever to pair residential real estate with music. We might expect something like this in commercial spaces or privately-owned property that is trying to operate like public space (perhaps a park like area outside a major office building). But, this continues the trend of some of the other “weapons” in this residential arms race: providing building amenities that encourage sociability while simultaneously offering well-appointed private units. Let’s hope all the residents like the acoustic guitar scene…

No “musical ensemble that was more sociological” than the Beatles

Looking back at the Beatles playing Shea Stadium in 1965, one radio personality the group was a sociological phenomena:

Fifty years ago, the Beatles changed the way America witnessed live music by performing the first stadium show of its size and scope. On Aug. 15, 1965, the boys from Liverpool played a record-shattering concert at New York’s Shea Stadium, which would be televised on BBC and ABC, immortalized in a documentary, and further the massive reach of Beatlemania in the ’60s. Legendary radio personality Cousin Brucie served as the announcer, and now, 50 years later, he says it still stands as the tipping point for turning concerts into must-see live spectacles…

The Shea Stadium show broke records in terms of profits and attendance; promoter Sid Bernstein said the event made $304,000, and 55,000 fans were at the stadium. Ed Sullivan’s iconic documentary about the event, The Beatles at Shea Stadium, culled footage from 12 cameras that documented the day, and captures the band at their peak of fame…

1965 was a pivotal year in both music history and American history, and Brucie remembers the Shea Stadium performance being one of biggest events that brought young people together for something that was pure enjoyment. “At that time in our nation, we needed something desperately to get our minds off some of the tragedy that was happening, the assassinations, racial strife and political problems,” he said. “Anybody who was at Shea Stadium, it’s like someone who was at Woodstock. You have to have been there.”

Experiencing live music has changed nearly completely since the Beatles took over Shea Stadium, and Brucie attests today’s music festivals and arena tours would not have existed without that one day in New York. “The [show] was really the beginning of major events that we we have today at stadiums. It was a precursor of everything. It was an experiment that worked very, very well. Today when people go to concerts, they go to listen to the music. There has never been a musical ensemble that was more sociological and garnered the emotion than this particular group, the Beatles,” he said.

Similar arguments have been made by many: the Beatles came about at the right time, the group was more than the sum of their parts and was able to amplify the hoopla (which also burned them out as they stopped touring one summer after the Shea Stadium concerts), and concerts in the 1960s were the place to be (from Shea Stadium to Woodstock).

But, the statement that “There has never been a musical ensemble that was more sociological” is interesting. What exactly does it mean? That they shaped broader society more than any other group? They are more fascinating to study and ponder than other groups? Everywhere they went was an interesting social scene? Their innovations were way ahead of other artists? Not too many groups could claim similar things and perhaps the time is past when a single music act or musical/social experience could truly get the attention of the world.

Listen to the full Shea Stadium concert here.

Claim: nightclubs closing due to new Millenial social patterns

The number of nightclubs in the UK has declined in the last decade and here is one possible reason why:

Even famous London dance-music clubs such as Turnmills, Bagley’s and The End have succumbed to a process that has seen the UK’s total portfolio of nightclubs shrink by almost half from 3,144 in 2005 to 1,733 a decade later.

The statistic from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) is a signal not just of the effect of the smoking ban and the imposition of student loans but of a fundamental shift in the way a new generation chooses to spend its entertainment budget…

A night out at a pop-up restaurant or a secret cinema feels more adventurous than yet another club night, which will only drain finances needed for that ambitious summer holiday trip. According to Yakob, nightclubbing has become for many young people a “couple of times a year” experience, hearing the best DJs on the best sound systems…

Twice a year punters aren’t going to pay a nightclub’s bills. But even for some dedicated music fans, the lure of a night of House music could be reduced by their long hours of listening to playlists on a premium streaming service during daily commutes. The UK is among Spotify’s strongest markets. Felim McGrath, analyst at market research company GlobalWebIndex, says: “In years gone by you would go to a nightclub at the weekend to discover music played by a top DJ. Now you can do that online via a curated playlist.”

While this isn’t good news for the nightclub economy, the social ramifications are interesting. For pre-teens to young adults, music is often an essential part of the social experience. It is part of creating an identity, burn off steam and/or transgress boundaries, and unite with other people. All of this can be done with music online – it just takes different forms. For example, instead of going to nightclubs or as many concerts, users can post in forums and comment sections about their favorite artists. Instead of interacting with strangers (who may share the same music interests) at venues, the music is now more privatized as users can select what they want wherever they want. Like many experiences with the web, users get more choice in more places but lose embodied experiences with others.

At the worst, in the future no one will emerge from their headphones and personalized experiences. At the best, perhaps the music listened to and discussed online can lead to new kinds of unique experiences outside of the typical nightclub and concert experiences.

I like the band name “Big Data”

Band names can often reflect societal trends so I’m not surprised that a group selected the name Big Data. I like the name: it sounds current and menacing. I’ve only heard their songs a few times on the radio so I’ll have to reserve judgment on what they have actually created.

It might be interesting to think of what sociological terms and ideas could easily translate into good band names. One term that sometimes intrigues my intro students – interactional vandalism – could work. Conspicuous consumption? Cultural lag? Differential association? The culture industry? Impression management? The iron cage? Social mobility? The hidden curriculum?

Almost 25% of Spotify songs skipped in first five seconds – and other song-skipping data

Here is some fascinating data about song-skipping patterns from Spotify users:

  • Nearly a quarter of all songs on Spotify get skipped within five seconds of starting.
  • More than a third are skipped within 30 seconds.
  • Nearly half of all songs are skipped at some point…

Lamere then broke this down into the last-second-listened frequency. If you’ve made it past the 12th second, you have demonstrated amazing commitment…

Lamere concludes:

“When we are more engaged with our music – we skip more, and when music is in the background such as when we are working or relaxing, we skip less. When we have more free time, such as when we are young, or on the weekends, or home after a day of work, we skip more. That’s when we have more time to pay attention to our music. The big surprise for me is how often we skip.  On average, we skip nearly every other song that we play.”

One interpretation: people simply don’t take much time to decide whether they like a song or not. Those opening seconds are crucial.

A second interpretation: another example of shorter attention spans today. Quickly moving through songs, scanning Internet headlines and viral videos, always have to be entertained…

A third interpretation: services like Spotify make skipping easier. Spotify has over 20 million songs and it is easy to just move on to another track.

A question: It would be interesting, however, to see if people consistently skip the same songs when presented with them – how much of this is dependent on their immediate context versus a skip representing a longer-term dislike for the song? Or, if people had to listen to a song for a longer period of time – like it was playing in a store they were shopping in – would they come to like it?

Earbuds have led us to a decade of treble over bass

Listening to music through earbuds tends to favor treble over bass and this has social consequences:

“At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, with the possibilities for high-fidelity recording at a democratized high and ‘bass culture’ more globally present than ever, we face the irony that people are listening to music, with increasing frequency if not ubiquity, primarily through small plastic speakers—most often via cellphones but also, commonly, laptop computers and leaky earbuds. This return to ‘treble culture,’ recalling the days of transistor radios or even gramophones and scratchy 78s, rep- resents a techno-historical outcome of varying significance for different practitioners and observers, the everyday inevitability of ‘tinny’ transmissions appearing to affirm a preference for convenience, portability, and publicity, even as a variety of critical listeners express anxiety about what might be lost along with frequencies that go unheard (and, in the case of bass, unfelt). From cognitive and psychological studies seeking to determine listeners’ abilities to distinguish between different MP3 bitrates to audiophiles and ‘bass boosters’ of all sorts lamenting not only missing frequencies but also the ontological implications thereof to commuters complaining about noisy broadcasts on public transport, there has already been a great deal of ink spilled over today’s trebly soundscapes.”

And the concluding lines from the full chapter:

As mobile devices, especially phones, make sound reproduction—however trebly—more commonplace and perhaps more social than ever before (hotly contested as that sociality or sociability may be), we can only wonder about, as we try to take stock of, the effects on listening as a private and a (counter?) public activity, not to mention the implications thereof (Warner 2002).
Imagining unheard bass calls attention to the active possibilities in treble culture. And indeed, as perhaps my own narrative offers, a lot of the dyads through which the public debate plays out—active versus passive, progressive versus regressive, public versus private, sociable versus individualistic—might be easily enough flipped depending on one’s perspective. This reconcilability suggests that treble culture, especially in its contemporary form, offers what writer and artist Jace Clayton (aka DJ /Rupture) calls a “strategy for intimacy with the digital” (2009). In the ongoing dance between people and technology, treble culture opens a space where imaginary bass can move us as much as tinny blasts of noise. As participants in today’s treble culture attest, the MP3 may play its listener, but people imagine a lot more than missing bits when they listen. Ironically, the techno-historical convergence that Gilroy mourns, in which “community and solidarity, momentarily constituted in the very process, in the act of interpretation itself ” (2003:388)—a lament which issues also from the anxious discourse around today’s treble culture—may yet find some resuscitation thanks to trebly audio technologies. For what do such acts of interpretation require if not listening together? And isn’t listening, perhaps more now and more collectively and publicly than ever, what treble culture is all about?

This seems to be an interesting counterargument to those who argue earbuds ruin public spaces because everyone is off in their own worlds. This may be temporarily true as one is listening – and it seems to be even more prevalent on college campuses, though I remember doing this with my own Walkman or Discman during college – but Marshall is talking about broader music culture and the sociability it fosters. People could be brought together by their trebly experiences as basically everyone with a smartphone can carry thousands of songs, if not access millions of songs through streaming services, from everywhere.

Another thought: the Beats headphones have been quite popular even with higher price tags. Is this due to an ongoing battle between treble and bass culture?

People in mosh pits act predictably like gas molecules

A graduate student in physics argues the behavior of people in mosh pits is similar to that of gas molecules:

Being a physicist first and a mosher second (“fieldwork was independently funded”), the student, Jesse Silverberg, can’t help but notice curious patterns in what had always felt like the epitome of chaos. “Being on the outside for the first time, I was absolutely amazed at what I saw — there were all sorts of collective behaviors emerging that I never would have noticed from the inside.” So for an even better perspective, he turns to YouTube, to figure out what happens to people under the “extreme conditions” borne of a combination of “loud, fast music (130 dB, 350 beats per minute) … bright, flashing lights, and frequent intoxication.”

What he found, of course, was the “collective phenomenon consisting of 10^1 to 10^2 participants commonly referred to as a mosh pit.” And he was able to prove his initial observation: While the individual movements of moshers may be random, their collective behavior follows a few simple rules…

Look familiar? Moshers, as they “move randomly, colliding with one another in an undirected fashion,” seem a lot like gas particles, the researchers note. Or, as Silverberg explained to me: “It turns out that the statistical description we use for gasses matches the behavior of people in mosh pits. In other words, people bounce around like the molecules in a gas.” And they can be understood using the same basic principles we use to study those molecules.

Using videos of heavy metal concerts, write the authors, allows them to study crowd behavior in a way that staged experiments haven’t been able to. According to Silverberg, the unique circumstances (re: loud music and intoxication) of mosh pits are applicable to other instances of collective motion, like riots or emergency situations, where panicked crowds tend to break into random, slightly hysterical motion. Better understanding their dynamics might serve to improve safety measures in buildings or stadiums. If nothing else, they may serve as a useful reference to EMTs in the very pits where the research originated (per one study, 37 percent of injuries that took place over the course of a four-day music festival were “related to moshing activity”).

Interesting research. While many may not typically think of physics providing insights into social interaction, a lot of good work has emerged from physics in recent decades on social networks.

This is a funny statement: “the fieldwork was independently funded.” It could be even better if an independent granting agency was willing to fund such research with mosh pits to develop insights into collective behavior. If the project was pitched at looking for insights into safety with such crowds, I imagine some funding could be found.