Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Streaming Music Platforms Are Typically Designed in a Way That Is Incompatible with Classical Music

Jamie Powell, Financial Times:

In pop music, this is not so much a problem. The Beatles, for instance, did not write Hey Jude in 1821, with the best performance of the work coming in 1966 on a specific recording on limited release. At least, we think that’s the case.

However, this is frequently the case with classical music. And on Spotify, at least, it is difficult to filter by different inputs such as “artist” (read: composer), performance, time of recording, location or conductor. This makes finding classical music a slog.

This is fundamentally an issue with metadata — the detailed tags attached to each track. Much has been written about the wads of unclaimed wonga owed, or paid incorrectly, to artists, because of bad song tagging. See this excellent article from The Verge, as one example. However, for classical music this is an existential problem — detailed metadata are not just a means of organising content so people are paid, but is also is crucial to help discover it. IDAGIO, unsurprisingly, is trying to address this issue.

Improvements like these will likely take years of work, as labels usually input their own metadata. Even if the fields are available, there’s no guarantee they’ll follow through or even get it correct. Even music that a single-creator artist provided to a single label gets screwed up — check out Burial’s page on Apple Music and you’ll see duplicate copies of half his records.

By the way, Powell’s otherwise worthwhile piece ends with this damp complaint:

Form — in this case playlists and algorithms — dictating music’s content is nothing new. But there’s something unsettling about a several-hundred-year-old history of art being sold as the equivalent of a sonic massage. It seems nothing is immune from the digital era any more.

On the contrary, listeners are now being exposed to classical music in ways that are far more accessible and less prone to gatekeeping. Isn’t that great?

Previously: A critique of the way classical music is presented in Apple Music.