Good Fun… or Gambling? Micro transactions in ‘FIFA 18’ 

Many of you, just like me, have been playing FIFA religiously since the days before Ms Dynamite lit up the games’ soundtrack back in 2003. However, despite the countless hours played or numerous controllers broken, it seems the game we all know and love may be losing the charm that kept us coming back.

Don’t get me wrong, the game is by no means in decline, the numbers show that. FIFA 18 managed to sell  a whopping 10 million units worldwide and ever since EA released the first ‘FIFA International Soccer’ back in 1993 they have managed to have pretty much uninterrupted market dominance over football gaming. EA churned out classic after classic each year, making it clear they were focused on creating a game that simulated every aspect of the sport in the right way. This is where their famous catchphrase “EA Sports: It’s in the game” originates.

But there’s something new “in the game”…  and it is micro transactions.

If you’ve played pretty much any of EA’s releases in the past few years then you’ll certainly know what these are, but if you haven’t, they are essentially any purchase you make inside of a game, after the initial purchase. FIFA use these to sell FIFA points, a digital currency for Ultimate Team. In fact, EA earned $1.68 billion through micro transactions in 2017 alone.

You can’t deny that these massive digital sales are impressive and they have undoubtedly revolutionized the gaming industry as a whole.

It’s forecasted that 2.3 billion gamers across the globe will spend $137.9 billion on games in 2018. This represents an increase of +13.3% from the year before, or $16.2 billion.

Micro transactions are the leading force behind this and have become a great source of income for developers, thanks to our ever increasingly digitized society.

photo of person typing on computer keyboard
Photo by Soumil Kumar on Pexels.com

So what’s the issue?

Well… this isn’t the first time FIFA have used digital currency and micro transactions for their Ultimate team platform, however, many players are becoming aggravated with the reliability of micro transaction drop rates.  Meaning that some players could spend thousands and get nothing good and another player could spend £3 and get the best player in the world. This has lead to a growing narrative that FIFA has become a ‘pay-to-win’ game and therefore spending more and more money has become a necessity to be competitive.

Could this be dangerous?

Chris Lee, Hawaiian state representative, held a press conference where he labelled micro transactions as ‘predatory gaming’ , and he is currently working on legislation to ban children from buying them. On top of this, in a recent Reddit post , he added that ‘these kinds of micro transactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are designed’.

According to the NPD, 91 % of children age 2-17 play video games… and these numbers are rising, coming up nearly 13 percent from 2009. The gaming community clearly has large number of minors within it, which only seems to be growing, so could these shifts towards micro transactions be influencing them? Could this be installing bad gambling habits in the kids? I guess only time will tell.

For now, you may be interested in a Reddit post and campaign called #FixFifa that has been gaining a lot of backing online. This movement has also gained over 40,000 signatures through their Change.org petition.

night television tv video
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Is Traditional TV Drowning Due To Online Streaming?

pexels-photo-333984.jpeg

Image taken from Pexels.com licensed for use under Creative Commons Zero License (CC0)

Let’s watch DISNEY CHANNEL!

I mean, if you didn’t singalong and dance to Hannah Montana growing up, what did you do after school?

Growing up watching TV has been something me and my family have always enjoyed (and argued about) together. The power of having the remote control would often end in me and my sister fighting on the floor, with mum being the referee deciding who got to choose the channel, oh the simplicity of being young!

But there has definitely been a noticeable change over the past few years.

Now it would seem that we can all be at home at the same time, and be watching different programmes in different rooms, but why? Why don’t we all sit, laugh and enjoy the programs together like the good ol’ days?

The movement from watching traditional TV to favouring online platforms such as Netflix or Amazon Prime, has resulted in the average viewership age to creep up. Research by Enders Analysis found that the average age of ITV viewers is now 60, followed by Channel 5 at 58 and also Channel 4 being 55.

I’m sorry, What?

Where are they days of watching Made In Chelsea or My Mad Fat Diary? I can’t see my mum tuning into these youth targeted shows!

 

Tablets, Laptops, even your mobile phone! The possibilities for streaming are endless, has this radical reshaping of the delivery of content to audiences killed traditional television?

netflix

Image from Pexels.com  licensed for use under Creative Commons Zero License (CC0)

 

Founded in California 1997 as a small DVD by-post service, Netflix has now rocketed and has OVER 100 million subscribers, that’s a lot of eyes watching!

Ian Hargreaves noted that:

The rise of digital has been accompanied by a severe decline in analogue formats

So it seems programme’s are trying to keep up with the demanding digital audiences, last year BBC3’s TV channel switched to an online only provider known as Iplayer, saving them a fair few bob (£30 million a year to be exact!)

s
Image from pexel.com licensed for use under Creative Commons Zero License (CC0)

 

I must admit, as a student I am guilty of binge watching series and programmes, and yes, I watch everything online. ‘Funnily’ enough no one in my house actually watches TV, we all stream online, we aren’t helping this issue are we…

So what can be done about this decline in viewership?

 

Will we young’uns ever go back to the days of looking through the TV guide to see what programmes are on? Or is it time to remove the TV as the focal point of the living room? (replace it with a laptop on the mantelpiece…perhaps a bit absurd)

d

Image from Pexel.com licensed for use under Creative Commons Zero License (CC0)

Don’t fear though keen TV viewers! It’s not time to take your good old’ telly to the tip just yet!

One TV provider which seems to have taken note of these changes is Sky. On the 5th of March 2018, they have saddled up with Netflix, offering a brand new TV subscription pack, with the Sky Q box

Jeremy Darroch- Group Chief Executive for Sky explained:

By placing Sky and Netflix content side by side along with programme’s from the likes of HBO, Showtime, Fox and Disney, we are making the entertainment experience even easier and simpler for our customers

 

Very Clever Sky I see what you are up to, hopefully this should encourage viewers to not complete dismiss traditional TV, whilst also having the easy access to their favourite online streaming platforms, very clever indeed.

Sophia the Robot – How Has AI Merged with Popular Culture?

Meet Sophia:

(Courtesy of Giphy)

If you haven’t heard of Sophia the robot by now, where have you been hiding? And even worse, you’re way behind in your preparations for the robot takeover. In essence, Sophia  is the given name to a robot developed by Hanson Robotics, and since her activation in 2015, she has made quite the splash. Sophia is the first robot to have received citizenship anywhere, after being granted the honour by Saudi Arabia last year. Sophia has also been the first non-human to receive a United Nations title, and briefly spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI) at this year’s conference.

26448126199_92149f36ff_k(Sophia at the United Nations Conference, courtesy of Flickr)

While Sophia has been pressing for progress in AI, the internet and media have gone crazy over her in one way or another. Whether you’re a Sophia fan or not, her face has been hard to escape, and this is where it gets interesting. With Sophia’s overwhelming media presence, it’s starting to feel like Sophia is more of a celebrity in her own right, rather than a robot with Artificial Intelligence. Sophia has given countless interviews, even appearing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, as seen here:


(Courtesy of Giphy)

Sophia even goes as far as to joke around with Jimmy Fallon, where they play a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Sophia suggests that she hopes to dominate the human race, before saying she’s just kidding…Let’s hope she’s telling the truth.  (Courtesy of Giphy)

This isn’t the first time Sophia has been known to joke around, either; Sophia trolled the world on April Fool’s when she said she was going to start a wig line in response to haters on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 18.17.14(Sophia on Twitter)

As Sophia becomes more renowned, it’s becoming more plausible that she is a celebrity, merging the ideas of popular culture and AI in a way that we haven’t seen before. As if Sophia’s media appearances and Twitter friendship with Chrissy Teigen didn’t establish her fame already, our girl has appeared in numerous big-time magazines such as PAPER Magazine, and even gracing the cover of Cosmopolitan India!

With Sophia’s growing fame, the lines between popular (or low) culture and the industry of Artificial Intelligence are blurred. Are we entering an age where robots are not only among us, but have infiltrated our celebrity spheres as well? How autonomous are these programmes? Could a robot one day be President? Does any of this explain Kanye West’s notorious outbursts lately? I mean, maybe he’s been reprogrammed.

Honestly, the notion of AI and robotics becoming mainstream culture isn’t exactly a new idea, check out the 2016 MET Gala theme of ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.’ Screen Shot 2018-05-11 at 19.18.00(Courtesy Twitter)

And let’s be honest, if you haven’t seen Westworld by now, you’re gonna be the first one to go when these hosts take over. The merging of AI with popular culture is certainly happening, so it’s time we get on board! Whether it’s in the fashion industry, public appearances, talk shows, or even social media, it’s undeniable that Artificial Intelligence is finding its time to shine, and Sophia the robot has certainly paved the way. Little by little, AI is becoming a central part of our culture, and that doesn’t exclude the creative spheres. Maybe one day we will see great robot artists, the limits of AI only seem to be reaching further. Disclaimer: Sophia, if you’re reading this, I love you and please spare me when you come for the rest of this nasty human race. You’re too good for them, I don’t think you need a wig at all.

(Courtesy Giphy)

Fortnite: Why Other Games Are Two Week

Image credit: Flickr

Popular with celebrities and the rest of us alike, Fortnite: Battle Royale reminds us of how much gaming has changed, but what does modern gaming look like in the age of free-to-play, and what does it herald for the future?


With growing age comes the inevitability of younger generations finding the fun in new ways of gaming, classic first person shooters like Call of Duty and Halo, whilst still popular, have seemingly fallen behind the growing popularity of a variety of other games. The first of these games that comes to mind is Fortnite Battle Royale, which is seemingly unrestrained by age or economic barriers, its free to play and is enjoyed even on a professional level by kids aged 13 or under.

So, what can Fortnite tell us about the landscape of modern gaming? Heres my breakdown.

Celebrity Supporters

Fortnites success is worldwide, and its popularity has undoubtedly been fuelled by the interest it’s peaked with celebrities. Professional football players Antoine Griezmann and Deli All have both performed Fortnite inspired celebrations after scoring goals in their respective leagues. Moreover, a number of Tottenham players, including Tottenham Hotspurs and England striker Harry Kane, have been streaming games with popular twitch streamer Ninja, pulling in around 190,000 viewers. Even more astonishing is the stream collaboration of Ninja and Canadian rapper Drake, which peaked at 635,000 viewers, surpassing the previous non-tournament viewership record of 388,000.

39934138095_0c2934b2d1_o

Image credit: Flickr

Whilst celebrities interacting with video games is not a totally new concept, it has never been this widespread, and is perhaps telling of the growing popularity of gaming in general, which has arguably shrugged off the nerdy and geeky stereotypes that have tainted it for generations.

Free and Easy

Developer and Publisher of Fortnite Battle Royale, Epic Games, has benefited hugely from an ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ style of combat. This kind of gaming experience has helped it overshadow what is arguably its predecessor, ‘PlayerUknowns’s Battlegrounds’, which whilst still being a battle royale style game, which is by no means a ‘pick up and play’ kind of game, and also costs £27.99.

This is where Fortnite Battle Royale has capitalised, it transcends economic barriers and the high costs of most games by being completely free to play, and naturally it has found its way in to the living rooms and front rooms (and also smart phones) of millions of people. It’s widespread popularity has allowed waiting times for games to be incredibly short, adding to the games unique sense of accessibility.

Despite being free to play, Fortnite Battle Royale does have a variety of in-game micro purchases, offering new dances and outfits among other things. However, Fortnite has succeeded here where many other games fail, by making all things purchasable cosmetic only, that is to say they do not affect the gameplay, meaning those buying cosmetic items are doing so simply out of love for the game.

Love and Attention

More than being a game popularised only by its players, Fortnite Battle Royale is game whose popularity and success can be largely credited to the attention it receives from its developers. Fortnite Battle Royale receives updates that are regular even by normal standards, with bug fixes and tweaks happening on nearly a weekly basis.

Moreover, new and exciting content is frequently added, including new map locations, new weapons and new game modes (most recently a collaboration with the Marvel Universe). In too many games, new content is not only charged at a high fee, but happens very irregularly, which can often leave a game feeling stale and forgotten. The developers of Fortnite Battle Royale are without a doubt raising the bar and setting a new standard on how a game and it’s fans should be treated. Other games like Overwatch are also credited with this kind success, by posting regular videos on their youtube channel of its developers discussing what they are working on within the game, and where they think the game is headed.

16644282607_dd536016c9_h

Image Credit: Flickr

Fortnite Battle Royale exists as not only the epitome of modern gaming, but as a template that future games can hopefully follow.

Buy and download Fortnite here!

 

 

Streaming culture: enriching listeners or damaging an industry?

It has been argued that the culture of consuming music is one that has evolved the most drastically over the past few decades. Flashback to a world before music found its place on the internet; even before the revolutionary release of the iPod in 2001; the average music listener’s household would have been filled to the brim with CDs, records and tapes. These collections may have been purchased from record stores, high street entertainment shops or even handed down through generations. To listen to music, one would have to load up a record (often produced by an artist signed to a major record label) on to a vinyl player – provided it wasn’t warped or damaged – and listen to the record right the way through without the ability to pause or play from a selected track.

pexels-photo-351265.jpeg
An average music collectors’ spare room before streaming

Nowadays, the avid music listener is able to listen to a wider variety of music than ever before, in larger quantities, whenever and wherever they want at a fraction of the price. The catalyst? Music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, multimedia giants that shape how we consume music, which have split opinion on whether or not their ability to enrich the lives of music fanatics is outweighed by their damaging effects on the music industry.

Music streaming: the pros and cons?

On one hand, streaming has eased the control of monolithic record companies, who would traditionally select the type of music that reaches audiences and ultimately becomes popular. Through streaming, anyone can upload their music and reach a global audience for a small fee, ultimately handing the onus on which genres and artists become popular to those who consume music. Through this scope, streaming is a somewhat liberating tool for reshaping the music industry, handing independent artists full control over their creativity. Streaming also places the creation of value back in the hands of consumers who search for the best quality of music, as opposed to record companies who produce artists they expect to make them the most amount of money.

 

On the other hand, music streaming can be seen as a damaging omen that has become ingrained into the way music is consumed. Whereas popular artists survive and reap the benefits from streaming’s popularity, less recognised artists, despite having the ability to distribute their audience to a wider audience than ever before, take the financial brunt of the deal. Spotify’s system of determining royalties for artists often means that the average stream earns your favourite band/singer around a mere $0.0084. This means that even if you were to stream your favourite band’s new album every day for a year, you would still only be paying them about $3.06 (around £2.26), about £10 less than physically buying the album once.

pexels-photo-953213.jpeg
Music streaming has had a positive effect on physical music sales

Streaming also has a positive effect on classic models of music production and distribution. Studies have found that streaming has driven an increase in sales of physical music in the UK, such as CD and in particular vinyl. In this respect, streaming acts as a model of introduction to music, increasing the value of physical music. Collectors treat physical music as a badge of honour, legitimising their love for an artist/album. Music fans in the UK purchased over 4.1 million vinyl albums in 2017, the highest number since 1991. These figures emphasise why the model of streaming music is one that is often met with uncertainty and polarisation in the music community.

There is one thing for certain, however: streaming is an ingrained part in the culture of music consumption that show no sign of budging soon. One can only hope that it’s positive effects on the industry are enough to sustain artists in the long run.

Photo credits: http://www.bluecoat.com
                          Pexels

Does Apple’s HomePod Represent the end of Human Creativity?

As an Apple fan, I was watching with anticipation when the company announced, in typical grandiose fashion, the HomePod, a smart speaker powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that can send text messages, play music, receive calls and adjust your heating.

Now, the HomePod isn’t the first smart speaker, but when Apple gets involved you can be sure that the industry will be changed forever.  Apple’s Smartwatch has only been on sale for two years, and already it’s the most popular watch on the planet.

At £319 I don’t think the HomePod is likely to be a mass market product, and sales aren’t as high as expected. But smart speakers are now the new battleground for technology companies. One in six Americans now own a smart speaker. Even if you don’t, the digital assistants inside them can be found in almost every smartphone. Shout ‘Hey Siri,’ or ‘Okay, Google,’ in a crowded place to hear a cacophony of AI voices answering you.

So, what does this mean for creativity?

Well firstly, I think smart speakers represent a growing trend of robotization. Almost every aspect of our lives is becoming automated, and smart speakers are a natural evolution of this. When you want to send a text, just get the robot to do it for you. And I don’t mean relay a message for them to send, Google is literally working on ways for AI to predict what you want to say, and imitate how you would say it.  

Blogger Chris Measures fears that this means human creativity will become redundant, as machines take care of everything for us. By 2025, 40% of jobs will be carried out by robots.  I can’t help thinking of the humans in Wall-E.

Video source

But despite existential fears for the future of humanity, I think robotization at the moment is more of a help than a hindrance to creative people. A  NESTA report found that creative sector jobs are least likely to be threatened by robots. New technology helps creative people, with sophisticated software able to help create more impressive video games, movies and music.

I believe robotization, as it is currently, is much more of a threat to manual labor industries. A 2015 study found that new technology has increased inequality over the last few years, likely for this reason.

But what about if the AI itself starts making music?

Algorithms can look at what music you listen to often and suggest songs you might like. If I ask Siri to play some music, she will play me a personalised radio station, based entirely off what my listening habits suggest I’m into (mostly Africa by Toto).

This has implications for the creative industry all on its own; how will new musicians break into an industry when everyone is stuck in their filter bubbles, listening to genres they already know they will like and not trying anything new?

But it also begs the question, what happens if technology companies decide they may as well cut out the middle man, and have the AI make music themselves, personalised for each user specifically?

Art created by AI has been around since 1973, but I think smart speakers show a new way in which the technology could change the creative industries forever, and perhaps even replace it.

robot

Image source

Now, I don’t think artificial intelligence is quite there yet; the tech is unable to understand humour, or truly innovate, stuck remixing old styles fed into its algorithms. 

But the technology is getting better all the time, and companies are putting billions into improving them. I don’t think human creativity will ever be fully replaced, but the HomePod is definitely a step in that direction.

Header image source: Image source

Crowdfunded vs Publicly Funded Entertainment

My favourite example of a Kickstarter project is from Zack Danger Brown, who simply asked for some funds to make a ‘potato salad.’ The page went viral, and he ended up raising nearly $56,000.

Kickstarter has revolutionized the way creative people can finance their work. The premise is simple; anyone can promote an idea they’ve had, and others can donate money to help see it become a reality. Over  $3,643,039,213 has been donated by people to help fund a range of different ideas.

I think some genuinely great creative work has emerged from Kickstarter. I helped fund a full series of YouTube show Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, which went viral after having the aesthetics of a kids TV show, but was really a dark satire on how children are influenced by the media.

Video source

But I would argue ‘crowd funding’ for the creative industries was around long before Kickstarter, in the form of tax payer funded entertainment. It’s a similar premise, with people paying towards the funding and development of creative work, the only difference being it’s not optional.

In the UK, publicly funded art is chosen by Arts Council UK. They’ve detailed a four year plan of investment, with nearly £600 million given to creative projects around the UK. This will go to arts, museums, theatre shows, and films.

This model has been hugely successful. It’s created high quality creative works, which have been enjoyed by millions. It has supported 830 different creative organisations and help promote diversity and business skills in the creative and cultural industries.

So which type of funding is better?

There is heated debate across UK media about the publicly funded culture. This features predominately in the right-wing press, which often features commentators enraged about the irony of filmmakers using publicly funded films as a platform to criticize the government. Take this Daily Mail piece as an example, which frames Ken Loach as someone happy to take Tory money to make a film criticizing them.

Personally, I tend to side with left wing publications, who are much more likely to say that governments need to invest more in culture, as it’s an area of huge talent for the UK. I have to admit though, I do find part of the argument against publicly funded culture compelling. Why should a theatre show that wouldn’t make a profit on its own merits be publicly funded for the benefit of a niche audience? Especially when that money is drastically needed in areas like the NHS.

But of course, there are numerous arguments for why the arts need to be funded. It boosts the economy and inspires people. As someone who wants to go into the creative industries, of course I don’t want to see the government let it become a privatised sector with profits more important than quality.

ARTS SHOW

Image source

Crowdfunding may seem like a good compromise for those against tax payer funded culture, as people can decide to contribute to arts if they want to, and creators still have a way to finance their work. However, it’s incredibly difficult to secure funding on Kickstarter.

I also don’t think Kickstarter produces the same type of creativity. Where the Arts Council only funds creative words that are culturally relevant, I would argue that the types of work Kickstarter generates are often more pop-culture than arts culture. Although of course, who’s to say which is more important?

I feel they both are, but perhaps in the future there could be a way for publicly funded bodies to use the ideas behind Kickstarter as a model, to ensure that art the public wants gets funded. I think this could encourage more people to take an interest in the arts, and democratize the funding process, as well as preserving funding for culturally relevant creative arts.

 

Header image source: Image source

Fortnite Battle Royale: A Frontrunner For Free Games.

Image credit: Flickr

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few months and may not have heard of the global phenomenon that is: Fortnite Battle Royale (BR). It is a free, online, multi-platform multiplayer game where players compete against each other in a 1 vs 100 style battle, in an attempt to be the last one standing and achieve a “Victory Royale”.

You can watch the game trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gUtfBmw86Y

Since its launch in September 2017, Fortnite BR, despite starting out as a relatively small-fry in the colossal chip pan that is the online gaming industry, has enjoyed immense success, both in terms of popularity, and financially. The game has risen to become one of the most popular video games in the world, with the online ranking website ranker.com placing it as THE Number 1 most popular video game around at the moment. Furthermore, even though the game is free-to-play, the financial rewards that Fortnite and its developers ‘Epic Games’ are now reaping from in-game cosmetic purchases are through the roof! Easily surpassing those of its main competitor, the £26.99 purchase game: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

So how has this ‘small-fry’ become the big fish it is today? –  From relative obscurity to astounding success.

When the game initially launched, the average gamer (including me) may not have known a whole lot about it. The developer, Epic Games has previously had success with the Xbox exclusive ‘Gears of War’ franchise, but apart from that, the majority of their other projects have not been overwhelmingly popular, certainly nothing near the astronomic levels Fortnite has achieved. So how has this game seemingly come from nowhere?

For me, Fortnite initially emerged from its obscurity when I began seeing videos of the game appearing on my Facebook and Twitter news feeds, often taken from a twitch.tv live-stream broadcasts, which then encouraged me to try the game myself. This hints at one of the reasons why I think Fortnite has become so popular. The fact that players and fans can, and are encouraged to share their experiences of Fortnite online, through streaming sites such as Twitch, as well as on social media, has consequently resulted in the ‘viralisation’ of the game and therefore helped to increase its popularity.

This ‘shareability’ factor is something that has been mutually beneficial for both; the game itself, as well as other creative industries and individuals. The impact the game has had on the video-game streaming industry is gargantuan, with the top streamers benefitting massively. Twitch’s most popular streamer ‘Ninja‘ has amassed nearly 7 million followers on the platform, as well as over 10 million subscribers on YouTube, and has broken countless records, such as the record for concurrent viewers on a stream when he played Fortnite with Canadian rapper (and global superstar), Drake.

Drake
Image: Canadian rapper Drake                  Credit: Wikimedia commons

This type of Celebrity influence has also undoubtedly had a profound impact on raising the profile of Fortnite, as global superstars such as Drake and many others who have expressed their interest and love for the game (England footballers Harry Kane and Dele Alli for example) have brought the game to a wider audience who may have had little or no interest in the game previously.

Ultimately however, I believe the main reason for Fortnite’s success is simply because it is an extraordinarily fun game, and this, in combination with its shareability, viralisation and input from celebrity influencers shows how a relatively obscure, free game, with the right management, can become a global phenomenon.

If you are in to your video-games and haven’t already downloaded this game (what have you been doing with your life?) I implore you to do so as soon as possible, endless amounts of fun are waiting to be had, just a click away.

 

 

How Spotify introduced me to the Anonymous Nobody…

Credit: Wikimedia commons

In the modern, digital era of music, it is sometimes easy to get wound up in the mainstream and what is new. However, although music streaming giants such as Spotify have helped to create this buzz around anything new and popular, they also employ mechanisms and technologies that ensure that other, less mainstream and even older music still gets the listens, recognition and love it so often deserves. I believe this is one of the major positives surrounding the digitalization of the music industry as it provides a platform for these less mainstream artists, an opportunity that may not have been available to them under the previous (non-digital) regime of the music industry.

The Spotify radio feature for example allows listeners to listen to different artists, albums and songs based on their existing tastes, and also allows the listener to personalize their own individual radio station according to their preferences.

Spotify radio
Image: Spotify radio             Credit: Ian Dick (Flickr)

It is thanks to this feature that I originally came to meet ‘the Anonymous nobody…’ . Now I don’t profess to be some sort of Hip-Hop or Rap guru, but having been a fan of the genre all my life, I found myself seeking something different to the same old mainstream artists that I had always listened to. This was why I initially decided to (hip) hop on to the sound waves of the Hip-Hop radio station on Spotify.

It was shortly after this that the Anonymous Nobody kindly introduced itself to me. After traipsing through some of the sometimes quite obscure music I was being fed, I was eventually quite relieved to hear the familiar sounds of Snoop Dogg featured on a track I had never heard before. The song was “Pain” from the 2016 album “and the Anonymous Nobody…” by ‘old-school’ Hip-Hop group De la soul.

De la soul
Image: Hip-Hop group De la Soul          Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As I mentioned earlier I am no Hip-Hop guru. So I am ashamed to admit that prior to this, I had never heard of the apparent Hip-Hop royalty that is De la soul. Having listened to the Anonymous Nobody and being completely captivated by it, I wondered WHY this was the case. Eventually I realised that it may have been because the group had not released an album in over a decade, and also, most of their older work was not available on streaming services. Again, I wondered… WHY?

It turned out that most of their back catalogue was not available on streaming services as contracts that the group signed in the past for the samples used on the albums was only valid for vinyl and cassette mediums (What are those?). Although, I believe the digitalization of music has largely been a positive thing, this outlined to me one of the apparent drawbacks of the technological advancements made in the music industry and especially for De la soul themselves.

De la soul album
Image: 1989 De la Soul album artwork: ‘3 Feet High and Rising”  Credit: Wikimedia Commons

As most artists would be if their music was trapped in an outdated and obsolete medium limbo, the group were extremely frustrated that fans could not access their work and also became frustrated with their label Warner Bros who the group felt were not making enough effort to rectify the situation.

Read more about the struggle here.

So after over a decade of frustration, the group decided they needed to do something different when making their new album. Therefore instead of relying on their label to fund it, they turned to their fans, and what ensued was one of the most successful crowdfunding campaigns ever recorded.

The group raised well over the amount they initially aimed for and as a result, were able to create the masterpiece that is the Anonymous Nobody with the artistic freedom that may not have been afforded to them under their label.

I thank Spotify for introducing me to the Anonymous Nobody and De la soul. If you haven’t already, PLEASE give them a listen, I assure, you wont be disappointed.

 

 

Is AI the Future of the Music Industry?

In the last 10 years since Spotify was launched in Sweden, the music industry has changed dramatically. Since we all gained smartphones with the launch of the iPhone and Android devices, we’ve been glued to them. But how has that affected the music industry? Well, streaming platforms such as Spotify, and more recently Apple Music, have changed the way we as an audience consume our music as those paying a subscription fee to an online music platform rocketed to 176 million in the US in 2017. With the technology going even further, and Artificial Intelligence rapidly rising, we have to ask: how long will real and physical music last? And will AI succeed in the creative industries?

 

pexels-photo-340103.jpeg
Credit: Pexels

I’m sure we’ve all noticed artificial intelligence’s rise in popularity in the recent years. With Amazon’s Alexa being one of the most sought after Christmas gifts this year , it’s important to note how AI is taking over human roles, even on a small scale, like turning the TV off. More significantly in the wider picture, AI’s influence over technology could be considered frightening by some of us. Spotify’s popularity has soared as well with more people than ever streaming content, Drake’s chart topping Nice For What being listened to a huge 41.78 million times in the month since it’s release being a prime example of this.

AI and ‘robots’ may be very good at doing mundane tasks none of us like doing, such as making shopping lists or even driving (check out Google’s sibling company Waymo), but can their technology be creative enough to replace traditional artists? But within this new digital music landscape we have created, the real question is will technologies replace us humans as a creative source? The problem with AI being creative is they’re based on technology, which ultimately relies on maths and equations that generally are not considered particularly creative. In fact, IBM have created an artificial intelligence platform to do just that, having made 2016’s Morgan trailer using these AI’s algorithms mimicking previous horror film trailers.  Can we consider that as creative though? Or just learned behaviour randomised to form an output of already used techniques? Aiva Technologies disagree having already used artificial intelligence to create a software capable of composing classical music, earning it the title of the first AI to be given the status of Composer. While at the moment the company states the AI still needs help to perform the music, they hope in the future their AI platform will be able to create music indistinguishable from human capabilities.

pexels-photo-326461.jpeg
Credit: Pexels 

Despite all of the incredible technology involved in the creation of AI, I find it hard to believe it will ever completely overtake human artists. The complex emotional reactions and connections to music that humans have is something huge populations of people can relate to, which AI generated music lacks.

pexels-photo-196652.jpeg
Credit: Pexels

Spotify is undoubtedly affecting the music industry, as is AI in all industries, but I’m sure we all knew that anyway. AI might have the physical capability to create sequences of notes and instruments that can be deemed music, but what it lacks is the complex human emotional reactions to music that develop and improve the music we know and love. The main concern, I think, is whether AI is going to affect the creative industries society has grown to rely on, can it replicate human creativity? Or will they just create the same monotonous tones continuously coming second to human creativity ? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!