1981
Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1476-4504
  • E-ISSN: 2040-1388

Abstract

Focusing on early experiments with algorithms and music streaming at WFMU, the longest-running US freeform radio station, and the Free Music Archive (FMA), a curated open music website, this article shows how commercial streaming services have been indebted to independent, open music infrastructures but have then erased and denied that history. The article ‘provincializes’ music streaming platforms such as Spotify by focusing not on their commercial aims but instead on the ‘convivial’, collaborative practices and spaces that their software engineers and users inhabited. I analyse an experimental national telephone broadcasting service at WFMU in 1989, an algorithmic WFMU radio stream ‘The Flaming Robot of Love’ during the Republican National Convention in 2004 and the ‘Free Music Archive Radio App’ that recommended tracks on the FMA website from 2011 to 2016. The app worked with an application programming interface (API) from Echo Nest. Echo Nests’ algorithmic recommendation engine also powers most commercial streaming services today. When Spotify purchased Echo Nest in 2014 and took the start-up’s open API offline in 2016, it engaged in ‘primitive accumulation’ of open-access knowledge and resources for commercial purposes. The FMA closed in 2019 and now only exists as a static site. As social institutions, however, WFMU and FMA ‘recomposed’ – adapted to a new medium and a new political context – collaborative engineering practices of the early broadcasting era. The article argues that moments of oppositional ‘conviviality’ in media culture such as the FMA should be analysed as elements of a continuous struggle.

Loading

Article metrics loading...

/content/journals/10.1386/rjao_00014_1
2020-04-01
2022-11-27
Loading full text...

Full text loading...

References

  1. Andrews, Robert. ( 2011;), ‘ Listen up, Shazam; hundreds of rivals are about to bloom. ’, Gigaom, 23 June, https://gigaom.com/2011/06/23/419-look-out-shazam-hundreds-of-rivals-are-about-to-bloom/. Accessed 2 November 2016.
    [Google Scholar]
  2. Anon. ( n.d.;), ‘ About us. ’, Spacial, https://spacial.com/about-us/. Accessed 1 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  3. Anon. ( 2004;), ‘ WFMU’s RNC remix archives. ’, WFMU, 2 September, http://www.wfmu.org/rnc/. Accessed 4 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Anon. ( 2006;), ‘ $19 million in music grants awarded by fund created by “Payola” settlement. ’, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, 19 December, https://web.archive.org/web/20070105183959/https://www.rockpa.org/2006/12/19/19-million-in-music-grants-awarded-by-fund-created-by-%E2%80%9Cpayola%E2%80%9D-settlement/. Accessed 1 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Anon. ( 2011;), ‘ The Free Music Archive partnership. ’, Echo Nest Developer Center, 3 November, https://web.archive.org/web/20111103230911/https://developer.echonest.com/sandbox/freemusicarchive.html. Accessed 30 October 2018.
    [Google Scholar]
  6. Anon. ( 2014;), ‘ About. ’, Beats Music, 24 January, https://web.archive.org/web/20140124001731/http://www.beatsmusic.com/about. Accessed 31 August 2018.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Attorney General to the State of New York ( 2005;), ‘ In the matter of Sony BMG entertainment, respondent: Assurance of discontinuance pursuant to executive law. ’, 22 July, https://ag.ny.gov/sites/default/files/press-releases/archived/payola.pdf. Accessed 1 February 2020.
  8. Beltrán, Héctor. ( 2017;), ‘ Staging the Hackathon: Codeworlds and code work in México. ’, ISSI Graduate Fellows Working Paper, 2016–2017, no. 78, UC Berkeley:: Institute for the Study of Societal Issues;, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1ww7s9zh. Accessed 1 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Benkler, Yochai. ( 2006), The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, New Haven, CT:: Yale University Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  10. Bobrick ( 2018;), ‘ Comment: Free music archive is shutting down. ’, Slashdot, 7 November, https://tech.slashdot.org/story/18/11/08/0018201/free-music-archive-is-shutting-down. Accessed 6 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  11. Bonini, Tiziano, and Gandini, Alessandro. ( 2019;), ‘ “First week is editorial, second week is algorithmic”: Platform gatekeepers and the platformization of music curation. ’, Social Media + Society, 5:4, pp. 111.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Bottomley, Andrew J.. ( 2020), Sound Streams: A Cultural History of Radio-Internet Convergence, Ann Arbor, MI:: University of Michigan Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Chamberlin, Keith. ( 2010;), ‘ Re: You, the DJ. ’, New Yorker, 26 July, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/letters/2010/07/26/100726mama_mail1. Accessed 15 March 2012.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Coleman, Gabriella. ( 2012), Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, Princeton, NJ:: Princeton University Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. Coleman, Gabriella. ( 2016;), ‘ Hacker. ’, in B. Peters. (ed.), Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture, Princeton, NJ:: Princeton University Press;, pp. 15872.
    [Google Scholar]
  16. Crawford, Kate. ( 2016;), ‘ Can an algorithm be agonistic? Ten scenes from life in calculated publics. ’, Science, Technology, & Human Values, 41:1, pp. 7792.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Cwynar, Christopher. ( 2017;), ‘ NPR music: Remediation, curation, and national public radio in the digital convergence era. ’, Media, Culture & Society, 39:5, pp. 68096.
    [Google Scholar]
  18. Davis, Robin Camille. ( 2016;), ‘ Hackathons for libraries and librarians. ’, Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 35:2, pp. 8791.
    [Google Scholar]
  19. Douglas, Susan J.. ( 1987), Inventing American Broadcasting, 1899-1922, Baltimore, MD:: Johns Hopkins University Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Dubber, Andrew. ( 2016;), ‘ You have 24 hours to invent the future of music: Music hacks, playful research and creative innovation. ’, in P. Wikström, and R. DeFillippi. (eds), Business Innovation and Disruption in the Music Industry, Camberley:: Edward Elgar Publishing;, pp. 21128.
    [Google Scholar]
  21. Dubber, Andrew. ( 2011;), ‘ Announcing Echoprint. ’, Echo Nest Blog, 23 June, http://blog.echonest.com/post/6824753703/announcing-echoprint. Accessed 4 November 2016.
    [Google Scholar]
  22. Ellis, Dan P.,, Whitman, Brian,, Jehan, Tristan, and Lamere, Paul. ( 2010;), ‘ The Echo Nest musical fingerprint. ’, International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference, 9–13 August, Utrecht, Netherlands, http://www.ismir2010.ismir.net/proceedings/late-breaking-demo-14.pdf. Accessed 2 November 2016.
    [Google Scholar]
  23. Eriksson, Maria,, Fleischer, Rasmus,, Johansson, Anna,, Snickars, Pelle, and Vonderau, Patrick. ( 2018), Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music, Cambridge, MA:: MIT Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  24. Fauteux, Brian. ( 2017;), ‘ “Songs you need to hear”: Public radio partnerships and the mobility of national music. ’, Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcasting & Audio Media, 15:1, pp. 4763.
    [Google Scholar]
  25. Fourcade, Marion, and Kluttz, Daniel N.. ( 2020;), ‘ A Maussian bargain: Accumulation by gift in the digital economy. ’, Big Data & Society, 7:1, pp. 116, https://doi.org/10.1177%2F2053951719897092. Accessed 5 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  26. Freedman, Ken. ( 2013;), Personal Skype interview. , 15 May.
  27. Freedman, Ken. ( 2015;), ‘ WFMU + Freeform Portland = BFF. ’, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-qEUkYWnck. Accessed 29 September 2019.
    [Google Scholar]
  28. Frere-Jones, Sasha. ( 2010;), ‘ You, the DJ. ’, New Yorker, 14 June, http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2010/06/14/100614crmu_music_frerejones. Accessed 14 March 2012.
    [Google Scholar]
  29. Fuchs, Christian, and Mosco, Vincent. ( 2017), Marx in the Age of Digital Capitalism, Chicago, IL:: Haymarket Books;.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Goldschmitt, Kariann E., and Seaver, Nick. ( 2019;), ‘ Shaping the stream: Techniques and troubles of algorithmic recommendation. ’, in N. Cook,, M. M. Ingalls, and D. Trippett. (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Music in Digital Culture, Cambridge and New York:: Cambridge University Press;, pp. 6381.
    [Google Scholar]
  31. Goldsmith, Kenneth. (@ubuweb) ( 2019;), ‘ There’s a commonly held idea that it’s impossible to be independent on the web anymore. We’ve been told that the internet is now owned by corporate giants and we have pretty much accepted that as true – which is exactly what Facebook and Google want you to think. ’, Twitter, 3 March, https://twitter.com/ubuweb/status/1102045965119352832. Accessed 29 September 2019.
    [Google Scholar]
  32. Gregg, Melissa, and DiSalvo, Carl. ( 2013;), ‘ The trouble with white hats. ’, New Inquiry, 21 November, https://thenewinquiry.com/the-trouble-with-white-hats/. Accessed 6 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  33. Houghton, Bruce. ( 2019;), ‘ Tribe of Noise acquires Free Music Archive. ’, Hypebot, 19 September, https://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2019/09/tribe-of-noise-acquires-free-music-archive.html. Accessed 1 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Illich, Ivan. ( 1975), Tools for Conviviality, London and Fontana, CA:: Collins;.
    [Google Scholar]
  35. Irani, Lilly. ( 2019), Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India, Princeton, NJ:: Princeton University Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  36. Kelty, Christopher M.. ( 2008), Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software, Durham, NC:: Duke University Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. KEXP ( 2018;), ‘ Keep KEXP robot-free with new thank-you-gifts!. ’, 13 March, https://www.kexp.org/read/2018/3/13/keep-kexp-robot-free-new-thank-you-gifts/. Accessed 1 February 2020.
  38. Lessig, Lawrence. ( 2004), Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity, New York:: Penguin Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  39. Lovell, Stephen. ( 2015), Russia in the Microphone Age: A History of Soviet Radio, 1919–1970, Oxford:: Oxford University Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  40. Maxigas ( 2012;), ‘ Hacklabs and hackerspaces: Tracing two genealogies. ’, Journal of Peer Production, 2, http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-2/peer-reviewed-papers/hacklabs-and-hackerspaces/. Accessed 6 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  41. Mayer, Vicky,, Banks, Miranda J., and Caldwel, John T.. (eds) ( 2009), Production Studies: Cultural Studies of Media Industries, New York:: Routledge;.
    [Google Scholar]
  42. McKelvey, Fenwick, and Hunt, Robert. ( 2019;), ‘ Discoverability: Toward a definition of content discovery through platforms. ’, Social Media + Society, 5:1, pp. 115.
    [Google Scholar]
  43. Morris, Jeremy W.. ( 2015a;), ‘ Curation by code: Infomediaries and the data mining of taste. ’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18:4&5, pp. 44663.
    [Google Scholar]
  44. Morris, Jeremy W.. ( 2015b), Selling Digital Music, Formatting Culture, Berkeley, CA and Los Angeles, CA:: University of California Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  45. Moss, Ceci. ( 2009;), ‘ Interview with Jason Sigal of the Free Music Archive. ’, Rhizome, 1 May, http://rhizome.org/editorial/2009/may/01/interview-with-jason-sigal-of-the-free-music-archi/. Accessed 30 August 2018.
    [Google Scholar]
  46. Murillo, Luis Felipe R.. ( 2019;), ‘ Hackerspace network: Prefiguring technopolitical futures?. ’, American Anthropologist, 121:3, pp. 115.
    [Google Scholar]
  47. Pelly, Liz. ( 2018a;), ‘ Discover weakly. ’, The Baffler, 4 June, https://thebaffler.com/latest/discover-weakly-pelly. Accessed 29 September 2018.
    [Google Scholar]
  48. Pelly, Liz. ( 2018b;), ‘ Streambait pop. ’, The Baffler, 11 December, https://thebaffler.com/downstream/streambait-pop-pelly. Accessed 29 September 2018.
    [Google Scholar]
  49. Razlogova, Elena. ( 2013;), ‘ The past and future of music listening: From freeform DJs to recommendation algorithms. ’, in J. Loviglio, and M. Hilmes. (eds), Radio’s New Wave: Global Sound in the Digital Era, New York and London:: Routledge;, pp. 6276.
    [Google Scholar]
  50. Razlogova, Elena. ( 2018;), ‘ Shazam: The blind spots of algorithmic music recognition and recommendation. ’, in J. W. Morris, and S. Murray. (eds), Appified: Culture in the Age of Apps, Ann Arbor, MI:: University of Michigan Press;, pp. 25766.
    [Google Scholar]
  51. Renzi, Alessandra. ( 2020), Hacked Transmission: Technology and Connective Activism in Italy, Minneapolis, MN:: University of Minnesota Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  52. rosso ( 2016;), ‘ The Echo Nest and the future of FMA search and discovery. ’, Free Music Archive, 22 July, https://web.archive.org/web/20180309194744/https://freemusicarchive.org/member/rosso/blog/The_Echo_Nest_and_the_future_of_FMA_Search_and_Discovery. Accessed 1 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  53. Russo, Alexander. ( 2018;), ‘ Punch cards and playlists: Computation, curation, and labor in the algorithmic aesthetics of 1960s radio formats. ’, Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, Toronto, 14–18 March.
    [Google Scholar]
  54. Seaver, Nick. ( 2017;), ‘ Algorithms as culture: Some tactics for the ethnography of algorithmic systems. ’, Big Data & Society, 4:2, pp. 112.
    [Google Scholar]
  55. Sigal, Jason. ( n.d.;), ‘ Jason Sigal – Code, Music, Sound, Design. ’, https://www.jasonsigal.cc/. Accessed 4 February 2020.
  56. Sigal, Jason. ( 2011;), ‘ Free Music Archive radio & more from Music Hack Day. ’, WFMU’s Beware of the Blog, 7 November, http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2011/11/free-music-archive-radio-more-from-music-hack-day.html. Accessed 16 March 2012.
    [Google Scholar]
  57. Sigal, Jason. ( 2013;), Personal interview. , New York , 15 May.
  58. Stephen, Bijan. ( 2018;), ‘ The Free Music Archive is closing this month. ’, The Verge, 7 November, https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/7/18073346/free-music-archive-closing-wfmu-creative-commons-cheyenne-hohman. Accessed 1 February 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  59. Sterne, Jonathan. ( 2002), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, Durham, NC:: Duke University Press;.
    [Google Scholar]
  60. Striphas, Ted. ( 2015;), ‘ Algorithmic culture. ’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18:4&5, pp. 395412.
    [Google Scholar]
  61. Thompson, Carolyn. ( 2006;), ‘ Cultural groups reap windfall from payola probe. ’, Associated Press Newswires, 21 July, https://global-factiva-com. Accessed 2 April 2020.
    [Google Scholar]
  62. Ugwu, Reggie. ( 2016;), ‘ Inside the playlist factory. ’, BuzzFeed, 13 July, https://www.buzzfeed.com/reggieugwu/the-unsung-heroes-of-the-music-streaming-boom. Accessed 5 July 2018.
    [Google Scholar]
  63. Wolf, Jaime. ( 1999;), ‘ No hits all the time. ’, New York Times, 11 April, http://wfmu.org/times. Accessed 12 March 2012.
    [Google Scholar]
  64. Razlogova, Elena. ( 2020;), ‘ Provincializing Spotify: Radio, algorithms and conviviality. ’, Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, 18:1, pp. 2942, doi: https://doi.org/10.1386/rjao_00014_1
    [Google Scholar]
http://instance.metastore.ingenta.com/content/journals/10.1386/rjao_00014_1
Loading
  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): algorithms; conviviality; Free Music Archive; media culture; Spotify; WFMU
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a success
Invalid data
An error occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error