short at home #6

a very robust reading list & some thoughts + resources on creative clarity

I know we’re all indoors but why does it seem like more is happening during the week than pre-pandemic? Is it because I somehow managed to become even more online, or are we all gobbling up news faster than it breaks? Maybe I just need to get off Twitter—hearing about all of the media layoffs is really hard. But instead of focusing on that right now, I’d like to offer this: TUCA AND BERTIE IS COMING BACK!

Also! Spotify has rolled out a new social listening feature called “Group Sessions”. The news made me feel a little nostalgic for making CDs or playlists for my friends, or even getting to make playlists together. A shared queue sounds like fun, but apparently can only be used if you are all in the same space? Is there like a reason why they couldn’t make this social distancing friendly?

P.S. If you want to do something to help US-based journalists who have been laid off, there’s a Furlough Fund you can donate to (or apply for!)

in my queue 🎶

So I actually got to interview Sam York of Public Practice about their debut Gentle Grip, and one thing that stuck with me is when York said that “My Head” was about “the concept of wanting to use your time wisely and being able to tune out external noise.” I write this newsletter in a pretty piecemeal fashion, and sometimes a general theme comes up and sometimes it doesn’t. The thread this week is about creative clarity (which York talks about at length).

“My Head” is the most overtly disco track on the album, and “How I Like It” is the only song not written by York—guitarist Vince McClelland penned the lyrics and does the main vocals for this track. The call-and-response on “How I Like It” is just fun enough for it to make sense on this album, imo. Besides being really enjoyable, these two songs probably represent the two different poles that Public Practice is moving between (disco and post-punk).

what i’ve read 📖

Assimilationists of a Feather ~ by Elliot Friar and Travis Lacouter

  • “In this age of pink capitalism, the radical/assimilationist divide persists—only the packaging has changed, allowing for material benefits to accrue to companies, influencers, politicians, and hangers-on who signal (a certain sort of) cosmetic queerness.”

  • “But when capitalist media systems elevate certain individuals based solely on their public performance of queerness, and when these same individuals then use their position to perpetuate the prevailing patterns of production and consumption, we have to ask, cui bono? If the radical queer project is about anything, it’s about resisting the system of commodification that underwrites so many other forms of domination.”

No Thanks! Against gratitude as a therapeutic practice ~ by Colette Shade

  • A huge part of consciousness-raising is teaching people how to be angry. This piece is such a great look at how “gratitude” is often used to depoliticize issues and demobilize communities—be happy that you’re an American, there are people starving elsewhere. It prevents us from recognizing what is wrong with our situation because we’re too busy looking at others and saying “look what I have that they don’t” rather than “look at what I don’t have that I should.”

  • “According to veteran labor organizer Jane McAlevey, organizing is rooted in asking people what they would change about their workplace if they had the power. It asks people to imagine how things might be different, rather than just resign themselves to how things are right now. The ability to ask “what if?” is, in my opinion, one of the greatest qualities humans possess, the source of our past achievements and future potential. But gratitude says no to all that, telling people to just be grateful that they have a job, or a home, in the first place.”

  • “An “attitude of gratitude” tells people to ignore all this, shut up, and just be glad that things aren’t as dire as they could be—yet.”

The legal underbelly of livestreaming concerts ~ by Cherie Hu

  • This is sort of a great primer if you want to figure out who has their fingers in the pot so to speak when it comes to the live stream game. If you’re interested in live streaming, are an artist looking to branch out into it, or are simply interested in the viability of live streaming as a replacement for live shows I’d highly recommend reading this—and subscribe to Hu’s Patreon! For those interested in more live stream related reading, I recommend Shawn Reynaldo’s interview with Mixcloud co-founder Nick Perez on Mixcloud Live.

more reading:

  • Vice covered what people miss most about pre-quarantine life (I miss wandering aimlessly for hours whenever I want to and ducking into coffee shops to refill my water bottle—and shows, but you already know this) Is there a reason why all these people are Millenials?

  • Zachary Lipez attempted to determine who deserved the title America’s Greatest Rock Band (which feels as productive and necessary a challenge as America Ninja Warrior, but, oddly, equally as entertaining)

  • Ayanna Totten spoke with black journalists who were laid off in recent Vibe and Billboard cuts—the advice here for recent grads, potential pivots, and insight into journalism is worth a read. There are a lot of interesting insights, including Camille Augustin’s proposal that “the industry needs more beats and local coverage that will document the path to normalcy and build trust with readers.”

I didn’t want to get into it right at the beginning, but if you are interested in a recap of the week’s news, here is a good piece on Doja Cat, Lana del Rey, and Alison Roman.

ICYMI: Rebecca Slaman wrote about Black Midi’s radio show and the push for theatre to digitally innovate for this newsletter. Read it and stay posted on Rebecca’s theatre thoughts on her Twitter.

what i’ve written📝

  • Public Practice Navigate Morality on Their Dancefloor-Ready Debut: Got to chat with Sam York of Public Practice about the band’s debut album Gentle Grip. I really liked the idea that York was parsing through moral conundrums on this record, and I think it’s like she said: “morality is a constant project.” Anyways, if you’ve ever wanted to read about consumerism, morality, and disco all in one place, then this one is for you.

  • NYC Nightlife Unites To Provide Emergency Relief: AdHoc recently announced this new fund for the nightlife ecosystem in New York City! It’s a really cool initiative brought to you by people that truly love and want to preserve NYC’s live music culture. If you have the means, donate to the fund, and if you are an affected worker stay tuned for when applications open up!

  • Gaygirl Wrestle for Control on ‘Pleasurehead’: Gaygirl are a band that I first got tipped off to when they released their 2019 single “Hair.” When they announced their debut EP Pleasurehead, I knew I had to talk to them about it. It’s a short but promising entry from the band, who are looking to explore other sounds (the noise rock on “MNausea” being the most prominent).

the discourse™️

Wanted to write a little bit about live streams, and the future of them. Bare with me, because a lot of people have already discussed the limitations of live streams and their inability to be a real replacement for live shows, but I thought it’d be interesting to pick it apart myself.

If live shows are really out of the question for the rest of the year, then live streams might be one of the ways the live music industry pivots during the pandemic. Whereas the start of the pandemic saw tons of artists live streaming basically daily, any attempts to monetize live streams would put an end to this—it’s a concept that Cherie Hu calls digital scarcity. If you are providing free live streams all the time when you do announce you're going to do a paid one, people will opt out because they’ve already seen you like a bajillion times. So, artists will have to pickier about how many live streams they do.

But it’s not just that: live streaming is by default very casual. Whereas live shows require money, planning, transportation, and time, live streams require none of that work on the part of the viewer. Less work = less investment, combined with the fact that many live streams lack the production of an actual show. You stream from your home, I watch from my home, etc. I personally would watch a live-stream that had the same production value as an actual show, and there are places that are experimenting with this.

The first shows that I heard of being live-streamed when the pandemic broke were ones that still took place at empty venues like Code Orange’s show and Rick from Pile’s solo show in Boston. Having the show go on in an empty venue seems like a plausible move for live-streaming, as it allows for venues to continue to host shows and can employ many of the production staff whose jobs are reliant on performances. Billboard recently reported on a government initiative in Mexico to get artists safely back to venues and (again, safely) put on high production live-streams. I don’t hold out much hope that our government would take an active role in helping the arts community in this way, but that’s where brands can come in.

Branded live-streams are probably something you took part in without realizing it. NTS’s Remote Utopias live stream, for example, was sponsored by Jameson (unrelated, but Bbymutha’s stream actually included her expressing her distaste for the liquor). Jameson, like other brands, has been pushing hard to partner with artists. There are drawbacks to this partnership though—this Billboard article covers how artists are generally getting paid less for these partnerships during the pandemic.

In the Penny Fractions newsletter, David Turner outlined the anxieties surrounding brands moving into live streams, based on their role in music in the past. This mostly got me thinking (again) about Liz Pelly’s So Far Sounds article—what happens when music is reduced to a vehicle for selling a product? But what does the future of live streaming look like without advertising dollars? No answers only questions!

I actually got to the opportunity to talk with others about the future of live-streaming in David Turner’s Penny Fractions Reader Call this past Sunday. Subscribe and join the next one!

shout-outs

A wonderful new compilation album featuring a ton of great artists (Porridge Radio, Sorry, Pet Shimmers, 404 Guild, Legss, and like 60 more) came out recently. Group Therapy Vol. 1 is available now on Bandcamp, and all profits go to Music Venue Trust (who are working to help live music venues during the pandemic) and NHS Charities Together.

Buy Group Therapy Vol. 1

The minimum price is £7, but I recommend going higher because you are getting a lot of bang for your buck and it goes to a good cause. (Also it features a new version of Ugly’s “Blister,” a band I saw at least five times when I was in London.)

tune out 🎧

In previous newsletters, I’ve written about different ways you can pass the time at home—whether it was making zines, playing online Pictionary, djing for a radio, or meditating. These are all creative ways to give your mind a break from the stress of everyday life, and I wanted to start consolidating these efforts into one section.

One way you can take your mind off things is by getting musical. Pulseboy, a cute chiptune generator that I first discovered through Tumblr, allows you to string together tunes online. It takes a little to get used to, but part of the fun is the learning curve. Watch the tutorial and see what you make!

If you want to read more about ways you can “find calm in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis,” I’d recommend checking out NPR’s Our Daily Breather series which asks artists about how they are getting in their R&R during the pandemic. Pond Magazine has a similar list that is updated daily with ways to stay creative and optimistic (I really like these daily journal prompts that Blue Detiger suggested).

I also came across this cool digital care package—it’s specific to what soothes Rona Akbari, but it might be a cool exercise to pick a few things that always make you better and then file them away for when you need it like this.

Finally—this quick personality test from the study app Forest determines your “focus type” (classified as different plants like bamboo, ginkgo, etc) and tells you who your perfect study buddy would be. The app itself is like a Pomodoro timer with tons of social features—like studying together with friends. I’m a maple tree, so if you’re a ginkgo hmu!

concluding remarks

You may be wondering why this newsletter is such a large text block compared to previous ones. I was recently cleaning out my inbox and came across this gem from Tedd Gioia in his Music Journalism Insider interview:

I don’t care whether you’re a manager or a teacher or cook or whatever: if you expose yourself to inspiring and educational material, your own work will improve steadily. It’s the bosses that don’t understand this. They measure you on your output, but they ought to be more concerned about your inputs. Sad to say, you need to take charge of the inputs, and somehow find the time to do it.

I remember asking journalists how I could improve as a writer and being a bit frustrated when the reply was “read more”—maybe because I thought there was more to it than that or thought the advice was a bit generic after hearing it so many times. But I appreciate that advice a lot more now, especially as life in quarantine has allowed me to slow down and consider how I use my time.

The pressure to create—which Garrett, McGovern, and Eyre talk about in this Guardian article—can be productive, but can quickly snowball into “I need to be doing everything all at once and constantly producing or I’m culturally dead.” I know a lot of creatives feel this pressure, and Gioia’s words (as well as the countless others who have echoed him) are a nice reminder that your craft has to take time. Maybe slowing down is a good thing? What a weird concept.