Tag: WIRED (page 1 of 10)

Songs are not meme stocks

Remember NFTs? This article in The Guardian will help remind you of the heady days of early 2022 when digital images of monkeys were apparently extremely valuable. That article ends with a question: “what will the next NFT be? When will it drop? How much money will normal people end up spending on it?”

Here’s one answer: owning a slice of your favourite song. Or perhaps a popular song. Or an up-and-coming song. It’s essentially applying capitalism at the very smallest level possible, and treating cultural artifacts as commodities.

The article below in WIRED discusses a platform which offers this as a service. It’s a terrible idea on many levels, not least because, as we’ve seen recently, AI-generated music is tearing fandoms apart. I’ll sit this one out, thanks.

Imagine a retirement portfolio stocked with Rihanna hits, or a college fund fueled by Taylor Swift’s 1989. In a post-GameStop, post-NFT-mania world, it sounds plausible enough. Wholesome, even.

A new music royalties marketplace, Jkbx (pronounced “jukebox”), launched this month and plans to officially open for trading later this year. It has filed an application with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and is waiting for notice that the SEC has qualified its offerings. As long as that goes according to plan, Jkbx—god, why no vowels?—will allow fans to buy “royalty shares,” or fractionalized portions of royalties, fees, and other income associated with a particular song. Prices are within reach of regular people. One share of composition royalties for Beyoncé’s “Halo,” for example, is $28.61. You could also buy a slice of the song’s sound recording royalties for the same price.


Jkbx is debuting with some big-name slices, and is led by a guy with a good track record. “They are very sophisticated,” Round Hill Music founder and CEO Josh Gruss says. “The real deal.” Others agree. “We think they are going to be successful,” Hipgnosis Songs CEO and founder Merck Mercuriadis says.

Still, plenty of industry analysts and insiders view Jkbx, and the larger world of royalty trading, warily. “I think there are going to be very modest levels of return,” says Serona Elton, a music industry professor at the University of Miami.

“There is skepticism about how good of an alternative investment strategy something like this is,” musician and data analyst Chris Dalla Riva says.

“I don’t understand why people keep trying to spin this idea up,” adds producer and music tech researcher Yung Spielburg. “I just don’t get it.”

Source: The Next Meme Stock? Owning a Slice of Your Favorite Song | WIRED

Life in 2050

Futurist Stowe Boyd imagines life in 2050, through three scenarios. I can’t help but think that ‘Collapseland’ (excerpted below) is the most likely outcome. Sadly.

Collapseland is where everything goes pear shaped. Dithering by governments and corporations has allowed climate change to push the world into increased heat, drought, and violent weather. The Human Spring of the 2020s led to a conservative backlash and a suppression of the movement itself. It also led to a suppression of advancements in AI, since it became associated with the science orientation of the movement.

But governments and corporations get their act together in the late 2020s and 2030s to avert an extinction event via the global adoption of solar. However, this only comes after a serious ecological catastrophe has occurred. Inequality remains unchecked, and the poor become much poorer.

Collapseland businesses are much like businesses of 2015. Most efforts are directed toward basic requirements — like desalinating water, relocating people away from low-lying or drought stricken areas, and struggling with food production challenges. As a result, little innovation has taken place. It’s no different from the company you work for today, except longer hours, fewer co-workers, less pay, and much more dust. To increase profits, corporations have cut staff and forced existing workers to work harder.

Source: What Will a Corporation Look Like in 2050? | WIRED

The web is fragmentary

I love that this article channels both Tracey Ullman’s excellent book Close to the Machine and the weird allure of spreadsheets. I have a love/hate relationship with the latter, I have to say.

The key point that this article makes, which I think a few of us realised even before the pandemic, is that the web is fragmentary by default. Huge silos of common experience will come and go, and that’s OK.

If we were to wipe the slate clean—no more platform-specific formats, no more slick UIs, no more engagement-capturing algorithms—would web users even know what to make online? The question has felt particularly acute these past few months, as Twitter users flounder to figure out where to go next, even as they still feel tethered to the increasingly broken platform. Setting aside the very real issue of building a critical mass of users on another site, the question of what to do on another site runs through many of these conversations. In an ideal world, what would a platform allow a user to do?


Creation on the web has always been about those constraints, whether technical limitations or the specific ways systems were designed. By the late ’90s, the web had grown much more participatory than the one Ellen Ullman was writing about. With a little HTML and CSS, ordinary users could create all sorts of things on the proverbial blank page—so long it was mostly text, with maybe a few low-res images or the occasional sparkly animated gif. The first decade of the 2000s saw the rise of both social networking and blogging, but even as technical capabilities were rapidly expanding, for the average user it was far less of a free-for-all than the DIY spirit of the early years. The Web 2.0 shift to user-generated content centered the user—but it was on the platforms’ terms. And in an effort to make content creation as “user-friendly” as possible, platforms were once again, after the openness of the  webring/Geocities era, building narrow pathways for users to take.


But constraints on the web today aren’t just about what our tools encourage us to do on a technical level—they’re also about what it’s like, more broadly, to use a platform. “On the old-school internet that I was on when I was a teenager, the constraints were the tools,” says [Michael Ann DeVito, a postdoctoral computing innovation fellow in the Department of Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder]. “Could you create a hit viral video in 1996? No, we did not have the technology and infrastructure to get that video distributed. For a one-minute video, you would spend two days uploading it, and nobody would have had the connection to download it. The systems didn’t afford that kind of expression.”


The ideal solution likely lies in multiplicity: no massively scaled platform can do everything, so why continue trying to make one size only sort of fit all? Fragmenting our social and creative platforms wouldn’t just expand the ways we could share things with the world; a greater variety of affordances—and yes, constraints as well—would give us a greater range of pathways into creativity. As the current big platforms rush to copy each other (or, more to the point, copy TikTok), the idea of smaller, more varied platforms might feel antithetical; so, too, might the idea that the tech industry would be willing to invest in something that won’t endlessly grow. But the current platform malaise won’t be solved by scale and brute force. Users have many different needs, and in the next era of the web, they should be offered many different solutions.

Source: There’s No Such Thing as a One-Size-Fits-All Web | WIRED