Thursday, November 17, 2022

It's All In The Report

I skipped posting the last couple of days partly because I had other things going on but mostly because I didn't have anything much that I wanted to post about. It goes like that, sometimes. One week I have half a dozen ideas; the next, none.

Actually, it's not strictly true to say I don't have anything I'd like to showcase here. There's plenty more I'd like to say about Noah's Heart, for example, but unless I can come up with some penetrating insight that feeds into an observation on the genre as a whole, I think it's probably best I ration myself to one or two posts a week on that one.

I can always do music posts, of course. Putting one of those together isn't much more than an excuse to play a bunch of songs I like and watch the videos on YouTube, a very acceptable way to spend an afternoon. On the other hand, I could just watch the videos and not write the post and the experience would probably be much the same - maybe even better.

There's always something about the other media - TV, movies, books and the rest - bubbling around in the back of my mind but the problem there is writing about stuff like that is quite a lot of work. It pretty much comes down to writing the kinds of essays media studies students have to do as course work, only without any prospect of getting a grade. I have to confess the bit when you got the essay back and saw what grade you'd got was always my favorite part. Without that validation the whole thing can seem a little hollow.

Then there are the posts that begin like this one; posts about the process of posting. Again, I find writing those easy and reflexively entertaining but even though I also enjoy reading other bloggers extemporizing on the topic of their process, I can't but feel it's a tad self-indulgent, a subject of limited interest to most.

Then again, I'm not here to entertain. Or educate. Or inform. Those are incidental benefits that may or may not, on occasion, attache themselves to my real purpose, which is self-expression and self-reflection. Just be glad I'm not asking you to read my poetry or hear about that one really weird dream I had the other night... 

What does any of that have to do with the picture at the top of the post? Frankly, not a lot. It's more in the way of a five finger excercise as I warm up for the post itself, another example of the process in action. What I came here to talk about today is a report published by IFPI "The voice of the recording industry worldwide"

IFPI stands for The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry although I had to go to Wikipedia to find that out; they don't explain it on their website. The organization has just released its annual report on music engagement, something I learned from a news item at NME, under the enticing tagline "Music fans are listening to more music than ever before".

That surprised me a little. I'd been under the impression engagement with music had been on the decline for many years. It had certainly been my belief, based partly on things I'd read but also on experiential evidence, that music - specifically popular music - no longer held the dominant cultural role it had enjoyed prior to - let's say - the turn of the millennium.

Of course, it would be very much in the interest of any organization representing the interests of the music industry to gainsay such a defeatist viewpoint. As you can see from the screenshot, however, this particular report does seem to be based on a good deal of well-sourced and properly weighted research. 

It's also very interesting and extremely accessibly presented. I have no intention of analysing, critiquing or paraphrasing the contents. Rather, I suggest anyone even the least bit curious clicks through and reads it for themselves

It'll only take a few minutes. Although the website offers the option of downloading either the Full Report or a Highlights Infographic, in fact both long and short form options are presented in the infographic format. 

They're really good infographics but I confess I was a tad disappointed not to get a traditional text report as well. There are pull-out quotes that make me wish I could find out more, like the one that reveals respondents cited more than five hundred musical genres, when describing the kinds of music they listen to. 

I was looking forward to plugging some of those unfamiliar genres into a search engine and thereby opening my musical horizons a little wider. I like hearing things I've never heard before. So, it seems, do most people. I find it heartening to learn that the number of genres people report listening to averages out to eight. That suggests a significantly more open-minded attitude than I would have expected. 

On the other hand, it's less than encouraging (and somewhat weird) to learn that "in those people most engaged with music such as people who subscribe to audio streaming and those who buy vinyl" the number of genres listed goes up just one, to "9 genres on average." It doesn't immediately stand out as a great improvement, does it?

Moving on to a subsection perhaps of more immediate interest to the readership of what at least used to be a gaming blog, we come to the section on music in video games. Or, more accurately, I probably should say the brief mention of same.

The report doesn't seem to concern itself with music made specifically for video games, although that may very well be one or more of those 500+ genres we didn't get to see listed in full. What it does want to highlight, to my own very great interest, is the use of video games as a platform for the distribution of non-video game music and/or as a venue for its performance. 

According to the report a truly astonishing 44% of "gamers" claimed to have "watched a virtual concert on a gaming platform in the last 3 months". Less astonishing is the statistic concerning the age demographic, almost half falling in the youngest bracket, 16-24.

The development of virtual performance and particularly the role of games as a platform for it, as regular readers will no doubt remember, has been an interest of mine at least since the begining of the pandemic. The only reason I have either Roblox or Fortnite installed on my hard drives is so I can visit them to watch singers, bands or movies on their in-game stages and screens.

Back when we were all banged up under viral house arrest, I predicted a bright future for these kinds of virtual shows. Given the kinds of unrelenting pressures currently threatening to crush the last remaining breath from the gasping live music industry, coupled with the relentless push of technology and the growing willingness of rights owners to join in with the fun, the road to a digital future for "live" music is looking wider and clearer than ever.

Anyway, as I said, I don't plan on picking the report to pieces or riffing on the dozens of themes it suggests. I just thought I'd mention it as something worth a few minutes of your day.

You're welcome!

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