Sunday, 17 July 2011

What is an Online Fan? What counts as Interaction? (later: pictures!)

It's obvious that online music fans engage in a variety of ways with the music they 'fan'. As a music producer putting my work online, I'm interested in the quality of interaction there, and the difficulty of assessing it. Take listening, for starters...

A few seconds' listening on Myspace, Soundcloud, or ReverbNation counts as a 'play'. Bandcamp distinguishes between "full", "partial" and "skipped" plays. On a track has to play up to somewhere between halfway and two-thirds through to be "scrobbled" and added to listener statistics. However, because can't or won't pay the royalties incurred in running a play-on-demand service (like Spotify) all plays are part of partially randomized radio streams. Tracks are usually not chosen by the listener. Instead, users try to personalize their radio streams by limiting the contents of their profile libraries, or listening to artists grouped according to much-contested "similarity" or descriptive "tags". In general, I think, listeners are quite likely to have listened to entire tracks... but how do I judge the value of a full listen from a user who's had my track pushed to them by the algorithm, as opposed to a half-listen from someone skipping through the tracks of my album, in order, on demand, on Bandcamp?

The big variation in what counts as a 'play' in different online environments is one of the more obvious ways in which it is difficult to make sense of the quality of listener interaction online. This surely ranges from cursory to meaningful, and it might be meaningful in terms of, say, mutual appreciation between musicians, or between musician and fan; or meaningful commercially; or meaningful in terms of crude numbers of Listeners, Fans, Friends, Likers, etc.

All this is bound to impact on how a music producer regards their online fans. The question comes to mind as I get to about half-way through recording Mister Salmon's second album. In lieu of finishing it, I made some images for each of the tracks on the first album, to try to enrich your online experience of it, friends, fans, followers, listeners...

Mister Salmon Yorkshirama

A Tale with Pictures
by Mister Salmon