City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

iMixes as ‘political’ statements

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"I have tried 3 different mixes from my CDs and out of 43 songs, just 4 are available on itunes! This is a joke. Apple, sort it out or this is gonna flop bigtime. (Five star me and they’ll get the message…)"

Here we see iMix rating as ‘political’ movement – users using Apple’s own ‘in-store’ ratings mechanisms and user-generated playlists (iMixes) to make points about the lack of music from independent labels in the recently launched UK version of the iTunes Music Store. It’ll be fascinating to see how this develops – have Apple seriously underestimated the importance of the independent music scene in the UK? Is the independent music scene overstating its importance in the UK? Is the Apple demographic in the UK orientated towards independent music fans?  Either iPods or the internet still aren’t mainstream in the UK? Are the labels being shortsighted by not signing up now? Wait and see …

Following Tom’s lead of trying to publish an iMix from one of his playlists (according to his linklog (RSS), only 109 of 580 songs were recognised at iTMS UK), I discovered just how low stocks are. I tried to publish my ‘Top Rated’ playlist, which contained 2255 songs rated ‘five star’. However, you can only publish playlists with <250 songs in them. So I reverted to ‘Top Rated, recent’ (i.e. rated five stars, date added within last 9 weeks), which fortuitously happened to have 247 tracks in it.

iTunes only knew 26 out of those 247 (basically, Miles Davis, Chicago Underground Trio, Sonic Youth, Howlin’ Wolf, and Don Ellis – I would guess only one of whom would be considered less than ‘well known’?). I hit ‘cancel’ rather than ‘publish’. I’m suspect I’m hardly alone. Many of those that do publish are doing as a statement. Notes on the iMix titled ‘5* me for more indies!" read:

"This is what’s left from a 200-track playlist, because most of the music I want isn’t on iTMS! Come on, Apple, get it sorted … or people like me are going to stop coming back. Great service, great software – lousy choice. Make Apple listen – 5* this playlist! Thanks."

As I write, 4 of the 6 top-rated iMixes on iTunes Music Store UK are: "ITUNES NEEDS INDIES"; "5* FOR MORE INDIES"; "RELEASE THE INDIES"; and "We need more music on iTunes". Fascinating.

As "the basic unit of music consumption" becomes the playlist, in the words of the New York Times, the facility for an individual’s confection of tracks to convey narrative remains undiminished, as it shifts from mixtapes into iMixes. Actually, its potential narrative power increases, as that basic unit leaves its album format, due to the efficacy of net-based digital media. Unfortunately for Apple right now, that narrative can be deployed to make all kinds of statements …


5 responses to “iMixes as ‘political’ statements”

  1. heyblog Avatar

    It’s all happening now

    Silly futurophilia from the UK Sunday Herald: It was the week the future finally arrived … but will iTunes really…


  2. Euan Avatar

    Yep – I tried to publish my “Top Rated” iTunes list (mostly dance, trance etc) and iTunes knew NONE of them.


  3. Eleventhvolume Avatar

    Perhaps I’m reading this out of its correct context – but I find myself a tad exasperated by sentiments like “As “the basic unit of music consumption” becomes the playlist…” Where’s the proof of such an assertion? The market will surely adjust, but will the album be replaced by the playlist? That’s something yet to be seen. (It would be interesting to see the figures of relative purchasing sectors e.g. top 30 albums vs all other albums) NYT’s statement bears an uncomfortable similarity to the hype of the dotcom bubble era (e.g. websites spell the end of newspapers, magazines, etc). Cheers, 11V


  4. Dan Avatar

    Interesting comment, 11V, and I have a lot of sympathies with your point-of-view. However, I feel I must also add that the album could in turn be seen as something of a ‘blip’ in terms of music history i.e. the development of recorded phonography is, what, 60 years old as popular phenomenon? Albums were in effect side-effect of technological improvements around storage size (i.e. shellac to vinyl, 78rpm to 33rpm), enabling a certain kind of organisation of music to emerge (as opposed to previous forms of organisation based around performance or sheet music). Maybe 60 years is a long time, enough to truly embed a distinct new form of music organisation which sticks. But while I see where you’re coming from regarding hype around playlists, particularly varying across different genres, taking the long view we shouldn’t necessarily see the album as untouchable.


  5. Dan Avatar

    Trackbacks on this post, received at the time (before I turned trackbacks off due to spam):

    » It’s all happening now from heyblog
    Silly futurophilia from the UK Sunday Herald: It was the week the future finally arrived … but will iTunes really… [Read More]


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