Friday, January 11, 2019

the merlin beggars copyright wars part 1

Every month I create a youtube playlist of songs I listened to and favourited the previous month. This is a weird hangover from when I was in a mixtape-swap  community (yes I know) earlier this century, when I cracked a methodology for making mixtapes with pretty much zero effort. The methodology is as follows:

  1. Carry a personal listening device with a favorite or add to playlist function (I use a banana yellow ipod nano which barely holds any battery life any more).
  2. Refresh the personal listening device content monthly according to any criteria you please (I use recently added + random from entire collection).
  3. At the end of each month extract favourited tracks and order them into a compilation.
And there you go, a monthly playlist with pretty much no effort on your part. Naturally I complicate things by drawing a cover, writing a bit of blurb and agonising over song order, but these are all things I enjoy doing.   Draw a picture? I'm in.

Once upon a time I'd print them onto a CD, but last year this started to feel wasteful, and maybe a touch morbid - what was I creating all these artefacts for? Was I expecting them to be handed out at my funeral or something? So I switched to Youtube playlists.

This created issues. Mainly this issue:

Song videos like this are often described as "merlin beggared" after a music rights group that was very, very active with location-specific take-downs at one time. They seem to have calmed down a bit, and most music has moved onto the automatic recognition treadmill, so I'm not having to do as many substitutions as I used to. But they're still there, and still happen, and sometimes very big names are caught in a flash of Youtube refusenikdom - I remember one month I couldn't find any Prince on Youtube, for example. How much effort must that have cost someone?

The other main irritation for the Youtube mixtaper is those artists who feel a stream of their full album is good, but not individual tracks. Preciousness? Profits protection? I'm no more able to understand it than the habit of putting tracks with significant chunks of silence and/or random noise onto albums - leaving the user inexpertly completing what the producer should have done (and probably spent a long time arguing with the artist over).

Recently I've found an odd phenomenon of tracks with a snatch of unrelated track/movie footage attached. Which is a way of hacking Youtube's automatic content recognition software, maybe, as below.

Where it's well chosen and brief, I sometimes take the lumps and put it in the mixtape anyway. But when it's a large chunk of something not well aligned, it's got to go. It's another substitution.

Over the years, there's a steady trickle of takedowns, channel deletions, rebrandings, label changes and other entropic processes which steadily fillet the playlists. At one time Youtube would leave the removed video in the playlist, a grey thumbnail like a dead tooth in the grinning mouth of your playlist.

They don't do that any more. All that remains of the music that has been disappeared is a single alert message: one of more of the tracks has been deleted and removed from your playlist. The older the playlist, the shorter it becomes. In the end, I suppose, every playlist will empty.