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March 19th, 2021

Rate Your Music is a Social Media Platform

Even after a successful $67,552 IndieGoGo campaign in 2015. Rate Your Music/Sonemic as a website has not changed very much in functionality. While there are certainly new features, such as the interview section, a more advanced search engine, and two separate albeit extremely rough websites dedicated to film and video games (respectively titled Cinemos and Glitchwave), the functions of the site remain largely the same. Most active users are still locked directly into the routine of rating and cataloging near everything they hear, just as its been since December 2000 when the site originally launched. But this is a post about how RYM has changed. And despite how little site users would feel it’s been altered, it really has become Sonemic.

Now it’s rather important here to make a distinction between what Rate Your Music represents versus what Sonemic does - RYM is a music cataloging platform, and Sonemic is a social media platform with the functions of the former. While the original site somewhat functioned with social activities with a topic based discussion forum, lists, and comment boxes on release pages, it now serves as a frequent companion to other social media platforms.

The first thing to note and by far the largest is the major shift in audience. As mentioned before, Rate Your Music launched in 2000. In its earlier stages, the site was more easily able to curate a more secular audience primarily built up of users spanning from the ending cutoff of the Boomer generation and Gen X’ers. This is still very visible with the way a lot of ratings on the site formed. The site being largely full of older rockists skewed the site’s averages and most popular albums towards the rock and metal that was popular in their youths. This is surely still noticeable while looking at the top rated albums on the site, and while looking at the number of ratings for many sorts of pre-21st century guitar music. Because the internet is the internet, the spread Rate Your Music had in the 2010s of the site was MASSIVE. From the end of 2011, the site had a listed 370,000 users and it’s more than doubled since then. No longer is it a safe, secular haven for the guitar legends of past generations, but a worldwide phenomenon with little room considered for the origins of the site. But where the hell are all of these users coming from?

Let’s consider the demographics of the site and where they’ve come from:

Music blogs such as Pitchfork and The Needle Drop being so successful presented audiences with easy ways to discover music online, as well as unfortunate avenues for reductive criticism. I am of course talking about the 1-10 rating scale, and how music discussion online slowly shifted away from discussion and into aggressively shit-flinging numbers into each other’s mouths. After all, the easiest way to talk about a piece of art is to not actually talk about it at all. Pitchfork’s decimal rating system and The Needle Drop’s “high number or low number” system have had undeniable influence in the way people discuss not just music, but other media forms too. RYM functionally provides a quick and simple way to approach non-criticism and non-discussion and continue on the endless train of media heroin.

Alongside the audience gained from music publications, during the mid 2010s RYM had gained a visible user base being imported from 4chan’s /mu/ board, as well as Subreddits dedicated to independent music. A good deal of these users were using other social media at the time as well, most notably Twitter. Twitter being as broad of a platform as it is, and with media spread being so fast, using RYM and making “Topsters” favorite album charts became more of a new normal than anything else, with a later noticeable influx of more typical radio music listeners entering the sphere.

Especially in the last few years, there’s been a noticeable shift in RYM’s demographics into a younger, and most importantly queerer audience. If you’ve ever heard someone online mention that every platform becomes Tumblr eventually, keep it in mind very seriously. Tumblr’s ban on NSFW content in 2018 saw massive amounts of users who call themselves “refugees” of the site quickly flooded into just about every other younger community on the internet. Being that queer teenagers were such a large demographic of Tumblr, the tenderqueer persona became a standard archetype you can find just about anywhere. No matter what platform you’re on, it’s incredibly easy to find Piccrew avatar sporting tenderqueer teens and young adults. Twitter is Tumblr, as are Instagram, Reddit and most other media platforms, not to mention that Tumblr itself still has a large active user base. Tumblr leaking everywhere at once and changing every community gives several more paths to music listeners ending up on RYM.

Many younger users of Rate Your Music are still using the site in nearly identical ways to the original demographics, but there is a massively important distinction to make between the site’s younger versus the older users:

These are people who have grown up nearly from birth with social media.

Modern technology and the hyperreal of the spectacle have conditioned most of Gen Z for media heroin addiction from the very beginning. As the first generation to prominently grow up with smartphones in our hands, most have a near constant need for more and more rapid fire media to perpetually consume. Rating based sites like RYM and Letterboxd are an easy way to feed media heroin addiction and the sugar rush of watching your numbers increase. Everything online eventually meshes. Sites with more specific functions end up serving as companion pieces to the overarching narratives of mainline social media sites. The plexing of websites together means everyone is everywhere in any interest. For internet-using, media-consuming Zoomers, having accounts for several websites like RYM or Letterboxd is a norm. The idea of “social media companions to a bigger picture” is also exemplified by neo-homepage-esque websites like Carrd, where a user might display links to their accounts on all of these other sites.

Besides its frequent use as a companion app, there’s still a large amount of discussion within Rate Your Music itself. The forums are still used regularly, and users are endlessly making lists of their favorite albums to feed the void of links that nobody looks at. With a younger, internet weaned audience, there’s also far more discourse than there has been in the past. Teenagers fighting with each other in the forums is nothing new though, I suppose.

Another thing to bring up is the rather active communities of listeners using Rate Your Music in order to engage with artists who themselves use the site. The last few years has brought in a great influx of artists to RYM and RYM users who themselves start to create their own music of all sorts. This easily allows for cult followings to be created among subgroups, and has caused some artists to attain a certain level of success inside and outside of the site. Some notable cases of this are Patricia Taxxon, Fax Gang, Them Airs, and Avenade, who have all “blown up” in the RYM community.

I’m certainly cynical about the culture around rating music but at the end of the day RYM is at least a great multitool, and is easily usable as such while being able to completely avoid most of the social media aspects. That’s what I use it for and have always used it for in the past. I really don’t want everything to be social media. It’s exhausting. -_-

RATEYOURMUSIC = AQ 305 = EXISTENTALISM

SONEMIC = AQ 141 = DELEUZE = ELECTRO = FALSE GOD = LONGING = GENESIS

SOCIAL MEDIA = AQ 190 = TARTARUS = DEMON NEST = MEGALOMANIA = DELETE THAT!

- Audrey

January 16th, 2021

Are These Really the Venues We Have Left?

It’s 2021 now, and as our continuation into covid world persists, online concerts and festivals have simply become a norm. No longer is playing your show in Minecraft or Second Life innovative, but is simply a way of life. Not only has this allowed artists to perform despite lockdowns, but acts as a powerful vehicle for fans to interact with each other, the artists they like, and to raise money for charities. It’s increasingly clear that these sorts of shows are here to stay for quite some time, but how long? But as online shows become a norm, people are beginning to be less enthusiastic about these shows, corporate acts capitalize off of paid streams, and organizers have more opportunities to fuck up and make these shows fall apart completely. As I see more URLFests failing or ending up as catastrophes, I ask the question: Are these really the venues we have left?

What a disaster! The weekend of January 15th I played an online music festival, “Quarantainment 2.” This was a smaller online show that I, as well as several contemporaries, became involved with in October of 2020. After two delays, perpetually poor communication from the hosts, and multiple people dropping the show, it seemed as though there was no way for the show to actually go on, until it did. Quarantainment 2 was hosted on a twitch channel, “BenMonsterTv,” a channel primarily dedicated to streaming video game content. The channel themes itself around talking puppets and the people that use them, rather reminiscent of Wonder Showzen, and humor similar to that of other 2000s Comedy Central programs. During the stream, viewers and moderators had access to several emotes and “audio drops,” which would cause either an irritating audio file to play (including one that just says “sex” loudly), or would make the channel’s puppet characters pop up on the screen and dance around, or make fart noises. During an intermission, the channel’s creators played several sketches of their characters, which included multiple tasteless and insulting pedophilia jokes. How incredibly embarrassing! I had been reeled into playing what is essentially an advertisement for inherently offensive garbage. Having to negotiate with the hosts to ensure that all of these emotes would be disabled while I performed was frankly insulting, let alone the second half of the festival being played an entire half hour early. None of these things that would happen during the stream were at all conveyed to the artists beforehand. Trying to watch someone perform only to see a giant puppet pop up on screen and make a fart sound over their set feels almost overtly mocking. It's like getting a gig and finding out at the last moment it's at a fucking Chuck E Cheese!

Most of the URLFests I’ve seen being played are raising money for charity, are completely nonprofit, or are blatantly paid as artists still need to eat. This one however really served as a huge advertisement for the channel owners. Any money from subscribers during the show would go to the channel owners, not that many people subscribed during the show. During sets, while the Twitch chat was available on screen, the channel's moderators would plug links to buy channel merch. Truly, watching it slowly unraveling like this while being a part of the show was nothing short of humiliating! The event went over so poorly that we completely changed hosts for the second day of the event.

As a second example, several others and I were at one point scheduled to play a festival called “Witherfest,” an event using a Minecraft server as a venue, as many other shows have. Witherfest quickly amassed a wide array of performers before it all fell apart. After a long and stupid discourse between fans and performers and organizers over the booking of a certain act, a large portion of the roster dropped, including myself. The organizers acted incredibly immaturely, and quickly turned the event into something the scheduled performers were instead reactionary to.

Now of course this is all personal experience, but it’s not like I’ve been the only person to have catastrophic experiences doing these, and these aren't the only festival failures that there have been, or will be. Besides public failures, how many of these festivals just completely fall apart behind the scenes? How many of them never get past their rudimentary stages?

How long until poor host communication leaves artists being too fed up to agree to anything? The DIY no contract attitude towards URLFests can be something artists can relish in, but it also gives hosts and organizers much more space to make shows fall flat on their faces. For a lot of organizers, that may remove any sort of real obligation to act professionally towards their performers and fans. This of course is exemplary in both of my personal examples with organizers acting immaturely.

At least until a post-covid world online shows are here to stay, and in that sense are becoming far more corporate, with major artists performing in paid streams. While this becomes the norm, completely DIY shows will become much less common, and the frequency that they appear to be happening at has been declining. For so many people, this style of performance is purely novelty, and that novelty has worn off. Of course many of these shows go off without a hitch, but how long will it really be until the DIY aspect of the scene is no longer appealing enough for audiences? How long until the musicians can’t deal with organizers anymore and everything becomes even more secular? Are these really the venues we have left??

- Audrey

EDIT:

Are These Really the Venues We Have Left = AQ 677 = "YOU'VE GOTTA FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO-" lol