Can the Internet Save Music?

Question: What is the impact of younger artists like Lily Allen finding fame via social networking sites?

David Gray: I'm clearly not of that generation. So I really wouldn’t know. I mean, it's just this is how people glue themselves together now. The world is ludicrously fast and this is one way of letting everybody know. So unsurprisingly, the next generation utilize it as a means [publicity] and then it's perceived by lots of older, middle-aged, middle class journalists as being cool and somehow exciting. Everyone is desperate for something new to write about so it gains attention, but really it's pretty unremarkable, isn't it? People just put words down or send a photo in for something, I don't even know how all of these things work. Just the idea of communicating more than I currently do is just not really on my radar. I'm looking for a world where there's less communication.

Question: Are venues like MySpace and iTunes a positive step towards empowering independent artists?

David Gray: I’m just not sure how far the empowerment goes. It’s still about attracting attention albeit in a different way. And those people with the greatest influence will get the most attention. And the odd story will crop up– there’s the new thing, something new that no one’s heard of before that they pass around, like really fast. That’s what happened with White Ladder. It was something new and it got passed about. See, that will happen to the odd thing. But I don’t see [the Internet] as a radical new way of selling music that favors the smaller producer. People like iTunes are desperately are trying to keep their page free from just being bought out, period, by all of the interested parties. So I things take place in a slightly more sort of convoluted way. You give them loads of free stuff and hours and hours of your time and they’ll semi-guarantee that you’ll get some good coverage or something on their front page. That’s how it works. It’s gifting, rather than just naked financial ruthless power. Seizing their front page with – here’s loads of money; we want this artist on the front for a month just so everyone will know every time they click on. Bang! Oh, they’ve got a new record out. This stuff will eventually prevail, I dare say.

Question: Are you unhappy with the commercial record industry?

David Gray: To say I’m not a fan of the music industry, is like – I spent enough money with it, and enough time persevering with it. It’s obviously been born of [greed]; it’s basically a history of ripping people off, [which] is how it made so much money, and then they developed the CD and they went, “Hey, hey, this is good.” We can sell of the same music again. In a different format and they thought, this is the future. And at that point, they dropped the ball completely and utterly. They started to give things away on promotion—the gross of incompetence of the whole thing. It’s laughable really. This is a very cold-hearted digital world that doesn’t seem to care much for music, or sort of nurturing it because this infinitesimal reward for zillions of hits on U-Tube or whatever. So, it just doesn’t work as a formula. Music doesn’t come for free. Strangely enough, people spend hundreds of thousands of pounds and many years producing things. It’s like that’s why it sounds good.

Recorded on:  September 21, 2009

This is a very cold-hearted digital world that doesn’t seem to care much for music.

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The migration of birds — and we didn't even used to know that birds migrated; we assumed they hibernated; the modern understanding of bird migration was established when a white stork landed in a German village with an arrow from Central Africa through its neck in 1822 — draws us in the direction of having an understanding of the world. A bird is here and then travels somewhere else. Where does it go? It's a variation on the poetic refrain from The Catcher in the Rye. Where do the ducks go? How many are out there? What might it encounter along the way?

While there is a yearly bird count conducted every Christmas by amateur bird watchers across the country done in conjunction with The Audubon Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology recently released the results of a study that actually go some way towards answering heretofore abstract questions: every fall, as per cloud computing and 143 weather radar stations, four billion birds migrate into the United States from Canada and four billion more head south to the tropics.

In other words: the birds who went three to four times further than the birds staying in the U.S. faired better than the birds who stayed in the U.S. Why?

Part of the answer could be very well be what you might hear from a conservationist — only with numbers to back it up: the U.S. isn't built for birds. As Ken Rosenberg, the other co-author of the study, notes: "Birds wintering in the U.S. may have more habitat disturbances and more buildings to crash into, and they might not be adapted for that."

The other option is that birds lay more offspring in the U.S. than those who fly south for the winter.

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It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.

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John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."

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