The Most Timeless Songs Of All-Time

Matt Daniels for Polygraph:

Until recently, it was impossible to measure the popularity of older music. Billboard charts and album sales only tell us about a song’s popularity at the time of its release.

But now we have Spotify, a buffet of all of music, new and old. Tracks with fewer plays are fading into obscurity. And those with more plays are remaining in the cultural ether.

The interactive charts Polygraph put together from the Spotify data are really interesting. If you’re anything like me, you’ll blow another 10–15 minutes above the time you spend reading the article playing with them.

As Daniels pointed out, we don’t really have data to support interactions that might change the trajectory of popularity, but I’d point out that some of the less popular but surprisingly long-lived songs were featured in movies or on TV programs.

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” may owe its current place at the top of the longevity chart to Glee, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” would most likely languish in obscurity without the 20 year trailing consciousness-boost from Wayne’s World. Aerosmith’s “Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” also stands far out in the 1998 track list, which is probably due to being a featured song in Armageddon.

It’s a classic chicken-egg problem. Were these songs featured in films and TV shows because they had a lasting impact on people, or did they get a new lease on public consciousness because someone involved with making the show liked the songs and used them?

But if the songs aren’t “good” in some sense, they won’t have lasting attention. You’d have to make a damn compelling show to bring back something like “Ice Ice Baby” from (its rightfully consigned) place in 90s obscurity. After a playcount blip, I’d expect that to go right back down to baseline, unless it got meme-ified or otherwise co-opted and used ironically.

Streaming Music Services Aren’t a Thing in Japan

Why I can’t really get excited about the streaming music services that seem to be all the rage with kids these days:

  • Pandora: not available in Japan
  • Spotify: not available in Japan
  • iTunes Radio: not available in Japan
  • Beats Radio: not available in Japan
  • Google Play Music: missing from the Google Play Store
  • Rdio: not available in Japan

The two streaming services that are available are solidly Japanese-oriented: Sony Music Unlimited and Recochoku.

Sony Music Unlimited

Sony Music Unlimited

レコチョク (Recochoku)

レコチョク (Recochoku)

Yeah, I know, I’d never heard of them either, despite living here.

In an article from last year, Recochoku was featured in the Japan Times in an article about streaming services. It was originally only available for Japanese feature phones from the surprisingly “ancient” (in ’net terms) time of 2001, per The Bridge. Recochoku is an affiliate of Avex Group, a holding company for multiple entertainment subsidiaries (Japanese-language page).

Sony and Avex alone represent roughly 18% of all Japanese music sales, and I wouldn’t expect either organization to voluntarily participate together in a unified streaming service unless there was an enormous upside for them. And they’d still probably insist on running their own competing services.

Given how the Japanese market usually works, and particularly how Sony chooses to operate, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any foreign incumbent to make inroads in the market. The only one that might have a chance is Apple, and that only because of the popularity of the iPhone and existing deals with distribution through the iTunes store to provide leverage. Beats music alone would have been a total non-starter in Japan. With Apple’s support? It probably still won’t be available for years, if ever.

Sony’s in a ‘bag of hurt’ because of Blu-ray

Like I pointed out a while back in a response article, Why Apple isn’t Japanese, Sony is not primarily a technology company anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time.

I personally don’t own a single blu-ray because even my DVD purchases had tapered off by the time the very short format war shook out. While I certainly appreciated the higher image and sound quality of blu-ray, I could see that downloaded media was already viable — at that point it had influenced some of my physical media purchases — and was the probable future of the market.

I replaced our DVD player with a blu-ray player when my mother-in-law’s old DVD player died and we gave her ours, only because it was nearly the same price as the available region-free DVD models. I’ve only used it for viewing the occasional Big Movie™ rental disk, when visuals make a difference.

In about the same time period, I’ve bought several HD movies and whole TV series from iTunes. Streaming or downloading is more convenient and, now that I’m consciously trying to get rid of physical goods, there is the added benefit of not having disks. Anything I really want to keep, I can download and store on my Synology NAS.

Physical media has no real benefit for normal people at this point, at least if they have access to any sort of broadband internet service. Increasingly, only collectors and enthusiasts will insist on having the actual storage medium. This dynamic has already played out with music; fewer people buy CDs even if they still buy loads of music, because they’re willing to trade some quality for convenience.

Streaming HD video is more compressed than blu-ray, but the difference in quality is — while noticeable — not so much poorer that the average person will care. Even people who do care (like me) are willing to make the trade-off in most cases. It’s no wonder that blu-ray adoption is tanking.