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My wife and I are full time musicians and have decided not to release our new album on audio only streaming platforms. None of them pay the artist fairly and if people want to listen to or music they will have to pay for the vinyl, CD or unlimited streaming and downloads from Bandcamp. I wrote a little piece on Substack about our dilemma: https://vibes.starlite-campbell.com/p/to-stream-or-not-to-stream

Our new record - including the production of physical product - cost around 10,000 Euro. We have our own analogue studio so there were no recording costs apart from depreciation and energy. When writing & recording we have to fund our living costs.

We choose this life - and overall its brilliant - but I have been a full time musician for 49 years and never known it as bad as this. People are losing their sense of value for music and have no appreciation of how much it costs to make a record. If there is an answer, I would love to hear it.

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I do the same. Our generation is too old to come up with the next paradigm, but I hope the young musicians learn to take control over their music and their working conditions.

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I am in a similar position. My outlay was about $10,000 and I’m just currently on the fence about whether to release it to the streamers, more for the promotion aspect, or do what you’re doing. I don’t ever expect to recoup that money. Sad times.

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We do this to earn money so we need to tun that 10K into 30K. Our socials are poor but we have a loyal e-mail fanbase and sell lot of shit at gigs. I wrote a piece about this very subject in February on this very platform. It may inform your decision- https://vibes.starlite-campbell.com/p/to-stream-or-not-to-stream

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We've sold most of our CD's at gigs.

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Physical stuff really builds a connection with your supporters, no doubt...

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Simon, For sure! Hang in there, keep the faith!!!

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We certainly will...

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Very informative read! Thank you Simon.

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Thanks Mark. It really difficult to put all of this in a clear an succinct way!

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Jul 29, 2023·edited Jul 29, 2023

Lately I lean to the conclusion that we must go back to live gigs. LPs and CDs are a dead end, and streaming is useless unless you already have a fan base. And the only way to build a fan base is by performing live.

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That is correct. Our particular fan base buy physical products, CD and particularly vinyl. Our new record is the full milky clear, 180g gatefold extravaganza. Touring live live though is now impossibly expensive. We have a three week UK tour coming up in October but can only afford to do it as a trio. Venues in the UK and Europe have not recovered from COVID and ticket sales are down everywhere. Tough times.

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From one Campbell to another, I applaud your stance. My new album will be on Bandcamp and cassette (analog home studio as well). I’ve decided to use streamers like radio promotion; just the singles. Bandcamp’s putting it in their New & Notable section! Their site and community feel give me hope.

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Campbells together - excellent! Where are you based? Whats the band?

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I’m in the U.S. I go by Now Age Emcee

https://nowageemcee.bandcamp.com

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I checked out your latest album. We’ll done! I hope to be full-time one day as you are.

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Be careful what you wish for!! It very tough right now…

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Cool. Checking it out!

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Does most of that cost involve the manufacture of the physical product?

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About half. Mastering, graphic design, session musicians are the rest. Of course the ongoing cost of running the different services is expensive. Websites, Shopify, email marketing et al. We only used a session drummer on this record, playing everything else ourselves. Suzy and I also make our own videos. A cottage industry 😂

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Wow. Our band consists of me and another guy; we write, play and record all the instruments (guitars and drums mostly), and only pay, so far, for mastering. Fortunately, Andy is a whizz at video-making and also an artist. We have day jobs though, and believe me, that really hampers the ability to get things done musically. I can't imagine doing music full-time, but I would love to have the time!

The name of your band?

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Starlite & Campbell - we also have a podcast and blog on Substack. https://starlite-campbell.com and https://vibes.starlite-campbell.com

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Thanks for your comment! I'm always looking for indie music and more importantly good substacks about music. I've subscribed to your Vibes and can't wait to read and listen!

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Excellent. We do a lot of different posts and a weekly podcast. Enjoy!!

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I am soon taking all my music off the Spotify and other platforms and selling directly to my fans via direct download it is much more personal and no middlemen getting paid 6 figures for heaping thousands of artists music into a stew and people don't know what they're listening to or who's playing guitars and singing. Agree 100%

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Thank you and good for you. Well their losses are piling up for sure. There is only so long they can carry on - I think! Whats your band?

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Pat Savage band www.savageroads.com

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Cool. I will check it out later!

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Simon, I can relate, [and I also use Bandcamp]. I'll check out your new release and try to help get the word out. My band is the Hot Club of Philadelphia, our last release is called 'Gypsy - Americana.

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What’s the link? Us Bandcampers need to stick together 🤣

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Got it. Love that vibe.

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A lot of them DESERVE to be fired. They fucked up decades of stability and consistency in entertainment providing in North America and expect to be PAID for it? Fuck that.

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Great and insightful article. Being "out of touch" I think is the key. It has amazed me throughout my career how people who have no passion about the business they are in, end up running the show.

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Because their passion is to make money and the vehicle isn't important.

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I Agree it can be but I think stupidity is high on the list as well as if a business is successful with a product or service, why can't leaders see what makes the company successful in the first place? I've seen leaders come in and cook the books to make a "number" they want to hit, but they still don't understand why the business is successful. To a hammer, everything is a nail. The goose and the golden eggs... human nature in some cases. I agree with your point, but there are plenty of people who just don't get it. Why so many businesses fail in the second or third generation. Thanks for the comment.

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Music is one of humanity's greatest gifts. It was given to us by a superordinate source and the great composers and musicians knew what to do with it. They made a living from it and shared it. It is a damn shame to see it as another commodity to be bought and sold as mere content.

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That's how it been since the first musician got paid to play. They sat in the halls of power, provided entertainment, that few listened to, and were paid for their service.

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What are your thoughts on what's next for discovery for those who do like music? Also, I'm noticing a rise in 'acoustic' things 'acoustic techno' for example... AI can't do any of that. Will people seek out what only people can do?

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I know you weren't asking me, but IMO music discovery will return to word of mouth. friends recommending stuff to friends with social media feeds helping by acting as a small accelerator. Music critics won't be found in print; they'll be found in places like Substack. It'll take longer to find stuff, but will be much more worth the effort.

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I think that small venues that feature local artists will continue to grow. It's happening in small towns in Colorado.

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With concert ticket prices being what they are affordable local club gigs become very attractive to those looking for a live music experience. You might even see a rise in sales of CD’s and Lp’s at this gigs. Old farts like me still buy music the old fashion way.

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Correct. Our fanbase buys physical product at gigs and by mail.

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To be precise, Trinidad, Colorado.

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Record shops were and still are a good place, especially if you get to know the staff who can tell you about music they think you may be interested in.

That helps give meaning to the whole experience…

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100%

On one of my last trips, the record I bought sparked a 10 minute conversation with the store owner about Dischord records, shows we'd both been to in the early 90s, and more.

I like Discogs as much as anyone else, but you can't get that there.

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Jul 29, 2023·edited Jul 29, 2023Liked by Ted Gioia

Great article Ted. Loved the Hollywood strike reference. It struck a chord with me on many levels. #1. I work in Hollywood and the strike has me and my peers unemployed since May if not longer. #2 It deals with a confusing topic I’m trying to sort through… Ai, and societal needs vs corporate propensity.

I work in the art departments of film and TV, creating sets, props, murals, and etc. Recently I’ve been asked by my supervisors and bosses to use Ai in my art. I took a dive into Ai and had it create a design. In 30 seconds it finished a project and to my dismay, it looked great. No joke. I’ve never felt more dejected. My entire life, I’ve been studying design, art, techniques, history and culture in order to be a competitive and talented employee. I do that so I can profit and also, my company can profit from my skills. We all do this. We all have degrees, stay on top of techniques, education and trends in order to remain relevant. But now, what are we getting in return? The answer to me, seems like abandonment.

It’s such a convoluted and confusing topic. I know we the people, are getting the short, splintery, weathered end of the stick, while simultaneously being told, it’s the best part of the stick. I’m TOLD I’ve got this great product called Spotify, Apple Music, latest-greatest smart phone or _________ (Fill in the blank) but the reality is, we are being replaced, our needs are not being met and most of the products we buy have designed obsolescence built into it. I know Spotify and Apple Music are somewhat benign examples... but there are much more serious topics, education, workforce replacement, and something I’ll call lopsided economics. Where you enter into a relationship with an entity (company, product or whatever) and the vast majority of profits, benefits, data, and etc go to one party and it’s not us the consumer. This is a bad relationship, if was a marriage or a friendship, it would be doomed. It seems like companies have more legal rights and are more important than the people who comprise them.

How do we stop a paradigm workforce shift that is vastly faster, waiting in the wings, just as good and works for a fraction-of-a-fraction of the price? Combine that with a company's insatiable desire for the biggest return at the lowest cost, AND annex a society which now relies on that companies' products for survival, entertainment, education and more and we have a recipe for irrelevance.

I know somehow, this lopsided economic system, societal needs, corporate greed, designed product obsolescence and advent of Ai are all tied together to keep giving us the short, dirty, rotten, lousy Spotify recommendations - end of the stick. There is no need for companies to listen or change. Why should they? They have all the leverage they need, they have two hands, firmly griping the long end of the stick.

My apologies for the long rant… your article really hit home. Love reading your posts.

Thanks for being quality and not being Ai!

Remain Humane!

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Want to love music again? Beyond the excellent recommendations Ted makes on this Substack, here are two other sources for falling in love again: Bandcamp and community-based radio stations. Two that are available online: KXCI and WERU. Human DJ's and unpredictable playlists.

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Thank you, I was scrolling along the comments looking for a mention of good old radio. I also love listener supported radio (public radio and college) and sometimes in the car I’ll go with the top 40 just know what’s going on.

Music curated by real people. 🙌 radio!

My top faves are

KMHD Portland jazz radio

KEXP Seattle

KZSC UC Santa Cruz

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I can't believe I had to scroll this far to see the obvious option: radio! And I have to add WXPN from the University of Pennsylvania here for anyone who wants to discover new music. Lots of singer/songwriters and other independent artists along with the folks you know and love.

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I was featured on KMHD several years ago and was super impressed with their studio. Mary Burlingame was the GM at the time.... don't know if she's still there.

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That’s fantastic! Not sure about Mary but Matt fleeger is the program manager. Check out their streaming app.

Everyone needs give radio more of chance. I get all the liner notes and band/musician details from the DJs themselves. And they live post their playlists and everything. It’s the best.

Back to basics folks.

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KMHD, yes, love that station. Also, check out KSPC Claremont.

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i agree. i’m still a radio listener. mostly, college and jazz radio on the left end “ghetto” below 92 mhz fm. most stream, too. wkcr is a must for jazz. jazz after hours, distributed nationally on pbx does a great job on featuring up and coming jazz.

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WWOZ out of New Orleans is another great online station. I love KXCI!

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KOTO out of Colorado has a wonderful, eclectic selection of music and DJs who love the music.

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💯 Rachel. Community radio is making a much-deserved resurgence. Our little Texas Hill Country station, KWVH.org just had Paul Simon and Edie Brickell pop in from their ranch a few miles down the road. We’ve featured hundreds of local songwriters with real chops that do it for the love of music.

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Shout out here to my local stations in Charlottesville VA: WTJU & WNRN. I see some other stations in this thread I also check out on occasion; I am very glad that we have some great resources like these to enjoy.

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I'm still looking for someone to explain how companies can be in the red for staggering sums month after month, year after year. Oh I know the answers, but they really don't explain anything. When did banks ever behave like this before? And there are more of these companies than ever, the problem gets worse instead of so-called very serious people asking a sane CFO or math professor, does any of this make any sense to you?

None of this shall end well. And the people who get fucked are the average joes and janes who have a solid resume and credit history and need a loan because almost nobody outside the 1 or 0.1 percent can pay cash for a home or new car.

Tangentially we have a serious problem. Revolutions are never led or sustained by the masses. They're too disorganized, the elites are the ones who have those skills. Usually the disgruntled ones who aren't allowed into the halls of power. So when they take over, nothing really ever changes.

None of it really matters because climate change will solve a lot of this for us, one way or another. Almost nobody will be pleased with the result. And there ain't a damn thing you can do about it either.

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maybe in China. in America those nuclear plants will take 10 years to build and cost twice the projections. if we're lucky. but we could very well hit a point where the money and NIMBY stuff simply becomes irrelevant. otw I couldn't agree more, I've got an engineering degree from Columbia. the very serious people spend time energy and dollars on fusion pipe dreams when what we need are small scale nuclear plants, like decades ago. as you said.

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You're kidding, right?

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Hopefully it won’t require great tragedy on the scale of Pearl Harbor or 9/11 perpetrated by an environmental convulsion before there’s an awakening and the flat-earther types are given the reaounding STFU they need to well… STFU and get out of the way.

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deletedJul 29, 2023·edited Jul 29, 2023
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I think we should keep a little for ourselves. It's great to think we're great like Churchill....

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How on Earth did the comments on this topic get hijacked into a screed on nuke plants?

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Stream of thought, baby. This is the place old farts like me go now where, when we were young in high school and college, we used to stay up all night with friends drinking and pondering the meaning of life. There were usually some cute girls with us to make it interesting.

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Well, no, that wasn't okay, but I'm pointing a finger at that poster's comment too. I commented on his remark after yours. Anyway, whatever, never mind.

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I switched to Tidal and paid twice as much as the other services because they promised to send more money to the artists I listened to. Then they said that model was broken and they were going to send money to up and coming artists who don't get a lot of plays. Ergo, my ability to direct my money disappeared. I left the highest tier and now pay what the other services ask for. Chaos.

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"Joan Is Awful", the first episode of Black Mirror Season 6, predicted all of this.

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More high profile bands need to leave the streamers. I’m in a low profile band (read “unknown”) and will not continue allowing my work to be distributed on the big platforms. Nobody is going to be particularly moved by my decision! But if more well known artists would step up like Neil Young did and ditch the streamers, it might help a little.

I genuinely believe the current streaming model is causing serious cultural damage. At a minimum it would be good if they’d switch to a pro rata payout model to the artists. I’m not holding my breath.

Thanks for this piece. I look forward to the collapse of Spotify like I’m a French peasant in 1789.

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Definitely a malaise in culture, entertainment and politics. So many incompetent people in charge and even more so in middle management.

Your “hot and cool” theory is great and along with Peter Turchin explains a lot of what is going on.

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I’ve been a Pandora listener for more that 20 years! Artist information is always front and center and I get to curate my feed. I learn about So many artists this way. I think they are too cheap and I would in fact pay more if they ask me to. No other service can touch them, and they’ve spoiled me for anything else.

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Also, another note - Pandora Plus costs me $5.00 monthly! I just upgraded to premium which is $9.99, but the feature set is so rich even on the lower tier that I feel guilty as a musician to pay so little. Readers, look into it!

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I've been using Pandora for 10+ years. It's OK. But I find the playlists don't seem to add much variety to them. And they rarely play deep tracks.

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what are "deep tracks?"

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When I used the term, I am referring to songs that aren't typically played on the radio.

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People always find something to complain about, otoh. I make liberal use of the put in the shelf and thumbs down features. It gives them feedback. I note in another comment that it does get a little repetitive but there are tools to help with that, which is more than anyone else does. Plus, since you KNOW who the artist is you don’t get snookered into listening to AI crap. No one else comes close. Maybe Apple.

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I use Qobuz mostly. I got the email from Spotify about the price increase. I realized I hadn’t used it in a very long time. I will cancel it. One of the problems with Spotify is they can’t integrate with Roon which I use extensively at home. Tidal and Qobuz are integrated. I used to use both but noticed I spent most of my streaming time on Qobuz. If you want a good background music in curated form, try Radio Paradise. They are listener supported and have multiple channels, they call mixes, that are quite good.

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I remember radio paradise from like 20 years ago. Glad to hear they’re still a thing! I think that’s how I first heard KEXP because I have never lived in Seattle and have always listened to it streaming.

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I can’t believe they’re still operating, after the founder died and especially after the entire town of Paradise burned down! I used them a lot and then around 2002 or so Pandora came along - I found RP a bit repetitive after awhile but RP always did a good job, they introduced me to streaming

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I have noticed a severe expansion AI generated content showing up on my YouTube suggestions list. At first, I thought that some of these were just the most incredibly boring YouTubers, then I realized that the script used repetitive awkward phrasing and only a moderately convincing text to speech system. I have begun selecting the option of telling YouTube not to recommend the specific channels anymore. This is becoming absurd. I don't want bland AI generated nonsense, I need a vigorous human mind guiding the stories, the videos, and the music. Go ahead and spend your money Disney, Netflix, etc. You are not going to do anything but accelerate your losses.

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i do like youtube music. the app is really good at buffering when you are in a poor reception area. i think the algorithm works ok. the best thing is (sorry content creators) it’s cheap. it comes bundled with youtube premium for one monthly fee as low as $8 if you are a student.

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The discussion is not over whether or not an app or service functions as it is advertised, rather it is about the unfettered expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) applications as "creators" of music, news, fiction, and other areas of entertainment. My example of YouTube has to do with my observation that there has been a proliferation of AI created YouTube postings. And, I have been surprised that the YouTube algorithm has been suggesting them. I took the step to instruct the algorithm to stop recommending them to me. I would much rather view/hear items created by humans and not something that is just generating content, and bad content at that.

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as i wrote, "i think the algorithm works ok." i use both you youtube and youtube music and i haven't noticed it promoting any ai generated content on either platform. it just gives recommendations of other human generated content in the same genre i have been consuming. how do you give the algorithm instructions other than thumbs up or down?

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You can provide more pointed direction to Youtube by looking at the right column on YouTube and mousing over the title of the video suggested. You will see a column of three dots that give you a variety of options. Notably, there is a line demarcating the options into two sections, with the lower section giving you the options of "Not Interested", "Don't Recommend Channel", and "Report". The first two options certainly seem to me to be explicit directions to YouTube, and it's algorithm or algorithms, to certain content suggestions. As AI proliferates, we can expect to see more content that is partially or completely generated by AI. Cheers.

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I left Spotify for good when the news of the CEO investing in “intelligent weapons” broke. Although him calling Spotify “the product” when the product is THE MUSIC had already ticked me off. I was also tired of hearing the same damn songs on every playlist, which started to happen when they introduced personalized genre playlists. I also hated the app. I switched to Apple Music and the app is not a whole lot better. The search is terrible. But - surprise - the music is better! I’ve actually discovered some artists in the genres I listen to. Still, it could be so much better…

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