The Data Accounting of Music Streaming

I stream music all day at work. I do this because I can’t work without music – and if I had to, I think I’d lose my mind. I am aware that this is a bit petty, but I know a few other people who are the same. If I can get into the zone, with an album or playlist that grabs me, I can work endlessly for hours and hours. Sometimes, it’s the only way I can work.

It got me thinking though; how much bandwidth am I eating through? I don’t stream on my phone, just through the computer. So, what’s the damage?

Let’s assume each song is 320kbps. That’s the highest bit rate that I can get on MP3s, and I am assuming that Spotify and Google Play stream at that (despite it probably not being as high as that). Another assumption: I play music for 5 hours a day. I did say 100% of my day, but with meetings and such, 30 hours a week seems a fair assumption.

As an aside, once you realise how much time you have available to listen to music, you realise that it’s finite – even if I tried, there is a limit as to how much music I can listen to in my life. Woah. Weird to think like that.

So, assuming that it is 320kbps, that is 40,000 bytes per second. 5 hours converted to seconds is 5 x 60 x 60 = 18,000 seconds. So, if I play music every day for 5 hours it is 720,000,000 bytes per day. This converts to 0.686Gb a day of data streamed.

We can scale it up too – assuming I work 5 days a week, with seven weeks off a year, we can take that 0.686Gb and scale it!

0.686Gb x 5 x (52 – 7) = 154495Mb, or 150.87Gb a year.

That’s quite a lot of data, eh?

UPDATE Thanks to Hyder for pointing out that I'd done the maths right, and converted the units right, but tripped up when actually putting the units down. I'd typed Mb rather than Gb for the data streamed in a day.

The Year is 2004

Ten years ago, 2004 was the current year, and I was at university. In fact, it was exactly ten years ago having just completed my first round of University exams. Ten years prior to that, in 1994, I was probably still playing Streets of Rage in my parents back room, the Internet was about two years away, and I'd never seen the "@" symbol in my life at that point.

(See also this post from 2007)

Decades are very very odd. It's a rather arbitrary number, I guess, ten years, and I've not even been alive for a full three of them - and in my life I hope to have managed to grab seven or more before I pop my clogs. As I approach 30 years old (for the record, I still have a year and a half or so yet) things are getting up-turned and changed a lot.

But let's cast our minds back to 2004 - what was I doing? Well, it was probably the first Hogmanay where I had drink involved, having just turned 18 not three months before. I had spent the Christmas break revising (presumably, as I managed to pass all the exams that year, if I remember rightly). I had made a few new friends at Uni, and had mostly spent my time drinking £1 (!!!) pints in the bar in the Union. I don't think I'd really integrated into University yet, not really seeing the big picture or the scope yet. My mind was oddly closed.

What I mean by that was that the world was still to fully explode - I was still to really discover music, film, art, politics, social classes... if there is one thing that Uni did that school could never do was open my mind to new areas and people from all over the country (and later the world). Despite growing up in a massive city, I still went to a small school and one that was bordered by class and race. My world, despite being "big", was still small, and going to University was just one thing that would change my view on the planet. In 2004 I don't believe I had figured out what I thought about certain things - indeed, as a 28 year old male, I still haven't worked that out fully.

2004 was the year that I really discovered music though. Seriously. I had been listening to music for a few years now, my music, stuff like Limp Bizkit, System of a Down, Linkin Park, The Offspring, in addition to other artists that I don't feel 100% comfortable mentioning anymore. But that was bred by a mixture of friends liking the same stuff, popular culture steering me in that direction, and  in 2004 I started to realise that I could like stuff my friends didn't.

That realistation is what has lead me to be here, in 2014, listening to ambient, drone, electronic and modern composition, when few if any of my "real" friends like that style. I know that, via Twitter and message boards, I am not alone, and I find like-minded people easily thanks to the internet. In 2004 though there was an odd worry about what I liked compared to what others liked. Did I like the right music? Was it okay to like certain bands? To be honest, I was skimming the top of the non-mainstream, liking Snow Patrol, Franz Ferdinand and The Futureheads, whilst at the same time Hope of the States, TV on the Radio, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, even Fennsz, Loscil and Tim Hecker, artists I would come to love, were releasing music that I was never going to come into contact with.

This time in my life is findly remembered. I am rarely nostalgic about university; a combination of doing a very difficult degree and not really being very good at it has never helped my feelings towards it. But at the start of my second year in late 2004 things had changed a lot. And I now can look back at that year with nostalgia - my second year is the only one that I fondly recall, partly because I had a few good friends and the degree was more about Chemical Engineering but not impossibly difficult yet.

Here's a playlist of artists and albums I remember fondly from 2004. Listen to it and journey with me to 2004.

The Graveyear 2013 - The Year in Music

I like music. In 2012 I listed my favourite albums of the year and a playlist of my favourite tracks. However, in 2013 I have changed the way I do things - firstly, of course, I have my five favourite albums (as I don't want to ruin that) but I've split out my music into several playlists.

The first, Anything, is a playlist of rock/electronic tracks from any genre that I really enjoyed. The second, Eclectic, is anything that doesn't fit in the "Anything" playlist, and is more electronic and ambient. The third, for my radio show, is the Monday Graveyear, which is my favourite ambient and electroninc tracks that fit into the remit of my radio show.

Albums of the Year
  1. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest
  2. Local Natives - Hummingbird
  3. The Field - Cupid's Head
  4. Tim Hecker - Virgins
  5. Appelscal - Dreaming in Key
You can play all of the albums in Spotify using the below:

Honourable Mentions
- Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City 
- Queens of the Stoneage - ...Like Clockwork 
- High Highs - Open Season 
- Emancipator - Dusk to Dawn 
- Jon Hopkins - Immunity 
- Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus

- Arctic Monkeys - AM
- Portugal. The Man - Evil Friends
- Crash of Rhinos - Knots
- Mountains - Centralia
- Julianna Barwick - Nepenthe

Tracks of the Year: Anything

Tracks of the Year: Eclectic

Monday Graveyear 2013

Once again, 2013 was a brilliant brilliant year for music. Can't wait to see what 2014 brings.

Announcement: The Wednesday Graveyard is now the Monday Graveyard

A long time ago I used Spotify to start making "weekly" playlists of music that I had been listening to. Just this past week the seventy-fourth playlist was posted (and that's just in the weekly playlists, don't forget all the special playlists) and the Almanac playlist has hit over 1000 tracks and 3 days of continuous music from all those playlists.

Then, in 2012, I started the Wednesday Graveyard: "Live", a Mixcloud hosted podcast style radio show. I managed two full series and two episodes of series three before a previously unexplained hiatus - the reason for the gap of months and months between episode 3.2 and the probably still to come episode 3.3 is partly down to the wedding (I couldn't find a free four hours of concentration) and the fact that I no longer have a MacBook on which to record the show. Instead I redoubled the Wednesday Graveyard weekly playlists.

A few months ago I spoke to my sister in a slightly jokey way about her getting me a show on Pulse 98.4 FM, a community radio station based in Barrhead. She was then made head of production and said she'd look into it, but nothing really came of that. However, a few weeks ago she pointed out that Neil of the wonderful Scottish Fiction blog and podcast, posted a listing for new presenters on Pulse and I pitched a show - originally planned to be entitled the Long Drawn Out Soul but later I thought that the Monday Graveyard worked best - partly because it was a spin-off of the Wednesday Graveyard, but also it's slot 11pm to 12am on a Monday night.

And so, I can now announce that I will be on Pulse 98.4 starting in December.

The show is focused on a few key areas - mostly electronic music, but focused on IDM, ambient, bleep, neo-classical, drone and the occasional minimal techno. Basically, if you've listened to either my Turquoise Hexagon Sun, Long Drawn Out Soul, or Wednesday Graveyard: X series of playlists you'll know what you're in for, but for those that don't you'll be hearing a range of new and old ambient electronic music from artists all the way from John Cage, the pioneer of the genre, through classics such as Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada and Brian Eno, to the more recent Tim Hecker, Loscil, Nathan Fake and others. Along the way I'll be seeking out Scottish artists to be showcased on the show as well as many other artists from all over the world.

I have yet to have a first show (my first show will be prerecorded and probably air on the 2nd December) - still a few things to sort out before that, but I'll keep you all in the loop and you can tune in weekly on Mondays using the Pulse website, the Tunein Radio App, or if you're in south Glasgow, tune in to 98.4 FM. I'd love you to.

Reasons Why I Have Started to Buy Vinyl (and Other Musings)

In 2008 I decided that I would buy a record that I loved, and it was Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s F#A#∞, an experimental album of post-rock and field recordings. Why did I chose that album? Well, it was at the time my favourite album, and still ranks highly up there as one of my favourite albums to play, but also it came with a comprehensive package – not just the actual record it’s self, but a range of post cards, notes, different photographs, and other bits and pieces that added to the whole concept behind the album. It was the first time I admitted to myself that music and the actual object that I owned was an important distinction. I am old enough to have grown up actually buying music – I spent weekly £10 on albums in Fopp during my late teens, and have an extensive (but poorly maintained) CD collection at my parents that at some point I will obtain, catalogue, and purge.

Buying vinyl seems like a polarising thing to do now a days. It’s seen as the source of much derision – many people marking it as the final moment where the music industry becomes self parody. The advent of streaming sites and MP3s killed the CD but in my eyes has reignited the vinyl and the sales figures suggest that exact thing. There are many multitudes of reason for hating this, and even more for thinking it is great. But my own personal reasons might be different to what many other people think or have said, and they might actually seem more pretentious than some – for I only very recently received a turntable on which to play my vinyl records on this past weekend.

You will immediately ask me why I was buying vinyl when I don’t own a player on which to spin them. It’s a very valid question – I mean, why the hell would someone buy MP3s if they didn’t have a MP3 player! It sounds mental, and I appreciate that. So here goes my attempt to explain it – I like owning something.

See, most of the music I listen to is on my Google Play Music account, or via Spotify, or via music I have downloaded and then synced to my phone. These methods of consumption have eroded what it means to own an album. Back in 2000 before Napster was something I really understood or had internet capable of downloading music my CDs were what I owned, and they were physical. I loved leafing through the inlay as I played it for the first time on my Walkman on the bus home (Christ, how nostalgic does that sound?). But now all my music is not consumed that way – so buying a CD is wasted, because I don’t use it beyond ripping it on to the computer.

It then makes more sense, to me, to have the vinyl. If it comes with a download code I’ll download the electronic stuff and then I have the large format artwork and the actual object of the record. It feels like I own something else, and it adds more to the experience.

I have no opinion on whether or not the vinyl sound is better – that is all down to the equipment used – but the romanticism of turning my phone off, closing the PC, and listening to music via the record player as an event rather than just something that is on in the background is a nice idea.

So yeah, this might not make sense to a lot of you reading this, but it’s my personal take on it. And I love getting the massive 12’’ packaging through. I bought the most recent Boards of Canada album on double LP and can’t wait to listen to it.