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Rethinking the LP Experience for the Streaming Age

On Monday, I'll be releasing an album called CLAYE. I've been working on CLAYE for two and a half years. It will be available to buy on iTunes, Amazon, and other digital music retailers. It will also be streamable from Spotify, Rdio, Beats. There will not be a physical copy to start.

Over the past six months though, I've personally become far more interested in listening to music on vinyl LPs than anything else. Sure, I still listen to tons of music digitally, but when it comes to buying new music, I will more often than not buy the physical LP.

Why?

You would think that would be the question that I get when people notice my interest in vinyl, but sadly it's usually not. Instead, I get statements like 'If you grew up with vinyl, you wouldn't like it', or my personal favourite: 'That's stupid!'

The reason why I've been enjoying vinyls so much has nothing to do with the fact that it's an antiquated medium, or that vinyl records 'sound better' (hint: they don't), but rather the experience of using them. It's hard to argue with the fact that there is more to playing a vinyl than there is playing an album on Spotify.

There's the physical act of having to take the record out of its sleeve and drop the needle. There's also the eye-candy, like additional artwork, massive 12-inch cover artwork, hidden inserts, and simply more stuff to help you visualize what's going on in the music. There's a lot more to look at with a vinyl LP, and I really appreciate this.

Another thing is that with digital music, I think that we've been trained to be bored by music alone because of how portable it is. It's something we can walk around with at any time of the day, which means that we don't end up paying much attention to what we're listening to anymore. The medium that we use to consume it makes it convenient not to.

As somebody who works for years to create an album, it's obviously going to be refreshing to use a medium that glorifies the experience of listening to music. But I think that the advantages here extend beyond just the people who understand how much work goes into this stuff.

I think that every music-lover can benefit from a more immersive album experience, but I don't expect these people to go out and buy records and turntables instead of streaming this stuff for free on the web. I also don't expect every independent musician to have records pressed, as they're quite expensive. I don't have the money or audience to be able to print CLAYE as a vinyl LP right now, but I'd like to at some point in the future.

I thought a lot about this, and I really wanted to do something. So for CLAYE, I've created something I'm calling the WebLP.

The idea is to bring the essence of the LP experience to the age of streaming music. It has edge-to-edge artwork for every song on the album, song navigation that emphasizes the beauty of listening to an album as one, continuous piece, and sections like 'Special Thanks' and 'Liner Notes' that tend to get completely lost in a more traditional digital music experience. All while making every song easily streamable online for free.

Here's a quick look at what it's like:

The WebLP for CLAYE is an attempt to bring back some of the excitement and beauty of the traditional album experience. It's not perfect though, and it's a concept that I really look forward to expanding upon in the future. Eventually, I want to find a way to build in gapless playback, end-of-song scrolling, interactive elements, and more.

I feel like there is a lot that can be done with something like this, and there's a lot that I wish I could have done. What this is, though, is a good starting point. It's the start of an effort to bring the ceremonious experience of listening to music on vinyl to the web.

WebLP will go live this Monday with the release of CLAYE. I hope you like it!

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Thoughts on Facebook's Recent Foray into Psychology

There was a lot of noise last month about a study that Facebook had performed in which it altered the News Feed of hundreds of thousands of its US users in an attempt to see the effect that certain content omissions may or may not have on a person's emotions.

I've seen a lot of people freaking out about this, rightfully so, but I needed some time to think about how I personally felt about it. The conclusion I came to is pretty simple: I don't think that Facebook is evil, but I do think that they sometimes don't take the implications of their actions into account.

What it all comes down to, really, is that Facebook did something kinda-sorta-fucked up, so Adam Kramer, Facebook's data scientist who was the co-author of the study, has of course published an explanation of the weirdness:

"The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product," says Kramer. "We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that exposure to friends' negativity might lead people to avoid visiting Facebook."

Bullshit. Well—not bullshit meaning he's lying, but bullshit meaning that's a poor excuse to manipulate the emotions of your customers (are they customers if they don't pay for the service? I'm curious.)

The fact of the matter is, whenever you start experimenting with the emotions of any living being, you should really step back and wonder if it's really the right thing to do. It's probably not.

So no, I don't think that Facebook—or any of these ad/data-driven companies for that matter—are evil, per say, but I certainly do think that a lot of responsibility is in their hands, especially once they start messing around with the nature of what certain people can and can't see. And it's easy to look past that responsibility when you're concerned about your business. It definitely says something to me about the mindset of upper management over there.

Facebook holds a lot of power and a lot of responsibility, and with that power and responsibility needs to come a strong moral center, and I'm not sure if Facebook has ever had that strong moral center.

Whether they're allowed to do this or not, and they probably are (it's in their terms of service), the fact is that they probably shouldn't. And it doesn't make them evil, but it does make them shortsighted.

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Lovably Grey (And How it Came to Be)

I don't usually like to ramble on about my personal projects on this site, and I wasn't even planning on posting this here, but it turned out to be something I thought might fit in well on Turtle Pie. So here goes.

When I finished Readers & Reporters, I said that I wanted to take time to expand on ideas that I was having for some 'non-musical' projects. These projects were in the extremely early stages at the time, but after dealing with the fatigue of making an album, I was fairly certain that I would want a break from that world.

I was an idiot, of course, and in February 2012—the month after R&R came out—I started work on an album called Carbon Claye (now CLAYE), and I've been working on it everyday since then.

(I should mention: CLAYE is coming, I promise. Mixing for the album wraps up next week.)

While my main focus for the past two years has been finishing CLAYE, I've continued to develop those 'non-musical' projects that I mentioned. The first was an idea for a design blog called Airplane Mode, which eventually evolved into what is now Turtle Pie. Since its launch in April 2013, I've written over 40 essays for Turtle Pie, and I certainly won't be stopping there. In fact, I don't see an end in sight.

I want to make it clear that when things seem slow in between posts on Turtle Pie, it means that I'm either deeply focused on another project, or that I don't have anything particularly well-developed to write about at the time, and I'd rather have a month of silence than publish a lousy post. Honestly, I've done that before, and I don't want to let it happen ever again. There's no excuse for garbage.

So with CLAYE production wrapping up in the coming months, and Turtle Pie becoming a more stable part of my work, I decided that it was time to act on one of my other 'non-musical' ideas.

It's a new company, it's all about design, and I'm calling it Lovably Grey.

lovably-grey-logo.jpg

Lovably Grey is a design studio focused on brand development. Our mission is to create beautiful designs that are always honest and true to the culture of companies we work with. We're offering two services to kick things off: logo design and website design.

My initial work for Lovably Grey began in November 2012, when I started mocking up an idea for a small design studio that I was calling Pedalboard. I worked on that project for about a week, but I ended up deciding that if I was going to start a company, especially for something as important to me as design, I'd want to put more thought into it. I didn't want to make something that was going to go away after a year or two of being uninteresting. So I put the project on the shelf, and I resumed full-time work on CLAYE recording, as I developed Turtle Pie on the side.

A part of me knew that this project wouldn't be on the shelf for long, because I love design. In fact, design is arguably my favourite thing in the world. When I'm frustrated with music, I turn to design. When I'm frustrated with writing, I turn to design. And that's not to say that design can't be frustrating at times, but it's endlessly intriguing to me, and I never get tired of it.

In late December 2013, I came up with the name 'Lovably Grey', and it excited me. It seemed different from the other names I'd thought of, like it was more friendly or something. Maybe that sounds stupid? Either way, I bought the domain, as any geek with an idea does, and I've spent the last six months, in tandem with a very strict CLAYE recording schedule (60-70 hours a week), developing and building on my ideas for this company.

Now I'm finally able to come out and show it.

So that's Lovably Grey, and how it came to be. You can check out our website, lovablygrey.com, for more information about the company and the work we do.

I hope you like it!