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Why lo-fi is the perfect background music


It's a challenging time for small businesses and communities across the country. Facebook's business resource hub offers free tools to help you manage your business support your customers and employees and connect with other business owners who are facing similar challenges from information on how to bring. Your Business Online to setting up a customer service plan. Facebook's business resource hub. Has You covered? Learn more at facebook dot com slash resource. That's facebook dot com slash resource. Hi Today on reset. I'm bringing you a recent episode from another vox media. Podcast switched on pop. It's a music. Podcasts that's hosted by songwriter. Charlie harding and the musicologist nate. Sloan and in this episode they take a deep dive into Lo fi that beat driven music. That's sort of designed to make you nod your head while also not being so distracting that you can't do your work. I personally listen to a lot of Lo fi while I'm working on reset and I love learning about the origins of this type of music and how it works so stick around and take a listen later nerds switched on pop songwriter. Charlie harding musicologist nate. Sloan knee loyal listeners will recall that you are professor of musicology correct. What are your students up to these days my students I choose to believe are all Diligently preparing for their final examinations very diligent students yes. Everyone it's funny when people ask me about what it was like to write a book. I find myself merely flashing back to those moments. I'm sure some of your students are experiencing when the writing in front of you just seems to drag on for eternity. God The terror of the empty page. It's the worst lucky for us. The Internet introduced me to the Lo fi beats playlist on spotify which I found exceptionally useful to write to. I'm not the only one. According to a study. By Chart Metric Lo FI and other ambient music has experienced a spike in listenership as more people work from home during social distancing. Interesting Lo fi. That's what we're going to investigate today. Get sense of that sound. Feel great example would be the song by by Frankie s a sorry. I was reading an essay on nationalism. What are we talking about? We're talking about low five music. We're supposed to be listening to music. That's the point. Yes yes engaging. But Not. Enough to be distracting. It just helps you work and whatever you're working on your little paper. I hear a lot of sparseness you know just to main textures here. This Electric Piano Melody and a drumbeat kind of a slower tempo. A LOT OF SPACIOUS NECE. These figures that repeat over and over again. It's very you very soothing. To listen to the definitely has. Has that looping sort of structure. There's no clear hook. There's no vocals has some jazzy sort of sampled qualities to it. And it's slow the be kind of lags. I also really loved that it. Has these sort of naturalistic? Sounds the sort of his holiness and is is that like rain in the background rain. Perhaps the crackling of a vinyl record. That hasn't been dusted. Yeah it's very comforting totally. Brady's productions are all over the LO FI world their song people's currently on the spotify. Lo Fi beats playlist that we love so much but particularly notable about low five is that it exists in this Internet driven subculture that is hugely popular along with other affiliated. Genres like Synth wave and vapor wave. Lots of people are listening to it But it's simple. Tenuously exists outside of the billboard chart structure but I think part of the reason why is that this is wildly popular music that is composed almost to be ignored today. I want to break down the LO FI sound into its component parts. And try to understand. Where did Lo fi pop come from? How did it find its audience and finally I WANNA look at how this genre challenges are core understanding of popularity in music even means okay. That's all yeah or we're going to allot but it's GonNa be really fun. We get to listen to some ferries soothing music in the process. First things first. Where did the Lo fi sound originate among the edge of my seat so if you ask any five producer today or any journalist who's written about low fight the evidently site the late James dewitt? Yancey better known as J Villa or JD. Dila has come a few times most recently on our episode celebrating the Twentieth Anniversary of the Angelo's Voodoo an album heavily influenced by dillas production. Yeah absolutely and dill produce for so many greats folks like Eric Do Common Busta rhymes and the roots. Here's this piece so far to go drink common and as you mentioned Dangelo. It's one of his. Most recognizable works the city. This is what came very very cool totally and it has much of those components that we talked about the song lays out. I think three techniques that Dila Helps Herald into the LO fi sound. So I is that it's sample based music. Second is that loose drum feel and finally the low fidelity vinyl his so thing of the first sampling right looking back to the eighties nineties era of hip hop you can tell that this is sample based be production right in so far to go. Jada is sampling. The is brothers. Don't say good night. don't own the hot track and Dila was the first person to sample that. He is credited with being a master of the craft. He knew how to take a little moment. Like that. And put it in an entirely. New context make fabulous new compositions beyond just his craft and sampling. What he's very much known for is as we mentioned that laggy loose Jada was famous for taking the sounds from a machine in making them sound more human in this came up in our piece about Dangelo. Where quest love has mimic J. diller sound style on the record Voodoo right. That's kind of the sound. That quest was borrowing which is fascinating right. Like someone's sampling acoustic drums. Putting them onto a machine called an MP see and then playing them back in the most humane way to then later be imitated by another live drummer. Yeah Wild that. What a complicated tapestry is our modern existence a beautiful thing so. I talked to our friend and colleague on casual about this. She made a video for Vox as part of her earworm series about what set j. apart as a producer. Here's one thing that people talk a lot about. Why people look to J. Diller as sort of this almost godlike figure is that the MPC was built for making hip hop beats and things like that way easier. There's this tool called quantification which essentially like if you're playing a drum pattern and your kicks over. Four beets are a little bit off. Then you can just use ties on the NPC in it'll snap them to the nearest beat. The what J. Diller did was he like intentionally didn't use quantifies in a lot of cases his kick drums were off by a fraction of a second so the empty was this sample based drum machine. That was popular ninety s amongst hip hop producers. And one of the things that it lets you do is put all of the various instruments in perfect rhythm but Jalen didn't do that he intentionally played his rhythms loose. So that like the kick in the. Hi Hats might not land at the same time more like a drummer than a drum machine. If you will I wanted to demonstrate this power of Qantas producing the song of my own under my producer named Charlatan. A piece that I may just for you. Nate I called it wasted jazz. GimMe taste of that. I use my drumming to automatically align the drummer in the Bass player in this track in perfect him. What producers and style called quotation? So here's the won- ties version of the same song so isolated the drummer and the bass player to see that. They're playing in alignment there. Here's the version where there well having a bit too much fun Charlotte in the House. Feeling that check they exam and makes me WANNA GO. Read a book and write a report on it The point being right has is like really loose feel. It's not quite in time. There's such a subtle difference between those two and yet the outcomes are completely different. The first feels very sort of driven and locked in. And the second feels really kind of spacey and Loosey Goosey. That's really I like hearing those back to back that's cool. I'd say that the second one has a lot of Uis if you will the primary things being that the instruments are playing together but intentionally not at the same time Okay so established that Jay. Della has this sample based production. He likes to play his samples in a very loose way. There's a third and final thing about dillas production style that brings us right to the quality inherent in the woods low fidelity you said at the very top in fact it's that ever-present vinyl his at the time that he was producing music. He was still cutting samples from vinyl records and tapes. Here's a stella again. Depending on the quality of the record you might have something. That's crystal clear and beautiful like Super High Fidelity but you also might have found a record at a record store that's like should ton of scratches and POPs and and might skip a little bit all of that sound goes into the PC and it's up to the producer to decide whether or not they want to filter it out or keep it. I got it says home of this. The connection an example of somebody who filtered out a lot would be like Kanye West. I think a lot of his early stuff where he was sampling. A lot of soul records sound super clear in in new and like high quality whereas somebody like J. Dila or Mad Lib you listen to their sampling and the records that they're choosing or kind of dusty. They really like kind of kept the scratches and the hisses and the pots of final in the record and that is literally like a way to describe Lo fi hip hop is like dusty grooves or something like that. This is always been the most interesting thing about hypothesis that it it sounds intentionally created to sound old. It's made in a way that makes it sound like it's not even produce well on top of that. Oftentimes producers will add in organic. Sounds like rain or Birdsong. Which makes it feel. Like someone's bedroom window is left open while recording and this is true in a time when home recording technology is the best. It's ever been right. Vicennium billy can produce a number one record from their bedrooms but listening to understand that. It's Jay Bilas combination of samples planes in slightly out of time with a lot of hits that then inspires so many future Lo fi producers and creates this whole aesthetic interesting yet stands in opposition to the kind of Anna Nick Chamber. That so much pop. Production exists in where every sound is like shrink wrapped and devoid of any blemish or rough edges. This Lo fi style is kind of leaning in and even adding in those rough edges in case you don't have enough of them the exactly okay. So now I feel like I have a clear idea of kind of the musical building blocks of this. Lo Fi sound but unanswered question for me is why when I go on to spotify. Check out this playlist M. I just assaulted by like anime characters. What is that about them? Pretend I don't know anything about anime because I don't if you search for Lo fi on any streaming service. It seems you get it. All of these branded anime characters often studying giving clue supposed to do and actually this is an important part of history. People come to low fi in many ways. That's for sure but something happens on television around the time that Dila is hitting the peak of his career as a producer that dramatically widens the audience for his style of production and it's connected to that anime artwork dylan his peers like Mad Lib and Japanese. Lo Fi producer new job as start making their way onto the popular TV program. Adult swim known for its enemy shows. Did you watch it also? Oh Yeah you kidding. Space Ghost coast to coast. Yes May Dragon Ball No no none. Robot chicken definitely in a profile from two thousand eighteen vice noted that this enemy looked that we're getting is at least in part due to the fact that adult swim was acquiring a handful of popular anime shows already using beats from these producers. So the sound that starts. Philip Chunks of empty airtime between shows and become synonymous with the programming. They start to use that sound as commercial bumpers. It made the sound recognizable to millions of American teens. Here's a sample of an adult swim. Bumper off kids out of the pool for adult swim so. I'm getting this correctly. Like millions of young people were first exposed to J. diller style while watching anime cartoons on adult swim. That's exactly right fascinating. Very sadly Jada passed away at the young age of thirty two in two thousand six but his influence certainly lives on right in the early twenty tens. The kids who've come up on adult swim and Jay Villa cert- making their own music. Lo Fi suddenly have a generation of aspiring producers who are emulating the sound of Jay Della and beyond that they have accessible music software with pre cut samples that are all slice and dice and ready to go stuff that would have to do manually and taking hours and hours kids these days. Yeah and they're making beats not necessarily for anyone to sing rap over just as loops of Uzi jazzy. Sample filled the crunchy stuff. Right this out a lot. Like the instrumental songs snippets. That used to fill the bumpers in between adult swim shows That's so funny that this music that we now associate as being background music may have originated in this context where it was sort of the the background or the connective tissue between like a TV shows. Yeah then becomes the things you study. There's actually some science that backs this up. There are studies that show that background music. Don just right can improve cognitive function by boosting our mood delaying fatigue and even sharpening concentration over time. As long as there aren't lyrics which can have demonstrably negative effect on anyone's worst performance yet. I know from personal experience that listening to music with lyrics. While you're writing is a terrible idea because you start to put the lyrics into whatever document you're working on and all of the sudden you're like I firmly believe that this policy is bad because I'm toxic slipping under. No no wait. Wait what yeah. It's not a good idea to plagiarize. Britney Spears in your paper like that's not GonNa go over. Well cynical could say well. This stuff was made as interstitial music. And now it's study music like it's totally useless but that is exactly. The point like interstitial music needs to be interesting enough to keep your attention just enough that you don't want to change the channel in the same way that you need to listen to this stuff so that you're not going to get it from your seat and stop studying. It has that same kind of effect on us. Okay so now. We know how these boots are made. We know where they come from. We know that they're wildly popular. But I have a difficult question for you. Okay can you name one loaf producer? Yeah Drinking the produce that we talked about at the beginning of the show. Well that's just coincidence. And how it a second producer Squeezy BOPs Johnson. Love squeezy BOPs Johnson. Even though you just made them up busted okay no. I can't have another one that you wanted to hear. I actually what I wanted to hear. Isn't it strange that this genre is wildly popular and yet we can't name a single producer even having written the maturity of our book listening to the stuff in the background? And now you pointed out. Yeah that is a little weird why that is and the implications for the artists who makes music when we return and response to covid. Nineteen people around the world are coming together to help one another in an unprecedented show of solidarity and resilience. Facebook's community help feature is making that easier from delivering groceries two neighbors to donate to a local fundraiser. A Food Pantry community health provides a place where you can offer or request support in your area so if you need help or can offer it go to facebook dot com slash cove support facebook dot com slash covert support. Hello this is Neil Patel editor in chief of the virgin host of the verge cast recently my coast debone. I interviewed alphabet and Google CEO. Soon Darpa we talked about a whole host of things. Schools Covid nineteen response the way the companies handling the pandemic sooners working with Tim. Cook from Apple Exposure tracking system for ANDROID and IOS. We also talked about how seniors running one of the big companies on world remotely now. He's changing his management style to deal with working from home and of course we talk. Google's products the future of the Pixel phone competing with companies like apple and Samsung and dealers. Favorite topic are CS. Messaging because I know devers wants to talk about so I had to had to go there. You can listen to our interviews in pursuit of Google in the verge. Cast podcast feed anywhere. You get podcast. Don't be deceived by those chill vibes. The story of Lo Fi. The Story About Power. Ooh scintillating in order to understand Lo fi hip hop the day. You need to know that it's found its mainstream fan base on Youtube in twenty eleven youtube rolls out this feature that gives birth to the entire ecosystem as we know today. The twenty four hour seven livestream. The twenty four seven livestream was actually originally designed for large-scale. Live broadcasting of things like sports games and news conferences but around twenty seventeen. This same tool in the hands of deejays led to a proliferation of Twenty Four Hour. Youtube radio stations channels like college music and chilled cow. Decisions led the way they go back to back and play tons of this. Lo Fi from a variety of craters. Just like it seems like there's an endless amount of this music to show you what I'm talking about. Can you log onto youtube right now? Yeah so let's search for low five beats L. M. Dash F. I. Beats okay. We've got Chilled Cow College music. Yup Lo fi beats to quarantine and stay indoors too. Lo Fi beats to relax slash study to. Yeah all right. You're making your case here. Or which one do you like choose? Let's let's go check it out. Low Five Miracle Wave Beats to relax slash get nothing done to as conjul America. Sorry what check out a chilled cow station. Okay what are you see? Well I see a looping anime image of A young girl studying in her bedroom with a cat. It's very soothing. Okay and I'm listening to one of these Dila ask beats and so are thirty. Nine thousand eighty six other people just right now any your mouth just right now at three o eight on Wednesday also. There is a chat box. That is just lit up like a Christmas tree. It's going so fast. What are people talking about people largest PU- putting in like random letters? Someone says for all the school seniors. Let's go and keep on studying. That's that's great. Someone said my my little brother is addicted to this. So there's a whole community of people who are who are participating in this live radio stream of you potentially studying for their exams. All these highschoolers that are getting chilled cowed with you. Yeah it makes me feel like I'm not alone. You know pulling an all nighter or something. I think. What's notable here though? Is that this stream. Unless you're chatting which is probably a distraction from. Your studying isn't really meant to be washed right. It's Mendham played in the background in a tab next to your paper that you're writing which means that the artist whose music is playing aren't necessarily being recognized and this is where the power imbalance with those curator's comes into play actually spoke to journalists. Who's been reporting on exactly this subject? My name is Sherry who? I'm a freelance music. And Tech and the owner of the music industry newsletter water music services that the creators of these live streams channels like college music. Chill cow more recognizable than the artists themselves. So I'm an avid listener to those live streams when I'm working if there is a very specific function of helping me focus as I will admit that I'm not looking at screen every time. A new song comes to see which artist is playing so multiple will kind of go past love time without me really knowing which artists are being streamed. So they're not totally anonymous but they definitely take a back seat in terms of name recognition. This is kind of unique musical ecosystem so much of our appreciation. Music is connecting with an artist in their identity and their narrative. And here. It's like nope. It's just kinda going by in the background. That's very different than a lot of our music listening experiences. Exactly in theory streams like these would be great exposure for smaller producers who are trying to build their fan base and yet the channel chill hop which has what two point seven five million subscribers thousands of people tuned in and even it makes me wonder about the value of that exposure if the people quote unquote watching the streams are just listening to them. Passively yeah setting the exposure question aside for a moment I think another bigger rift in the ecosystem that tends to isolate power in the hands of platforms curator's like Platforms Lake spotify and apple music generate income from premium subscribers. Youtube generates the vast majority of its revenue from advertising. Which means that in a situation like these twenty four seven live streams there's no functional per play royalty structure at work. The AD money follows the channel owners knock the artists and then on the pass that Artists whose songs appeared stream. Here's how it's played out for Senate be. She's a Lo fi producer who's had tens of millions of streams and has been featured in these YouTube. Channels I've never once received a payment from anyone from Youtube Channel at all. Ever Goddamn no right. And it's not because they're not good people. It's usually the fact that youtube pays so little. That like this this Lo fi playlist with four million views that has two of my songs and ten others by other people. It's like the amount of money this person probably got for. That is like nothing and then trying to split up between like ten. Different people is like you'd be paying us like thirty dollars a pop so this economy is kind of built into the structure of Youtube. But Suri says there's a specific reason why big streaming numbers on Youtube aren't translating into big dollars for the artists. This is like a very specific thing about the hip hop lives or any twenty seven livestream on Youtube. Normally if you have a youtube video. That's like forty minutes long and you WANNA monetize it. Youtube will usually seed ads every like ten minutes or so but for a twenty four seven livestream. I think. Normally there's only an ad when you first opened video and that's it for some of these videos that average watch time we'll be like forty to fifty minutes which is a really long time. But there's only one ad being served in the entire time and so these channels don't have that much avenue to work with in the first place if they were then going to try to take that revenue and split it among all the songs that were consumed in a given time period. I think they'll be costly unrealistic on their part. And I think the artists producers in this space understand that as well so there's simply not enough advertising revenue for this whole thing to even work out to start paying the artists. It me wonder then where to someone. Like Seneca go if they WANNA see some returns she says the answer spotify when you distribute on spotify even if you get included on a ton of playlists like the money goes to you because it follows the song but it's just the volume taken together is kind of high but to get once you get like five hundred thousand players like you may get a check for a thousand bucks or something which is definitely something. Wow I mean yeah. That's definitely better than Youtube. But five hundred thousand plays to a couple of thousand dollar check that that's that's not good math it's really hard volume game and the curator's understand this just as much as the artists do in fact. They're still running these twenty four seven live streams but they're also migrating a bunch of these curated. Song Louis over to spotify and apple music and the form of playlists. Whoever there's a challenge here right. Play listing in and of itself doesn't necessarily generate revenue so the creators are actually these these folks like Joe Hop in college music there now evolving in order to grab a cut of the spotify royalties. Here's Cherry. Explain what me chill. Hop For instance have a label and a publishing business signed an individual track and release it on like your standard page streaming platforms like spotify and apple music but I know for chill hop their label. Business now makes up the majority of their revenue because they're actually getting royalty payments from spotify for their own catalog so basically dislike pseudo industry of curator's livestream youtube sorting to act a lot more like the traditional recording industry. They are signing with these artists. So that when those artists are played in spotify and Apple Music and places. Parts of those royalties are going to the curator's. Okay they want to get in on that business. Gotcha in the is. They're trying to find a way to translate this massive audience into a sustainable business like is a volume game. But it's not one that's necessarily great for the artists could be who spoke with though grateful for some of the passive income that streaming brings them. She's actually now attending law school. And frankly I don't think anything wrong with that like you know. Honestly very rarely is music a career. I guess it makes sense in a way you know. This is one of the most intractable issues. That musicians are encountering today is like how is your music valued by the the music industry as it stands and like so many other artists. Lo Fi beat makers are finding that it's not really commensurate with the with the kind of work and attention that their music is getting but I think the things that artists produced can be meaningful art that give people relief that help them work and study and inspire people take get through the last few pages of that that they're trying to close a massive deadline coming up. Okay we've been listening to LO FI beats which means. Obviously there's a quiz coming. Let's sort of recap what if what we learned okay. Well I've been hitting the book. So Lo fi beats Are inspired by the work of J. DILLASHAW THEIR UNQUANTIFIED. They hit rhythmically. Kind of off the beat. They often have these vinyl hisses and other kind of rough edges they come surprisingly from the world of cartoon network's adult swim. Where J. diller beats were used as interstitial music between anime cartoons and today they have proliferated thanks to twenty four seven. Youtube live streams in spotify playlist. Where especially with Youtube? These creators do not see nearly enough of the monetary rewards of what is like a million plus subscriber business. How did I do Charles? Dang you're fully paying attention. Well I had. I had a good professor. Thank you very much armchair professor I feel like one of my big reflections from all this learning has been that as much as I appreciate the ethos of making music for the community. Because you love it. I am one hundred percent. One of those people also get worried when I see a system. That's so severely disadvantaged the people the thing that's in such high demand I know there's this critique of whether music designed to be ignored is worth listening to it all I think during today was fantastic. Reminder of how music conserve completely different purposes depending on what we need as listeners. There's enormous value in music that engages different part of our brain than say duleep or Riana or Travis. Scott Yeah maybe that's what we need right now like music that meets us where we're at where managing all the troubles and everything that's going on. It takes us to the sort of place of Zen and maybe we should just take an extra moment to check out who those artists are. Follow them and give them extra love. We want to give a huge thanks to everyone. We spoke with for this episode Sherry who you can find her work and subscribe to her wonderful newsletter at Patriotair Dot com slash C. H. E. R. E. H. U. or just search water in music. It's amazing read it every week. We've got the article that launched us into this wormhole linked in the description box alison much love to producer. Coppee for sharing her music and her experience with us. You can find artists page on spotify by searching Seneca space be and many thanks to producers. Ev Weird inside. Whose voices didn't make it into the show. But who provided incredible insights into the world of Lo fi? You can find artist on spotify by searching e. v. e. really cool stuff weird inside is weird dot inside word will link to some of their music in the show description is well other things you can find in. The description are links to some other great reporting on Lo Fi. If you're curious learn more and also of course we have a playlist pulled together all the music from episode to one create playlists. Go check it out. This episode was produced by the Fabulous. Megan Lubin really appreciate the work on this snaps additional production by bridget. Armstrong shocker WADA's Nelson Myself. Charlie harding of course they sloan. Our editor. Mixer engineer is Brennan McFarland are illustrators Irish Gottlieb and social media by far we're members of the VOX media podcast network and you can find episodes of our show. Wherever you listen to podcasts. We will be back in another week with real talknet. I have to interrupt you here. What how dare you. We're not just coming back for another episode next week. We're coming back for the episode next week. We're to speak to the person who inspired the original show Saint Jebsen. Michelle is smile down upon us. It's going to be a lot of fun. We're going to chat about her music. We're talk about some of the really fun origin stories. We've never told. And until then. Thanks for listening. Faked me out Charlie. That sneaky man it's sneaky. Thanks for listening

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