Meta Letta

After passing the six month anniversary, working on issue 28 feels almost workmanlike; not quite pedestrian, but certainly part of the weekly grind. It’s good to have that reminder though, that it’s not just about the milestones and the metrics, it’s about doing the work. It’s not just about the fun of pulling the threads together to weave my madcap tapestry. It’s about putting in the effort, maintaining the focus, even when sometimes it would be so easy not to. The things I get asked most often about the newsletter are things like “How do you find the time?” and “What is wrong with you?!”. I won’t give the latter the attention it demands but doesn’t deserve. But as to the former, the answer is I don’t find the time. I don’t even make the time; if I could make time there’d be no limits to what I could achieve! No, I steal the time. The time I use for this humble email newsletter is stolen from other duties and people who might also have a claim on it. But instead, I take it from them and give it to you. I sit in my ivory tower, my Fortress of Solitude, one of the many Sounds From the Engine Room playlists playing, while I cackle, research, write, and commit atrocities against the English language. Not because anybody asked me to do it. But because nobody can make me stop.


In My Ears

Back in August, we wondered why a single small town in rural Montana was responsible for a huge proportion of streamed tracks. Apropos of nothing, Spotify has begun a large campaign to clamp down on bot networks. The majority of them are run by “new artist services” companies that, for a fee, will massively increase stream counts, so that the algorithms will feature the artist more prominently elsewhere.

It’s not right, and it’s not fair, but I do understand it. Independent artists that don’t have a huge following, or record label, any kind of marketing budget or a family member connected to the entertainment industry, really struggle to get off the ground. How do you get the traction to get on those discovery playlists, that’ll be pored over by curators and journalists, which will then finally give them the traction they needed at the beginning of the process. Billy Eilish might have uploaded her first song Ocean Eyes on Soundcloud, and garnered quite a following there, but it was her brother’s manager who helped propel her to a record deal. This isn’t to denigrate a talented young woman in any way; but her success would have taken longer without her brother’s connections.

And here we, a mere five years later, and the multi-Grammy and Brit Award-winning artist will be Glastonbury Festival’s youngest ever solo headliner next year. Can you imagine the cries of despair? “She’s too young!”, “Bring on a proper legend!”, “Never heard of her!” wail the boring people. And let me tell you, those are some of the more polite criticisms I’ve seen. (I read the comments below articles so that you don’t have to. It’s brutal out there)

The same thing happens every single year. Whether it’s Jay-z or Adelesomeone will always moan about one of the headliners that goes against expectations. Noel Gallagher was famously riled by the booking of Mr Carter, saying at the time: “Glastonbury has the tradition of guitar music. I’m not having hip hop at Glastonbury. It’s wrong.” Personally, I hope the other two Pyramid Stage headliners annoy even more people. There are always a lot of other stages_,_ and it’s always good to mix things up.

It’s still a little thin on the ground for new music worthy of our weekly playlist I’m afraid, and my hopper of unused tracks is somewhat depleted. I’m hoping with another week of releases things will be back to normal next week. In the meantime, if you still want to revisit some of my favourites from the last 21 playlists, the Rolling Playlist is constantly being maintained.

But, just to prove that I absolutely will not learn from my mistakes, I have another mystery playlist! Can you find the link between all of the tracks featured? Reply if you believe you have the answer! I’ve made it a lot easier than the first one!


On My Screen

I am very much looking forward Netflix‘s adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s seminal graphic novel Sandman. The First Look trailer looks good, and Gaiman is directly involved. I’m probably alone in this, but I’m looking forward to it more than the Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time series that are going to be sucking up a lot of oxygen by the end of the year. Sandman completed filming at the end of the summer, so I guess we can probably expect it Q1 next year.


As the streaming wars reach fever pitch, there are other release models being tried. Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tilda Swinton‘s Memoria is being released in cinemas only. Indefinitely. It will screen the film in one theatre at a time and tour around the world. It will apparently never hit streaming, DVD, or VOD/PVOD. The idea is to frame the Cannes Jury Prize winner as a kind of never-ending, moving-image art exhibit. I can imagine it taking years to get around the world using this model, and I don’t doubt it’ll leak once the award show streamers start getting sent out. But it’s certainly an interesting model in a world that is moving to streaming-only as fast as possible.


As I alluded to last week, I finally got into Ted Lasso on AppleTV+; better late than never, right? I love this show, I am invested in how the team are doing, the personal battles that the coaches and team members go through. But mostly, to my surprise, I am incredibly invested in the romantic relationship that is threaded through two seasons of narrative. It’s the part of the show that I’m rooting for most. For a show that’s billed as a comedy, its strengths are in the drama, in the characters honest attempts to be better, to be healed, to heal each other. Apart from that one guy. I hope he steps on an upturned plug, how very dare he!


WandaVision spinoff starring Kathryn Hahn, reprising her role of Agatha Harkness, is in development at Disney+ from Marvel Studios. The series, which is described by sources as a dark comedy, is not confirmed but is being worked on with some excitement.


On My Mind

This week’s Photo of the Week …

shootingstarvolcano.jpg

Indonesian photographer Gunarto Song had spent weeks photographing Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in his country that has been regularly erupting since 1548. In May, Song managed to catch a flash of green light that lit up the sky. The National Institute of Aeronautics and Space believes what was captured was a meteor, and the blue-green colour was due to magnesium content.


In hardcopy Engine Room news, the aspect I was struggling with was, as ever, money. If I was to ask for contributors, could I compensate them? If so, how expensive would it make quite a short run item, especially as all the revenue would be after the fact, rather than up-front. Not paying contributors for a for-profit print-on-demand magazine didn’t sit right with me. So I’ve taken the profit angle out entirely. All profit generated from sales of the (probably one-off) physical edition of The Engine Room will instead be donated to Arts Emergency, a UK charity that works with 16- to 19-year-olds in further education from diverse backgrounds. They work with those most able to benefit from, but least able to access higher education in the Arts, Humanities or Social Sciences. I’ll be getting in touch with them next week, and then announcing the project publicly and officially calling for contributions.

I can’t wait for everyone to get a copy in their paws!


Denouement

So, a little late in the day, but we’re out, we’re in people’s inboxes and just sitting there, waiting for a few precious moments of their time. Some might read them straight away, some might store them up, binge them like a box set. Some, apparently, print them out to read in the bath, which tickles me. But however, whenever, you reach these words, you have my customary and plentiful thanks.

À la semaine!