From Kat Asharya (late of the lamented NOGOODFORME), some years ago, I learned of 8tracks, a site where you can make streaming ‘mix tapes’ of mp3s to share with the world. Making mixes was always a pleasure for me (child of the 80s/90s that I am) so I really got into it for awhile. It was meant, I believe, as a human-curated alternative to algorithm-driven sites like Pandora. There are a couple of rules: you can’t have more than 2 songs from the same artist or album, and once you’ve heard a mix once it must be reshuffled (thus, I’m afraid, rather ruining most of the art of the mix); these are, I guess, mandated rules for Internet radio, in order to prevent people just using the service for piracy. (We have YouTube for that!) Eventually, I tapered off 8tracks, mostly because I felt like all the mixes I was making were too similar.
The other day I decided to make a new one, since it had been so long. I did it, and I liked it; but when I looked at my other mixes, I discovered that a lot of the so-called “metadata” had been changed: names of artist, album, year, etc. In one case this meant that 3 songs were credited to the same artist, so the mix had been taken down. I was annoyed enough to write to customer support, not expecting any real reply, given my experience in these matters. (Tumblr, for example, though I love it, has really godawful customer service.) I reprint below my unexpectedly enjoyable correspondence with them.
Conversation started by individualfrog
Hey guys, I didn’t use 8tracks for a long time, and now coming back I see that apparently robots have taken over to some degree: I mean that something checks over each song and rewrites the track information to match what song it thinks it’s found. I understand it, you need to prevent people from posting full albums etc., but the problem is that your robots have put a lot of wrong information into my mixes–the wrong artists, the wrong album names, etc. In one case, I had to delete a song, because your robots decided that three songs were by the same guy (he was in two of the bands and the composer of the third song, but it was actually three separate artists). Changing the names back didn’t help, naturally. Considering that your site was invented (if I remember correctly) specifically to put humans in charge rather than the algorithms that drive Pandora, it’s all rather disappointing.
Jason Waters replied
Thanks for writing in, and sorry for the trouble. We do run an ID check on the tracks so that incorrect metadata will be changed (for precisely the reasons you mentioned) but it’s a relatively new feature and it’s not 100% accurate yet. I’m sorry that your track metadata has been changed, if you send me a link to the mixes in question with the corrections you’d like to make I would be happy to take a look at them and see what I can do.
I really appreciate your response. There are a lot of little things that don’t ultimately matter, like the wrong pianist credited on some classical tracks–probably the performances are just so similar. Anyway, those are no big deal. But on my mix “No Wave”, which I wanted to be a nice overview of the genre, I had a song by Theoretical Girls, a song by The Static, and a piece by Glenn Branca, who was in both of the aforementioned bands. But really they are three different artists. The ID check thing changed them all to say the artist was Glenn Branca, which made the mix invalid. If you could restore the song called, ahem, “Fuck Yourself”, which is really by Theoretical Girls, I would appreciate it and I think the mix would be more historically valuable to people who want to learn about No Wave. (There are probably more comprehensive mixes out there now, but I like mine.) Here’s a link to the mix:
Again thanks, and if it’s impossible to do anything I won’t hold it against you. Yours,
Jason Waters replied
Unfortunately it seems that there isn’t really anything we can do about it. The ID3 performer tag seems to have picked up Glenn Branca as the artist for all three songs, I’m assuming since he was involved in all of the tracks as a composer. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. It’s a shame, there’s a bit of a shortage of good no wave mixes on the site, and Theoretical Girls are kind of essential. I suppose the system just doesn’t want people’s minds to get blown quite so hard. My only suggestion would be to try to find a work-around, maybe using another song, something like that, to see if it has any effect. Sorry I can’t be of more help on this, but let me know if there’s anything else you have questions about.
Thanks anyway and no hard feelings. Let us look forward to a future when the robots allow us our No Wave; until then it must remain slightly illicit and underground as it was always, after all, meant to be.
Mar 27 5:27pm
Jason Waters replied
Indeed. If ever there was music with which we could truly fight the machines it would be this. Wield Michael Gira and Thurston Moore and Glenn Branca like a three-headed club of justice and the world will know peace. Or absolute terror. Not sure. But stay strong, keep fighting the good fight. I salute you.
Friend to the Cause
Now maybe it’s an indictment of this day and age if simply communicating with a responsive human being in a customer context is a pleasure. But this was a fun exchange, and I appreciated it, and I think it’s not naive or foolish to give a shout-out to Jason here, even if he couldn’t really help me out, and 8tracks for having real people manning their support desk.