“The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.”
— The late, great Frank Zappa on the inherent humanness of music.
Music has been part of every known culture in human history, with instruments dating back 60,000 years to the time of the Neanderthals. It’s been a fundamental part of human life since time immemorial, pivotal to the way we form culture, convey feeling, and identify with one another.
Emotional exchanges and connections that happen around music remain irreproducible by anyone besides humans: chance conversations at record stores, the sweaty camaraderie of a punk show mosh pit, thanking an artist to her face, and conversely, hearing from a fan that your music means something to them. Add to that the power of human-to-human music discovery — the whispered lineage of “my god, have you heard this yet?” These are those eyebrows.
But let’s face it, we live in an era where the convenience of tech shouts louder than our friends. Streaming platforms promise listeners personalization but the tradeoff is isolation. While celebrating the “euphoria of endless choice and convenience” they obscure other people’s behavior in the platforms, removing opportunities for shared meaning. And Discover Weekly-type features, while excellent proxies for our digital discovery needs, are not complete replacements. Machine learning traps us in our own feedback loops by simply honing in, giving us more of what we already know we like. “We’re overly reliant on algorithms and while they are good, we’re missing the human element,” says Lyte’s Craig Snyder. “We’re missing an opportunity to connect.”
Indeed. And while there is no substitute for IRL connection, there should be a digital solution that better supports it. People are nonessential to today’s mass-market streaming experience, which trivializes the community that music both needs and necessitates. “There’s no way on these mass-market streaming services for fans to interact genuinely with each other, let alone with their favorite artists,” writes music journalist, Cherie Hu. “Those looking to foster that deeper connection are practically forced to look elsewhere.”
Hu and Snyder aren’t alone amongst industry leaders calling for a more human, better connected elsewhere. More evidence can be found here and here and here and here and here, too. The outcry is loud and growing louder because there still is no clear elsewhere. So we’re building on.
Grey Matter is a community platform with new ways to discover music, express yourself, and support creators. We connects fans, artists, and streaming services in one place — it’s human-based music discovery and community-driven artist support. Imagine an always fresh music feed curated by people you know and trust: friends, artists, and tastemakers. Imagine engaging with all of your music communities in one place. Imagine a digital platform with eyebrows.
We’re assembling around the belief that music and its communities are essential, because they are. Interested in staying in touch? By all means, join us.