7 For Seven: What if $.005 could compel your soul

Clichés, deepfakes, and the deep troubles with (some) casual learning

Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven”: Seven links on writing and creativity in your inbox by 7 AM EST every Wednesday. Headphone Nation and ARTS & FARTS music reviews, too. Interviews with writers every 2nd and 4th Friday. Read on your browser.

It’s Wednesday morning. Oof.

Here are seven links to make your week more interesting:

1. Preetam Nath: Why you should write.

(Nath is a programmer writing about the importance of writing to those who don’t write, and it’s much better than most posts you see on LinkedIn. With that said, I don’t think the point of writing is to “win,” though his idea is still strong.)

Life is not a zero sum game. Multiple people can win. You can win too … You can’t win if you don’t participate.

2. Just in case, for my fellow music and data nerds: How much Spotify pays per stream.

(tl;dr It depends on your contracts and royalties, but on average for most artists, as of this past August, one song stream equals about $.005. If you want to make a dollar on Spotify for that one song, you’ll have to stream it 200 times. I’m sharing this now because I’ve always heard that streams were fractions of pennies, and it’s interesting to look at the actual data that’s available.)

As mentioned, your per-stream Spotify payout is dependent upon two main factors. First, each region in the world – as well as many individual countries – has a unique royalty average determined by subscription rates and advertising levels. For example, streams from the United States pay more than streams from India because subscription rates and advertising levels are comparatively higher in the U.S.

Some artists have tailored their promotional strategies in response to this point, including by seeking higher-royalty streams and, inversely, using Spotify to market themselves in regions with less competition for their style of music.

Second, if the bulk of your fans are premium account holders, you can expect a higher payout, as there’s simply more cash for Spotify to pass on. Historically, the Stockholm-headquartered platform has generated a dramatically larger amount of income from subscription fees than from advertisers, with Q2 2020 premium revenue outpacing ad-supported income by over 13 times.

3. Austin Kleon: “Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done. The dictation of the materials.”

(Also from Kleon’s newsletter, I enjoy this Umberto Eco quote: “Two clichés make us laugh. A hundred clichés move us. For we sense dimly that the clichés are talking among themselves, and celebrating a reunion.”)

4. Inside the strange new world of deepfake actors.

(A form of creativity that’s fascinating … and terrifying.)

To bring the experiment to life, they chose an equally provocative subject: they would create an alternative history of the 1969 Apollo moon landing. Before the launch, US president Richard Nixon’s speechwriters had prepared two versions of his national address—one designated “In Event of Moon Disaster,” in case things didn’t go as planned. The real Nixon, fortunately, never had to deliver it. But a deepfake Nixon could.

5. I had a big Britpop week for New York Magazine this week: I interviewed Travis frontman Fran Healy, and I interviewed Blur/Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn.

(The common knock against Travis is that they are the nice guy version of Radiohead. What makes Travis work - and what made Fran a great person to interview - is that they are very self-aware. They also love Radiohead! They lean into being nice Radiohead by writing strong melodies that people can enjoy. Also, a comforting album during the pandemic for me has been The Man Who, which, according to Chris Martin, directly inspired Coldplay.)

(And with Damon, one of my favorite songs of 2020 reminds “Desole.”)

6. Beware the Casual Polymath.

(I don’t agree with everything this writer says about the dangers of learning a little about many things. Maybe because this newsletter celebrates that very notion, and this writer breaks my rule about citing Wikipedia as a source. Yet I think it’s a good concept to think about, especially regarding social media: How much of our casual polymath learning can come from just retweeting, or just resharing an Instagram story, rather than actually processing and challenging what we are given. In the end, I agree: It’s best to really master a handful of topics, and then let your interests guide you into other topics for fun. Also true: Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.)

We live in times of great disaggregation, and yet, seem to learn increasingly from generalists.

7. And finally, I usually try to end these links on a silly note. But this week, I can’t stop thinking about ProPublica’s investigative report on the fall of the CDC, and how a mix of external and internal fighting led to a lot of bad decisions that could have been avoided. Trump is part of the problem - an issue that more Republicans in Congress are being vocal about - and so are a bunch of other high power and left-leaning people who just … truly dropped the ball … in a lot of painful ways. It’s a really long read, so I recommend breaking this feature up into a few different reading sections.

During a telephone town hall with his constituents on Wednesday night, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) accused Trump of mishandling the pandemic from the beginning. “He careened from curb to curb,” the Republican said. “First, he ignored covid. And then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this. And that was always wrong. I mean, and so I don’t think the way he’s led through covid has been reasonable or responsible, or right.” Those comments were overshadowed because Sasse also faulted Trump for “the way he kisses dictators’ butts, … the way he treats women and spends like a drunken sailor.” “He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” the senator said. “His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”

And so …

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(think global)

BPROGRESSO (Mexico) When the ripples in the water start to talk to you.

Han-earl Park (박한얼) (Cork, Ireland) Park's latest with Eris 136199, with Nick Didkovsky and Catherine Sikora, fills that 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot'/'A Ghost Is Born' void, where a nervous guitar fills an orange sky and empty beach.

Joshua Okazaki (Tokyo, Japan) I was not expecting this Japanese gospel sound to channel Dismemberment Plan attempting "Closer."

Planet Trip Records (Sydney, Australia) I'm into this new "Ordinary Dreams Vol 1" compilation by Planet Trip. Mogwaa specifically sounds like late-night VH1 rewind. According to its Bandcamp, 100% of sales will go to Deadly Connections.

A Tope Producciones (Spain): Can never turn down a solid metal riff like from a group like Sake Mate; this song hits different in a post-EVH world.

… we carry on …

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Song “reviews”

Bartees Strange - “Mustang” (2020)

I’m very late to Bartees Strange, but wow, what a song. Strong "Then Because She Goes” The 1975 and TV on the Radio vibes. Thank you, Greg!

Ride - “Today” (1990)

More Ride, which feels more appropriate as we enter the time of fall when the leaves really start to change color. “Vapour Trail” is rightfully the big hit, yet this song is so pretty in a different way. It’s hard to beat this guitar tone. Wait until that three-minute mark.

Kevin Morby - “Valley” (2020)

I think Morby is a weird example of someone who sounds terribly boring … when I listen to him by myself. Yet he sounds wonderful while playing in a room full of people. It doesn’t demand attention, yet it’s nice when you seek the details. It sounds like I’m being harsh on Morby, yet I think it’s more of a testament to the kind of indie rock sound that still works well right now. I think he plays the part very well, and he seems like a nice enough person. He also sounds like the lead singer of My Morning Jacket. There are worse things to be.

Cap’n Jazz - “Puddle Splashers” (1998)

I also love this guitar sound. The first 11 seconds sound like high school.

Richard Wagner - “Tristan und Isolde” (1865)

I’m finally reading Alex Ross’s Wagnerism, a so-far-great account of Richard Wagner’s very large (and often controversial) influence on the world beyond music. Since I just finished reading an entire chapter about the fabled “Tristan Chord” - the Infinite Jest of classical music chords - I decided to actually listen to “Tristan und Isolde” for the first time in full. It is indeed beautiful. It’s also a lot. That the chord today sounds like just another sad chord is a testament to Wagner’s impact at normalizing this kind of dissonance in popular music. It’s a much more interesting listen after I watched the above video, which explains why the Tristan Chord is important.



Brady writes about music (and other things) and draws cartoons. You can find him in New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Interview Magazine, McSweeney’s, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and more. Check out his website, where you’ll find his latest features and more ways to connect. Brady is a freelancer for hire who can do interviews, reporting, criticism, and playlists - get in touch if you need a writer.

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All cartoons by Brady Gerber. Headphone Nation logo by Sophie Wiener. 7 for Seven was made possible with the help of Simon Morrow, who also designed the ARTS & FARTS logos. Thank you, Sophie and Simon!