Guillaume Heuguet transcript

James Parker (00:00:00) - Well, thanks for joining us Guillaume. Perhaps you could start by introducing yourself. You know, however feels right to you.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:00:10) - Yeah, thank you for having me. So, at the moment I'm teaching art school in Clermont-Ferrand. I have a PhD in Media Studies from La Sorbonne. And I'm running a publishing house named Audimaté-Elycian. And I have been doing this journal of critical essays about musical experience and different genre and scenes for like 10 years. And I just recently started another journal about critical thinking on technology. And that's about it.

James Parker (00:00:46) - So, a PhD, several journals and that's it. That's a pretty comprehensive package. What exactly is the journal? Can you say a little bit more about them? Guillaume Heuguet (00:01:10) - Yeah, so Audimaté, the main one, the one I started 10 years ago, I wanted to feel what I felt was a lack in the French landscape of writing about music. I was reading a lot of essays coming from the UK or America, which I felt were reinforcing the subjective experience of music. And mixing it with theory or analysis. And in France, I was feeling like you had to choose between a very academic approach or journalistic approach that was a bit more superficial. And essay criticism was not so much of a thing when it came to popular music.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:02:06) - We have a long tradition of that with Cahiers du Célème and movies, of course. But I felt that I was missing something. So, we did a lot of translations of English authors like Simon Reynolds, Kodwo Eshun,... in sound studies as well. And we tried to bring people who wouldn't write in this fashion to a kind of writing style that's more critical essays. So, people who will be in journalism or in academia will take the opportunity of writing for Audimaté to share their passion and their love and their understanding of a very niche scene. Guillaume Heuguet (00:03:01) - Or interesting listening experience, their relationship to nostalgia in music. There are a lot of different topics that we cover. But the idea is really to try to show the diversity of writing that is possible about music. Because... are writing styles. And we want to bring all that diversity of relationships to music. So, that's Audimat. And the technology journal is very much younger. And we are still trying to find our own style, I guess. But so far what we want to bring is probably a more materialistic approach to technology.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:03:58) - Both on the technical level and also on the economic and political level. Because we feel like in France what dominates the discourse about technology and the criticism of technology is more coming from philosophy and from civilizational perspective. From Heidegger and stuff like that. So, it's very much like apocalyptic idea of how technology comes from society. And I share the political concerns of those people. But I want to anchor the criticism in a deeper practical knowledge of the apparatus that we are discussing. And so, we are trying to...

Guillaume Heuguet (00:04:49) - We just launched this journal as a platform to gather people who want to focus on that.

James Parker (00:04:58) - They both sound amazing. It's funny the people you mentioned with Audimats, that sort of all my favorite music writers. I mean many peoples, but it does seem like there was a kind of a sort of English language heyday of work that came out of that melody maker period in the 1990s. It's been incredibly influential and a lot of people I know kind of aspire to.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:05:28) - Yeah one thing that I did not mention is that I think in France too we had like in the early 2000s we had a very big scene of music blogs and music messaging boards and the conversation about music was very lively and actually when the platform moment came out all of this a bit dried up a little bit so the journal was a way to keep up the conversation and not to lose those styles of writing.

James Parker (00:06:03) - No I think that's absolutely right because you know we've seen as you know the blogger sphere has kind of faded away so many of the interesting forums for writing online have disappeared with it like some of my favorite websites you know are defunct now or sort of only barely live.

James Parker (00:06:25) - But anyway this is all fascinating but I want to get to your amazing book and I think we've also got Anabelle Lacroix here who's a nearby neighbor of yours and she's a curator and thinker and writer in her own right but is also going to help out if we encounter any translational difficulties. Would you like to introduce yourself Annabel?

Anabelle Lacroix (00:06:56) - Hi everyone, I'm a curator and researcher. I used to work with you both at Liquid Architecture for many years. It's nice to join the conversation and I'm looking forward to it.

James Parker (00:07:18) - Thanks so much Anabelle. Now Guillaume your book is brand new right? Like it was out last year and it's called YouTube et les metamaphores de la musique in my best French accent. Is that right?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:07:38) - like yeah the the French title is YouTube and the Metamorphosis of Music kind of literary style and the English title will be way more catchy will be How Music Changed YouTube.

James Parker (00:08:01) - How Music Changed YouTube okay well that's a really provocative turn of phrase because obviously everybody talks as if it's the other way around right? That it's YouTube that changed music and it's platforms that changed music and you know what would be the you know Napster and iTunes and so on. So I mean I take that as a kind of that must that's a sort of a central provocation of the book presumably to to switch that order around. I mean I should say I haven't read the book because my French isn't good enough.

James Parker (00:08:38) - So could you tell us a little bit about the book about that sort of that flip and anything else like what what kind of what's the book about what does it cover?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:08:49) - Yeah so the book is kind of a multi-dimensional platform biography of YouTube through the lens of music.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:08:59) - So I cover a lot of dimensions and topic from the early style of music videos and sound based videos on the platform up until the infrastructure for the counting of views and the tracking of views and the control of copyright to content ID. But I also analyze the way YouTube address musicians on the platform to tell them how to promote their music and I'm really interested in the whole history of YouTube and also the I'll say the every corner of their strategy from the very technical technological aspects of

Guillaume Heuguet (00:10:03) - To the discourse of changing our music or videos or culture should be made. So it's very multidimensional. And yeah, it's a book I wanted to do because I was in the music journalism, I don't want to say industry, I'll say culture for a while. And at some point everybody was starting their reviews with a line saying, know that YouTube or technology or platform change everything. And then they didn't feel like they couldn't review the music the same way.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:10:48) - And it was very, very strange to me how we were ourselves as journalists or music, not fans, but music listeners. We were thinking that technology should have this bigger fun impact on our own experiences. So I wanted to study that and have it not just as this kind of vague idea that everybody was repeating all the time, but I wanted to really tackle that and take one platform and see. So how are we able to say that something like YouTube has an effect on music?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:11:34) - And of course, it's really not easy to draw causes and consequences when we study one platform or stuff like that. But a big part of my work is to try and unpack all these layers of intervention of YouTube and see to what extent YouTube is really the main force of the changes that we see in music culture. So that's kind of the broad picture of the book.

Anabelle Lacroix (00:12:19) - Do you listen to music on YouTube?

James Parker (00:12:27) - You do?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:12:28) - Yeah, I don't.

Anabelle Lacroix (00:12:29) – Me neither, that's why I was a bit nervous about being part of the conversation.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:12:35) - So when I started my PhD, I wasn't. So I knew that a lot of friends around me were, but I was going to check one song from time to time. But it has never been my main listening device or tool.

James Parker (00:12:54) - So Guillaume, what made you choose YouTube as the platform to focus on amongst the many different platforms through which people access music?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:13:09) - Well, I have been doing my master thesis on boiler boom. So I was interested in the interaction between image or video online and music, which was one thing. And also, I was noticing that most of the industry reports in France, at least, were interesting in the streaming industry and the streaming music market. We weren't including YouTube at the time because it was supposed to be a video platform.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:13:49) - And as a researcher, I was very interested in this way that the academic research, industry research defines the border of a market, of a given market, and how technology makes the borders of markets and culture evolve with time. So I wanted to, I chose YouTube to be able to also have a part of a critical approach to the shaping of economical research. And then I knew that with YouTube being that massive in the music space at the time, I would have a lot of things to unpack.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:14:43) - And this was very interesting as well to me to be able to talk about music videos, to be able to talk about audience measurements, to be able to talk about all those things.

James Parker (00:14:56) - I mean, what is the sort of rough market share that YouTube has in streaming? Because I think it's really big. Like, I mean, whether or not, I mean, I did actually subscribe to YouTube music for a while because I once upon a time had a Google Play music account because it allowed you to upload your own MP3s. And they eventually tried to force me onto YouTube music. And for various reasons, I moved off it. But I remember around that time reading that YouTube is a very significant player in the market, like not as big as Spotify.

James Parker (00:15:30) - But from what I understand, it is pretty big in its own right. And then one of the interesting things about YouTube as a music streaming platform is that it's not just that. And so, you know, I mean, this is something that we'll talk about in due course, but from the perspective of machine listening, it's a really interesting platform because the kinds of automated listening practice that are rolled out on YouTube move between music and other forms of listening. And so it's sort of interesting because of that breadth. James Parker (00:16:06) - But I do think it is a large player, isn't it?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:16:09) - Yes. So the last numbers that we have is that YouTube, not YouTube music specifically, but YouTube is like 55% of consumers watching music videos. Or like want to consume music go on YouTube, whereas it's 24% on Spotify, for example. So larger than Spotify. So it's larger than Spotify as a place to go to consume music. Like the market share of Spotify might be bigger with a subscription, but as a destination, YouTube is still bigger. And in France, it has been the leader as a music destination as well for 10 years now.

James Parker (00:17:02) - So it's a big deal in other words. And, you know, you beautifully sketched out some of the ways in which your, the things that interest you about YouTube. And I have some ideas about what interests me from the perspective of machine listening as I've been getting at but where do you end up? I mean, is there a sort of, you know, a conclusion or a destination that you arrive at or is it, or are there a few that you'd like to talk through maybe a couple of examples, or one example where maybe something unexpected sort of comes out of the work?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:17:45) - Yeah, one thing which is interesting to me is that when people want to talk about the book and about the streaming economy and its impact on music with me. It's mostly because they feel like because I have a critical approach, I'll be able to tell how much YouTube is responsible for this or that. And one of the main result of my research is that actually the music industry was very complicit of the growth of YouTube from the very beginning, because they were licensed from the very beginning actually but we didn't know it at the time.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:18:36) - But it took a bit of time for this thing to be public. And also, I discovered that the disposition between the tech industry and the music industry from a deeper historical viewpoint is kind of irrelevant, because the music industry has always been a tech industry as well. Edison and all the earlier labels were like, yeah, RCA, Sony, all were tech products sellers.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:19:20) - So I tend to focus on this, maybe a larger approach where what's interesting to me is how music is made into a commodity and it's not so much about is it tech against music industry or the music industry against tech, but it's more about our basic things of our musical culture, like the commodity form is being enforced again and again.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:20:00) - And so there is this layer of the shape of the two industries. This is one aspect of my research. The other aspect is that I was interested in the fact that, to me, YouTube was trying all the time to give shape to the listening experience, to a kind of music market. And the people on the platform always redefine the border of what listening is, of which music should be made into a commodity or not.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:20:42) - And I was quite interested in the aesthetical dimension of this research and the idea that when you publish videos that are supposed to be consumed as music, actually you realize that the idea of what music is or should be is not so easy to define.

James Parker (00:21:11) - Could you give an example?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:21:13) - Yeah, for example, I was... So that's not in the book for now. Maybe it will be in the English version, but it's in the PhD. I spent a lot of time studying ASMR. And do you copyright ASMR? Is ASMR a musical experience or not? You know, stuff like that. But also, is or end? Also,

James Parker (00:21:57) - the foreground-background distinction, I suppose. One of the things I was thinking of before is that YouTube is a platform in which music is sometimes the foreground and sometimes the background in a way that just simply isn't on other music streaming platforms. And so, yeah, that's sort of another really interesting layer, I suppose.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:22:20) - Yeah, a great example of that is channels like Cecile Roberts. I don't know if you know those channels. Like Cecile Roberts will publish Africa from Toto. The song Africa from Toto, but recorded with the effect of an American mole with a lot of reverb. So, it's the song by Toto, but it's also a big splash of reverb with Toto playing in the back. And this kind of edit doesn't count as a remix or as a new work of music. But a lot of our Niko remix can be just a song sped up.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:23:07) - And all those edits, to me, are really interesting because it's kind of a new vernacular of sound, maybe music. And it's not playing to the rules of what singularity of originality in music is or should be. And I find that there is a continuity with the world of music online. Just before YouTube appeared, we had a lot of different remix edits and unofficial versions of songs. And we never knew if we had the right version of a song.

James Parker (00:23:51) - You mean like on Napster and LimeWire and things where you would download something that said it was, I don't know, The Eagles, and then it would just be some prank?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:24:02) - Yeah, and it was not so much about the idea that the right song was not so much relevant all the time. Music was not in that state of a thing or a commodity. And that's really something that's interesting to me, how the form of the work of art applied to music or the commodity form is not something like the industry has to fight all the time to get back music to this really specific shape of a commodity or form.

James Parker (00:24:40) - Guillaume, do you see the continuity going back further to sampling and plundaphonics and music concrete and the other avant-garde approaches?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:24:52) - Yeah, of course. And when I'm talking about this, of course I will like…

Guillaume Heuguet (00:25:00) - I will find support in like going back to John Cage or to any, or to Fluxus or to Max Neuhaus and every avant-garde artist who pushed the limit of the sound or the music experience. But I find it really interesting that it's kind of a sonic popular culture. And I want to insist on the popular, like it's not aimed to deconstruct the limits of the roles of the academic or the institutional art world. And it's not to push the definition of something that has been constrained by the medium of the museum or the medium of visual arts.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:25:46) - But it's like I think there is a lot more spontaneity to it as well as reflexivity. But there is not a big agenda to define it as a nice technical gesture. And I think to me... aesthetics are not so well defined. And the difference with what the avant-garde in the visual arts or sonic arts makes of this is that there is no need for negativity or for the gesture of pushing the boundaries or something that's very robust and rigid because it's way more fluid than that.

James Parker (00:26:41) - It's so funny that you say that because I did some writing on vaporwave, whatever, 10 years ago when vaporwave was a thing. It’s still a thing, but whatever. Anyway, my point is that so much of the writing that I was drawing on for thinking about vaporwave was from art history, basically, critical art history. Because so many of the moves that those artists were making were really recognizable from the kind of conceptual art and gallery arts of the 20th century. But nobody within vaporwave was interested in that at all, basically.

James Parker (00:27:23) - And so I think that's a really, I mean that might just be because my writing is crap, but I do think that there's something about the popular, the fact that it wasn't an intervention within contemporary art, was a really important feature of vaporwave as a movement or a practice that was doing something that was very recognizable within the language of conceptual or contemporary art. I think that really chimes with me.

James Parker (00:27:53) - Now, I kind of want to jump cut now to Google Content ID, if you don't mind, because I think, I mean the book sounds amazing and I can't wait for it to be published in English. But the way in which we kind of came across your work for the first time was through your writing about audio fingerprinting and content ID, which now that I understand a little bit more about the book, I can totally see why this would be sort of in there.

James Parker (00:28:28) - But from the perspective of machine listening, you know, audio fingerprinting is a kind of, is a technique that comes out of computer science, basically, we should talk about it, that gets kind of scaled up to be one of the main methods for sort of tracking copyrighted works on YouTube and the internet more broadly. And so when I came across your work on this, I was really excited. And I'd love to have a little bit of a conversation about that part of the project, if you don't mind.

James Parker (00:29:06) - Would it be worth maybe beginning by explaining very roughly what Google Content ID is and why people should care about it, like in broad terms, why artists, musicians who are on YouTube do care about it and spend a lot of their time engaging with it, which I think they do?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:29:27) - Yeah, I think one way to define a Content ID is that it's a management system for the use of copyrighted material on YouTube. So that's the main aspect of it. And a part of it is that there are devices, semi-automated devices to detect this copyrighted material in videos and especially music, but not only music. So that will be the end of the presentation.

Joel Stern (00:30:00) - Yeah, the outline of what Content ID is.

James Parker (00:30:03) - Yeah, and could you say a little bit about what the experience is of Encounter? I mean, I have my own ideas. From what I understand, if you're an artist or a musician putting work up on YouTube, Content ID is like a sort of Kafka-esque sort of nightmare that not only will kind of often lead to a video you put up being taken, but because of the automation and because the way that Content ID works sort of changes so often, it's just completely opaque. So you'll find that the video will not make it up.

James Parker (00:30:47) - It will be found to have been in breach of some copyright rule and you won't know why. And it seems like there's a subculture of YouTube videos of people explaining how to sort of hack or work around Content ID, that it's generated this kind of enormous discourse on Content ID from people trying to negotiate it. So I'd love to know what Content ID is doing to music culture in that sort of very obvious way.

James Parker (00:31:22) - It seems like if you're putting music or videos onto YouTube, you just have to learn how to engage with and deal with Content ID. What's your experience of that? Guillaume Heuguet (00:31:35) - The main thing is that when there are two aspects of it, there is the aspect of you being a kind of general casual user publishing videos on YouTube, and music is the main focus, but you want to use copyrighted material in your video.

Joel Stern (00:31:58) - So there is this... being a musician, an artist or someone who represents a musician or an artist, and using Content ID to track the use of your music in other videos. So that's the two separate main experiences.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:32:18) - If you are a casual user or even what they call a creator, a video maker on the platform, you'll want to put out a video with copyrighted music and you'll learn in the process if the people who have the right on the song want to block your video, monetize it or just track the statistics of your video.

Joel Stern (00:32:48) - These are the three options that you have on the other side of the apparatus.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:32:55) - And so the complicated thing is that sometimes people want to just monetize the video that you make on the basis that it uses this song, this copyrighted song or record.

Joel Stern (00:33:13) - So your experience will be that you'll have to share a good portion up to 60% of your revenue with the owner of the song. But also maybe your video will be blocked, just blocked, and then you... why it was blocked and discuss through the messaging device on YouTube with the people who blocked your video.

James Parker (00:33:45) - And am I right that sometimes the blocking can be retrospective, so you'll have a video up, it'll be fine for years, and then suddenly it'll be blocked because of some new sort of...

Guillaume Heuguet (00:33:56) - Exactly. The reason for that is that on the other side, you have artists working with online music distribution companies who in most cases will handle the tracking of your music on YouTube.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:34:19) - Sometimes you can do it through your record company, but mostly it's music distribution companies.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:34:27) - And the policy you have can evolve with time. So you yourself can tell this music distribution company that you want all user-generated content using your music allowed because you think it's good promotion, for example.

James Parker (00:34:47) - Or

Guillaume Heuguet (00:34:48) - I don't know, you want to sell the rights to your catalogue to a big publishing company, and you think that it's giving you more leverage to get everything off of YouTube.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:35:08) - So, and the way this works is that you can set up very finely the parameters of the detection. There is a whole technical aspect of it on the side of the music distribution company. So, for example, you can define the length of the extract that are authorized on that, and each music distribution company can set up different parameters for different song or catalogue.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:35:38) - So there is a whole complexity of it on the side of the music distribution company and artists as well.

James Parker (00:35:45) - And what about the other example where artists are sampling or using copyrighted... I mean, I sort of... I actually do want to get to that, but even this idea that there's a thing called copyrighted work and that's knowable and it's obvious what... It sort of puts the cart before the horse in some ways because I've read of so many examples of people having white noise in the background of something and then their video being taken down because that's found to have been copyrighted.

James Parker (00:36:20) - You know, like, in some ways part of the whole question is when is audio copyrighted? So to say that an artist is working with copyrighted material or whatever sort of already presumes that they know. But part of the point is that you sometimes find out that according to Google Content ID, you're working with copyrighted material, but you didn't know that in advance or it's simply wrong. And there's nothing you can do about it.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:36:52) - I think a big move on the part of YouTube on this is that you're right, it's not copyrighted material in the general sense. It's official artist...

Guillaume Heuguet (00:37:11) - Official artist is very much a phrase that YouTube uses.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:37:15) - Music that has been registered on the platform. So if you want to be... YouTube, you have to have like... I think there has been an update on this last year. I think now it's like 3000 subscribers or something like that.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:37:36) - Or you have to go through one of those big distribution companies or one of the registered labels.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:37:42) - So one interesting thing is that it's not about having registered your music with a copyright society outside of YouTube.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:37:55) - It's being able to fulfill the parameters that make you official as an artist on YouTube. And part of this, of the... the fact that you're being registered with a big label or music distribution company.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:38:15) - But there is also the fact that your music registers... Sorry, your music doesn't go against the policy on the platform and the appeal to advertisers. So when you want to register your music with YouTube, you have to make sure yourself that your music is not offensive, your music is good to place ads on and stuff like that. So all of this is what can be defined as a copyrighted material on the platform.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:38:50) - And if you're doing music that can be copyrighted outside of YouTube, but you don't fulfill those criteria, someone can possibly register something that sounds a bit like your music before you.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:39:09) - And you can't oppose your own copyrighted rights to the one of the people who register another recording close to yours. It's a bit complicated to explain.

James Parker (00:39:24) - I wish our collaborator Sean was here because he has an old artwork that you might be interested in where he uploaded a... He automatically generated and uploaded a series of videos to YouTube with a plain color, nothing but a plain color and was it like a sine wave at different pitches? And he just automatically generated and automatically uploaded them and then the work is basically them being progressively taken down over many years.

James Parker (00:40:00) - Because they would sort of pick up all... So the work is sort of meant to be a kind of like an... I mean, I shouldn't speak on behalf of him, but it's kind of like an index of the strange encounters between these non-works and a copyright regime and the kind of artifacts of the... what they document is a changing copyright regime as opposed to... because it would be

Guillaume Heuguet (00:40:31) - the proof to my thinking. So that's exactly...

James Parker (00:40:35) - Well, we'll have to put you in touch properly because I think you can find it. There are residues of it still on YouTube. And yeah, I mean, I don't know if you know off the top of your head, Joel, how... where to find that. But anyway, we... Guillaume Heuguet (00:40:50) - I'll find it.

Joel Stern (00:40:51) - I mean, all I remember is that the username that he used for uploading the videos was Alexander Rodchenko. And that there were many thousands... there were tens of thousands of videos which were just monochrome images and sine waves. And the speed of generating and uploading was sort of roughly consistent with the speed of blocking and removing. So there was a constant recycling of them. But one interesting aspect of the work was... that was not expected...

Joel Stern (00:41:28) - was that beyond the automatic uploading and removal, there were actually human viewers who were watching the videos and speculating in the comments as to what was the possible meaning of these monochrome sine wave videos and, you know, what kind of reason they might have for existing and they were getting into some quite complicated theories and speculations as to what it could be.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:41:59) - In the visual field, there has been a debate about... I think we even have a law in France and maybe in Europe about landscape exception, which means that you can have, for example, a very well known French monument in photography and nobody... no photographer or no representative of a photographer can take down your image because there is copyrighted material in the background. And I don't think there is such a thing for music or sound.

James Parker (00:42:35) - Well, that, I mean, we might have time to talk about things like parody or various different sort of ways of... that copyright has sort of dealt or some regimes of copyright have dealt with musical quotation or sort of genericness and so on. But before we do that, maybe we could talk about audio fingerprinting because you said before that, you know, with tech that your journal and in the project in general, you're quite interested in sticking to the sort of the technical and material dimensions.

James Parker (00:43:11) - I mean, one of the things that's come out of these processes, one of the things that's really struck me in the way that you're talking about content ideas, how... I mean, so little of what you said at the moment is technical. It simply describes a bureaucracy and in a huge economy. I mean, I'm just... every time you speak, I'm just imagining all of the lawyers and administrators and, you know, the kind of...

James Parker (00:43:42) - there must be huge businesses whose exclusive role is to interface with the parameters on the back end of Google Content ID. I mean, it's a huge sort of political, economic, social material process, but that's all built as far as I understand it or largely built as far as I understand it on top of this technique or set of techniques called audio fingerprinting. And that's how I first came across your work. So could you say a little bit about audio fingerprinting, you know, what it's got to do with Content ID, maybe why it matters?

Guillaume Heuguet (00:44:20) - Yeah, just one thing before that, you're right. Like I've met those people. And I think one of the main things about this way of handling copyright on platforms like YouTube is that now you have teams of people at music distribution companies, which are doing YouTube's work, like who are trying to work around their catalogue and the roles and the back office of YouTube to make it so that this dream of controlling every copyright on the platform works. And so I think it's very important to stress that the...

Guillaume Heuguet (00:44:59) - The economic model of YouTube works because it externalizes pine activity to music distribution people in music distribution companies. So your question was how I came into studying audio fingerprinting?

James Parker (00:45:23) - Well, sure, but also what it even is and how it's related to Google Content ID. So audio fingerprinting, again, I think is the industry name for something that I will say is an attempt to make a singular record of each song in a given database and be able to match it to any other file uploaded on a given platform.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:45:54) - So I'll say the most visible form it takes for us if we approach the technical layers of those platforms is a hash, which is a kind of a serial key for our software. It's just a series of numbers, which is supposed to be singular to one file, one record, one... James Parker (00:46:21) - And not just one file even, is it? It's one segment of a file. So the copyrightable work doesn't just have a number or a title or something. It's got many hundreds or thousands of micro identifiers or something.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:46:39) - Yeah, so that's why I was saying supposed to be.

James Parker (00:46:44) - Ah, supposed to be.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:46:46) - Because, yeah, obviously to me the interesting thing is the fact that we call that audio fingerprints when it's more of a mathematical model with a series of numbers or a small data file as a result. So I think audio fingerprinting is focusing on the semiotic, on the effect, on the use of something which when you go behind it is a machine listening and a feature extraction process, which is trying to make a model of a song or a portion of a song with several different techniques.

James Parker (00:47:42) - Can I just paraphrase? Is it what you're saying is that there's a sort of rhetorical or branding move effectively being made to make this thing familiar? Make these very diverse and complex and heavily mathematized and quite constructed processes seem... just make sense to people, right? So we're familiar with the metaphor of the fingerprint and it sounds like a kind of... it sounds plausible that a song could have a fingerprint. But it doesn't. And so is that what you're getting at?

James Parker (00:48:25) - There's a kind of a critique of the kind of the rhetoric of the fingerprint as a way of describing what's effectively... I mean, at one point in the piece that I've read, you talk about a mathematics of originality, which I think is a really provocative phrase and very different from rhetorically to the idea of an audio fingerprint.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:48:46) - Yeah, I'm really amazed by this idea that we could call audio fingerprinting something which is trying to make an approximative statistical model of a song, which is... it's two totally different things to me. If you listen to audio fingerprint as a phrase, as a couple of words, you will think like something of an index, something like... is a part of a bigger thing and you can't separate it from it, you know, it's like your... it's the tip of your finger.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:49:29) - So you have the whole body and you have a singular person and it's like all those things are impossible to differentiate. And it's a very different task from the perspective of... work for engineers and data scientists to try to make a good enough mathematical model of a portion of a song, which will be different enough.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:49:58) - From any other mathematical model of any other song. It's like two totally different tasks. And one thing that's truly fascinating to me with the idea of coding that audio fingerprinting as well is that there are a lot of work in STS, in sociology of science and technologies to stress that fingerprints are not even a good method to make sure of the identity of one person. There are a lot of work about the failure of fingerprints as an imprint and a record of someone's identity.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:50:43) - There have been several criminal cases with failures of people going to prison because we thought that we got their fingerprints and stuff like that. So I won't delve into that. But even fingerprints, it's not a good idea to a good way to define the singularity of a given person.

Anabelle Lacroix (00:51:06) - I agree with what you just said, it just made me think that the way we think about identification has totally changed. So audio fingerprinting tells us something about how we think about identification today.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:51:21) - Yeah, I agree. Really, I want to stress that I think we have to acknowledge that the idea from the perspective of data science and stuff like that, and even the policy of those platforms is to have good enough probabilistic results. And it's very different to the idea that we all catch the essence of a given song. And I think it's interesting because I don't want to have this critical approach of saying there is the real definition of a song and not the human definition of a song. And now we only have the mathematical model.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:52:07) - So it's not true anymore because it's mathematical. You know, it's not about that. It's that I think we are the very, I don't know, like the definition of singularity, originality of what a musical work is, of the borders of a work of art are very soft in a way and very relational. So any idea to make that solid is already kind of a challenge, even in a human context.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:52:47) - And when it translates to data science, I think we have decided that we can do a probabilistic account of the definition that we as listeners, artists, and any other kind of experience out of these songs. And it just has to be good enough for the system to work. And I think one interesting thing is that we have to unpack this idea of good enough for who, what means good enough of a probabilistic definition.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:53:30) - And when you look into it, we don't have the specific data, but if we want to see what it means to make a statistical model of a song, you have to choose between different parameters and you can either make it wide enough to catch every analogy with any other recording that might be close to that specific model, or you can make it tighter with fewer and more singular, more granular parameters. And then you might miss some songs or some videos or some other files that might resemble this one, but might be some other thing.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:54:19) - And I think in the case of YouTube, it's very clear that the agenda, the political agenda, the economic agenda is to please the copyright holders. And so I think that by design it's set up so that it catches too much analogies between a model and another recording. Hence the case that you told us about some white noise being similar to any other white noise in any other video. And so there is a kind of ontological limit to those attempts because

James Parker (00:55:12) - there is I mean, it might be worth specifying the whiteness and the westernness of that political and economic agenda, because obviously, you know, the classic critique of the of copyright as a regime is, especially in relation to music, is that it comes along to work very well for the Rolling Stones and much less well for Muddy Waters and every blues musician who's ever existed and very well for, who's the guy who did Graceland? Paul Simon.

James Parker (00:55:50) - And not so well for all of the traditional African musics on which he's heavily drawing and producing this mega hit. So, you know, obviously there's a very long legacy of the copyright regimes drawing capital to the West and to white musicians. And I mean, it just seems like a pretty obvious fact that this is kind of bedding that down and making it more opaque and harder to critique. Because at least if somebody says, well, look, only a melody is copyrightable and a sort of a groove.

James Parker (00:56:40) - Well, no, that's not or like a sort of chord structure as generic as the blues or something that's not copyrightable. But you can say, get fucked. But when you have a mathematical model that nobody understands and a Google Content ID finding that's possible to appeal, but very difficult and time consuming, and you're probably never going to find out exactly what the back end looks like anyway. I mean, you. Yeah.

James Parker (00:57:14) - I mean, it just seems sort of obvious that it makes it harder to the mechanisation of it and the automation of it isn't the isn't like the problem compared with some more authentic humanist. But it makes it more difficult to launch a sort of a strong critique. Although on some level, it's just easy because, well, of course, YouTube is drawing money to the existing powers that be. But yeah, I don't really know. That's not a question. That's a comment, not a question.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:57:47) - There are so many things that you just said that resonate with my research. One thing is that I think it is interesting to see two parts of the world where copyright is not working the same way. To draw the same critique and to look in another way to our own cultures and realise that even in Europe or in the US, we can make it weird that our definition of music is so linked to the idea of the individual artist or the originality of songs and records. And so I would say that copyright is weird in any part of the world.

Guillaume Heuguet (00:58:49) - It stresses out the definition of music as a common, maybe latent in every musical practice and listening experience. And maybe the symbolic visibility of the industry and the categories of originality, authorship, commodity. But we have to ask ourselves if that's really at the core of why we like music and why it's so valuable to us as a practice, I think.

James Parker (00:59:32) - It's interesting that you use the language of commons because it strikes me that it's not just the music that's being privatised here, but the system for... There's a privatisation of the copyright regime itself. Of course in the 20th century, who has the means financially to enforce copyright or whatever? It's only rich people.

James Parker (01:00:00) - or in record companies anyway. But effectively YouTube has entirely privatized a system of governance, and it's not just YouTube, but that platform governance as a privatization of the very regime for even encountering, disputing, regulating music. That seems like a really big move. It's a bit of a problem. It strikes me as a big problem.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:00:32) - It was a kind of a speculative hypothesis in my work, but it is interesting to me to discuss this with you as a law scholar. I was like, one of the unexpected result of focusing on these topics was to realize how much of the copyright debates about music were taking advantage of the jurisprudential dimension of law, at least in a European context. The idea that it's not just about arbitration and like arbitrage, It's not just about threats of censorship and removal of a given song. So you give back money to the real owners and the case is settled.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:01:25) - It's about public discussion, taking advantage of the publicity of law to define where lies the value in music and where lies the value in musical practice. And I think even before YouTube and the platforms we have seen a kind of transformation of this philosophical debates happening within law towards the idea that it's a competition between companies who own music, kind of like they will own technological patents, threatening other parties, getting money from their capacity to use law to threaten other parties.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:02:18) - And law is not the space where we collectively define what is allowed and what is not allowed but more another way of making money. And I think what you call the privatization of governance is another step in this process where law is not a space for debates and the shaping of culture as a whole, but just a tool to further economical, what they will call innovation and from another point of view, economical profits.

James Parker (01:03:01) - I feel like I'm supposed to provide some jurisprudential wisdom. I don't know if I have any. I mean, it was very well put. I'm conscious that we've taken up a lot of your time already Guillaume and it's getting relatively late here. I'm trying to think of what a nice sort of closing question or two might be. I don't know if either Anabelle or Joel, you've got one. I mean, I suppose I'm interested a little bit in where you think things are headed.

James Parker (01:03:36) - We could talk a little bit about resistance or hope or whether you think vibrant music cultures can be sustained in the margins and the kind of the inabilities of something like audio fingerprinting or content ID to catch experimental forms or what have you. I don't know. I'm just interested when you look at all of this, what do you see? Do you see a story of like limitation of creative opportunities online or do you see something different and where do you think things are going?

Guillaume Heuguet (01:04:22) - So I think there are several trends which are interesting at the moment. I think one interesting thing is that music is a kind of driver of economic innovation and economic power. So for example, TikTok is big today because you can put a few seconds of music behind.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:04:51) - Any video easily and stuff like that. So I think there is a strong incentive from the part of the platforms to make the most of music for their own agenda. And that's one trend. And what's interesting to me that on the other side, on the side of people who listen to music, of artists, of musical culture. I think there is a. So there are real shifts in the definition of music and what makes sense as a song and music today and all those practice.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:05:31) - Of I don't know, being it can be the importance of ambient music at the moment of all those edit and remixes of musical experience that are not defined by copyright. I think that is a whole shift in the music. What was the musical culture which is being expanded at the moment, even in popular culture. So that's kind of two contrasting trends at the on the one part, the platforms are making music as the ultimate community to sell technological products.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:06:07) - And on the other side, people aesthetically and socially are relating to music and sound in the way that has less and less to do with the. All the industry community forms, I think so. That's one thing. Another thing is that. I think the. The machine learning, the rise of machine learning. Is allowing to create a lot of forms on the. On the scale that was never possible before, like if I want to set up a few parameters to tomorrow and create 10 or 100 or 1000 different version of a song and put them to YouTube, I can do that.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:06:56) - And so I think there will be a clash between the generative aspect of machine learning and the use of machine learning to control and detect. Copyright. And I'm curious to see how these two things will interact in the years to come. And the last time that I think is interesting in regards to what we discussed. Is the NFTs because NFTs, one way to look at it. Is a way to extend musical copyright to a lot to a variety of forms way beyond any idea for a singular song. And potentially you can make NFTs about everything and nothing.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:07:49) - And so I think there are a lot of trends at the moment which are already pushing the limits of copyright as a way to create a social. But mostly economical value. And I think I want to finish with that is the fact that even from an industry perspective, even if you're not critical and you want to and you think that copyright is just a market device which can help make money for a lot of people. I think copyright might have done its time as an economical device. So maybe from the side of academic artists and the general people.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:08:46) - The question we might ask ourselves is if we are escaping out of copyright, do we want a market escape out of copyright? Well, people who like find new ways to make money without copyright, but maybe with new forms of control and new form of markets and stuff like that. Or do we want to seize this opportunity to push new definition of music and of social practice outside of markets?

James Parker (01:09:17) - I choose the second one.

Anabelle Lacroix (01:09:19) - Me too.

James Parker (01:09:26) - And Joel, did you want to ask anything or comment?

Joel Stern - Not for me. I mean, I thought that was a really elegant conclusion.

James Parker (01:09:44) - Just a few minutes ago. Anabelle?

Anabelle Lacroix (01:09:45) - I was thinking about something more around listening, it's a question for the three of you in relation to the prompt of machine listening and the question of ‘What music is doing to YouTube?’ would be to continue the question with: ‘What does music do to YouTube, that in turn affects our listening? And how?

Ahead of the conversation, I was thinking about the work of Bernhard Stiegler and this idea of the technique, which links back to the philosophical weight of the approach to this topic you mentioned at the start of the conversation Guillaume. We could think that YouTube has changed music if we think about it in the same way as the record, as Stiegler has shown that the record has changed how we listen and turn, it has changed how we made music. And so it's the same thing with YouTube. How does YouTube has changed our listening?

Guillaume Heuguet (01:11:06) - Yeah, I, I'm really interested in this question but I'm a bit frustrated that I didn't discuss it more in the book so thank you for the question. I can talk a bit about it. So is a part of the of... view the YouTube view as a audience measurement. And I found it interesting that, you know, all those discussions about. Do you need to stream a video for 30 seconds for for the thing to be considered as as one view of the video or the song. And so, I think there are several.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:11:52) - There are several lines of the way which in which YouTube shapes, the consumption of music and the listening of music. I think one thing is the consumption, not even the listening, the listening. The consumption is like the main thing on the main YouTube YouTube music but YouTube as a video site. Is that the channel is the way to publish to publish video music music videos. So music is news. Music is always like it's something of a daily conception with notification, you have a new music video out, and you check it, and you have checked it.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:12:33) - And I think streaming really pushed this way of seeing musical culture, as something of a social news.

Anabelle Lacroix (01:12:47) - It's also like an event.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:12:49) - Something you subscribe to, and you, you get to know, and then you pass to the other thing. So that's one layer. I think it's also with the view is decided that we have this share of leisure time you know, and so, so you have this relationship to music so how much music music fits my share of leisure time. And so that's why you have all those playlist, even on YouTube music with like music for your Friday night. So, that's what extent this music is a good use of my leisure time. I think it's a way to look at it.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:13:31) - And so, I think, but at the same time you have all those videos by, by, I'd say regular users even if it doesn't mean anything, like push the definition of what music is and and and edits music in a way, and if I do those ideas music music as a as a user value and stuff like that.

James Parker (01:13:58) - Can I make an alternate suggestion which is that when I think of the difference between YouTube and every other streaming platform is that YouTube always stands out to me as archival in a way that like not archival in the sense that like it's got everything, but much more historically oriented than every other music platform so of course like things that are news. But if I want to find like a rare, like,

James Parker (01:14:32) - Jungle like pressing from 1992 from time to time that I do, or like a specific performance, you know, in like Japan or something. You get that on YouTube, right?

Guillaume Heuguet (01:14:49) - YouTube.

James Parker (01:14:50) - And so, you know, some of the people that you were right, you were talking about publishing in Audimat, like Simon Remnalds, for example, and his book Retromania, you know, are really, really specifically thinking about something like YouTube when they make that argument. Not so much like Spotify, I think. It's the fact that those songs all come ready-made with the music videos or the hairstyles or the padded shoulders, you know, the suits that they were wearing on stage and whatever.

James Parker (01:15:30) - There's a sort of an archival or an historical orientation to YouTube, which seems very different from other music platforms to me. So I totally accept what you're saying about the new, but I also think that YouTube is oriented towards the old and the historical in a way that has really shaped my music consumption. You know, like I'm on the academic sort of orientation. I do think there's a kind of academic like tendency in YouTube music consumption.

Joel Stern (01:16:00) - Well, there's also a lot of explicit remediation on YouTube where you're watching something taped off a television show from the 80s, or you're watching someone drop a needle on a record or put a cassette into a tape deck and press play where the reproduction of the media is actually foregrounded in the video in a certain way. So there's a sort of media archaeological dimension to it that is much more explicit than in other platforms.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:16:37) - Yeah, I agree with both of you. There is a chapter in my book when I try to order the other relationship and mediation of music on YouTube and archival part is totally one of them. The media aspect is in it too. And there is also the more social, you know, artist fan relationship aspect. relationship to how TV is remediated in YouTube as well.

Guillaume Heuguet (01:17:20) - So I agree with the fact that there is all those things, but I think it's interesting to see how it shifts over time in the dominant discourse on YouTube or on the main page, for example, what is being shown first and how the other dimension are more like a vernacular culture of YouTube that's been there for a while, but not the top priority of the company itself.

James Parker (01:17:54) - I'm sure there'll be a lot of interest in the book when it comes out in English. When is that happening?

Guillaume Heuguet (01:18:00) - Probably September.

James Parker (01:18:00) - And how was the interest in France? Or French speaking countries when it came out? Because what I'm wondering is, like, I feel like, academically, it's an extremely interesting topic, but I do feel like it sounds to me like the kind of book that has a sort of a potential broader readership.

James Parker (01:18:23) - I think a lot of people are interested in YouTube, and I'm interested to know, just to tie us back to the very start, like how you see this in relation to the kinds of critical writing, you know, that you're sort of platforming in Audimat, which are sort of para-academic or like maybe for a more popular audience or, you know, in some cases. Well, I mean, yeah, I don't know.

James Parker (01:18:56) - I don't want to do too strong a distinction between academic and non-academic, but for some of those writers, it was very important that they weren't writing from within a university context. And so, yeah, I'm just interested to know, like, what the reception was and how you thought about that. But we should wrap it up. But I mean, yeah, it seems like there'd be a big readership anyway.