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Hey lovely email friends. Hope you're well. We're near the end of the year, and here on the top half of the planet it's getting pretty dark. But from the darkness will emerge a new decade and, although that shouldn't matter, somehow it does.

This decade and the one before it have defied universal labelling. They have names, but not ones you're comfortable saying in front of your friends. Western cultural touchpoints of the last century were shorthanded by decade. We can easily contrast between, say, Sixties and Eighties rock, or Seventies and Nineties sci-fi. After the millennium, this pattern became less clear. Further, the means by which many of these touchpoints are consumed have radically changed during this mysterious twenty-year period.

STREAMING: In the early Noughties, there I said it, people got comfortable with enjoying recorded media without there being a physical 'thing', thanks largely to the MP3. Curiously it also got them comfortable with not paying for it either (although the blame rests with the industry's tardiness to offer ways to pay for the content without the media).

But even when acquired legally, MP3s aren't ideal: they're hard to manage, easy to lose, and fiddly to store. Video formats, being larger in size, are worse still. But ever-better bandwidth made it possible to forgo all the faff of file management and instead subscribe to a streaming service for an ongoing fee.

A huge shift occurred in a short time. In the mid-Nineties, your collection of music, movies and so on was something you owned. You could hold it, dust it and admire it. As we roar into the Twenties, not only do we not own much of the media we consume, there's often no purchase decision directly associated with it either.

So even though these last two decades don't easily bracket around culture, they may be remembered for the change in consumption. And as the consumption patterns change, so does the content. The economics of streaming mean that lengthy intros, such as U2's Where The Streets Have No Name, are a thing of the past. In the streaming era, where platforms pay by the song not the minute, musicians get start and finish sooner, meaning songs are getting shorter.

Today more than half of all music is streamed, but it's not as straightforward as doing the same thing in a different way. Amazingly, only two songs from the last century persistently feature in Spotify's top 200: Bohemian Rhapsody, of course, and, weirdly, Wonderwall. And although it somehow feels more efficient not to ship and own piles of CDs in jewel cases, streaming is actually far worse for the environment as it consumes enormous energy resources. ๐Ÿ’ฝ
๐ŸŽ„ 21 eco-friendly Christmas tips: Some advice from Friends of the Earth, such as preferring e-cards as a means of reducing carbon, seems under-researched. But nevertheless they offer plenty of good advice for those actively seeking a green Christmas.

๐Ÿ• Mississippi hotel will let you adopt a dog on site โ€“ and it can move right into your room: what better way to encourage fostering than to unite dogs from the local shelter with extended-stay hotel guests such as military families.

๐Ÿ’ธ Norwegian banknotes get redesigned: Metric Design and illustrator Terje Tรธnnesen have developed this beautiful concept on a nautical theme, celebrating Norway's relationship with the sea. And yet not an oil rig in sight.

๐ŸŒง Is rainwater capture the new solar panel? Drought-stricken cities like San Antonio, Texas are tackling their water challenges with the realisation that not all water need be treated equally.

๐Ÿ— How to Power a Steel Blast Furnace Using Only Hydrogen: the coal consumption in steel manufacturing is very high, so the thought of carbon-neutral steel is far-fetched. Yet German manufacturing giant Thyssenkrupp have demonstrated the feasibility of a hydrogen-powered steel furnace. See also: Apple just bought the first-ever batch of carbon-free aluminium.

๐ŸŽฎ The environmental impact of a PlayStation 4: And while we're thinking about the carbon cost of manufacturing, electronics manufacturing is incredibly carbon-intensive, as The Verge shows by investigating just one consumer electronics device. See also: The Playstation War: Conflict minerals in video games.
Full stream ahead: What will media consumption look like in the Twenties? Already, there's enormous proliferation of providers. In video, Netflix and Apple are among numerous tech-era providers going head-to-head with more long-standing content brands like HBO and Disney (although quite a lot of older Disney content doesn't stand the test of time). All these providers make for a more complex and expensive landscape than what was available before. I anticipate consumers will vote with their wallets, in turn leading to consolidation into colossal media powerhouses, just as before.

In music, classical-only platforms are springing up in service of a particular demand. This is interesting, as it suggests it may be possible to support general providers, like Spotify, alongside specialist ones. If it's sustainable, it's not that far from the economics of radio, or indeed the golden age of record stores.

Spotify, though, is an oddball. Posterchild of non-U.S. startups, it enjoys dominance yet it also feels like its platform is burning. You can measure the success of any system by how it's abused, and in Spotify's case there's considerable spammy, bot-generated lookalike material duping users into listening to close covers of whatever they wanted, and claiming the fees. Even if the listener does find the genuine recording, the artist payout is dismal: there's not a lot of love for Spotify amongst the creator community.

Then there's the competitors. Amazon and Google have both build streaming music services akin to Spotify; but the key difference being they're already making their money elsewhere. It feels inevitable, therefore, that Spotify will be bought, or worse, put out of business by their competitors being able to afford to give away music streaming for free.

The digital era has disrupted music creation as much as consumption. That means right now DIY artists are doing well from streaming, creating a strong incentive for the big labels to get more involved. But there's potentially a larger shift to come: the blending together of streaming services. Right now, music, video, gaming and social are distinct. In the Twenties, everything is everything. There's nothing stopping a streaming platform being a social network or a gaming platform. TikTok is already bending the boundaries, and TikTok's parent may have Spotify on the rack.

So while the next decade comes prepackaged with a clear identity, we'll probably have to wait it ends before we understand what it describes. ๐Ÿค”
๐Ÿ’Œ ๐Ÿ’ฅBLAST! continues only by word-of-mouth. Know someone who'll appreciate it? They can join in at momorgan.com/blast ๐Ÿ˜˜
Finally: What happens when you ask the same interview questions, three years on the bounce? That's the grilling to which Billie Eilish has been subjected by Vanity Fair. The artist's personal growth is interesting and reassuring. See also: How bedroom pop became the dominant sound of Gen-Y angst. ๐Ÿ—ฃ

Good gravy, it's the bottom of the email. Your friends and colleagues probably have dreary inboxes and would benefit from an injection of interestingness. Think of the friends and colleagues! Invite them to join in at momorgan.com/blast. ๐Ÿ’Œ

Found something I'd like? Is there something you'd like to see more? Or anything else; I'd love to hear from youโ€”hit reply! If these emails are not being delivered correctly, try adding this address to your contacts. More good stuff next week. Meanwhile recent back-issues are in the archive.

๐Ÿ’ฅBLAST! · c/o relating.to ltd. · 160 City Road · London, EC1V 2NX · United Kingdom. Happy International Mountain Day โ›ฐ


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