Will artists quit Twitter, and if so is this the time to invest into communities?

It being Halloween, there’s precious little industry news to report, so I’ll apologise now for the short shrift you’re getting below.

That said, all eyes are on Elon Musk and Twitter today, as various stories emerge speculating on the future of the company now he has taken ownership. Perhaps the biggest development currently doing the rounds is that the company is going to charge $20/mo for Twitter Blue, and that this will be the only way to retain your Verified blue tick.

For me, this perfectly illustrates the complexity of the problem Musk now has to solve. In this case, he’s confusing the purpose of the Verified tick. It serves as a means to demonstrate that this is the official account for a person on the platform, thereby confirming identity as bona fide. Musk appears to be thinking it instead could just show that one is a paying customer.

In the world of music, that blue badge has been something of a lifesaver in the past, helping artists establish that they are the genuine article and not some imposter.

Should this $20/mo deal go ahead, it isn’t hard to see fake accounts popping up all over the place, potentially conning users and generally making trouble for all involved. Misinformation may well run riot.

As a day one move then, this one feels pretty ill-conceived.

I use Twitter more than any other social network. The Motive Unknown Digest is published through its Revue platform (something I sincerely hope Musk elects not to mothball). Even so, part of me kind of hopes Twitter goes up in smoke.

Hear me out.

We are moving into something of a post-social world. Facebook is struggling, Insta feels like it is going the same way, and the only platform really surging in growth isn’t a social one at all (TikTok).

At the same time, Web3 is providing an alternative approach here – one in which you control platforms plugging into your own data ID, rather than your data being littered across all manner of different companies.

With that change may come a very welcome simplification of things. For some time now, artists have complained about burnout around social media. Shifting to a new landscape in which you seek out the artist’s community and join it, rather than all the artists clamouring for your attention in one centralised platform (i.e. Twitter, Insta etc) may not be a bad thing at all.

Factor in the means to sell directly from posts etc – as is possible on the likes of Lens already – and it isn’t hard to see this as a positive step forward that benefits artists, better engages fans and generally brings a greater element of equity around engagement, among other things.

Put another way: if like me you’ve spent 15+ years on Twitter, what do you have to show for it? Twitter has accrued all manner of data about you to sell, but what did you get?

So perhaps change is due. It may well prove a little painful getting there, but I still don’t think it will be a bad thing to move to a post-social world of smaller, more niche communities with a far greater sense of invested value in each one.

Have a great evening 🎃


🎶 written whilst listening to this amazing playlist of Drexciya-inspired electro/techno, selected by Father Dukes. Every one’s a banger. Enjoy!

P.S. Speaking of Lens – we are still able to fast-track whitelisting to join the platform if anyone’s interested. Just complete this form and we’ll process applications each Friday. You’ll need Metamask or any other ETH wallet to apply.

Data informed, or data led? That is the question…

Hi there –

AI continues to be a hot topic in the world of tech, and today brings the news that InGrooves have secured a patent for technology that predicts TikTok trends that might translate into streaming success. More specifically if I’m understanding this right, it also suggests when to focus more on TikTok and the organic growth, and when to spend on promo to translate that trend into plays on DSPs.

At first glance, it all reads as being rather clever. In real terms, I am a little sceptical, but only because history is showing us that whilst the dream of AI seems amazing, the realities can often be somewhat flawed.

Whether it’s AI music that sounds like a hot mess, AI copies of art that look like a stoned sixth-former’s A Level project, even AI personalities that descend into racism and humanity’s worst aspects, we are already seeing that AI is most definitely flawed.

With that in mind, I cannot help but have some scepticism around just how well this new tech from InGrooves will work. Of course, there’s case studies to accompany the press hype, but at the same time, the errors and misfires never get mentioned.

All that said, it will certainly be interesting to see if this makes a material difference to InGrooves’ position in the market, and whether it proves a solid draw for artists who may, for example, be looking for someone to translate their unexpected TikTok virality into a hit.

In the broader context, I also worry about the degree to which labels are investing in this kind of tech. I would think it inevitable really – to *not* research this whole area if you have the means to would be foolhardy too of course – but at the same time it speaks to something a friend remarked some years back, and which has stuck with me ever since:

“Be data informed, not data led”

I think it’s safe to say that Motive Unknown has sight on a LOT of data. With clients ranging from the Spice Girls and Robbie Williams through to the releases of innumerable indie labels, through to music brands like Sonos and platforms like Beatport, we see more data than most.

What all that sight has taught us though, is that when applied to the marketing in particular, it always has to be tempered with what I used to call “Mad Men Nous”.

Pre-digital, ad men of the 60s – as fictionalised in shows like Mad Men – had to rely as much on their gut instinct as to whether something would work. They didn’t have these monstrous data sets to draw upon. That meant, however, that they had to stay sharp, keenly tuned into the ebb and flow of popular culture in order to know how to penetrate that with whatever message they were being asked to deliver.

Through the years, I’ve seen bands get turned down for signings because they didn’t have enough Facebook fans. I’ve seen all manner of data points used as weak excuses for something not happening.

At the same time, I’ve seen plenty of mavericks who took their gamble on new signings, confident that this music would connect, despite in some cases barely being able to operate a computer, much less study any data. They did incredibly well too, I might add, establishing arena-tier bands still active today.

My point here is only that I worry that too much reliance on data may lead to everyone pointing the same way, chasing the same things. Of course, AI isn’t going to replace all A&R people and one of the more sensible arguments around AI is that it will sit in balance with human input too. I am sure the music industry may wind up in that place, as will visual art and all other areas being challenged by this new development.

At the same time though, I just hope too much emphasis isn’t put on this all. It feels like everyone is now painfully fixated on TikTok, and potentially on quick wins. That, to me anyway, remains a concern. Quick wins more often than not prove flighty. Real, lasting careers are built with careful thought, strategy and investment.

Have a great weekend,


🎶 written whilst listening to Fred Again’s new album/comp “Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022)“. Fred can do no wrong at the mo – he’s precisely what we all need right now: amazing music performed by a really joyous character. I can’t listen without smiling, heheh. Also, this Insta reel of him performing a track live – drumming and all – for Zane Lowe has to be seen to be believed. Incredible stuff.

Apple turns the screws on social platforms and Web3 – none of which helps new artists…

Hi there –

Apple has certainly taken the gloves off today, announcing a series of updates to its terms of service around its App Store, all of which move to derive more revenue through its commissions on sales.

A very notable shift is that the company is now seeking a share of the money spent on ad boosting via the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – a move that only last year the company said it would not do.

Now granted, the percentage of ad bookings made via the app is tiny, but it will now mean that those making use of it will quite definitely be paying more to advertise – and when that covers anyone from small businesses to rising DIY artists, that’s not a good thing at all at a point where everyone is being squeezed more than ever.

Apple isn’t stopping at ad revenues either, also adding measures that will seek to derive a share of NFT sales too, in a move that will doubtless irritate Web3 businesses currently trying to establish their own models.

Spotify has seized the moment too, once again decrying Apple’s app taxes, this time in the context of its attempts to sell audiobooks.

Total this all up then, and one can’t help get the impression that Apple is almost pushing and pushing to see how far it can go before regulators step in. After this latest move, I would imagine all efforts to change the App Store’s commissions will only increase.

Beyond that though, I suspect this also lends weight to developers evolving what is possible without apps, and it will certainly compel more people towards a Web3 world in which app taxes and suchlike might be more readily circumvented.

Oddly then, Apple’s move might not be such a bad thing, if only because it might spur innovation to work around these restrictions. Apple would argue that this puts users at risk, but equally I think only a very naive person would now claim that Apple is doing all of this with their user’s best interests at heart. This is about preserving strangleholds, and I’m curious to see if people will accept that.

Have a great evening,


🎶 written whilst listening to two promo CDs of DFA remixes that I picked up for £1 each in the Exchange in Notting Hill. They were never commercially released, but here’s a playlist that covers most of their contents. Enjoy!

Bonus productivity tip: I’ve been really enjoying Sidekick browser to replace Chrome. If like me you work with a lot of webapps (Google Workspace, Slack, Monday etc) then it’s proving a terrific replacement. Faster, better organised, just an improvement on every level. Check it out