Category: Lifestyle

Impact of Streaming Services on Culture

At the outset, I must confess that I am possibly not the best person to talk at length about streaming services. I won’t consider myself as a regular user of any of the services such as Netflix, Spotify or others. However, since the start of lockdown, I, like many others, have started spending more time on these services. And this led me to think about the impact that these services could be having on Culture.

Culture is a very broad term. I will be using this term largely in the context of Arts and Entertainment, specifically music and video.

Let’s start with the consumer. I guess there can be no doubt that the consumer has benefited from these services. One is no longer bound by the dictates of local television channels or record stores, but has the ability to discover artists and shows from around the world. It is easier and cheaper to experiment with new stuff as there is no incremental cost of watching or listening to a song or show. And, just as important, one can carry around one’s ‘TV’ / ‘Audio System’ and listen to one’s favourite music / watch TV.

Has this benefited the artists? I am not an expert, but I can understand that this can be complex. On the one hand, all artists now potentially have equal reach and are not overly reliant on the TV Studio or Record Label for distribution. Also, to the extent that piracy is controlled, they can also more effectively monetise their output. However, I do not have details of the revenue sharing arrangement between all the parties involved to say if artists are better off financially with the increasing adoption of streaming services.

What about record labels / TV and film studios? Again, this is a complex area that I am now going to get into, simply because I have very little information on the relationships between them, the streaming services and the artists.

Coming to the crux of the article – What is the impact of the widespready popularity of these services on the nature of the work being produced? Are all the advantages of these services (some of which have been mentioned above) being made use of by the artists to come up with more and more unique, path-breaking work? Or is the prevalence of ‘algorithmic’ discovery leading to a standardisation of output to maximise views and listens?

I have just started researching about this topic. And so it will be presumptuous of me to claim any knowledge or understanding of this. The best I can do at this stage is to refer readers to some of the more interesting articles on this topic I came across. I would recommend beginning with Can monoculture survive the algorithm? Another one is Is Netflix Ruining Culture?

Rediscovering the joys of the music album – ‘Slow Music’

Photo by Mike on

With the rise of digital and streaming audio, the concept of ‘music albums’ seems to have taken a bit of a back seat lately (at least in my opinion). When it is so easy to just listen to just your favourite song by an artiste, then why bother with listening to the whole album that includes that song?

I come from a generation that first started listening to music on cassettes (and vinyl records) and have lived through the birth of CDs and digital audio. I am a bit old-fashioned when it comes to technology. While I certainly appreciate the benefits of newer technologies, I prefer to be a late adopter of these, rather than the first-movers or trend seekers. This allows me to savour the older technology for longer, as there is a very good chance that there’s no going back.

So, for a long time, I continued to listen to music on cassettes. I purchased my first CD in late 1998. While I purchased an iPod in 2005 or so, I hardly ever listened to it, still preferring the CD format. Similarly, I only started listening to streaming audio in late 2016.

While music streaming helped expose me to genres of music that I might have not explored otherwise, over the past few months, I have been experiencing a feeling of not knowing what to listen. The Paradox or Tyranny of Choice.

There was a time when I would be listening to music at least a few hours a day. It started dropping to maybe a few hours a week, even though I still enjoy listening to music.

Then one day, recently, I decided to listen, not to radio stations or playlists, but to an entire album. I don’t recollect which album it was, but I enjoyed the (almost lost) experience of listening to a collection of songs from the same artist in the form that the artist wanted listeners to. I followed this with a few other albums and the pleasure was sustained.

There is a movement in eating called ‘slow food’. I would like to call the pleasure of listening to an album in its entirety ‘Slow Music‘. Something to sit back and reflect on in these crazy times…

Lock-down Blues

Blue Sky Bangalore

The months of lock-down (4 and counting) have been trying, and yes, I am feeling a bit blue.

Having said that, there are a few things that I am grateful for during these trying times. I live in a gated apartment complex with a good walking path. I go for a brisk morning walk 4 – 5 times a week. And this morning was an especially beautiful one.

One clear difference that I have been observing since the lock-down is the colour of the skies. In most Indian cities, the colour of the sky is a hazy shade of pale blue or light grey. And I always used to wonder as to how the skies in many cities outside of India (I am looking at you, Sydney!) are such a vivid shade of blue.

I now know the answer to this – air pollution. The skies over Bangalore over the past few months have been the bluest that I have seen in any Indian city. And the reason for this was made even more apparent this morning. We are now in another lock-down in Bangalore, which, I believe, has led to a reduction in vehicular traffic on the roads. And the sky today was possibly the clearest blue that I have ever seen here.

This phenomenon has been observed and reported on previously. I am a realist when it comes to these matters, and have no doubt that, once the lock-down is lifted, air pollution is going to rise again. And that means, bye-bye blue skies. So enjoy the most of it while it lasts!

Great to have live sports back

an empty sports stadium

I don’t think anyone will dispute the fact that the months of the enforced ‘lockdown’ due to the pandemic have been quite trying in many ways. Yes, it is nice that many of us have got more time to spend at home with family, but I must admit that the past few weeks have started to tax. The inability to go out for a relaxed time with friends and family or even popping down to the local restaurant for a quick meal has led to a feeling of frustration or ‘cabin fever’. After all, there is only so much of music that one can listen to or television to watch.

It is in these conditions that ‘live sports’ on television has come as a whiff of fresh air. Starting with the German Bundesliga, and moving on to the English Premier League, FA Cup and now, international cricket, these events have once again given me something to look forward to outside of work. Yes, it is strange to see the games being played in empty stadiums with none of the spectator noise. I can only imagine how strange it must feel to the players themselves. But I, as a humble spectator, am not complaining!

It also helps that the football club that I follow – Arsenal – have been doing well lately, They just defeated Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals to advance to their 21st FA Cup Finals. A few days before that, they had defeated the League Champions. The general sense is that the vision of their relatively new managed, Mikel Arteta, is beginning to take shape on the field.

In the cricket, West Indies have been going a good account of themselves so far in their test series away at England. It’s not easy to play well away from home in test cricket and the fact that this team is putting their head down and playing with discipline is great news for their fans (of whom there are many around the world).

Of course, a big miss in the sporting calendar this year has been Wimbledon. Yes, the US Open is scheduled to be played later this year, followed by the French Open. But I believe that there are still major question marks about both of these tournaments.

In other sports, Formula 1 is also back. But I am no longer following this sport. No disrespect to Lewis Hamilton, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s worth the time.

What about you – are you following any of the live sports? Please let me know in the comments.

A Day in the Life

adult books business coffee
Photo by Burst on

My writings have slowed down, maybe it’s the Writer’s Block. I am struggling to come up with ideas to write about, so the only article I have been writing in the past few weeks is my weekly summary of interesting articles I have come across recently.

So what’s going on these days? This is what a typical day in my life these days looks like:

Wake up and sweat it out – I try to wake up around 6:30 am, and spend some time doing my morning exercises. I do a brisk walk of about 2.5 kilometres four days a week and half hour yoga sessions on a couple of the remaining days. Sunday is usually my rest day.

A bit of cooking – I am the designated breakfast maker in the household. So, about an hour, post exercise, goes into making breakfast, typically South Indian fare such as Dosas, Idlis, Poha, etc.

Getting the kids ready for class – My kids have online classes in the morning. So alongside preparing breakfast, I help getting the kids ready for their classes.

Helping the kids with their online classes – My kids are still small, so they need some assistance at times with their classes. This takes up about two and a half hours.

Getting ready for work – Post kids online classes is when I get ready for my work. This is also when I enjoy my first cup of coffee for the day!

Work, and lunch – After an hour or two of work, it’s lunch time! Lunch usually consists of fresh fruit and some light South Indian fare.

Further work – The rest of the day till evening goes in work. I usually have a couple of calls during the day, which is a chance to connect with co-workers from across the world. This is also when I have my second cup of coffee for the day.

Dinner – I try to have an early dinner (at least by Indian standards). So I take a break from work around 7 pm for a relatively light dinner.

Back to work – My work currently involves working with colleagues in Europe and the US of A, so I usually spend a couple of hours at work, post dinner.

Relaxation – It’s after kids are in bed that I try and get some relaxation / entertainment time. Thanks to the restart of the English Premier League, these days this consists of watching some football (time-zones permitting). I also watch some streaming video.

One of the challenges I am facing these days is to get a clearer demarcation between work time and personal / home time. I admit that I am one of those people who miss ‘commute’ time, even if prior to lock-down, commute was only a 15 minute walk. But the discipline and activities involved in sticking to that routine felt like it gave me a greater degree of control over my time. These days, when I feel bored, I just sit in front of my computer and do some work of spend some time casually browsing. I miss the experience of going out, traveling (on work or for pleasure), meeting people, eating out, getting my senses stimulated by the sights and sounds outside. I do hope that things get back to some degree of ‘normalcy’ soon…