The soundtrack of our lives is the music we listen to while driving. How will autonomous vehicles change that experience? Will we really be able to attend a concert virtually from the comfort of our own vehicle? In 5 years, 10 years 20 years? Barak Moffitt, Executive Vice President of Content Strategy & Operations for Universal Music Group, joins us to talk about Dolby Atmos, podcasting, and how to put augmented reality and virtual reality in motion. Plus Alex pitches his next business idea for creating the ultimate narrative music experience to Universal, and we learn just how far the music industry plans to take content creation in order to captivate the ever-shrinking attention spans of modern-day listeners.

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Episode Transcript

Alex Roy
Hello and welcome to the No Parking podcast. As always I’m Alex Roy, here with my good friend, roboticist, Bryan Salesky.

Bryan Salesky
Hey Alex.

Alex Roy
And in this episode we have someone really interesting. We’ve got Barak Moffitt, the executive vice president of content strategy and operations for the Universal Music Group. And also a really good dude.

Bryan Salesky
Yes, he fills a pretty big role there. And can you imagine he probably knows who the next really big deal is and we don’t. That’s kind of neat, right?

Alex Roy
But he’s on the right side of that equation.

Bryan Salesky
Well, I mean, he must, I mean, he’s got to know a thing or two about the strategy, no?

Alex Roy
Are you suggesting that they handpick the next big thing like they did in the old days-

Bryan Salesky
Hey, i don’t know.

Alex Roy
… and there’s no democratization of the music and talent?

Bryan Salesky
I’m a robot guy, I don’t know anything about the music business. I just think it’s kind of interesting. He must have an inkling of what that pipeline looks like.

Alex Roy
The thing about about, it was him that made me have faith in the future of music is that, the people like him in those seats were at one time musicians. And he was in a band, he wrote music. So he understands it from an artist standpoint. And in the modern digital era, artists have to adapt rapidly if they’re going to make a living as creators. And so having someone who has been an artist in the seat where he is, just makes me, it gives me faith that talent can win.

Bryan Salesky
So how did we get connected with Barak? And what’s the connection to self driving cars, Alex?

Alex Roy
Well, because Ford has done some really important project with Universal Music Group. Because music is essentially part of what it is to go from A to B. Anyone who gets in a car and drives anywhere has turned up the volume. The movie of our lives, I’m getting poetic here.

Bryan Salesky
This is beautiful.

Alex Roy
The movie of our lives, the soundtrack of our lives is what we put on when we leave the house and go somewhere we’ve never been before. The road trip with a soundtrack is part of what it is to be American. And so the music we listen to, how we listen to it. The speakers in the car, the playlist, this is like, it’s the fabric of our souls, this is it.

Bryan Salesky
He did have some pretty interesting things to say about what the in-car experience might look like in the future of the automobile.

Alex Roy
In the old days, it’s true, they actually would take the studio track and take it out of the studio, go walk down to the street and play it on a car stereo because they knew the majority of people were going to experience that way.

Bryan Salesky
What was the reference car, do you think? That’d be pretty cool to think what that might be.

Alex Roy
I don’t know. But I do know that they, at one point they tried to put turntables in cars back in the day. And it was tough because you need to have a very stable platform.

Bryan Salesky
Who had the most premium crazy sound system in cars back in that day?

Alex Roy
Factory?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. What do you think? Or I mean-

Alex Roy
No one. By my standards, no one did.

Bryan Salesky
Did you upgrade yours back in the day? You did, didn’t you?

Alex Roy
Yeah. Well, my dad had one point in the 70s had a Mercedes and he had a Porsche, like a Becker radio. Well, I don’t know if it was good, but it had very great tactile feedback in the buttons. And when I was in, I had a, I went, you know Crutchfield?

Bryan Salesky
Of course.

Alex Roy
Did you ever order audio from Crutchfield and install it in a car yourself?

Bryan Salesky
I have to admit, Crutchfield, they’re sort of a little bit of a premium on that stuff.

Alex Roy
They charge list price.

Bryan Salesky
They do charge list and that’s, so I used it as a catalog of, oh, this is what the high end stuff would look like, I go buy it somewhere else.

Alex Roy
Interesting, because that’s the difference between you and I, because when I looked at Crutchfield, I said, why would anyone pay this money? And then one time I ordered something, they would send the most beautiful installation schematics. So someone like me who did not have the patience or education that you have to-

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, I just wanted the parts, I figured out the rest.

Alex Roy
And I wanted someone else to figure it out, so I could just-

Bryan Salesky
You probably saved yourself hours of agony unlike myself.

Alex Roy
But I paid 30% more.

Bryan Salesky
Exactly.

Alex Roy
All right, let’s hear what Barak had to say. Because the future of music in cars and especially autonomous vehicles is going to be really wild. Honestly, if he’s right and Dolby Atmos and these new music formats become common, I wouldn’t want to be driving the car myself because when you get immersive and you get into a real, like music, like a surround experience like that in a car, that’s that compelling…

Bryan Salesky
Oh, save us all.

Alex Roy
All right, let’s hear what Mr Moffit has to say.

Alex Roy
Dude, where do you live in LA? How do you get to work? Because the traffic here sucks.

Barak Moffitt
That’s, yeah, it does. Is that a trick question? No, I mean you would know, right?

Alex Roy
I discovered, I lived in Santa Monica for a while.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah.

Alex Roy
And on the first week, my whole life I dreamt of living here and having a cool car and driving it to see people. And the first week I had a meeting on one side of the city, downtown. And then another meeting on the West side and I missed the second one. And then I planned the date to move out of LA, because that was it.

Bryan Salesky
How many songs can you listen to on your commute?

Barak Moffitt
Well, I live less than a mile and a half from here. And I make it a general rule never to cross the 405, if I can help it. And as a result, I have a much more pleasant commute than most people. So I live in Venice.

Alex Roy
Do you drive or like—

Barak Moffitt
I do, I drive. Yeah. And I like, can I say I’m an NPR person? I like listening to NPR.

Bryan Salesky
Not the only one.

Alex Roy
Yeah, not the only one.

Barak Moffitt
So it’s kind of a nice little thing. I get to hear the voices in the morning. Although the subject matter as of late is a little tiring.

Alex Roy
Do you listen to it live or do you listen to like…a podcast?

Barak Moffitt
I do, now that we’re sort of in the podcast business, I am getting more and more into podcasts, particularly the limited series stuff. So I’m into stuff that Wondery does. I’m into the stuff that Audible’s doing. I’m into this stuff that Endeavor’s doing. So it’s cool. I’m looking forward to what we can do in the space because I feel like there’s a real opportunity for a music company to really exploit the potential of that format just from a sonic perspective.

Barak Moffitt
So if you take an amazing story and you take the amazing skills that we have available to us as a music company that owns Abbey Road Studios and Capitol Studios in Hollywood and has got talented engineers who really know how to manipulate sound and create sound design and stuff that really moves people emotionally in combining the power of storytelling with the power of audio and the power of music is a real, it’s a real opportunity, especially given what’s happening with speakers and immersive technology. The potential is huge to have theatrical, deeply emotional audio, storytelling. And that’s what we plan to do.

Alex Roy
Nothing would make me happier, but I’ve got to tell you something. I listen to a lot of podcasts, but I try to time them so I can hear the beginning and the end in one drive. And if I can’t, it makes me absolutely crazy. Years ago there was a pitch from a startup that had an app that would look at your average commute length and curate a podcast list just for you, so you’d always get a single full episode.

Bryan Salesky
Based on your time.

Alex Roy
Yeah.

Bryan Salesky
Based on your average commute. By the way, I don’t think we’re succeeding in this realm with our length episodes.

Alex Roy
Well, here’s the thing. The average commute in United States I believe is 21 minutes.

Barak Moffitt
21 minutes.

Alex Roy
So if you have, so you want to be 21 or a multiple of that, so they can hear half on the way and half within the same day.

Bryan Salesky
I just can’t, I don’t have enough time in my day to consume all the podcast stuff that I’m interested in. And sometimes I resort to transcripts and stuff to just kind of like speed read through it. That’s the issue with this whole format and I think we’re probably going to start to see, my guess is kind of more micro episodes if you will, that people can kind of take in small bites.

Barak Moffitt
The model for podcast.

Alex Roy
Exactly. Yeah. What’s your take on that? Am I crazy or?

Barak Moffitt
I mean, just anecdotally speaking, that’s how my kids consume content, even long form movies.

Alex Roy
What would you judge to be your, the average attention span of your children.

Barak Moffitt
Well, my kid, my 10 year old just published his first novel and he’s on page 60 of his second one.

Bryan Salesky
What?

Alex Roy
All right. What’s going on in Moffitt house?

Bryan Salesky
What are you feeding him?

Barak Moffitt
It’s like in the horror genre too, so that says a lot about me as a father.

Alex Roy
What?

Barak Moffitt
But so I think they have more, a longer attention span than most, but I would say like seven or eight minutes is a pretty good amount of time for them to pay full attention to something. And I think there’s a lot of that, just on the kids that grew up with mobile phones, that sort of short form, it’s just designed to their attention spans. And the fact that they’re multitasking, most of the time they’re watching something, they’re also doing something else or listening to something, they’re doing something else.

Bryan Salesky
So I read an article recently where I think there was a statistic that, on Spotify listenership of music is actually dropping because they’ve started to add more podcasts onto it. What’s that number?

Barak Moffitt
Oh, I don’t, I think that may just be anecdotal at this point. I mean, there’s only 24 hours in a day. So the more time people spend, Netflix and chilling, the less time they spend doing other activities, whether that’s talking on the phone to their mother or listening to music.

Bryan Salesky
So fair enough, but how do you see that kind of changing the business as we go forward?

Barak Moffitt
Well, funny you should ask me that because that’s my job. So really we’re looking at, the only thing that hasn’t changed since I was a kid is that there’s 24 hours in a day. I just used to use those 24 hours differently than I do now. And I think one of the things that Universal is doing is looking at the entertainment share of consumer time and how do we make the non sort of music streaming part of that share of that consumer time additive to artists careers as opposed to cannibalistic to it or competitive with it. So we are in film and TV, we’re making premium film and TV properties that are around the stories and the culture of our artists and our labels and our history. Even stories that use music as a primary vehicle for conveying emotion.

Bryan Salesky
So you’re curating content that can be flexibly distributed, whether it’s a podcast you’re listening, whether you actually also happen to have a display and you can watch an accompaniment on your phone or whether it’s on your TV. But creating content so that you can distribute as widely as possible.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah. And not just the music content alone, but so for instance, we have a program that we’re doing with YouTube right now that’s about remastering our iconic music videos for high quality screens. So the thing about music videos is that, up until recently they’ve been on YouTube or Vevo in the same state they were in the day of the release, whether that … and sometimes that means a video that was in the format that was designed for a tube television with a mono speaker, literally with mono audio. So that given how much people are listening to music on YouTube, sometimes they’re listening to their favorite music in a format that was meant for a tube television with a single mono speaker.

Barak Moffitt
We’re going back to the original sources and we’re remastering these things, in some cases for a high dynamic range and in 4K to the maximum capacity of the actual original source. So if we’ve got 35 millimeter film, we can push it all the way up there. We’re putting the remastered audio on there and the idea there is that, there’s these big 72 inch OLED screens in people’s homes and the music experience up until recently has been limited to what you can get-

Alex Roy
Speaking my language.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, right.

Alex Roy
I’ve got a question for both of you guys. Given how much time a lot of us spend in cars, like the dream for me would be, I’m not driving, I’m in traffic, I’m not driving and I have surround sound in the car. I’m watching a lot of TV shows, especially some of these high budget shows on Netflix or have great audio and video. So I’m in a vehicle, it’s autonomous. I have surround sound, I have screens. So Bryan the question for you is, what needs to change in terms of in-vehicle architecture to allow for that? And then Barak, what software platforms, the distribution platforms on your end have to evolve to enable that? How do we get from today to that?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, I think from an autonomous vehicle perspective, it can still be a rather evolutionary thing. I mean, let’s face it, we don’t use the dashboard as effectively today as we probably could. And as screens get higher and higher resolution and we start to get bigger and bigger format displays, and people don’t need to drive. You add all those dots together and it means you can have fundamentally different experiences. You don’t have to pay attention to the road anymore. You can now pay attention to the content and receive it in different ways. I mean, who knows, you could even have VR in the car potentially.

Bryan Salesky
A lot of people jump immediately to the conversational setting of seats pointed at one another and some giant screen or turn the ceiling into a display or something. I don’t know, why not just put some goggles on.

Alex Roy
Barak.

Barak Moffitt
Because that would block out the beautiful world outside.

Alex Roy
Is there something communal about listening to music or seeing a film in a group?

Barak Moffitt
Oh, absolutely.

Alex Roy
Or doing it simultaneously.

Barak Moffitt
Absolutely.

Alex Roy
I want to be in a car for the whole family watching something together in a vehicle.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah. One of the things that most excites me about what’s been happening recently in audio. I mean, if you think what the Walkman did was that it personalized music to a degree that was only amplified with the proliferation of ubiquitous mobile phones. I mean, how many people are wearing white earbuds just in their daily activities, even while they’re talking to you. But with what’s happening with the car and what the potential future of like the car as a living room like setting, we’ll see what’s happening in the living room today with the advent of voice and speakers and wireless speakers.

Barak Moffitt
You can have an amazing sounding stereo in your house now with a single standing speaker that you can now speak to and ask to play your favorite music. So what’s happening is now music is going from a highly personalized experience back to a communal experience again, and you’ve got molecules moving in the air, affecting multiple people in an emotional way together in a community. And that has a very different sort of impact.

Barak Moffitt
I’m really excited about that potential and we already see it happening. And so what’s happening is in sort of voice-driven, streaming platforms, we see the tastes are more eclectic than the ones that are sort of largely driven from mobile experiences. So there’s more jazz, more classics, more kids music, more classic rock. Whereas the dominant genre as at least in the United States tend to be pop and urban on streaming services.

Alex Roy
All right, so I was at a show last year at the Hollywood Bowl and I drove and I’ll never ever do that again. When is there, when is it going to be possible for me to buy a ticket to a show, one of your artists. And with that ticket I have like, it’s a VIP seat. I get VIP pickup and drop off. When are you going to integrate with platforms?

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, when those platforms are ubiquitous and available to the mass consumer. And that’s obviously coming. I mean, I’m thinking about a world where not only do I get to sort of participate in music with other people in the car, but maybe we’re taking advantage of the unique aspects of a moving vehicle like geolocation and intention and context. Where am I going and what am I doing? Am I going to a workout? Am I going on a date? Am I going to a concert? What do I want? Am I at the beginning of my road trip, the middle of my road trip, the end of my road trip.

Alex Roy
And auto curating based on location and speed and context.

Barak Moffitt
Exactly. Personal preference, history, context. And then potentially interactive engagement. When AR is on the windshield, maybe I’m gamifying a music experience to making my trip more interesting. Maybe it’s helping me connect with what’s outside in a way that it wasn’t before. So I’m driving down 105th street in New York. I want to hear what kind of music was in this scene in 1972 and what it felt like to drive down the street back in the day.

Alex Roy
I would love to have the like, I can’t believe I’m saying this, the organized crime audio AV tour of lower Manhattan, where I get all the mafia meeting locations, like the Goodfellas tour, take me in an AV to all these spots, show me clips of the film, play me the music.

Bryan Salesky
Sort of play Sinatra and then occasionally sort of cut in with a kind of-

Alex Roy
Yeah. But I want the same thing for, like the history of LA punk rock. Drive me to all the venues, super impose the characters and what they were doing on the street meeting up. Take me, and I would, for me that would be worth a lot more, in two hours I would pay much more for that than I would for a movie. Because I’m in the place, I’m in the space.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah. You’re already seeing a lot of this, like the sort of homecoming shows on TV where you go home with the artist and they go to their high school and they go to their old street where they used to shop or they go to their own vinyl record store. All of that is is going to be possible in an interactive way.

Alex Roy
I can’t wait for that.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah.

Alex Roy
All right. So what are you working on now in terms of these new formats? Walk me through that, walk us through that.

Barak Moffitt
So like I said, we’re trying to speak to fans where they are. So we know fans are on mobile devices and we know they’re streaming music and we know they’re watching movies and we know they’re playing video games and we know they’re on social. So as an example, some of the say premium features that we’re doing right now are meant to speak to people across all of those things. So the features of course were, like we’re doing a documentary right now, called Ice Cold, which is an exploration of jewelry and hip hop. And it’s really kind of using jewelry as a lens to tell the story of hip hop, which is the story of marginalized youth coming to success and becoming the dominant form of music creativity in the world we live in.

Barak Moffitt
And we’re making new music with that. So there’ll be a new record that comes out with that film that will be released day and date. There is existing music that we’re placing creatively to support the story in the film. We’re hoping to do sort of location-based events around celebrating the culture of jewelry. And it’s a really fascinating story in and of itself just looking at the jewelers themselves and seeing how high art some of these pieces really are.

Barak Moffitt
You’d talk about these guys spending millions and millions of dollars on diamonds and on jewels, but the artwork and the process that goes behind it is really, it’s really interesting. And the ways that, we can tell those stories with music sort of being at the heart of it, but also telling those stories in real life on the TV and music, on streaming services, in merchandise, and direct to consumer experiences. So we’re designing these sort of release, we’re elevating this cultural moment around jewelry and hip hop and telling those stories transmedia.

Bryan Salesky
We’ve mentioned all of these formats. The one thing we haven’t talked about are live concerts.

Barak Moffitt
Right.

Bryan Salesky
How do you think those are going to change or evolve?

Barak Moffitt
I mean, I always feel like, at least personally, I feel like AR is going to leapfrog VR, particularly in the live experience thing. Because part of being at a concert and part of really kind of that emotional connection that you have with the music is because the person that’s sitting to the left of you and the person that’s sitting to the right of you-

Bryan Salesky
Feed off the energy.

Barak Moffitt
… and the entire stadium. Yeah. Feeding off the energy. So imagine the world where you still have that person to the left of you and to the right of you and that, but you put your AR glasses on and you’re seeing what everybody else sees. But then there’s that dragon that’s flying between all of you and you’re like, or maybe even the world where the DJ or the artist or the composer that’s up on stage is actually programming your AR experience along with the music. And they’re using it not just as a form of entertainment, but it’s a vehicle for creative expression.

Bryan Salesky
See, I think that’s brilliant. And really that’s when I said put goggles on earlier, that’s what I’m talking about. Let’s augment what we’re seeing outside the vehicle with the content that you’re hearing, watching and so on.

Alex Roy
The word augmentation is one of my favorites because so many new technologies are sold to us as replacing things we used to do with something else. I want new tech to augment what I already do and make it better.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, be additive, not replace it in such a way that you lose a connection to what’s around you and what you’re seeing.

Alex Roy
It’s like, I mean, I’m a big music guy and into all electronic stuff. I remember where the streaming platforms came out. You had to pick multiple platforms to get all the music you wanted and it was sold as like, it’s just better. It was better in some ways, but not in a lot of ways. Same thing with, I want an AV to be an option in my life. I want it to have onboard all the content I want and I don’t even want to think about driving. And I also want to find every song that I want.

Alex Roy
Is that a solved problem, Barak?

Barak Moffitt
Well, I mean, I think right now the evolution of streaming kind of it … I don’t think any of the streaming platforms that only had partial libraries ever survived. So the ones that sort of ended up thriving and existing today are the ones that made license deals with every record company and every publisher that’s out there. So the partial sort of services couldn’t compete in a world where you could get everything that you ever would want at your fingertips.

Alex Roy
So when I go home right now, so I’ve got a Sonos streamer, I’ve also got a Bluebird and I have a subscription to Deezer, Tidal, Apple, every single thing there is.

Bryan Salesky
Do you have subscription fatigue? I know I do. Holy cow.

Alex Roy
I have it for transportation services too. I have like 20 apps on my phone. Question for you is, the metadata, I know, I also have a device called a Roon. You know what that is?

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, of course.

Alex Roy
And the Roon, which is basically an audio file streaming server, which scrapes and aggregates all platforms for the metadata. And it’s the best there is, I think.

Bryan Salesky
Explain what metadata is for people, just make sure we understand it.

Alex Roy
Yeah. Well, Barak why don’t you explain it because you are working on something which really protects artists.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, I mean, well metadata, well I mean the boring way to say it is, it’s data that describes the thing, the primary subject-

Bryan Salesky
But it’s growing to be a lot more than just sort of title and artists, right?

Barak Moffitt
Absolutely. And it always has been, but now more than ever in a digital age, in a streaming age and where music has exploited in so many different ways in film and TV and video games and social networking and in mobile experiences and in AR experiences, VR experiences, often those are different rights that are exploited. And you have to know a lot more about who, what, when, where, and why around the original recording and the songwriting process that you did to properly compensate the artists and the songwriters and the producers and the engineers and everyone that was involved in that across all of those revenue streams.

Barak Moffitt
So it’s the need to capture studio quality metadata and context relevant metadata to how that piece of intellectual property and creativity came into this world is more now than it’s ever been before. So it’s where was it recorded, literally what country was it recorded. And because different countries have different laws about how you pay artists, say for a public performance, for instance, who was there? Is this a version of the song that has a sample or doesn’t have the sample? What publishing rights are in the sample? Who wrote the song in the sample? How many producers are there? Did the pot dealer contribute a lyric to the hook?

Alex Roy
Did you get paid for work you did for me like 20 years ago. Because we should talk about that after the show.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, let’s talk about that.

Alex Roy
But what’s this project you’ve got where you’re baking in the metadata into the recording? Like explain what that is.

Barak Moffitt
Also, I mean we kind of built this process we call studio hub, which is really just sort of the way that we interface with the creative community. And it’s about just sort of setting expectations up front, hey, we’re going to make a record guys, here’s the kind of stuff we need back from you. And that not only includes the metadata, which needs to be comprehensive about who played what, when and where, and so we can relate it to the rights that we have in the artists deal and how we can distribute it and how it can exploit it. But it also includes things like how I want high res mixes of those files. I want the stems and I want the stems broken out in these kinds of ways so that we can serve this music into as many possible avenues as possible.

Alex Roy
But it’s being encoded, the metadata is being encoded into the file so it can’t be extracted, to protect everybody on all sides.

Barak Moffitt
Not necessarily. So some audio formats like broadcast wave, you can put metadata into the header that then can follow the actual audio file around. But more and more increasingly the metadata lives separately apart from the file. But it’s also becoming more and more important. So like in the case of voice, you want the kind of metadata that you want to have to serve as voice includes things like genre, mood, tempo, ensemble style, play me more music. That is a happy up-tempo song about life without handclaps, or that kind of thing. And I’ve talked about this before, but it’s interesting and that music supervisors are used to talking about music in that way.

Barak Moffitt
And when we first started exploring this avenue of creative metadata tagging, it was really to service the music supervisors who are putting music and film and TV and it’s a breakup scene. It’s 1972, the girl is in her convertible T-Bird and she hits the pop station preset on her radio and she’s feeling free and independent and she’s about to drive off, what is that song?

Bryan Salesky
What is that song?

Alex Roy
I don’t know, but I’m still looking for it. But I remember actually so many movies where I’m like, I heard this song, I can’t, it was in that scene.

Barak Moffitt
Thank God for Shazam.

Alex Roy
So you said something interesting that, and I think I’m a pretty smart guy, I didn’t get this one. We must keep our artists and their ecosystems fed.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah.

Alex Roy
What did you mean by that?

Barak Moffitt
Well, I meant that artists should be able to support themselves on their art.

Alex Roy
Oh, literally fed.

Barak Moffitt
Literally fed. Yeah. And I mean, I think the, I may have said that in a world where the industry was still in structural decline, and after the advent of Napster, it took the better part of, almost two decades for the industry to find its way back. And we’re just kind of coming out of it right now and that’s largely thanks to the proliferation of subscriptions and where subscription, over free and where subscriptions actually have a healthier sort of margin profile for the artists. But it’s also interesting seeing what’s happening with the resurgence of vinyl and going back to what we were saying earlier about augmenting experiences.

Barak Moffitt
It’s cool to see kids actually driving a lot of the vinyl growth curve and they’re using social networking and all these sort of digital sort of social apps that really to kind of separate people in a way from themselves physically to actually engage with each other in vinyl parties and compare notes on what vinyl you’ve got. So they’re using technology to actually go back to what to us is a nostalgic format, but what to them is a whole new experience because holding something, experiencing it, listening to a record 18 minutes at a time and then having to go back to the turntable and turn the record over to here side B and to hear a difference between side A and side B, and they’ve got different themes and the album cover and the artwork and the liner notes and all this kind of stuff is new and it’s a new experience for kids and it’s one that’s unique because it’s physical, it’s tangible, there’s weight, there’s objects, these are kinds of appreciations that you and I probably have, but that’s-

Alex Roy
Actually Bryan has it too because he’s an audio guy and very into muscle cars. He believes in like, our entire, like how we know each other is because he’s the only tech guy I ever met who was into the real world.

Bryan Salesky
Right on. Absolutely.

Alex Roy
That’s true.

Bryan Salesky
It’s true.

Alex Roy
We were actually talking hi-fi recently and we were on a plane and he’s like, “Roy, what should I get?” I’m like, “A stack of McIntosh, big, whatever,” You wanted Wilsons. I said get some Focals, whatever.

Bryan Salesky
My brother has a great setup and he’s gotten me back into the Dead just listening to it on vinyl. And you hear the sounds and the warmth of it. I mean, it’s something special, it really is. He’s got a whole listening room set up, it’s just gorgeous. What’s your setup? What’s the way that you like to listen to music?

Barak Moffitt
It’s context dependent. So I’ve got a recording studio, so I’ve got an amazing playback environment, if I want to listen to music in that way. But I also love listening to vinyl and I liked the experience of focusing on a record and the artist’s intent of putting songs together in this order with this presentation. And I also really liked the sound of vinyl. So I got a VIP Traveler-

Alex Roy
You have a VPI Traveler?

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, VPI Traveler.

Bryan Salesky
That’s super cool.

Alex Roy
Well done Moffitt.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah.

Alex Roy
Really good job. But I think-

Barak Moffitt
With a tube preamp and the whole nine yards.

Bryan Salesky
I think it’s having a comeback though, isn’t it? I really do. There’s a resurgence here. And to your point, there’s also a physicality with it, which is, now my brother goes through like a mind numbing 30 minute cleaning process with his vinyl before he was willing to put it onto his record player. So what do you do during that mind numbing process where you look at the album already.

Alex Roy
I have a record cleaning machine from VPI and it’s only like 90 seconds of vacuum-

Bryan Salesky
It’s a process Roy, I’ll have him teach you.

Barak Moffitt
You know something, people ask me, when I first said I was going to work with you, someone said, “How could you work with an AV company or a car guy?” And I said, “For the same reason as a music guy, I have a turntable and a Roon streamer.” It’s like, there are times I want the ritual. It does, whether it’s driving or it’s cleaning the record and there are times I want the convenience. What I want is the choice. I don’t want to be told that this is it.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah, for sure.

Alex Roy
And so like you said, it’s context-based.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, I stream all the time when I’m in the car.

Bryan Salesky
So here’s another question. One of the things that’s, when in the rare moment I can get a few hours to myself, I love to try to discover new music, challenge myself to just go into places that I would just never go and see what strikes my eye. And for a while there, my best source for this and my brother got me onto it was Adult Swim.

Barak Moffitt
Oh, cool.

Bryan Salesky
Yeah. So I mean, I forget what the website is, but there’s a site that has all of the adult swim stuff like curated where you can just sort of chomp through it pretty quickly.

Barak Moffitt
No way, that’s cool.

Alex Roy
It’s really cool. And there is some really out there stuff, it’s great like Friday evening, chill out kind of music. How do you discover new music? I mean you’re kind of in an interesting place for that I imagine.

Barak Moffitt
I kind of have to. But actually that is one of the bigger challenges, is this paradox of choice that streaming services introduce. You can have anything you want, all you want at any time, now what? So that’s why the power of the playlist has become more prevalent. And I think we could use more editorial voices like adult swim or whoever, who is the kid at the record store when I was growing up, that made me realize that the drum sound I was hearing on Beastie Boys was actually Led Zeppelin and turned me on to Led Zeppelin. And then the next eight albums I bought were, one, two, three, four, Houses, Presence, Physical Graffiti and the rest of them.

Barak Moffitt
I feel like actually part of that is why record stores the niche ones that still exist like Amoeba. And those places still do so well because there is still that high fidelity moment that you get.

Alex Roy
when you walk in and the guy’s like, you don’t want to listen to that, listen to this.

Bryan Salesky
This goes back to the metadata thing that if we have better sort of connection and the genealogy of any given music, once you find something you really like, it almost becomes like an endless adventure then to be able to trace back to things that are related, you discover a lot of new stuff.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah. And we have a program like that here at Universal where we really are breaking down the genome of music, down to the DNA, tambour, ensemble, instrumentation, BPM mood, it goes on and on and on. And even just looking at genre for instance, it’s really interesting exploring what genre actually means because originally or at least from a record label for sex, if it was like, what shelf do I want this to be on in the record store or what radio station do I want it to play on? And that’s going to define the name that I give it. And now it’s evolved to becoming this much more nuance thing. And it’s socio, political, economic context, what’s shoegaze?

Alex Roy
What’s rebel music?

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, right. Exactly.

Alex Roy
Everything is and nothing is. My brother once said, he was in a Cure Tribute Band that opened for Fields of the Nephilim, which is very random. You know them, right?

Barak Moffitt
Yeah.

Alex Roy
Okay. Of course you do. So when things inverted between us, when he began, I began asking him about cool music and I was, I became the guy, he really screwed me once. I was really glad when streaming arrived so I could have curated playlist, because I said to him once, I’m like, “Hey man, have you heard of this band, Japanther?” And he’s like, “Yep.” I’m like, “Are they good?” He’s like, “They were.” I’m like, “Until when?” “Until you asked.” And I never asked him or anyone else about music again. And I relied totally on streaming service for curation. So I hope that you keep doing what you’re doing. Yeah, it really saved me. Here is a question, oh my gosh, I just lost my train of thought.

Bryan Salesky
This never happens. Did you lose your train of thought, Alex?

Alex Roy
I lost my train of thought.

Bryan Salesky
It never happens. It’s the first time Barak, it’s the first time ever.

Barak Moffitt
It’s the first time it’s ever happened.

Bryan Salesky
The mouth just goes automatically, it’s incredible.

Barak Moffitt
I have that impact on people.

Alex Roy
You guys are good without me, keep going.

Bryan Salesky
I was actually going to, I was trying to figure out how to segue, now we just do a hard segue.

Alex Roy
It’s okay. We’re coming up on time.

Bryan Salesky
We are, but I was trying to figure out how to ask you about jam bands and where that lives in your culture.

Alex Roy
Really?

Bryan Salesky
Yeah.

Alex Roy
That’s your question?

Bryan Salesky
Totally into Phish and listening to the Dead again, just so where I was going with it to make this a little more serious, Mr. Roy, is around sort of the improvisational element to it. And I think there’s something exciting about listening to some of these bands live and what rendition are we going to get of your favorite song, you into that kind of thing?

Barak Moffitt
Oh, for sure, man. I mean, if you listened to any of the Blue Note Records, even from back in the day all the way up until what Blue Note is doing now. I mean, it’s based on that documentary style, put a microphone in somebody, in front of somebody who’s going to blow you away just with their creativity and their ability to improvise around an idea and play a different performance and almost a different composition entirely sometimes on the same chord structure.

Bryan Salesky
And to see it live, to watch people kind of perform their craft. I don’t think there’s really much on the planet that’s as rewarding as that. There’s this little known concert that the jazz studies program at University of Pittsburgh puts on and it’s the first Saturday of every November, and I used to go religiously until I got so busy I couldn’t do it. But there’s a, it’s a jazz concert and they actually bring jazz masters in and we’re talking like legit jazz masters that have been doing this forever, okay.

Barak Moffitt
The guys who play in the Indigo hotel lobby right now.

Bryan Salesky
Correct. The guys who need like That’s right. I mean they need help getting onto the stage, but then after that, believe me, they don’t need any help. But they actually teach the students for about a week that are in the pit jazz studies program and then they put on this concert. And the best part about it is, it is just so not structured, like all of these legends get on the stage and they just like, they start talking, it’s like, all right, we’re going to do it this way, what do you think about that? We should do this. They start pointing each other and then all of a sudden boom, it just turns on and then beautiful music is made. It’s mind boggling to me how that works. It’s just unbelievable.

Barak Moffitt
And some of the kids that are coming up right now that have, I can’t believe how good some teenagers are. I mean, it’s really interesting. For instance, there’s this band called Wolfpack. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that before.

Alex Roy
Absolutely, you bet. Yeah.

Barak Moffitt
I mean, and those guys, they’ve got more pocket, I can’t come up with an analogy for more pocket, but they’ve got pocket, they can play, they’re incredible. There’s another band called Punch Brothers which is as much classical music as it is bluegrass as it is rock and roll as it is-

Bryan Salesky
But they both have this like foundation to their music that is just got a groove, a hook to it. You just instantly are moved by it.

Barak Moffitt
Yeah, absolutely. It’s just crazy. And I would have never, I’m not sure how these kids get so good so early in life, and maybe it’s because of YouTube videos, schools or whatever, and same is true for rappers. The rhymes that these guys are coming up with and the alliteration and the ability for them to use language and to communicate themselves just ad hoc in the moment, it’s just really incredible.

Alex Roy
I have two questions for you and then we do have to go, we have to get back out of here because you’re a busy guy too. Yes, no, are you a fan of Opeth?

Barak Moffitt
Yes.

Alex Roy
Thank you. Thank you so much.

Barak Moffitt
How could I not be?

Alex Roy
Thank you. Okay, next question is, have you heard of the listen to The Moth podcast?

Barak Moffitt
Yeah.

Alex Roy
All right. Are you familiar with a guy named Christian James Hand?

Barak Moffitt
Yes.

Alex Roy
Okay. So I used to work for The Moth and Christian’s a friend.

Barak Moffitt
Oh, cool.

Alex Roy
What I really want, and maybe you’re going to do this, you’re already working on this. When I encounter a genre, like he’s a fan of Phish and the Grateful Dead. I would love a primer on the Grateful Dead and to some other bands, but their library is so massive. What I would love is a subscription to something. I’ll pay 50 bucks a month for this, that walks me through their library and gives me forks, like choose your own adventure, choose your own music from one band or genre and like an educational course that is a combination of storytelling, Christian James Hand and with the library, I’ll pay for it, play me some songs, walk me through it, and over the course of a month of driving somewhere, I have become a fan, a knowledgeable fan. I can have a conversation with someone who’s listening to that band for 20 years and we are now bonding and that creates a relationship for me.

Barak Moffitt
That sounds amazing.

Alex Roy
Can you do that?

Barak Moffitt
Copyright 2019, Alex, right?

Alex Roy
Dude, when you have that, I will be, my life will be better. I know that Bryan’s already working on half of that and if you got the other half, I am optimistic.

Barak Moffitt
Well, we’re putting together the building blocks that would make that possible certainly.

Alex Roy
Well, thanks.

Bryan Salesky
Thanks for joining us today, Barak.

Barak Moffitt
You got it. Thanks for having me.

Alex Roy
So that was really cool and I really also enjoyed the thing that you didn’t get to hear on this episode, which is we got this Dolby Atmos demonstration in the Universal Music Group office.

Bryan Salesky
It was incredible. There is single handedly going through all the popular songs that you would know and love and they’re remastering them with this new Atmos encoding. You could literally, if the room is set up correctly, the sound engineer can pick where in 3D space they want you to hear any given sound at any given moment, incredible.

Alex Roy
It is incredible. I wonder, I’ve always been a two channel guy like vinyl, like the noise, the dust, like the old experience that’s just-

Bryan Salesky
Two channel, come on.

Alex Roy
But I had not-

Bryan Salesky
You’re not like 13.2.3 whatever it is nowadays.

Alex Roy
I’ve always subjected the surround sound because I thought it felt it was like synthetic and unless it was, unless the hardware was good, the software couldn’t be good.

Bryan Salesky
My brother’s a musician and he comes over and he makes, it forces me every time we listened to music together, I have to turn off all the like stuff, the codecs there that are on whatever receiver we’re playing it on, turn it off. It hurts his ears.

Alex Roy
I’d like to hang out with your brother sometime.

Bryan Salesky
You two would get along really well.

Alex Roy
But this time I was very, I was like, wow, I didn’t know one could do multichannel music and that could actually be really a powerful and different experience.

Bryan Salesky
We listened to Rush and, which song was it from Rush, it was?

Alex Roy
Tom Sawyer.

Bryan Salesky
Tom Sawyer. Yeah. And it was like listening to the song for the first time. Again, it was amazing.

Alex Roy
I was hoping they would have Red Barchetta, the story of Red Barchetta.

Bryan Salesky
Yes, of course.

Alex Roy
if anyone who doesn’t, Red Barchetta was a Rush song about a future in which there are no human, driving a car yourself is illegal. And it’s based on a short story, I think it’s from the 60s. And in that short story, an older grandfather takes out his grandson and he has a Red Barchetta, which is a type of a convertible sports car. Is it a Ferrari? Yeah, it’s a Ferrari.

Bryan Salesky
It’s a Ferrari.

Alex Roy
I should know this. And they’d go out and they’re immediately pursued by these autonomous police vehicles because they’re breaking the law. And this song, I mean, it’s amazing how precious Rush was writing that song so long ago.

Bryan Salesky
Very true. You know what I didn’t get an answer to though that I was a little bit, he was playing a little bit coy. So when I asked about, and I probably should not have made … probably made the mistake of asking a music executive what their sound system was at home. All he would tell me is that he has a pretty sophisticated playback environment.

Alex Roy
Well, it’s probably good never to ask someone in the music industry what they own.

Bryan Salesky
It’s probably a big mistake.

Alex Roy
Because they don’t want to make you feel bad about what you own.

Bryan Salesky
And he gave me that look. We don’t have it on video unfortunately, but he definitely gave me that look of, oh, Bryan, I’m so sorry.

Alex Roy
What do you own?

Bryan Salesky
Oh, I have some Monitor audio speakers, it’s British, good stuff.

Alex Roy
That’s good stuff.

Bryan Salesky
I couldn’t afford much more. In fact that seemed heinously expensive to me.

Alex Roy
But in general, the British make good hi-fi.

Bryan Salesky
Great range, the whole range is just beautiful.

Alex Roy
Do you believe in tube amplifiers or solid state.

Bryan Salesky
I think there’s a time and place for both.

Alex Roy
Kind of like autonomous vehicles and human driving.

Bryan Salesky
Exactly, yes, depends on what you’re in the mood for.

Alex Roy
So if you want to follow Barak Moffit, you can do so on Twitter at UMG, which of course is the official Twitter of the Universal Music Group. If you want to learn more about Bryan Saleksy, you can check him out of course at argo.ai, where he’s got lots of interesting stuff and some blog posts. You can find me, of course, on all social platforms at Alex Roy 144. And you can follow No Parking and you should on Twitter at No Parking pod. Check out our website, www.noparkingpodcast.com, where you can find transcripts of all our episodes because some of our friends have said they’d like to get the actual direct quotes. If you want to be on No Parking or you know someone you’d like to recommend to us, email us at guests@noparkingpodcast.com. We’ll see you next week.