Brodie Conley

Brodie Conley

Water & Music

Brodie Conley (he/him) is an artist, freelance arts consultant, and researcher living in Ottawa, ON. He has worked across a variety of areas including artist management, community music initiatives, and music and technology research, as well as in program and policy development within government.

Hey Brodie Conley, where are you based?

Ottawa, Ontario.

Where do you work? What do you do?

I am a freelance arts consultant, researcher and grant writer, supporting artists to get their projects off the ground. I’m also spending more and more of my time working with the wonderful Water & Music, a newsletter and research DAO. I support research projects exploring the intersections of music & technology. I am also contributing to building W&M as a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) that is experimenting with new forms of community and organizational governance.

What are you listening to?

My tastes range broadly – I try to be somewhat genre-agnostic and listen widely. Though I realize I also have many blind spots. Lately, I’ve been diving into a ton of folk-related music from the US (and especially the southern States). This includes the gorgeous recent album from Joan Shelley, the experimental-folk music of Sarah Louise, and the traditionals of Jake Xerxes Fussell. Parallel to that, I’m pretty much always listening to contemporary solo and instrumental guitar music. This includes Marisa Anderson, Yasmin Williams, William Tyler, and Nathan Salsburg, among others. 

How do you discover new music?

My music discovery comes from a broad set of sources. 

I read select blogs that I trust as incredible curators — insightful, music- and art-focused writers, critics and sites—with Aquarium Drunkard existing at the very top of that list. A few others include NPR’s Lars Gotrich’s newsletter; Gold Flake Paint; Canadian music media co-op New Feeling; Pitchfork; The Creative Independent. The AD approach, in particular, is very global. It wanders across genres and does not shy away from challenging music, which suits my taste and interests perfectly.

Generally, when I discover an artist from AD or other online sources, it comes with some form of incredible writing alongside. This then leads to me diving deep into a given artist. I then make links off to related artists and music. It then snowballs from there to further discovery. Artist stories combined with a quick taste of their music often drive my interest at the beginning. Then it prompts me to dig further and discover their whole world and community.

I’m also in a few Discord communities—including the Water & Music community and Leaving Records/GENRE community—that feature music threads where members will post their own music or recommendations of what they are listening to and lately I’ve been finding these an incredible source of inspiration. The membership in these communities varies so widely (especially W&M, whose membership includes artists, industry folks and even tech folks from around the world) that the selections are extremely eclectic and I’m always falling down rabbit holes that I otherwise would not have discovered on my own. 

Lately, I’ve also been diving down the rabbit hole of discovering the Web3 music (or maybe you’d call it “music in NFT formats”) ecosystem. I have been listening to the many amazing artists who are exploring new ways of creating and distributing music. Plus they are forming a community via blockchain technology. I’ve been listening to a lot on some of the Web3 music aggregator platforms that have popped up. These include Future Tape (created by Anthony Volodkin of Hype Machine fame) and spinamp. I also frequent Nina, which is a fantastic protocol for blockchain-based music that is really focused on building and preserving context around music. 

Finally, I also try to keep on top of my own local music scene including the music communities around Ottawa and Hull, Quebec. I used to produce a local showcase festival (MEGAPHONO) and am always energized and excited by the talent in our small part of the world. I’m a board member and sit on the programming committee for an amazing local promoter and events producer called Debaser. As such I am very fortunate to benefit from getting to sit in a room to discuss local music on a quarterly basis. My colleagues all have fantastic taste and are dialled into the local scene(s). It very much feeds my own discovery.

“Lately, I’ve also been diving down the rabbit hole of discovering the Web3 music ecosystem and listening to the many amazing artists who are exploring new ways of creating and distributing music and forming community via blockchain technology. “

What formats do you usually listen to? LP, CD, Cassette, Digital, Streaming Services? Why?

I listen to most of my music digitally and mainly via Spotify and a few other web-based platforms (Future Tape; spinamp; Marine Snow). Though the economics and model are less than stellar for many artists, I’ve ultimately found it hard to move away from Spotify. Predominantly due to its deep catalogue, ease of downloading music for offline listening, cross-device playback (controlling my phone from my computer for stereo listening), and simple app. 

I have a running personal playlist on Spotify. I’m always adding music to it from all the sources I mentioned above. So I treat it as a jumping-off point to deep dive into the full albums of artists on the list. I don’t really listen to the Spotify-created and algorithmic playlists. That said I love being able to add playlists from trusted folks to my own library. For example, the Said the Gramophone annual year-end list always gets extensive listens, and I also really love artist-created playlists. Lately, I’ve been into Cadence Weapon’s BEDROOM RAPPER playlist that came out alongside his new book, for example. 

“Lots of pre-release stuff comes to me from artist friends or industry colleagues and this often comes through as either SoundCloud or other platform links like Byta.”

Where do you do most of your music listening?

I’m pretty much always listening to music, from the time I wake up to when I go to bed. I couldn’t imagine life without it.  My setup differs by environment.  When I’m working I generally have music on in earbuds. I do drive my partner nuts by also having public radio [CBC] on the stereo quietly in the background at the same time. That way I can listen in when something catches my attention. When I’m just relaxing I have a solid stereo setup with a nice pair of Tannoy bookshelf speakers. I additionally have a two-speaker Tivoli setup in the kitchen for when I’m cooking. Then I tend to listen to a ton of music in my studio headphones (Audio-Technica ATH-M40X), as I write, record and mix music myself. I love to dive into the small details of songs and how they were constructed and mixed. 

All in all, if there is music available in an environment, I will find out how to listen!

How do you find and listen to pre-release music?

I hit up a lot of the pre-album release singles on blogs, as well as full album pre-release streams. That said a few of my favourite sites for this – like NPR’s First Listen platform – have gone away in recent years. Lots of pre-release stuff comes to me from artist friends or industry colleagues. These often come through as either SoundCloud or other platform links like Byta.

What are your frustrations with listening to music digitally? Any benefits?

I have a lot of frustrations (pro-rata payouts – ugh!) around the current streaming paradigm for distributing and listening to music. I am however also guilty of hypocrisy and continue to patronize the same platforms I am advocating for changing. One of the main things though, that drives me wild is the lack of context around music on streaming platforms. Basic info about an artist, their story and career, their collaborators (Who created the album art?! Who mixed/engineered/mastered the record? Who is playing that amazing saxophone solo!?). So much is either difficult to uncover or doesn’t exist on most streaming platforms. Context is such an essential part of music for me.

Digital platforms for listening do such a bad job of providing this. As mentioned, I’m still a big daily reader of music media and blogs and this helps to give me the context I need and love around the music I’m listening to and discovering. I do just wish it was baked into the ethos across all digital music platforms.

How do you keep track of everything you are listening to?

I basically keep track of everything through my main Spotify playlist, especially for music and artists that I’m really in love with. As I mentioned above, I use my main playlist as a jumping-off point for full album listening. I am constantly updating it with new music and going back to revisit artists and songs. If an artist isn’t on Spotify, I have a separate notes doc on my computer where I keep a running list of links that I revisit frequently. With so much music coming out these days, it’s difficult to keep up. I find these simple systems work fairly well for me.

It’s tempting to just use browser tabs sometimes to keep things open that I want to listen to. I find though, that having lists that are fairly stable (though I hate the platform lock-in element of Spotify playlists) is a great way to not lose track of music that I love over time.

Byta delivers fast and secure audio sharing

With Byta you are in control of your music.

Read More

Do you tip other people off to new music? How?

I love to talk about music and tell friends and colleagues about what I’ve been listening to and discovering. This most often happens for me via IRL conversation or text message conversations where I’ll send around my current favs. It is usually alongside an expressive description of why I’m totally in love with something. This can range from loving the broad vibes, lyrical or production approaches, to being hyper-specific about lyrics or production (see: “Holy moly, the way the lead vocal goes super wide at the 2-minute mark is absolutely mind-blowing!). I also share my main playlist pretty widely with friends. Like most artists and folks I know in the music industry, I am a pusher! 

Anything you want to “promote”?

I would love to give a huge shoutout to Debaser, an Ottawa/Hull-based music and event promoter best known for its experimental music curation and inclusive events. I joined their board earlier this year, and feel so proud and lucky to be able to support what they do. The organization has grown over the years from being a small show promoter to producing large-scale quarterly events (their Pique event series) that take over a full art gallery building in Ottawa. They program such a diverse line-up of music + sonic and visual arts installations and are a true gem of inclusive community for the community.

Related Interviews