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interview

Jean-Robert Bisaillon

Espaces Temps

Jean-Robert Bisaillon is co-director of the Research Laboratory on the Discoverability and Transformations of Cultural Industries in the Age of Electronic Commerce (LATICCE). He holds a master's degree in Research and Public Action Practices from INRS (Montreal) in musical metadata issues and is a doctoral candidate in political science at UQAM (The University of Quebec in Montreal).

Jean-Robert Bisaillon

Where are you based?

I live in Montreal but also am often in France when there is no COVID crisis.

Where do you work? What do you do?

As a consultant at Espaces Temps, I work on several projects that are archiving, enhancing or semantizing, exploring the process behind, the project’s music, artifacts, or concerts. Last year with LATICCE, using bots and web scrapers, we examined three music streaming platforms , to determine whether the recommendations offered to paying subscribers were actually useful. Our findings showed that they were not that great and that for some services the Cold Start issue, not having gathered sufficient information, can take months to resolve.

What are you listening to?

Almost everything. Lots of indie pop, lots of local French independent music, classical, jazz, lots of post-punk from the ’80s.

How do you discover new music?

I discover a lot of new music while listening to specialty radio shows. For years, my bible go-to was “The Signal” on CBC-Radio in Canada, but it was cancelled. PanM360.com is an excellent blog where I discover all kinds of music. I also use scrobblers- like Last.fm and MusicRoamer to discover artists that are similar to what I like. Until recently I was using Spotify recommendations, but I just migrated my playlists to a Montreal-based streaming service called QUB Music. They don’t offer recommendations, but have a lot of editorial playlists from local artists.

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

I use digital platforms and I have a turntable. Sometimes I have to turn to CDs when I can’t find the music on streaming services.

“Sometimes I have to turn to CDs when I can’t find the music on streaming services.”

Where do you do most of your music listening?

We installed Chromecast in the dining room to listen to playlists and listen to vinyl in the living room. I had an old Yamaha CA-810 amplifier, which I had cleaned, and it is now hooked up to Tannoy studio monitors. I sold off a lot of my old vinyl, keeping just my favorite albums. The turntable is an Audio-Technica with a USB digitizing port, which is cool.

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

These days I’m discovering things on SoundCloud and musicians also send me their digital files through WeTransfer.

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

I always avoid listening to unreleased tracks when connected to the Scrobbler, and I don’t even upload them to Apple Music. I consider these to be precious items, things to keep off the radar. One frustrating thing about digital music, is its inability to credit all of the contributors to the music, like the studio. All of that information that we used to have access to and can sometimes still find when we buy vinyl.

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

I use Last.fm and also sync my library with Soundiiz.

Discover the #HowWeListen Playlist

Listen to the #HowWeListen 2021 Picks playlist. Curated by this year’s interviewees.

Listen on Spotify

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

For that, I use Facebook, because it is still the place where I have the most followers.

Anything you want to “promote”?

I really like what Klô Pelgag is doing and all the collaborators in her orbit, her new record is Notre-Dame-Des-Sept-Douleurs, out on Secret City Records. I also like the Flore Laurentienne who is Mathieu David Gagnon (Klô’s brother…), and the work of Antonin de La Gabatine. Two completely mind-blowing local Francophone and  instrumental musicians with global reach. 

"One frustrating thing about digital music is its inability to credit all of the contributors to the music, like the studio. All of that information that we used to have access to and can sometimes still find when we buy vinyl."

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