"The Last Recording Artist"

The Last Recording Artist is a long and somewhat meandering (but interesting, in my opinion) Substack post by Jaime Brooks about the history and possible future of artists, recordings, and attribution. It touches on Vocaloids, Drake, Louis Armstrong, and a bunch of other stuff.

I liked this quoted bit from a 2014 Wired article about (Vocaloid) Hatsune Miku:

Like Miku’s fans, Itoh (CEO of the company that created Miku) has difficulty defining what category of thing Miku falls into. Around the office, he says, she’s not referred as an idol or a character or a cartoon.

“She’s … Hatsune Miku,” he says.

Has he ever imagined a backstory for her? A home, a family, a life before Vocaloid?

“No,” he says, as though the pointlessness of that should be obvious. “Just age, height, weight—and outfits.”

(MB currently uses the “character” type, but maybe a “brand” type is needed.)

I thought that the section about Louis Armstrong was sweet, too:

If I had to choose one person to designate as the first recording artist, I would pick Louis Armstrong. In part because of his small band recordings from the twenties with the Hot Fives and Hot Sevens, but mostly because I think Armstrong himself would have approved. Though the bulk of his career was spent re-interpreting Broadway show tunes and Tin Pan Alley songs during the publishing era, he was obsessed with recordings. After he acquired a portable tape recorder in nineteen fifty, back when such devices represented the cutting edge of audio technology, home recording became his primary hobby.

In the last two decades of his life, he made hundreds of tapes. Sometimes he would pass the recorder around at a party to record his guests, other times he would just let the tape roll while was smoking weed and listening to records by himself at home. He would even create custom artwork for each tape by collaging clippings from magazines and newspapers, as if he was planning on posting them to SoundCloud as DJ mixes. He left a huge archive behind after his passing in seventy-one, and his sincere enthusiasm for the tech radiates from it even today.


Thanks for this, he sounds like my kinda guy. I used to leave things recording onto Mini Disc and glad I have it, even though it’s a ball-ache to rip. It’s captured some of our sessions when we still had all the time in the world and I urge everybody to record everything. There’s no time to listen or watch it all but AI will be able to compile highlight compilations pretty soon with just the best bits which we will have time to watch/listen to.