Featured Creator: Eric Eberhardt of You Are Listening To Los Angeles

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Today's featured creator is Eric Eberhardt, creator of the found sound broadcast You are listening to. His website, which mixes live police radio broadcasts with ambient music, has attracted thousands of listeners, critical acclaim, and a variety of musicians since it's debut. Now, Eberhardt is seeking to expand the platform with a mobile app. 

Introduce yourself!

Thanks for the opportunity! I'm super excited to continue and expand upon all the stuff that's happened with the "You Are Listening To" site in the past year, and I'm really glad that Kickstarter exists as a venue for promoting projects like this. I've been trying my best to figure out what the internet is for almost 20 years now. I got my first dial-up ISP account when I was around 14 and immediately set about learning HTML and posting random websites. Some of the first sites were actually strangely similar to the "Listening to" concept in that they pulled together various sources of weather data (forecasts, temperature readings, webcam images) for various cities onto individual pages for various different cities. Since then I've been working primarily for web or video game companies and continuing to develop a bunch of different mash-up & experimental sites in my free time.

Describe the experience that lead to the creation of this site — were you expecting people to react? Do you have any thoughts as to why this struck such a nerve with people?

The "Listening to" site was one of the first projects I've worked on that got off to a really big start right from the moment I posted it. I think this is mainly down to a couple of factors. First of all, the site is very self-explanatory. Within 30 seconds or so of opening it up, people either get totally entranced by it, or just decide it's not for them & move on. For those who *do* get hooked, I've tried to make it as easy as possible to share the site with friends via Facebook, Twitter & etc. I knew this would be an important part of designing the site since a desire to share the basic concept of "music plus police radio" was really what drove me to create the site in the first place.

Basically the site arose from a random sequence of events on the night the SF Giants won the World Series in 2010. After getting home from an evening of partying and donut eating (insert plug for Bob's Donuts here!) I got on Twitter and saw a bunch of people sharing links to the soma.fm stream of the SFPD radio channel. I listened to it for awhile and started playing music in the background while answering some emails and the next thing I knew several hours had passed. I realized the combination of music and scanner radio was creating something greater than the sum of it's parts and I immediatley wanted to post a link on FB or Twitter about it, but unfortunately there wasn't really an easy way to do that. So I thought about it for awhile, started investigating the APIs from SoundCloud and Radio Reference and eventually just sat down to do some JavaScript hacking and make the site a reality. I posted it on Facebook and told a few friends via email and the next day there were already tens of thousands of people listening. It was really incredible and while the traffic since then has come down from that crazy plateau of the first few days the site continues to find new listeners every week and has also put me in touch with a bunch of *amazing* musicians on SoundCloud who have really served as one of the biggest inspirations for keeping the site up and running.

What do you hope a listener will walk away with? Is there a specific feeling or thought you're hoping to evoke? 

As an old-school internet guy *and* a massive music nerd, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the future of the music industry (and similar content businesses) over the past 15 years and I've come to the conclusion that most traditional publishing models are totally unsustainable at this point, and are just being kept on life support by copyright, DRM and other types of artificially-imposed scarcity. But the overwhelming sense of community and real passion I've found in dealing with all the "You Are Listening To" artists in the last year makes me very optimistic that this violent restructuring of the music "industry" is actually the best thing that could possibly have happened to "music" itself, and so it's a real honor to be a part of that, to whatever extent I'm able to contribute.

Ultimately I don't know that any of this really needs to be a conscious part of the typical listener's experience though. But I do think everyone will take away something different from the site. I've heard it described as everything from "creepy" to "incredibly peaceful". All these reactions are equally valid and rewarding to me, as my general philosophy on technology, internet privacy and etc. is really pretty ambivalent in the sense of a lot of this stuff (i.e. police radio, personal data, etc.) being out there and "ambiently" available, and so by bringing it to people's attention and sweetening the pill with a bit of sugar (i.e. ambient music) I'm basically just asking everyone to consider the question, "Hey... what do you think of all this?"

What do you envision as the ideal future for this project? What would you consider the ultimate achievement for it?  

As for the ideal future for the project, I'd love to start building some of the tools and channels that will eventually replace the collapsing "traditional" music industry I mentioned above. I'm really excited about working with partners like SoundCloud and Kickstarter who have already done such amazing work in terms of fostering a supportive community and building an infrastructure for delivering the "raw materials" necessary to enable this transition, and so I'm going to put all my effort into making the best possible use of these resources. On a more specific level, I'd love to add more types of music and other supporting content to the site. The "ambient + scanner" mash-up works great, but there are a bunch of other audio types (air traffic, philosophy lectures as on http://zen.url2.la and even just people's personal voice notes and thoughts) that I feel would work equally well if not better, and then there are whole other categories of cross-pollination that might work amazingly with other types of music. Ideally, people would be able to choose from a whole library of stations, learn about new musicians and other artists every day, and to do so in an entirely direct and organic way that eliminates as many middlemen or industry mediators from the process as possible.

Any closing thoughts?

I'm hoping that the Kickstarter is successful and that I can begin spending more time (and money) on some of these plans as soon as possible. I think the iPhone app is going to be a great place to start experimenting with a lot of new ideas, since it will cut the tether that's currently keeping listeners tied to their desktop or laptop while listening, and will hopefully allow a whole new mode of participation in which people actually go out and walk or drive around in the same city they're currently "listening to". Sharing photos, field recordings, GPS traces and other sensor data from the iPhone is a big part of what I'm hoping to accomplish and ultimately I guess I'd like the site to start being less about "Listening to Los Angeles" and more about "Living in Los Angeles" (or Chicago, or Detroit, or wherever!)

To pledge to Eric's project, visit his project page here.

    1. Barbara Eberhardt on

      thus we become the global village.

    2. Missing avatar

      Emma Lyons on

      Sharing music with the community is caring for community! Love it!

    3. Ben Capozzi on

      Love this stuff so much! Special thanks to Roman Mars who introduced me (and likely many other listeners) to You Are Listening To on his podcast, 99% Invisible.

    4. Missing avatar

      Namaku Keren on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.

    5. Missing avatar

      Doa Ibu Tersayang on

      This comment has been removed by Kickstarter.