Sodcasters... But they look so lovely. They're probably listening to Price Tag by Jessie J or Ave Maria.

Are you a sodcaster? Or have you been the victim of sodcasting? (Or even the beneficiary?)

Whaddaya mean – What is sodcasting? You’ll almost certainly have experienced it. Unless perhaps you’re American. Because it’s a public transport phenomenon. (So this post particularly goes out to the newly resurrected Exile Imaging, who works in city transit for Austin, Texas.)

So what is it? Sodcasting is the playing of tinny tuneless repetitive beats on your phone loud speaker, or more likely that the sound leaks from your earbuds – thus giving other passengers on the bus or train the joy of sharing your musical tastes.

The music will be bad. Because it has to compete with the rumble of the vehicle. It’ll be distorted because it’s turned up so loud. And it’ll probably be rubbish, because it has been specially made to suit the medium – lots of treble, little or no bass.

I have to admit, though I’m familiar with the phenomenon, I hadn’t heard the term until this week. It is derived from podcasting – combined with a “Sod You” attitude.

And this is the important thing. I heard it on a wonderful radio programme on BBC Radio 4 which was presented by Ian McMillan. It was generous, interested, open-minded, interesting and funny. Their was some music too. I strongly recommend you have a listen if it’s technically possible.

This is where you can stream the audio over the internet – click here.

Despite my critical comments about sodcasting at the top, I have mixed feeling about sodcasting. I wouldn’t min d it if people played something decent, but that’s rare. I like buskers or impromptu singers – so experiencing a performance is fine. It’s not that.

And I don’t mind people listening to music as they travel. I prefer to keep my wits about me and be aware of what and whom is close by. Even stranger, I’m one of those very rare beasts who is happy chatting to people on the train, tube or bus. (The technical term for someone like that is “nutter.”) But that’s not most people’s cup of tea. Each to their own.

But to hear the music from their iPod over the rattle and roar, they must have the volume turned up really high. It loud enough leaking from their headphones. I shudder to think of what it’s doing to their ears. And at that volume, will it really be preferable to the sounds of travel?

Rapper Giggs is supposedly the biggest sodcasting artist. Really? How do they measure that?

Apparently so – because some music is now designed specially for those circumstances. Though not, I suspect, music worth playing elsewhere.

But on this, as with so many things, I’m a complete hypocrite. I like sharing good music (i.e. music I like) with other people. It’s just that I do it from my car. My son tells me to put the windows up and turn down the volume. (It’s bizarre – he plays drums and electric guitar, but doesn’t like loud music.) But there’s just something so great about driving along, the wind, the world, just the right music playing. It’s not as though I have foundation-shaking bass booming out.

But am I any better than the bus bourne sodcaster. Just because I’ve got a car – does that make me any better?

Or indeed worse. The guy on the train is trying to block out the rest of the world and create a little personal space. You could argue he’s being extra polite in that he’s preventing himself from eavesdropping on the conversations of those around him.

He’s withdrawing. Whereas I’m spreading.

I’ve already got personal space – a whole car’s worth – but I’m arrogantly choosing to grab more of the soundscape for myself and draw other people into my world world of Franz Ferdinand, Manu Chao, Two Tone Ska or Faithless. (I tend not to blare out The Pogues, because you never know what they’ll say next and this is England after all.) If I’m moving more slowly it’ll be Jaqee, Altan or African funk. Oh those lucky lucky people around me. (Assuming I’ve managed to escape the music police in the back seat.)

Am I any better than the US Marines bombarding Manuel Noriega with Born to Run,  I Fought The Law (sounds good so far) and Dancing in the Streets (oh, I see where the aural torture comes in now), Joshua trumpetting down the walls of Jericho or the dreaded and indefatigable Janissary bands (pictured above) that heralded the spread of the Ottoman empire?

Is sodcasting aggressive or self-exile?

Am I just an old git for having doubts? Am I, as Dan Hancox suggests, simply showing my age? Especially since I was criticising muzak in public spaces not so long ago.

Is it killing conversation? Or merely killing unwelcome small talk with strange nutters (like me). A kind of audio burkha that deflects unwanted attention?

When you’re on the receiving end of sodcasting do you wince or sing along?

Have a listen to The No.219 Sodcast Project – that’s the radio programme I told you about before. It’s only 30 minutes long and it’s absolutely ace. (Here’s a review of it.)

It could even change the way you think. (But hurry – I’m not sure how long it’ll be available online.)

PS – Some good suggestions for the competition. More welcome here.



Filed under art, life

14 responses to “Sodcasting

  1. Nail scissors.
    It’s amazing how easily they can cut those earphone leads.

  2. Sodcasting is the human equivalent of a cat pissing on the sofa: it’s defining territory, saying “this space is for me and those like me”. So it’s just like those shopkeepers who’ve taken to playing classical music to deter teenage wastrels. (Which is something that’s always confused me: I can understand someone not particularly caring for Haydn or Chopin or Mahler, but what sort of person is actually repulsed by it?)

  3. I’m glad you mentioned the cars. I was going to raise it in a comment but you got there before me with your hands sort of up.

    I am driven mad by the tinnitus merchants on the DART. They don’t need it that loud and anyway it will eventually damage their health. As for the Jericho car merchants. That would take more than a nail scissors. One of these days I’ll stack up on paint bombs.

    I’m at the other end of the spectrum. I have my computer sound almost permanently off. Otherwise I jump at the sound of mail coming in or a tweter taking to the air waves.

    As for noisy neighbours ….

    Can we maybe think up a broader term for this aural sodomy.

  4. Tricky one. I’m firmly in the silence camp, I never listen to music when I’m out of the house, like you I prefer to sit/ walk and watch and be aware of my surroundings (which is why I also avoid conversations).

    But I can understand people being so desperately bored by their journeys that they resort to loud music to relieve the tedium. I don’t find it much of a nuisance actually. Maybe people in Belfast are more considerate but I seldom hear anything from their headphones, and if there is a bit of noise I tune it out quite easily.

  5. Like your son, sodcasters like their “personal” music. Problem is – they are forcing others to listen to who may not appreciate the loud sounds.

  6. blackwatertown

    Ooh I can feel the temperature rising, the faces purpling, the red mist descending, the dearg doom – nail scissors, paint bombs, aural sodomy,
    @ Tim – Mahler fair enough, but more likely to be Des O’Connor.

  7. We have our own transit bound music lovers here, more than willing to share their tastes with everyone else on the bus. We also have rules prohibiting loud music on our buses. These rules, of course, are frequently ignored. Most riders tolerate some noise, but a few years ago we had a passenger on the 103, which I rode, who routinely danced along with his iPod tunes. The response from most was to simply move away, and give the gentleman a little more space. Until one particularly crowded morning, when no additional space was to be had. The lady next to our dancer, having finally had enough, shouted at the man, telling him to sit down and behave himself. He did.

    Thanks for the mention, Paul!

  8. I enjoy listening to the sounds of the natural environment around me — NOT being on the receiving end of noise pollution shared by another travelel on life’s journey.

  9. You can’t escape it anywhere. Even when I am on my daily walk, people who over take me or who I overtake, expose me to sodcasting. Coffee houses, restaurants, banks, shops, wherever there are people, this has become ubiquitous. I think it has something to do with changing times and the need for noise to keep out thoughts.

  10. I don’t hear a lot of sodcasting myself. But, like you, I am a lover of sharing my music with the world while in my car. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to be more aware, and turn down the volume while driving through town. But out on the open road? There is no limit.

  11. And Why is The Music Always Crap? The More Intrusive , It Is ,The Worse The Owner’s Taste.
    Chopin on the Getto-Blaster Anyone?

    • blackwatertown

      Have a listen to Ian McMillan’s wee programme. He’s tries the classical music approach – but encounters some problems.

  12. I think I am just getting old. Migraine music, noisy traffic, thumping 12th July bands, very high pitched sirens…. maybe it is time I joined a convent!!

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