The Death of TheSixtyOne (UPDATED)

Perhaps it is a bit unfair to compare Sam and James to the CEOs of the Big Three in Detroit, but I cannot help but appreciate the parallels between a few men who ignored the ongoing trends toward greener and more gas-efficient vehicles, and a couple of designers who rendered themselves deaf to the pleas for the maintenance—and reinstatement—of the game they built their site upon.

I have been a member of TheSixtyOne for less than a full year—which makes this all the more troubling, given that there are people like AnnieB who have been there basically since Day One; but in these few short months, I watched something beautiful, elegant, and unique get reduced to an unoriginal face in the crowd.

How many music sites are on the internet? More than any of us can name, I am sure. How many game sites? How many social networks? But, for the real kicker, how many sites combine all three in a package that's as addictive as it is impressive? For the fun, for the music, and for the people—for a moment, TheSixtyOne looked like the future of the music industry, in the same way Digg and Reddit are often looked upon as the future of news.

So what happened? Maybe it started with the ban of KosmikRay. Maybe these events were set in motion from day one and could never have been avoided. But look where we are now: A complete site redesign without forums to even report glitches, let alone to express members' concerns. I have to laugh at the fact that the designers had the nerve to include a section called “zeitgeist” after going to such lengths to ignore the people who tried to make this once magical place their home on this crazy world wide web. Sorry, you can't post anything but bugs in these forums. Sorry, you can't post on that person's wall anymore. Sorry, you can't post anything on this site but blips... on the walls of the people you already know. Sorry, no more tuneboxes. Sorry.

Yes, I recognize that this site is the baby of a couple of college kids who had a vision one day. I recognize I have no obligation to return there, and just as I would not want someone to tell me how to raise my own children, I recognize I have no place to tell them what to do themselves. And yet, there is something so disheartening about watching a parent forcing their kid to be something it's not.

So, to all of the people who have dedicated hours of their lives to advancing themselves on TheSixtyOne—to all the AnnieBs, the dalryaugs, the SallySilveras—all of your work and dedication amassing more points than the people who never had the love you did for this site, Sam and James want you to know that you're not anymore appreciated than the guy who signed up yesterday, bumped a couple of times, ran out of points and didn't come back. All of your progress reduced to a partially filled bar.

I hope one day, I stop by to observe that this has all been reversed. I hope the channels of communication are reopened, and Sam and James can compromise some small bit of their as-of-yet indecipherable vision in favor of restoring the glory to what was once the cutting edge of music and web design. I hope I'm reading too far into all of this. But ya know what? I feel most for the artists. The people whose success was attributed not to their talent, but to “groupthink”, and people bumping because they were playing a game that the creators themselves saw fit to implement. You take away the game, you take away our desire to bump, and this just becomes a listening party. The sad news is that there are better places on the web for that; and everything that made this site great has been sacrificed in favor of a layout that hurts your eyes if you stare at it for too long.

This isn't Detroit. You're going to be fine without me, or any of the likeminded groupthinkers who will leave this site as a result of the “improvements”. But next time your loyal members are expected to Digg something to help you guys out, don't be surprised if we just go ahead and pass. I watched you deconstruct this site piece by piece over the last few months, and I've sat back and tried to get over all of it. Though I'm sure I won't be particularly missed, and though I may not have convinced anyone of anything with this post (Even if it gets deleted for being completely against the spirit of MaxBumps), I felt this all needed to be said. Good luck with your future endeavors—it was fun while it lasted.

// UPDATE: 12/17/09 //
First off, I want to thank everyone for the comments and support. Glad to see I'm not alone here.

Secondly, I want to address lankysob's very valid concern. While a number of us mentioned supposed alternatives to TheSixtyOne, none of us gave anything concrete. That's my reason for this update.

CherryPeel is like Digg for music. I'm sure you've heard that claim before, but this is as direct an imitation as I've seen. Artists submit music, users vote it up *OR DOWN*, and the most popular stuff makes it to the forefront.

Sorry, there's not a point or achievement system in place that will fill that particular void. If TheSixtyOne was all about the game for you, it's still the only place on the net for that. However, this place will offer you something different: A sense of community.

It's still in the early stages of development, but I sent some feedback to one of the site admins earlier today... and I received a response. As utterly mindblowing as that might be to anyone who's ever attempted to contact James, I've got even more goodies for you. Not only were my suggestions addressed, in the way of a forthcoming mini-feed and even forums (Remember those?) are coming, but Andrew had something very intriguing to say in this e-mail.

"I'm curious as to what The Sixtyone admins did that hurt the site. Would you mind giving me more details? We don't want to be making the same mistakes over here."

Amazing right? Feeling like your opinion and advice is actually worth half a damn? I know.

In closing, I'd like to say that the site still has a few interface bugs. The good news is that I brought one up with an admin, and it has already been resolved. I think this place has great potential, and I urge you all to check it out. Lemme know if you do!

21 comments:

Bagman said...

TheSixtyOne has been dead ever since Nine Inch Nails and Narls Barkley started appearing on the site. Again, that's part of the reason we quit doing TheSixtyOne.com Fan Podcast.

-Bagman

mathman_mr_t said...

not in the spirit of maxbumps? this is exactly in the spirit of intense fandom that spawned this blog and forum in the first place. i can't think of one thing you said that wasn't absolutely true. thanks for putting it so well.

SNYpod said...

It's as if you put into word all the reasons I left six months ago. Well said. It's a real shame things happened this way. For the first few months of 2008 thesixtyone was an amazing experience. Yes the Kosmik ban didn't help things, but for me the real catalyst of the site's downturn was the removal of the browse>new section. I still can't wrap my head around the logic in removing such a basic and useful feature, especially when all it accomplished was in moving where new songs appeared to a disorganized and hard to find location. Like you said, it's their site to run as they please, but eventually the real game became "guess what Sam and James are going to change or remove next", and that's not a game I was interested in playing anymore. That being said, I hold no ill feelings toward them. I'm sure Sam and James are stand up guys who just had a different vision for what the site should be.

Evonity said...

You said it all in just a few words and I agree with you on everything you say. But one thing I don't understand is: why leave? How come this forum has a lot of members who can speak for them selves, but none ready to team up and MAKE themselves listened to.

Bummpy said...

A great site that has been dismantled piece by piece until all thats left is a memory of what made it great.
@Evonity
Why stay?
It's not a social site, it's not a game anymore. It's now a plain music site of which there are many better else where.

Brett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lankysob said...

As someone who found himself consistently boasting to friends "Hey, check out this new band I found on the61...", I can't even find the new music myself anymore. Seriously, if someone knows where it is, I'll listen. I just can't find it.

I've never been addicted to a website. Like, ever. I never saw the need to be. Yet somehow, the61 coaxed me in with it's sexy layout and sultry music. Now, I guess I've just lost that lovin' feeling.

In other comments, I've seen 'other music sites' mentioned. What are people using nowadays?

Babble said...

Kudos, Arcadia. Eloquently stated, and you summarized perfectly the downfall that so many of us feel but have lost track of how to express (at least, I have). Thank you, sir!

Joe said...

I too feel badly betrayed, as if I'd lost a loved one--I am praying that a boycott of the service for a small amount of time may let the operators see fit to restore those features which made this site so fun and exciting. For now--I log in, check to see if it's still fubared, and hope for a brighter tomorrow. --- templar40

myktoronto said...

I couldn't agree with you more Vince. Since KRay was banned I lost all the passion I had for t61. It has gotten to the point, for me, where I became more, disappointed, apprehensive and generally incredulous as a result of the changes and continued lack of communication from the creators of the site.

During my eleven months here I helped KRay with two bump parties and organized the final one with evonity, timyjl and bloke. These were all in the spirit of community and a celebration of the site many of us loved. Not once in any positive way were any of these events even mentioned, let alone Sam or James thanking anyone involved for their efforts to promote the site. Even if we were deviating from a grand plan the entire planet is oblivious to and apparently remains so, a kindly nod would have gone far with this listener. For my troubles I was actually blocked from James wall for spamming because I once posted a bump party notice there (it was my one and only post on his wall) one post and I'm a freakin' spammer; go figure!

As of this moment I don't know what I'm going to do about my listener-ship but I will certainly weigh some options.

Vince I will miss you on here but will surely see you in a similar realm soon.

Thanks for your post and ever lively comments dewwd.

lankysob said...

I've tossed myself into cherrypeel's world as well. Not bad so far. It seems strange not seeing the same old people around, but I'm sure that'll change in good time.

AnnieB said...

i came across cherrypeel a few months ago and have sporadically visited without signing up. music-wise, they seem to provide a whole different collection of artists and songs, with some overlapping exceptions of course, which is great for the avid music seeker. however, i sort of had a difficult time navigating the site. maybe it's just me, but it seems to be a tad more grey overall than the current t61 site and impersonal with all the writing. i guess i've always liked to associate listeners and artists with an image at the forefront. sure, t61's not as bubbly or colorful as before, but i think the main foundations of the site are still intact with previous popular features still in the works. community-wise for cherrypeel, i can't say anything since i haven't signed up to determine it's wonders or faults compared to t61. again, maybe i'm just being optimistic about t61 as usual, but i truly think the guys do hear some of you, contrary to belief and despite the lack of verbal response from them, especially when they're continually welcoming and encouraging feedback. based on experience, a lot of changes have often been due to users shaping the site. perhaps they've prematurely unveiled the new version to gain feedback while there's still more flexibility, who knows. good luck to all of you on your music discovery adventures, wherever they may be :)

Miguel said...

I agree with most of your comments on the new t61 interface.

Out of curiosity, I took a look at Cherry Peel and it actually gave me a new appreciation for t61. The interface instantly had me missing t61, and so far I haven't found my favorite feature of t61: free downloads.

I'm not looking for a community; I'm looking for music, and I think for that t61 is still the most enjoyable option.

MelodyKitn said...

I'm not as long-standing a member as a vast majority of you all, but for the short time, I was as enraptured with T61 as the lot of you. That rapture ended as well, what with the design being so sterile, and having to scroll constantly to the top so I can fiddle with the player started the frustration trip that had me coming back less and less everyday. Thanks for expressing what I had in thought as well, and perhaps I'll come to know you all better in cherrypeel or another, while I browse around myself.

Apocalypse said...

Well said. I "left" 5 months ago and don't really look back. This site no longer resembles anything that I came to love about it a year ago.

Sad, but true. I miss the camaraderie of the people on this site. oh-well.

Apoc

Sophist said...

Hello Arcadia,

This is my first time visiting your blog, and it's a fascinating thing you all have put together. I'll be sure to check it out on a regular basis.

I'm going to contest the key point of your post and I hope you'll consider it. It's something that I believe misses the broader impact of what the creators are trying to do.

The "game" that T61 was founded upon is not the greatest thing about the site, and it never has been.

I've been using T61 since January - around a year, like most of you. I go there regularly, practically every day. I'm just 11th level, and I don't terribly mind that. I've revived a lot of songs, so I'm at that level through the choices I've made.

Many of you are among the highest point-getters on the site and that's certainly nothing to sneeze at. It takes fanatical dedication to rack up that kind of numerical status on T61.

But my longevity on the site is not due to this game. The game is cute, and it's OK. But I adore T61 because it gives me a chance to find new music I love, and expose others to that music. The site, like it or not, is all about the artists. So if I can dump my points into bumps or revives for those whose talent wows me, so that others will in turn find them, THEN I will have spent my time on the site well.

In the meantime, the creators have faced some unanticipated dilemmas that they have to roll with.

The best example: My understanding is that they were confronted with the unexpected challenge of having to accommodate people bonding and forming communities on the site. It became a Facebook-like force if you will. So they created the communities, and then, as part of their site redesign, made it focus on what was popular among who you knew, rather than what was deemed popular by the masses.

That, I'd wager, is why the first thing you see when you got to T61 now, is a list of stuff bumped by those you've subscribed to. It makes some sense, in that it replaces the little listing that used to top your footprint site.

And in retrospect, that's an interesting idea. I certainly don't mind it.

There are plenty of things I don't like too. But the creators seem to be gathering feedback and probably consider the site as it stands to be an unfinished product. It's tough to flow with change, and I hope they get what the new layout to work.

But most importantly: I, for one, am not going to abandon the site where I discovered ugress, Chance's End and SumKid - for free no less! - over something as minor as an inconvenient redesign process.

I hope you don't either..

Cheers,
sophistballyhoo

IcySea said...

Just logged back in after a long break (the Rayban killed it for me).

What a different place.
I couldn't find half the tools I loved before.
I was looking forward to getting sucked back in, but I got puked back out.

Back to the jwz streams for me and maybe a look into cherrypeel.

Hope to see you all there - maybe we can pull along cjizzle :)

Chuck said...

Good Gravy, I know that this post went up a while ago and I am not sure how many of you are still going to the site but I thought I would throw my hat in there.

As much as anyone that has ever laid eyes on the 61 I was into the game. I would battle Snypod for that next great discovery (he was a little quicker than me) but was it ever really about that game? Hell no. It made it more fun but wasn't essential. Kosmikray? Bah. I know some of you loved him and were crushed when he were banned but if you really stop to think about it he was like that annoying dude on the vegas strip that slaps the flyers together and tries to hand you one. You know, the guy with the porn slips. No thanks. He organized a few cool events but for the most part he sealed his own fate.

What made the sixty one great?
Music - still there
supergrover mania - still there
annie b's gramophone - still there
Bumping, reviving and discovering music - still there

I don't presume to think that this would bring anyone back though I also know that if you are still reading and writing that you still care. We may never see the 61 that we fell in love with in the first place (I have been there longer than dirt) but I know that the things above will likely remain as long as I keep going there. Nothing compares.

hills, said...

as both an artist and listener on t61 since dec 07 i always loved the site for the new music. i could care less about points and the game. in fact, i left the site for a while because of all the point-hungry wolves. for me, the game was getting in the way. i have never first bumped a song. i've only revived one song. i'm only level 11. i think the founders created the site as a place to share and find new music. i don't think they ever really wanted it to be the game that drew people to the site and i feel that they wanted to get back to what the site was initially supposed to be.

i would much rather get bumps for my music because people like the music not because they think it will get them more points.

Ariana said...

So true. The site really died with the changes, I think that these changes made the last.fm changes look great.

spobin said...

If you're looking for a similar streaming audio site, check out http://www.aucadia.com. Instead of voting a track up and down, you buy shares in artists you like.