On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Archive for the ‘mp3’ Category

Pitchfork’s social history of the mp3

In history, media ecology, mp3, music on September 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

Glad to see that in the midst of the current journalistic torrent of end-of-decade lists, Pitchfork is publishing two great, rather long analyses. One on the decade in pop, and the other one – of interest for my own research project – a social history of the mp3.

Were the past 10 years in fact the first decade of pop music to be remembered for its musical technology rather than the actual music itself? asks Eric Harvey, in his balanced and very well-considered article. He touches on many of the interesting tendencies that we can spot in today’s technocultural landscape: The historical parallels between for example 7″ records and mp3s (not only did they renew the focus on individual songs, they radically challenged the major labels’ cosy position in the marketplace); Evan Eisenberg and the reification of music; the exponential proliferation of tastemakers flooding the Internet in the form of mp3 blogs; the transparency of the whole music-making, hype-spinning machinery where everyone is supposed to be her own publicist and stylist; and not least Henry Jenkins’s “convergence” thesis, where there is a dire need for fans to play a new role and for the value of music to be re-appropriated.
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The supposed link between unrestricted file-sharing and declining CD sales

In content analysis, file-sharing, history, media ecology, mp3, music, p2p on April 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

Some excerpts/cut-outs from my thesis. This one is an overview of that worn old question: Is there a link between falling CD sales and file-sharing, and in that casewhat does it look like?

Regarding the link between file-sharing and falling CD sales, there are various studies having different conclusions. A general conclusion is that CD sales started dropping simultaneously as unregulated file-sharing began to rise (initially with Napster in 2000).

However, a direct causal link is hard to establish, since there are so many other factors that could serve as an explanation to this drop: Changing consumption patterns (with the ascendance of video games, DVD:s, hardware etc. as new expenditures); shrinking profitability from CDs; a decline in the number of new titles; a cyclical slump after the boom of the 1990s; decreased diversity of radio playlists; and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Faith in the commercial single? No more

In everyday life, media ecology, mp3, music on October 30, 2008 at 10:41 am

When physical CD singles are available no more – what moral quandaries does that put us in, as music fans?

Popjustice recently adressed the dilemmas facing the contemporary music consumer who loves songs – that is, individual tracks, not albums – and the novelty, galore and fascination of hits. When faced with the fact that new music is only commercially available in lossy, intangible and non-lasting formats, what position does that put us in as consumers – if owning a decent copy of the song itself is what interests us?

Off the top of our heads, here are some things that spring to mind on this topic.

» What constitutes ‘owning’ a song?

» If you can’t see or hold something is it worth spending money on?

» Does that question alter if what you’re spending money on is something you only intend to listen to? Read the rest of this entry »

Mp3s and ‘thisness’

In art, mp3, music on March 11, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Mp3, as a format, might lack tactile dimensions, and its nature as pure code might render it ontologically vacuous. Yet, it presents fantastic hope for the song as artform.
I wrote in a previous post about the verisimilitude of mp3s, the fact that in technical terms the digital file is always an approximation; never really the “real thing”.
However, there’s a paradox here, and that is that I believe mp3s, because of their virtual nature, bring back the ‘thisness’ of the song itself. Evan Eisenberg writes about the ‘thisness’ of songs in The Recording Angel (1987): the medieval term that he revisits for this is haecceity, the ontological concept that basically talks about those aspects of a thing which make it a particular thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Mp3s and their supposed lack of magic

In art, mp3, music on February 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

The physical carrier of music makes a difference: Compared to mp3, vinyl is more tactile, cumbersome, weighty, and lends itself to rarity rather than to instant duplicability – but therefore it is also more mystical, and indeed more magical, some people argue.
The Stool Pigeon is a healthy little music publication, withstanding the current celebrity culture and commodification of “authenticity” by sticking to a strict fanzine aesthetic, a peculiar fondness for 19th century font exorbitance and a deliberately haphazard web presence. In the most recent issue, someone with the alias ‘Bone Dagger’ writes about the ephemera of mp3s versus vinyl. An old debate you might say, and one that would have been more academically convincing if invoking Walter Benjamin, Friedrich Kittler and N. Katherine Hayles (I guess one could pull out more and more articles like this, for example). Anyhow, in taking its cue from Arthur C. Clarke’s recognition that any technology advanced enough is virtually indistinguishable from magic, the Dagger’s argument still makes for a cosy read for a materialist like me. After having spent far too many hours indexing my own vinyl collection on Discogs.com, I must say I generally agree with the sentiment. Read the rest of this entry »