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

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

A new, yet formalised way forward

In copyright, cultural industries, economy, file-sharing, media ecology, music, p2p, politics on March 19, 2010 at 10:47 am

Bennett Lincoff, former Director of Legal Affairs for New Media at ASCAP, was in Sweden recently. Although he is not an outright opponent of the current copyright system, he has a radical proposal of how copyright law should work online. The recording industry still bases their entire business model on selling copies; a retrograde strategy, he argues. Instead, he proposes a digital transmission right for the Internet. He argues that the Net is fundamentally incompatible with the old business model of selling individual copies of popular culture.

This is a new type of license, a digital transmission license to replace all other rights on the Internet. In his proposal, anyone who wants to transfer copyrighted material digitally would have to buy such a transmission license: websites that broadcast music, namely Internet radio or other types of streaming media, but also individual file sharers who know that they share large amounts of copyrighted music. Read the rest of this entry »

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Oh crud, The Economist!

In file-sharing, Internet traffic, music, p2p on November 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Open letter to The Economist, regarding their misleading article on the supposed “decline” of p2p-based file-sharing, where they use Sweden as a key example, however basing their interpretation on wildly misleading data. Also in their leader they uncritically continue said argument.

Sir,

It saddens me that your otherwise so respectable publication has chosen to uncritically put forward biased and badly supported evidence for your assertion this week that 60 % of Swedish file-sharers would have “cut back or stopped altogether”. The information you refer to is from a web survey conducted by the Swedish wing of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). These are by no means independent, nor statistically valid findings. In fact, the same report states that 40 % of Swedes between 15 and 74 would illegally share files every day, a higher figure than any earlier estimate and a similarly unplausible suggestion. Read the rest of this entry »

Orchestral manoeuvres in the dark

In art, cultural industries, everyday life, marketing, media ecology, music on October 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm

If you are a fantastic cultural producer, what good is it if no-one hears, sees or gets to know about your work? The problem of structural support to the cultural industries is as much to do with supporting new forms of distribution and recommendation systems as it is to do with direct economic support to producers, or leveraging employment rules and state subsidies in useful ways, or due appreciation also to distinctly amateur forms of production.

That last note, about the importance of appreciating amateur forms of production, is essentially there as an inital reservation: Of course I’m in favour of an amateur-led wave of cultural production, better enabled by digital technology. Who isn’t? And of course it is great that tools and knowledge are more horizontally distributed now, favouring bazaar-like modes of organization over cathedral-like ones.

Read the rest of this entry »

The decade in popular music

In art, history, music on October 16, 2009 at 10:23 am

Apart from the material, social and technical reasons for change pointed out in this blog, I would like to take this opportunity for venturing further into what might constitute a zeitgeist in contemporary music.

This posting has a twin posting on the mp3 blog Solid Bond In Your Heart, where I am listing my 100 favourite tunes of the last 10 years.

Materially, we can already conclude that the last ten years have seen the partial death of the album, the definitive death of the CD single, the rebirth of the individual song, an increase in the sheer loudness of music (“loudness war,” effectively decreasing the dynamic range of music), and the birth of new, Internet-based music communities and distribution platforms often bypassing traditional record industry modes of manufacturing, marketing and “plugging” records. But we have also seen a range of stylistic and aesthetic formations during these last ten years. Here are some of them.

Read the rest of this entry »

I fought a loudness war

In aesthetics, art, everyday life, media ecology, music, philosophy on October 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm

One of the most striking features of popular music in the last decade has been the “loudness war”. The music we listen to has become increasingly louder in the last 20 years, as it is now music industry standard to try and make the soundwaves contained within a sound file as maximised as possible, in terms of loudness.

By a combination of extreme compression of the dynamic range and make-up gain, the sound range is boosted to a more uniform level, removing the peaks and troughs that would normally separate a quieter verse from a pumping chorus. (Read more about it here and here.)

As this is the normative aesthetic nowadays – “it has to sound like this” – the sociology of music should really sharpen its ears and point them in this direction. It is extremely interesting in terms its philosophical implications. So, let us delve deeper into the aesthetic implications of loudness below!

Read the rest of this entry »

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Differing attitudes towards Spotify

In file-sharing, GUIs, marketing, media ecology, music, p2p on February 19, 2009 at 10:04 am

The discourses around the newly-launched music streaming service Spotify show how Internet users are split into two rather different groupings in their stance towards commercial services like this one.
Just like the American sociologist Danah Boyd has observed a quite distinct split between Facebook and MySpace users respectively, one can observe a similar difference between those embracing and lauding Spotify and those who do not.spotify

The one observation that has said most about these circulating discourses is the following article from Wired magazine. Here, the comments actually says everything about the two rather disparate attitudes we see among Internet users towards Spotify.

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 »

What MySpace should do!

In APIs, marketing, media ecology, music on April 22, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Basically, as MySpace are slowly moving towards more open APIs, they should be more ambitious and really start making use of the potentials for aggregation in their massive user database. Especially when it comes to music…
These open APIs make possible the relatively new concept (it only opened in March this year) of MySpace widgets which let users use and create applications that plug into the infrastructure of MySpace – something which Facebook has been letting users do for ages, although not in such an open way, since MySpace after all does this under the wing of the more generally applicable and more cross-platform-friendly OpenSocial, developed by Google.
But as it occurs, these types of tapping into the vast banks of ever-shifting user data that in fact constitute these social networks are very limited. At the moment, MySpace Apps are for example unable to be added to what they call “special profiles”, such as bands/artists. Read the rest of this entry »