Essay – May 4

“Most often, when people are asked to describe the current media landscape, they respond by making an inventory of tools and technologies. Our focus should be not on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices. Rather than listing tools, we need to understand the underlying logic shaping our current moment of media in transition.” (Jenkins, Henry 2006, para. 2)

Jenkins’ above comment is an extract from a text that was “written as part of the original draft for the MacArthur white paper about educating young people for a participatory culture. It was cut due to length considerations but it providees (sic) useful background for people reading the report.” (Jenkins, 2006, para. 1) Although Jenkins’ comment was made in the context of (an edited version of a draft of) a paper (The MacArthur White Paper) titled “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education in the 21st Century” (Jenkins, 2006, title) and focusing on educating American teens, it is an excerpt that succinctly outlines the scope for examination of society’s response to new technologies and the cultural practices that emerge as a result.  I will discuss the Jenkins’ excerpt in relation to music production and consumption in the contemporary online media environment – specifically – one current media practice: artists eschewing corporate involvement in favor of private production and Web2.0 centered self-promotion/distribution. While relating this issue to the quote I will cover arguments concerning economics and social practices.

When defining current practices in music consumption and production, one might note, “New media are created, dispersed, adopted, adapted, and absorbed into the culture at dramatic rates.” (Jenkins, 2006, para. 3) The ability of the industry and consumers to respond to the rapid and continuing evolution of consumption and production practices is critical when considering current practices. Adaptability to and adoption of new technologies could perhaps be defined as current practices in themselves.  The internet “is the first modern communications medium that expands its reach by decentralizing the capital structure of production and distribution of information, culture, and knowledge.” (Benkler, 2006, para. 14) and so “The communication and distribution potential of the Internet (which can be encapsulated as Music 2.0) suggests that disintermediation and reconfigured relationships are possible.” (Young & Collins 2010, ‘Abstract’ section) Furthermore, “The impact of new production and distribution technologies seems, on the surface, to be wresting control away from the traditional gatekeepers and providing new opportunities for musicians beyond the traditional signing to a record label.” (Young, Collins, 2010, para. 13) After interviewing musicians regarding the emergence of Web2.0 as an alternative to record companies, Young and Collins (‘We’re not all big’ section, 2010) noted “Many musicians interviewed were scathing toward record companies and radio stations and enthusiastic about the new technologies because they offer a potentially more rewarding mechanism for making and selling music, not to mention autonomous creative control.” And that “Many respondents were unimpressed by their relationships with the recording industry.” (Young and Collins, 2010 Para. 42) We can see then that the underlying logic shaping our current moment of Media in transition (the record industry in this case) is, in fact, being discussed: By academics and musicians. The disintermediation of the recorded music supply chain is evident – as is the discussion thereof.  Anguiton and Cardon concluded that “one the sociological characteristics of these services is that making personal production public creates a new articulation between individualism and solidarity.” (Anguiton, C & Cardon, D, 2007, p.51)

Are the independent, pioneering artists of Web2.0 aware of the underlying logic shaping the transition? Are the consumers?  Is their focus solely on emerging technologies? If so, is their focus misplaced?

“Musicians who choose to make their music independently and avoid a relationship with major record labels are not uncommon. Certainly, for many musicians independent labels represent a financially fairer arrangement than found with the majors. One interviewee reported that he received “the same return on [his] independent release by selling one tenth of [what was required] in a big label deal.” But, while the Internet has made it much easier to succeed as an independent, there are no guarantees of success. UK duo Nizlopi demonstrated with their virally marketed single “JCB Song” that the Internet is terrific at generating word-of-mouth (or “word-of-mouse”) promotion and recommendation—allowing a range of new, global connections; few musicians, however, are able to survive without other means of distribution. Apocryphal examples such as the success of the Arctic Monkeys emphasize the fact that success cannot be simply attributed to the Internet. For musicians and bands who haven’t been rolled out on the conveyor belt to instant stardom, success still involves old-fashioned hard work, mostly in the form of live performance.” (Young, Collins 2010, ‘Independents’ Day’ section)

The musicians interview by Young & Collins (2010) are aware of the underlying logic shaping their involvement in re-creating the media environment in which they are creators. They are attempting to avoid they hierarchical allocation of revenue by limiting the corporate involvement in the production and distribution of their work. “MySpace offers a certain type of social wealth that is difficult to quantify. The connectivity offered by the system is an effective digital word of mouth, with users frequently checking out what their friends are checking out. MySpace offers bands capital in the form of exposure and referral. For some musicians this can be translated into income through music sales or stimulating ticket sales, but for most unsigned and amateur musicians the opportunity to be heard is of premium value.” (Young, Collins, 2010, ‘New Networks’ section) They are also driven to retain creative authority by maintaining the rights to their own work. “A member of one of Australia’s most successful bands in the 1980s suggested that the record companies had been “exploiting people for a long, long time. The whole relationship between record companies and radio is completely corrupt.”” (Young, Collins 2010’ ‘We’re not all big’ section) “Radiohead, a British band, deserted EMI to release an album over the internet. These were isolated, unusual deals, by artists whose careers had already brought years of profits to the big music companies. But they made the labels look irrelevant and will no doubt prompt other artists to think about leaving them too.” (Munoz, C. 2008, para. 3)

”Music is an information good, and more specifically, an experience good, whose true value is realized only after its consumption. At its fundamental form, artists create (or produce) the music that consumers pay to listen. Digital technologies and network based sharing/distribution mechanisms have created tremendous opportunities and challenges for producers and consumers of such goods.” (Gopal, RD, et al. No date) Young and Collins have shown that some artists are utilizing the capacity Web 2.0 presents for independence from record labels. It is also clear that not all artists are achieving easy success in the self-promotion marketplace. In the case of Radiohead “those artists were developed, nurtured, and supported by the record labels. Without label backing in their early careers, it is unlikely that they would now be financially secure enough to give away their music or to place their income at the mercy of arbitrary consumer donations. Not all musicians have that luxury.” (Young & Collins, 2010, ‘We’re not all big’ sect.) Consumers are axiomatically responsible for the emergence of internet-driven, independent music marketing and distribution.

Music fans have been connecting online from the Internet’s beginning and continue to push boundaries today. Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the earliest music fan communities on the Internet were mailing lists and Usenet discussion groups, many of which still operate. In the mid–1990s, music fans were among the first to build Web sites to foster community interaction.” (Baym, NK, 2007, para. 9)

“In the 2000s, music fandom has played a central role in social networking sites. Not all have been fueled by the band–fan relationship like MySpace, but most interfaces encourage people to list or friend the bands they like in constructing their on–site identity. Since 2005, at least two dozen music–based social networking sites have launched, including, MOG, iLike, and Goombah.” (baym, NK, 2007, para. 12)

UK Music, an umbrella organization representing the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry, presented the results of their 2009 survey of 14 to 24 year olds. UK Music’s research defines the extent of consumption, copying and sharing of music between 14-24 year-olds in the UK. The results indicate:

-Music remains the most valued form of entertainment.


            – 87% said that copying between devices is important to them.


       -86% of respondents have copied a CD for a friend; 75% have sent music by email, Bluetooth, Skype or MSN; 57% have copied a friend’s entire music collection; 39% have downloaded music from an online storage site; and 38% have ripped a TV, radio or internet stream.


       -The computer is the main entertainment hub – 68% of respondents use it every day to listen to music.


       -Ownership of music is hugely important – both online and offline.


       -Popularity of P2P remains unchanged since 2008 – 61% said they download music using P2P networks or torrent trackers. Of this group, 83% are doing so on a weekly or daily basis.


       -There is real interest for new licensed services. 85% of P2P downloaders said they would be interested in paying for an unlimited all-you-can-eat MP3 download service.


-Young people have an inherent sense of what copyright is, but choose to ignore it – the vast majority of respondents knew that sharing copyrighted content is not legal, yet continue to do so.

(UK Music, 2009, ‘Key Findings’ sect.)

A survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 78 percent of Internet users who download music do not believe that it is stealing to save music files to their computer hard drives (Lenhart and Fox, 2000). This same survey found that 61 percent of those who download music do not care if the music they download is copyrighted. Also, a survey in the U.S. found that 80 percent of online users do not consider that it unethical to either download or share free digital music files (Tom, 2000). (Fox, M. 2005, ‘Cultural & Attitudinal Concerns’ sect.)

Music consumers were active in the development of online music communities. They have demonstrated a capacity to interact with the technology and many have flaunted a disregard for copyright law. (Siwek, SE. 2007, para. 1-3) The willingness of consumers to acquire music online weather legally or illegally is evident. But does the rapid emergence of online music sourcing by consumers demonstrate an easy target for the independent artist to access the consumers?

Freezepop, a Boston group, recorded an album using a $300 sequencer, made two animated videos using inexpensive Shockwave Flash, and developed a fan base by posting news, photos, and tour dates and offering merchandise on their Web site. The group brokered download-only distribution deals with online music stores, such as iTunes and Napster, avoiding the production costs. This extreme example demonstrates the opportunities artists have in the music industry through digital technologies.” (BockStedt, J, et al. 2006, no pg No.)

But not all interviewees were negative when quizzed about the recording industry. Some younger bands considered that success was achievable only by signing with a major label: “We’re still trying to get signed by a record company…the only ones making it are on labels.” One interviewee (most likely echoing the truth of the matter) expressed that she wanted “to be played on radio” and that signing with a label would make that a reality. Others considered signing with a major label the final and ultimate step in a musical career: “I’ll probably take the indie path to start, but probably want to get signed eventually.” (Young & Collins, 2010, ‘We’re not all big’ sect. para. 11)

“Music sharing technologies appear to exist tenuously between the possibilities supported by technical innovation (e.g., peer-to-peer discovery protocols) and the constraints of political, legal, and ethical considerations. These political, legal, and ethical considerations – digital rights management laws, in particular – have catalyzed much of the recent changes in music sharing technologies” (Voida, A, et al, 2005, 1st sect.) The simultaneously emerging cultural practices of independent artists and Web2.0 based music consumers have yet to evolve as harmonious or sustainable. Although some artists have successfully demonstrated the full capacity for a non-corporate approach to music production and distribution, the majority of artists are either focused on obtaining conventional representation, or failing to achieve sales goals independently. As the sales of (and profits from) recorded music continue to fall, it should be remembered that festival attendances continue to grow and live music ticket prices and profits are increasing. The rate of downloads (of independent, commercial and pirated music) continues to increase. New technologies are developing and being adopted rapidly. The media environment is changing and it is difficult to predict how these changes will manifest. With regard to musicians independently promoting and distributing their own works, the underlying logic shaping our current moment of media in transition is clear: The players watching the market place become decentralized see an opportunity to capitalize. As a result of Web2.0 technology, the consumers and creators are closer than ever before. Musicians want to make music, consumers want to download it and they are communicating directly.

Aguiton, Christophe & Cardon, Dominque, 2007: The Strength of Weak Cooperation: an Attempt to Understand the Meaning of Web 2.0, Accessed 4 May 2011:

Baym, NK, 2007, ‘The New Shape of Online Community: The Example of Swedish Independent Music Fandom’, First Moday, Volume 12, Number 8. Viewed 4 May 2011.

Benkler, Y, 2006. The Wealth of Networks:

How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, Viewed 4 May 2011,

Bockstedt, J, Kauffman, RJ, Riggins, FJ. 2006. ‘The Move to Artist-Led Online Music Distrobution: Explaining Structual Changes in the Digital Music Market’. hicss, vol. 7, pp.180a, Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS’05) – Track 7, 2005. Viewed 4 May 2011.

Fox, M, 2005. ‘Technological and Social Drivers of Change in the Online Music Industry’. First Monday, Special Issue No. 1 ‘Music and the Internet’. Viewed May 4 2011.

Gopal, RD, Bhattacharjee, S, Sanders, GL. ‘Do Artists Benefit From Online Music Sharing?’ Journal of Business, Forthcoming. Viewed 4 May 2011.

Jenkins, H, 2006, Eight Traits of the New Media Landscape, Viewed 4 May 2011,

Jenkins, H, 2006, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Viewed 4 May 2011,

Lenhart and S. Fox, 2000. “Downloading Free Music: Internet Music Lovers Don’t Think It’s Stealing,” Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Online Music Report, at, accessed 4 May 2011.

Munoz, C, 2008. ‘From Major to Minor’. The Economist, Viewed 4 May 2011.

Siwek, SE, 2007, ‘The True Cost of Sound Recording Piracy to the U.S. Economy’ Institute for Policy Innovation. IPI Policy Report #188. Viewed 4 May 2011.

J. Tom, 2000. “QuickTake Snap Shot: It’s Okay to Download Free Music Files According to 80% of Online Music Users,” at, accessed 4 May 2011.

UK Music, 2009. ‘Music Consumption in 14 to 25 Year Olds’ Viewed 4 May 2011.

Voida, A, Grinter, RE, Ducheneaut, N, Edwards, WK, Newman, NW. 2005. ‘Listening In: Practices Surrounding iTunes Music Sharing.’ CHI 2005. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Hu8man Factors in Computing Systems. Viewed 4 May 2011.

Young, Sherman and Collins, Steve, 2010. A View from the Trenches of Music 2.0′, Popular Music and Society, Volume 33, Issue 3, Pages 339 – 355. Routledge, NY New York, 2010.


One Response to “Essay – May 4”

  1. […] The author gives perspectives from a range of opinions – but ultimately, the most important one is that of the masses. The masses are committing an act of civil disobedience by profoundly ignoring the laws. I presented supporting research and statistics at length in my essay. […]

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