Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Further Research into File-sharing

Along with the Internet, there has come an innumerable and vast array of Internet websites where any music fan of any genre can readily locate and participate in an online community, entirely dedicated and devoted to their favourite style or genre of music. And dance music of course is no stranger to this concept with an endless list of sites, forums and social networking ‘meeting places’ where you can share in the love of dance music with other like minded people. Unsurprisingly, this revelation is nothing new to anyone who lives in today’s technology driven, online society. But the effect of the Internet – both positively and negatively – on the dance music scene is something that is of great interest to me here, and will be the focus my final research paper. So in preparation for this, I shall be introducing you to some sites that will assist me in displaying what is available online, and I will show you some articles which I found during my research that talk about the effects and impacts that the Internet and these sites have on the dance music scene and online communities.

In my search for academic articles on this topic, I came across a really interesting and enlightening article called “MP3s Are Killing Home Taping: The Rise of Internet Distribution and its Challenge to the Major Label Music Monopoly”, written by Kembrew McLeod (that’s quite the title, huh!). McLeod talks about the prevalence of the digital age, file-sharing, peer-to-peer technologies and the ‘convenient and compact’ MP3 file compression technology has seen the birth of, and encouraged, an ‘audience generated movement’ against the major record labels. Such file-sharing and music loving Internet users are mounting a rather influential and “significant challenge to the hegemony of the major label distribution system” (2005, McLeod). What a shame, I hear you ask? Well, considering the major labels are well known for shady record deals that have left musicians and artists even less than the ‘short end of the stick’, I personally can’t exactly shed a tear for the financial losses these majors have endured in recent years due to internet piracy and file sharing, and I’m sure there are many others who feel the same way.

McLeod also suggests that perhaps the record industry has brought this on themselves, as they were the ones to force digital technology onto the purchasing public in the 80s with the advent of the CD, and the subsequent hundreds of millions of dollars that was made during this time when entire back catalogues of artists and bands were resold to the same people, just in a different format, under the guise of ‘ground-breaking technology’, ‘superior sound quality’, and quite frankly, because “they” (the record labels) could.

This all came about when the record industry decided, as a group, to push this new digital technology onto the buying public, and they forcible ensured that LP’s became outdated due to an introduced across-the-board ‘non-returns policy’, which they implemented, so the tens of thousands of record stores selling their merchandise could not obtain a credit for returning unsold LP’s, nor could they take the financial risk that they would be left with ‘unsellable’ stock. As McLeod points out, this change in format “was a conscious policy instituted by record companies that wanted to make sure this format took off” (2005). Hence, they pushed, and pushed hard for the CD to become the new platform, and with technology constantly advancing into what we enjoy today, it appears that the technology that was once so forcibly pushed onto the public has returned to “bite them on the ass!” (and that’s me quoting myself, not the article!).

Thankfully, these changes in technology has also changed the costs involved in music production and distribution (for the better) so now small labels and independent artists with a bit of savvy and entrepreneurial ability, can now use the internet and cheaper recording equipment to ‘handle their own affairs’, and cut out the middle man. Artists have taken to either signing to smaller independent labels with recording contracts that actually profit share with the artist and band, and taking back the ‘creative reigns’ of their music, as they no longer have to sell 500,000 units to ‘break even’ with the costs of a major record label, before they see a dollar for themselves.

Further on in McLeod’s article, he interviewed several independent artists that have gone down the route of self promotion and distribution, who advised the Internet has not only allowed new audiences to discover and share in their music, but they have actively encouraged this through offering their music for free on their websites. After Chicago-based rock band Wilco was dumped by their major label, Warner, when their album was thought to be “uncommercial”, during their search for a new recording contract, this album was leaked onto file-sharing sites. As a result, Wilco themselves put the album for free download on their website, generating a massive response which translated into huge sales once the album was debuted on the Billboard Charts.

Now, I too thought that if thousands of people had already downloaded the album for free, how could they debut high on the charts with high album sales on its official release? McLeod answers this conundrum also! In his article, McLeod shows through the research of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, that “MP3 usage does not reduce students’ CD consumption patterns. Fully 73 percent of students who downloaded MP3s reported that they still bought either the same number of CDs of more” (2005). Another study by Jupiter Research in 2003 showed “there is compelling evidence that this group… of music fans within the file-sharing community… is the bedrock community for those willing to pay for legitimate (online) music services in the future” (2005, McLeod).

Steve Albini reported to McLeod his documented findings with Nielsen/Soundscan in 2003, based on the growth in the area of the independent sectors increasing market share “in the US, UK and elsewhere” that it has been thanks to the file-sharing community that the independent artists have seen greater success in recent years. He advised that due to the traditional record store and its narrow tailoring of available products, many niche artists and bands were unable to reach anywhere near the same percentage of marketplace as mainstream musicians on major record labels. Thanks to the file-sharing and online community of die-hard music fans with their fanzines (fan-magazines), street press publications, forums, fan-driven websites and the like, that these artists are reaching new audiences that would never have had access to their music in the past. Albini states, “the Internet is making people who would never otherwise come across it find music that they like and then buy it” (2005).

Finally, I would like to finish with a couple of articles from last weeks issue number 702 of “In Music and Media”, where I found the following three short articles, all relevant to the topic and shedding some very interesting and completely up-to-date ‘light’ on the subject of file-sharing, digital purchasing, social networking sites and how they share the common musical interests of its users, and copyright infringements in connection with illegal file-sharing. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance in this post to discuss more of the social networking aspects and websites that I wanted to, as I didn’t want this post to be too long, but potentially, this is something that I can address in my final paper more thoroughly and comprehensively.

But until next time, keep lovin’ the doof doof!

Study: Most Aussie Internet Users Won't Buy Digital Copies

The number of people who bought music online doubled between 2007 and 2009, according to the World Internet Project Survey conducted by the ARC centre at Swineburne University of Technology. However given the choice, 80 percent of internet users would still prefer to buy music in hard copy form from an actual retail store.

There was little change in the number of users who said that being able to download music had decreased the amount they bought - hovering at 30 percent of internet users.
The most popular source of digital music was "copying one's own CDs", followed by copying a friend's discs.

If they were willing to go digital over hard copy, the average price users were willing to pay was $17, which is a lot less than a physical product.

This article was taken from: http://www.themusic.com.au/velvetrope.php?s=velvetrope

Facebook or Safebook?

The most recent and ongoing dust-up over Facebook's privacy policies has reached a new level of volume that has even the mainstream media tuning in, and threatening the very thing that could make Facebook such an important tool for the music industry.

The key to the digital music future is a service that can do the best job of not only delivering the music that users want to hear, but introduce new music to users who otherwise wouldn't be interested and monetize the entire process. In order to do this, services need to know what kind of music you like in order to recommend other things you may also be interested in.

While the best way to make this happen is by sharing those musical preferences across multiple services, and not to keep it private. Simply put the more private a social network is, the less useful it becomes.

This article was taken from: http://www.themusic.com.au/velvetrope.php?s=velvetrope

Local Hot Wire on Limewire

Last Wednesday U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood granted summary judgment in favour of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which filed a copyright lawsuit against LimeWire in 2006. Wood ruled Lime Group (parent company of LimeWire) and founder Mark Gorton committed copyright infringement, induced copyright infringement, and engaged in unfair competition.

The reaction from the music industry globally has been overwhelmingly supportive, with the Australian perspective today becoming clear.

Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) released this statement exclusively to the Velvet Rope:

"We understand that a large proportion of the close to 3 million Australian illegal file-sharers use LimeWire to share music illegally. Therefore, the US Court's ruling that LimeWire induced widespread copyright infringement may reduce levels of illegal file-sharing of music in Australia. The case is a significant win for creators around the world, including Australian artists and songwriters, whose works were being illegally exploited daily through LimeWire. Illegal file-sharing severely undermines the ability of artists and songwriters to be renumerated for their hard work and it also creates an unfair playing field in the digital ecosystem reducing the capacity of the music industry to develop and deliver legitimate digital content to Australian consumers."

Similarly, APRA|AMCOS had this to say:

"The LimeWire decision reinforces the position that artists and creators have legally recognised rights that must be respected. Music consumers now, more than ever, have access to music through numerous legitimate music delivery models that also ensure payments to artists and creators. The opportunity for content owners is in providing licensing solutions to emerging online music businesses."

LimeWire and the RIAA are preparing for a June 1 hearing to resolve the outstanding issues in the case. If the RIAA is successful in obtaining an injunction against LimeWire or is awarded monetary damages against, it is believed that LimeWire will almost certainly be shut down.

This article was taken from: http://www.themusic.com.au/velvetrope.php?s=velvetrope


McLeod, Kembrew. “MP3s Are Killing Home Taping: The Rise of Internet Distribution and Its Challenge to the Major Label Music Monopoly”. Popular Music and Society, 28: 4, 521-531. Routledge, 2005.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

After researching and reading...

So, I have spent the last couple weeks researching articles and books trying to find as much information as I can about the way the Internet has aided and assisted the formation and continuation of online communities that support the dance music scene, and how technology and the Internet has become the leading contributor to the dissemination of music online. With all of this in mind, I have decided to write my final research paper on the following:

Research Question/Statement: Dance Music Culture & The Internet: How Online Culture Facilitates a Dance Subculture.

So, with this as my starting point, I needed to find websites that involve online music community activities such as forums, blogs, discussion groups and file sharing, academic journal articles that discuss the online subcultural communities within the realm of online music appreciation, and any literature written since the year 1995, as anything before, I believe, would not sufficiently address or understand the current state of the now ubiquitous online community and it’s subcultural involvement, and the changes that have occurred since the online boom during the mid 90s.

The first blog of real interest I came across in my research was found at the following address/link: http://www.styleovercontent.com/blog/2006/07/authentic-youth-cultural-capit.html

Entitled “Authentic Youth: Cultural Capital and Credibility in Digital Youth Culture” and written by Jordan on July 23, 2006, this blog talks about the connections youth make with the online world by readily involving themselves in social networking sites, and “how digital media offers youth a valuable site for cultural engagement”. She talks about the ways in which the youth of today in this outwardly mobile and technologically driven society “produce and disseminate cultural practices through the lens of youth subcultures, which revolve around distinctive aesthetic tastes”. Jordan discusses how these ‘online involved’ youth rely on the digital realm and technology for access to the online social communities, to meet, share, discuss and exchange ideas, create and sustain their own cultural and social identities which they have created themselves through active involvement and participation within these ‘online arenas’. Much as with social networking sites like Facebook, these youth actively choose their counterparts, their friends, their favourite groups, and are able to actively comment, discuss and even dislike elements of their friends activities and interactions. The youth of today who have grown up surrounded with computers, technology and the digital world are acclimatized to daily social interaction online, and have grown up without the physical boundaries that do not apply in the online world, or ‘cyberspace’ as it is often affectionately called. The ability to connect and interact with youth on a global scale has allowed for a participant (or anyone, in fact) to ‘cast a wider net’, and become actively involved in social networks that would normally have been unattainable through the physical distance inherent, and yet still feel like an active member of a collective based solely on their online participation. This also allows for the ‘wearing of many hats’, and being apart of numerous groups, where they can participate across a wider variety of interests than previously thought possible before the ubiquitous nature of the Internet allowed such interactions.

In his article “Subculture or Neo-tribes? Rethinking the Relationship Between Youth, Style and Musical Taste”, Andy Bennett argues that the “musical and stylistic sensibilities exhibited by the young people involved in the dance music scene are clear examples of a form of late modern ‘sociality’ rather than a fixed subcultural group” (par.1), which I interpret as him saying that the youth are expressing themselves through a huge variety of social interactions and are not limiting themselves to one particular genre or type. The youth are displaying through their actions that they are able to participate in a wide cross section of musical tastes and interests, and that their participation is that of a social nature and not of a fixed subcultural grouping that theorists once thought their behaviours suggested. I tend to agree with Andy Bennett, as through my own personal experiences as an active participant in raves, clubbing and the dance music scene over the last 18 years of my adult life, that I too do not limit myself to being a member of just one particular scene or genre grouping. I’ve allowed myself the freedom to explore and express my musical tastes through a myriad of musical styles, ranging from Dolly Parton singing country, to DJ Hixxy playing Happy Hardcore dance music, all that is in between, and then some!

Another interesting point made by Andy Bennett within the same article, is that he feels the term ‘subculture’ is now nothing more than a “convenient ‘catch-all’ term for any aspect of social life in which young people, style and music intersect” (par. 2). He suggests this term is so vague in today’s vocabulary, that there is the danger that it can mean everything and nothing, all at the same time. Bennett also suggests that there are mainstream and non-mainstream subcultures, and the best way to differentiate between the two is to follow the lead of Sarah Thornton, who suggests they are based on representation attributed by the media. According to Thornton, “authentic subcultures are largely constructed by the media” as a result of the members within these subcultures attempting to develop their ‘boundaries of self’ and how they relate to the rest of society, based on how they are portrayed within the media (par. 13). Seeing as the involvement of the ‘media circus’ as we know it, is more ubiquitous that the Internet itself, can any subculture or group of any origin, really ever escape the prying eyes and stringent scrutiny of the mass media? As a result of this, Thornton suggests, “subcultures… grow by force of their own energy into mysterious ‘movements’ only to be belatedly digested by the media” (1995:117). I would have to agree totally with Thornton, because it’s not until a group, or a cause, or a ‘movement’ of some description generates its own momentum entirely of its own design, that the media then decides to become an interested participant and add to its propulsion through the spotlight of media attention and advertising. The ‘movement’ itself starts long before the media find out about its existence, and decide to become involved.

Getting back to the blog mentioned earlier “Authentic Youth: Cultural Capital and Credibility in Digital Youth Culture” written by Jordan, she discusses the importance of cultural capital affected of these participant youth within their online communities. She talks of how “particular technologies and websites” allow the interaction of the involved “creative ways” with which to engage in their chosen subculture and interests, and then to actively ‘live out’ their self-created identities, voicing only that which they see fit will positively propel and enhance their status within the group. It is through this engagement and interaction that the youth place greater importance on status and active involvement “based on an implicit hierarchy of credibility”, which can be attained through continuous recognition and involvement within the online social networks, and participation within the physical interaction in the clubbing scene and nightlife within their city, town or suburban environments. All of this ‘engagement’ is designed to heighten and augment their social connections. The payoff is the accruing of ‘cultural capital’ & ‘street-cred’ (credibility) within the social network, and “highlights how young people can become more socially engaged through their online activities” (Jordan, par. 3).

Next time I will be investigating the spread of the “MP3 blog”, other social networking sites like “Facebook”, “Myspace Music” & more locally based “Respect Music” that sustain and propel the dance music online scene, and how they interact with file sharing websites like “Soundcloud” and others.

Until then, keep lovin’ the doof doof!


Bennett, Andy. Subcultures or Neo-Tribes? Rethinking the Relationship between Youth, Style and Musical Taste. Sociology 1999; 33; 599. Sage Publications. Online version accessible at: http://soc.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/33/3/599

Thornton, Sarah. Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Polity Press, 1995.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dancefloor subcultures..

So, we've all been there.. Squashed in the dead-centre of a ridiculously packed and an almost "impossible to penetrate" dance-floor (against most fire-safety codes) somewhere in a nightclub, "half cut" thanks to the recently ended happy hour.. Bouncing and gyrating along with numerous people you don't know (and probably wont ever know), only to enter that magic state of bliss when the music envelopes your spirit.. And you dance like a crazy person, enthralled in the ecstasy of the music.. Unaware of the outside world, caught in your own pulsing bubble of delight! To me, that is undoubtedly the moment that encapsulates the whole meaning of music, and more importantly, it's purpose.. It transports you to somewhere else.. Somewhere better.. Somewhere that has no problems.. Everything else can wait whilst you're there.. It's wonderful.. Complete escapism.. Just as it was intended.. sigh..

So where does the attraction really lie? How does it manifest? What are the driving forces behind those of us who are lovin' the doof doof? We all find things that we love and adore in different aspects of our lives, and it is through these 'memberships' where we try to understand and make sense of the world around us. Our 'memberships' add to our sense of belonging. They lead us to people of common interest. And as a result, we become part of a subculture that draws us together. For those of us who love dance music, the dance-floor has become our common ground, our sacred ground. It's that very place where you find yourself caught in the moment of a thumping great track, the pulse of the bass makes the blood in your veins race through your body, you feel the kick drum in your throat as your vocal chords involuntarily collide with each thud, you're in your bliss and you catch the eye of the nameless person dancing beside you, and you both give each other the nod of recognition, that you understand the other has found their happy place.. Their own bubble of escapism.. All thanks to the doof doof..

Academics have long studied the behaviours of youth, to attempt to understand their motivations and desires, and many studies of subcultural groups have come about as a result of attention in the mass media. But first, I should briefly explain what a subcultural group is. To avoid getting this terribly wrong, I shall quote my lecture notes on the definition:
A music subculture is an identifiable group of musicians, audiences, and participants that is structured according to shared identities, practices and values.

Within each subculture are elements of involvement by its members, that through their actions, further enables the common thread. Again, taken from my lecture notes to avoid emabarassment:
This can be found through the participants social and symbolic practices, such as performing and producing music (singing, composing, creating), consuming music (buying, clubbing, listening, swapping, sharing, discussing, dancing, collecting), using particular spaces, styles of dress, speech and deportment, behaviour (hanging out down the street, dancing, skating, graffiti) & media production (DIY - Do It Yourself).

Now, if one was to follow the initial leaders on subcultural theory, you would look towards the academics from the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) for instruction, which began in the 70s. They were the ones to develop the term subculture and its application. Interestingly, as with their initial look at the punk scene of the 70s, the studies performed by the CCCS tended to narrow-in on their links with delinquent behaviour, gangs, drugs, & socio-economic status. In today's postmodern society, there is a better understanding of how youth cultures have developed, and some academics believe there are other ways of understanding the pattern and behaviours of today's youth.

In her book "Beyond Subculture: Pop, Youth and Identity in a Postcolonial World", Rupa Huq compares the theories of the CCCS against the current climate of youth culture within the dance music scene. She advises that it has long been the viewpoint of the CCCS that youth resisted social order to directly oppose the ‘dominant order’ in society through ritualistic behaviour, and were found to be from socio-economically underprivileged areas. Rupa Huq suggests this dated theory ignores the idea that in club culture, the premise is about “having a good time” and not “shaking the establishment to its very foundations” or “challenging the dominant order” (103). Huq advises, to properly theorize ‘multifaceted youth’ is to encourage multidimensional theories keeping with the changing nature of society.

The dance-floors of today are far removed from those studied by the CCCS in the 70s. Today's dance arenas encompass a wide selection across the youth population, and the lines of segregation in regards to sex, race, religion, sexual preference, & economic status, have become more fluid and flexible. The dance-floor for me, has always been a place of refuge. Somewhere to escape "all that ails you". And in the coming weeks, I will be exploring more of the subcultural theories and how they relate to the dance music scene, in preparation for my final research paper.

Hello world!

Hey there members of the 'bloggersphere'!

This is my first introductory blurb about what the deal is with this blog, and where it potentially could lead to. "A seven?" I hear you ask! Heh heh, well who knows. Those 7's (being a damn good grade/result) are pretty hard to come by, but stranger things have certainly happened..

No, in all seriousness, this blog is a prelude to my final research paper for this course. And so in preparation, most of what will be discussed here will be about the subcultures that I find the most interesting and that I connect with the most. And that place, my friends, is found within the "dance music scene", in amongst the clubbers & ravers, and those mildly hearing impaired (from being to close to the speakers) folks like me, who love listening to "doof doof" music! Hence the title of this blog: "Lovin' the Doof Doof!".. Snazzy, huh?

So hold onto your butts, prepare to be spellbound (or at the very least, mildly entertained) and enjoy my first ever blog..