(Music composition, production and video editing by K. Emmanouil aka Habit Noir)
In 1977 Jacques Attali published Noise, a book about the relationship between music and society. Specifically, Attali argued that the entangling of music with the modes of production is so profound that it can predict major societal transformations. For example, the invention of the gramophone in the late 19th century forecast the mass production of the 20th. Furthermore, the emerging of the DJ’s heralds the end of property things (Attali, 1977).
Attali also predicted the age of composition where “liberated time and egoistic enjoyment is possible” (1977). An era where the production of specific tools will enable people to create the conditions which will allow them to enjoy the pleasure of composing (Attali, 1977). In this context, Attali foresaw what was later called “democratisation of music” and the age of bedroom producers (Leyshon, 2009).
Being a bedroom producer myself, I can write music on a laptop, a tablet, even a mobile phone. Virtual Instruments (Vst’s) and Digital Audio Workstations (DAW’s) provide me with the power to produce and manipulate the sound in a way that I could never imagine twenty years before. Vst’s and DAW’s are software programs replicating hardware equipment that used to cost thousands of pounds a few decades ago. However, these days you can buy some replicas of these hardware instruments at the cost of a cup of tea. After producing a music track, I can write it in a cd or upload it on a cloud platform like Soundcloud or create a video and upload it on YouTube.
Steve Jones in Music and the Internet (2000) wrote that the distribution of sound gradually becomes more important than the recording of the sound thus being able to produce and transport the sound is having power over the sound. What Jones wrote became a reality a few years later. With the advent of the appropriate technology evolution on personal computers and software, everyone has the power to produce and record sound, write it in a CD and print the sleeve.
Jones attempted to describe the relationship between technology and popular music. He examined this relationship at three different levels: music production, music consumption and music distribution. Analysing the role of social networks at each of these levels, he approached the occurring changes at the level of social relations, geography and music. Internet technologies erased the distance between musicians and the studios or the stage (Jones, 2000). A guitarist can record his part of a song and send it to the producer in a few seconds.
In terms of consumption, Jones predicted the great reshape of the music industry via digital computer networks. The new technologies shifted the way we purchase and consume music in spatial terms (2000, p. 218). Besides, significant changes have taken place in the distribution of music, and as Jones put it, it took place a “disintermediation and concomitant disruption of routinised business practices and processes that have accreted over nearly a century” (Jones, 2000).
Indeed, a few years later, the consumption and the distribution of music are overwhelmingly based on cloud services. These services replaced the traditional distribution chain of record companies and record stores. They offer “individuated, personalised, portable consumption” with profits produced via advertising or monthly fees (Burkart, 2014). Τhis significant cultural shift prompts the termination of ownership (vinyl, CDs) over music rental (Marshall, 2015). From hardware to software and vinyl to mp3, the dematerialisation of music is a fact. However, materiality is still essential as we can observe from the recent vinyl comeback (Magaudda, 2011).
Attali, J. (1977) Noise, The Political Economy of Music. 1985th edn. University of Minnesota Press.
Burkart, P. (2014) ‘Music in the cloud and the digital sublime’, Popular Music and Society. Routledge, 37(4), pp. 393–407. doi: 10.1080/03007766.2013.810853.
Jones, S. (2011) ‘Music and the Internet’, in The Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 440–451. doi: 10.1002/9781444314861.ch21.
Leyshon, A. (2009) ‘The software slump?: Digital music, the democratisation of technology, and the decline of the recording studio sector within the musical economy’, Environment and Planning A, 41(6), pp. 1309–1331. doi: 10.1068/a40352.
Magaudda, P. (2011) ‘When materiality “bites back”: Digital music consumption practices in the age of dematerialization’, Journal of Consumer Culture. Edited by B. Halkier, T. Katz-Gerro, and L. Martens, 11(1), pp. 15–36. doi: 10.1177/1469540510390499.
Marshall, L. (2015) ‘“Let’s keep music special. F—Spotify”: on-demand streaming and the controversy over artist royalties’, Creative Industries Journal. Routledge, 8(2), pp. 177–189. doi: 10.1080/17510694.2015.1096618.