Master of Arts
The advent of the Internet, and file-sharing specifically, challenged the relationship between music and its monetary value. This thesis investigates what happened after music became “free.” Richard Middleton’s “moments of situational change” are used as a framework for discussion. Through a survey of recent history and twentieth-century technologies, it becomes clear that the amplification and acceleration of scale, pace and patterns of music consumption, production and distribution practices as incited by the Internet renegotiated music’s monetary value, but did not introduce us to the way we value music aesthetically, as a pastime, and as a means for constructing community and a sense of self. Practices and phenomena associated with the digital age, such as streaming and “prosumption,” as well as commodities such as the iPod illustrate not only the twisted beauty of the present, but also a continuum with the past and an optimism for the future.
Summary for Lay Audience
How disruptive exactly, was the advent of the Internet to the record industry? Listeners no longer felt the need to pay for music. Rather, listeners could download as much music they wanted for free, courtesy of file-sharing platforms such as Napster. As such, music’s monetary value was put into a state of flux while the reasons we listen to music could shine brighter than ever before. This thesis investigates how music continued to be valued aesthetically, as a pastime, and as a means for constructing community and a sense of self while its monetary value was being renegotiated. Richard Middleton’s “moments of situational change” are used as a framework for discussion and models involving feedback cycles and circuits are used to illustrate and facilitate analysis. This thesis takes a more synoptic approach in surveying recent history not only through a musicological lens, but also through consulting media studies, popular music studies, and cultural studies. Chapters focus on practices and phenomena associated with the digital age, such as file-sharing, shifts in materiality, music streaming and portability, and “prosumption” to demonstrate that the Internet has amplified and accelerated the scale, pace, and patterns of music consumption, production and distribution practices. Discussions also encompass the implications of music permeating our everyday lives via our smart devices such as the iPod and music streaming platforms such as Spotify. Since technology changes faster than we do, historicizing the present through connections and comparisons with older technologies and practices illustrates not only the twisted beauty of the present, but also a continuum with the past and optimism for the future.
Sked, Brandon, "Music in the Moment of "Cyber Culture:" An Outward Spiral" (2020). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7065.