Session/Séance 6d: IASPM Panel 1. Friday/vendredi 26 May 2017. 3:30 – 5:00, EJB 330.
Online Listening Techniques
Moderator: DAVID BRACKETT (McGill University)
1. Catching up with Rancière’s Philosophy in Popular Music Studies: The Dialectic of Inclusion and Exclusion in the Music Distribution
Danick Trottier, Université du Québec à Montréal
This paper addresses the way Rancière’s theory on arts and aesthetics (2000, 2004, etc.) could be applied to some issues in the studies of popular music, precisely those issues engaging musical communities and belonging, political action through pop acts, and more broadly the contribution of pop music to mass culture. If Rancière’s philosophy gained more and more attention in musicology, there is a plethora of issues to consider regarding the production, circulation and reception of music in current societies, namely such concepts as sensitive, sharing, equality, dissension, etc. Among other things, Rancière deepens the questions of “what is making art” as much as “what art is making” in front of political action, which takes into account a space of sensitivity where the hierarchies behind the arts are deconstructed. In doing so, the dialectic between inclusion and exclusion has to be deployed regarding the way specific songs are produced, distributed, and consumed. The distribution of the sensible, one of his major essays, develops this rich idea that “what is commonly distributed is what presents itself to sense experience” (2004, 13), the problem being the ways distribution functioned through delimitations. To apply more specifically that issue, the the paper will reflect on the television documentary presented at Télé-Québec in October 2016, La musique à tout prix (The music at any cost). Lead by Louis-Jean Cormier and Ariane Moffatt, the documentary focused on the drop of incomes for musicians in the current distribution of music through internet and streaming, and the way Quebec song is specifically affected. In this large network of sharing values and common sensitive that is the web through music consumption, those who create and produce the music feel the experience of being excluded, which results in dissension. This is a tense situation, the musicians being spurred in a position that is at the opposite of the sensitive. Rancière’s concepts on arts and aesthetics find a deep application in these kinds of issues.
Keywords: Rancière, inclusion, exclusion, music distribution, Quebec song
2. “Check Out This Link!”: Echo Chambers, Online Listening and Belonging
Owen Chapman, Concordia University
Kate Crawford (2009) has suggested “listening” as an apt (and overlooked) metaphor to describe social media interaction, even when textual. She does not address, however, music sharing sites like Soundcloud, Bandcamp, what.cd, YouTube or audio mapping projects such as AudioBoo and Radio Aporee. Borrowing Pinch and Bijsterveld’s (2003) notion of musical boundary technologies, my presentation explores how the format-specific affordances of online audio platforms expose social and economic preconceptions regarding what constitutes worthwhile listening. Following Sterne (2006, 2012) I will look at online audio files as container technologies that carry social/cultural attributes via their formats. I will then identify similar formal aspects that are caught up in the social media listening that Crawford highlights. How does choosing what to listen to amidst a sea of infinite options represent an act of identity formation, a series of projected (be)longings? How do these belongings operate at different levels depending on whether the listening involved is textual, visual, and/or aural? In the aftermath of the recent US election, I will explore the “echo chamber” effect that is the flip side of Crawford’s recognition that “listening” is what most of us are doing as we surf our social media feeds. I will present a limited discursive analysis of recent media coverage of Trump’s echo chamber enabled win. I will not argue for the prevalence of echo chamber effects within social media so much as attempt to reveal their affective foundations – foundations that mirror the forms of belonging we develop through the music we choose to listen to and share online.
Keywords: social media, online music, echo chamber, listening, affect
3. Pulling the Plug: UK Music Radio, Playlisting, Streaming and Hit Making
J. Mark Percival, Queen Margaret University
Radio and the record industry have had a relationship that began in the 1920s and continues nearly two decades into the 21st century. This relationship has been at times rocky and often beneath the radar of any formal regulatory process, yet there is a stubborn refusal to split up. Why does radio still matter to the business and culture of recorded music when the digital channels through which music can be accessed have proliferated far beyond anything that could have been predicted in the early 2000s? This paper is based on a new series of interviews with original key participants in doctoral research first published in 2008. The first set of interviews was carried out in 2004 and 2005,and so pre-date the rapid expansion of streamed content that followed the launch of YouTube in February 2005, Deezer in August 2007 and Spotify in October 2008. In addition, it was so soon after the appearance of the iTunes store (in April 2003) that the impact of Apple’s entry into the music industry had yet to become apparent – the first generation iPhone did not appear until June 2007. The 2008 project concluded that a central component of the relationship between radio and the record industry was the interaction of a relatively small number of individuals from both industries. These agents worked to manage their interaction in pursuit of maximising positive outcomes at both inter-personal and inter-organisational levels. The characteristics of these relationships had a direct impact on a diverse range of record industry practices, on the mediation of popular music, and on the texts of popular music. In a new set of interviews, record industry pluggers reflect on a decade of change in music technology and culture, the value of their work, the “streaming effect,” and consider the on-going significance of broadcast radio for the recorded music industry.
Keywords: UK music radio, streaming, plugging