The Music Industry and Technology Panel

Sunday, April 15, 9:30am
Geiringer Hall
Linda Shaver-Gleason, chair

"Crisis in Cyberspace: Digital Technology and Anxiety in the Recording Industry"

Tom Sykes, Creative Arts/Sciences
University of Salford (UK)

"The crisis of repetition announces a form of crisis different from the one to which we are accustomed in the schemas of representation. Crisis is no longer a breakdown, a rupture. It is no longer dissonance in harmony, but excess in repetition" (Attali 1985: 130, my italics). The excess of repetition to which Attali referred was the proliferation of recorded music, which the recording industry had created in its pursuit of monetary gain. Attali originally wrote this in 1977, before the digitization of cultural texts; now we have a far greater proliferation of perfect digital copies of cultural texts transmitted via the internet (recorded music in particular) over which the cultural industries have little, if any, control.

This paper investigates the crisis the globalized cultural industries have found themselves in (particularly the recording industry), their reaction to it and whether they could have responded differently. This also raises questions about the ownership of cultural texts and intellectual property in the digital era, and how the cultural industries and creators of cultural texts may be rewarded for their work in a world where everything is available for "free." It is related to my PhD research into the effect of digital media on the dissemination and consumption of niche genres of popular music.

"Music Piracy: Intentions, Ethics, and Crisis in the Music Industry"

Thomas Burlin, Music Education
University of North Texas

According to the Recording Industry Association of America [RIAA], in just the span of five years from 2004 to 2009, 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded; and in 2009, only 37% of consumed music in the U.S. was purchased. Losses in sales have been estimated to be from between 5 billion and 13 billion dollars annually in the U.S. As the largest consumers of music, most research has focused on young Americans. A 2004 survey given to college students found that only 5% of students thought of downloading music illegally as ethically wrong. The record industry may themselves be to blame for this ethical misunderstanding because they often give music away for free in one context (e.g. radio and YouTube) and expect payment in another (e.g. iTunes downloads and CDs).

Many researchers have found that attitude toward piracy was the strongest predictor of intention to pirate music. However, several new studies indicate that those who pirate music are also the largest consumers of paid music. The vast majority of research studies with young Americans have used surveys that measure attitudes and intentions to pirate music; however, qualitative investigation might shed light on why pirating has become a norm. This mixed-methods study uses attitude and intentionality surveys developed by Cronan and Al-Rafee (permission granted by authors) and post-survey semi-structured interviews that focus on the characteristics of the music that participants are likely to purchase and intend to pirate. Preliminary results indicate that 1) participants are more likely to pay for what they consider an experience than what they consider information and 2) participants are more likely to pay for convenient and/or high-quality music. Implications are given in terms of education and proposed changes within the record industry.

"An Instrument of Urban Planning: The Lingering Power of the Dematerialized Belfry"

Tiffany Ng, Musicology
University of California, Berkeley

The Guild of Carillonneurs in North America offers a circular definition of carillon as an instrument "of at least two octaves of carillon bells…played from a keyboard…" Its ever-failing mission to exclude most bell towers from its definition and its omission of a human agent suggest the uncontainable malleability of the world's loudest acoustic instrument as, simultaneously, a weightless conceptual construction. This paper traces the carillon through manifestations as sonic simulacrum and silent signifier, documenting the encounters of those who uphold the definition with those who appropriate the term to construct senses of community, memory, and place where neither they nor bells materially exist.

The clash between carillon proponents and universities with towers playing bell-free electronic "carillons" is the clash of a musical ideology of authenticity based on materiality and skilled labor with an institutional desire for an affordable, historically authentic soundscape. Harnessing the power of bells to evoke the homogeneous community of antebellum towns, North Carolina State University paradoxically legitimates its simulated carillon's authenticity—and attenuates anxious student campaigns to address the lack of bells—with the technological sublime of its endless configurability.

Escaping its monumental referent, the term "carillon" also dematerializes into text and image without losing its evocative power. Recent suburban developments like malls and retirement homes take its name, simulating cohesion, history, and memory despite continual population turnover. In Florida's exclusive Carillon Beach residential development, elimination of the musician and visible mechanism brings its erstwhile carillon closer to the Baudrillardian hyperreal of Floridian New Urbanism, a profitable urban-planning ideology. As simulacrum, the carillon provides community branding and historical iconicity to spatial commodification, eclipsing carillonneurs's protests about authenticity.

My study examines carillonneurs, appropriators, and the instruments and sounds themselves. After the carillon's silencing, I find clashing sounds of dispute in the simulation of the carillon's historical monumentality.

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