#mamusicindustries MED7020: Technologies of music business

For last week’s assignment we were given chapters seven and eight of Katz, M (2004) “Capturing Sound” that discuss sampling and then the influence and use of MP3s and Peer to Peer Networks (P2P) and chapter two of Miller, P. (2008) “Sound Unbound” that discusses sampling in a broad sense.

Although technology is one of the common themes in all three texts, I would argue that another theme is control.

In chapter seven, Katz talks about sampling as an art form of transformation, suggesting that “what computers manipulate is not sound itself but representations of sound.  Therefore, if sampling represents sound, we cannot say that a sampled passage of music is that music”. (p. 140)

He uses three songs, “Notjustmoreidlechatter” by Paul Lansky, “Praise You” by Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim) and “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy as examples of how sampling can be used, in my opinion, in a very complex, creative and unique way to create something new and original. While the evolution of technology has enabled us to sample sounds, the issue of copyright remains.

As we have learned, ideas are not subject to copyright protection. And if I understood Miller correctly, he argues that we all ‘sample’, not just music but any kind of idea or expressed idea, all the time. Whenever we make real an idea, we, or anyone else, have the ability to change it – in that sense the idea or expressed idea is being ‘sampled’. And it could be argued that that in turn is one of the ways we come up with new or improved ideas, whether in music, science or architecture.

If we put that in context of today’s society, technology has not only enabled us to ‘sample’ things around us, but with the internet and other advanced technology like mobile phones, we can now also instantly share and exchange these ‘samples’ with the world, which leads me to chapter eight of Katz.

The advent of new technology like the internet, MP3s, P2P networks and devices such as the iPod has enabled us to discover, consume and experience music in a new way. I agree with Katz when he says “MP3 and P2P are influential not because they are good or bad, but because they provide radically new ways to experience and disseminate music.”

I think the discussion of these new technologies and their influence ties in not only with the music industry’s attempts to control the ways we use these technologies through seeking to enforce copyright, but also to the discussions we have had about the structure of the industry and its links to the music media.

As someone whose job is focused on selling physical goods (not even CD’s but vinyl), I could take the same position as most of the music industry about these new technologies, arguing that they are “bad” for the industry. However, I see it as something positive that should be taken advantage of. While I do have the same worry as Katz that “the intangibility of MP3s and the ease with which they are obtained, disseminated, and deleted may encourage the sense that music is just another disposable commodity” (p. 175), I also feel that it is a great opportunity to add extra value to physical goods, whether it is in the form of free download cards with the records our customers buy, free mixes that showcases music we stock in the store, or any other digital content that ties in with what we are selling.

Just as sheet music never died out with the arrival of the vinyl record, I do not think that the vinyl or CD will die out with the MP3 and the internet. What does worry me though is the way the music industry has alienated some of their customers through some of their actions in order to stop and control the way their customers use these new technologies.