Hello everybody!

My name is Orsi and this is my second semester studying the MA in music industries as a distance student (although I did travel up twice last semester to say hello, so I am hoping I can do the same this semester too!).

I am doing this MA as a part time student since I’m also working full time managing an online vinyl shop called Fat City and working for a small label called Jazzman Records. I did a BA in Music and Media Management 2005-2008 and that is essentially why I moved to London (apart from my dream of working with music).

During and after my BA I worked for a small label called Brownswood Recordings, and before starting my current job I worked as a project and account manager at two different digital agencies for roughly three years in total.

Apart from that I’ve been hosting my own radio show called Little Miss Sunshiine for about 2½ years on Laid Back Radio, as well as doing some other radio related things on different stations, and last year I took the big step of playing records in public (and I say big because for me it’s very nerve wrecking…)

As for this module, I think all weeks sound really interesting because they relate to personal as well as professional interests of mine.

I guess in a bit broader sense, when I think of music as culture I keep getting drawn back to three things:

1. Can there be commerce without the culture?
2. Would we have a “rich” culture if there wasn’t a commercial/financial side to music?
3. That I’ve unconsciously been part of some sort of “music culture” throughout my entire life.

On a personal side, music meaning, identity, but especially history and heritage in terms of why music I hear today sound a specific way due to music from the past has always interested me. I guess my rather big range of musical taste comes from trying to explore the musical background of music that I have come across and liked.

An example of this is Hip Hop.
Not only was I part of the culture of Hip Hop when I was growing up, and by culture I don’t just mean the music but the four elements and what they represented etc, but being part of that culture sparked an interest in me to dig deeper to discover where the samples & breaks came from in the music I was listening, singing and dancing to. And thanks to that I discovered a brand new world of jazz, funk, soul, disco and electronic music, which in turn lead me to pop, rock, blues, country and so on.

From a professional/business point of view I’d say it’s vital to understand the culture behind music because I think that’s essentially what you are making your money from (but I might be wrong…).

So in a way, the better you understand the culture the better you can use it to your advantage to exploit it and earn more money.

That might sound a bit grim, and maybe it is wrong, but so far that is the impression I get…

Working and in a way “belonging” to a niche part of the music industry, I sometimes get the feeling that people who belong to it too feel like our work/music is more important because we “create better musical culture” but I have never really been convinced by that.

What makes good culture? or good music for that matter?

Sorry, I won’t ramble on… Let’s just say I have a lot of thoughts and questions, and I look forward to have even more once this module is finished.

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.

Negus gives an overview of the relationship between music radio and record labels in North America and the UK, and presents their similarities and differences, whilst Percival gives a more in-depth explanation of the two in UK, and Rothenbuhler & McCourt in the USA.

All discuss the power of radio as promotional tool for labels, but also determining “the way which artists are acquired, developed and presented.” (Negus 1992)

As Negus and Rothenbuhler & McCourt point out, in North America commercial radio is less about delivering music to an audience than delivering an audience to its advertisers.

As Percival points out, while this is true of commercial radio in the UK, the market is still dominated by the publically funded BBC which, as Wall points out, has as its primary objective “reaching audiences as an end in itself.”

All three authors highlight the important relationship between radio pluggers and programmers, whether commercial or the BBC. One key fact to appreciate is that radio programmers don’t simply play hit records they have a very powerful role in creating them.

“[…] It has largely been radio play which has encouraged retailers to stock recordings and consumers to purchase them.” (Negus 1992)

The way I interpret it, these are all concerned with the mainstream, and what I am interested in is the niche.

Where I think we are very lucky in the UK is that we have the BBC which as a “single dominant cultural organization will produce innovation (specialist music shows, for example) alongside products that compete in a mainstream mass market (like breakfast radio shows on Radio 1 and Radio 2).” (Percival 2011)

None of the records that I sell at Fat City are in the mainstream, but because the BBC can afford to have specialist shows, the products that I sell have the benefit of being promoted to a national audience.

As Negus and Percival say, DJ’s in the UK are considered more as tastemakers than they are in the USA.

Let’s take Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson as an example. He has a reputation for playing cutting edge new and old music, “joining the musical dots – soul, hip-hop, house, Afro, Latin, dubstep, jazz and beyond.” (BBC website) There is a big overlap between his audience and our customers, which means that if he plays a record, chances are that we will sell more of that release. Conversely, our reputation is enhanced if we stock a record that he plays.

What I am missing in all three texts is where internet radio stations falls into the equation. Is it of any importance to record labels? Does it add any promotional value, and if so, how? Could it be argued that they serve an important role for labels, especially indies, because they are not necessarily required to deliver an audience to an advertiser as commercial radio are, or satisfy a public service remit as is BBC. They can be as niche as they like and have the potential of reaching a worldwide audience.

I am a radio presenter and DJ on an online radio station, Laid Back Radio. Listeners can “like” a song and Tweet it through our software, find out more about the artist, submit music that they have produced, recommend tracks or artists we may not be playing, send us mixes that they have put together, or articles, photos, videos or artwork which can be shared with our worldwide audience. Our philosophy is not to define the audience to fit the advertiser but to let the audience define itself.

Negus, K. (1992) Producing Pop

Percival, M. (2011) Music Radio and the Record Industry: Songs, Sounds, and Power, Popular Music and Society

Rothenbuhler, E & McCourt, T. (1992) Commercial Radio and Popular Music: Processes of Selection and Factors of Influence’ in The Popular Music Studies Reader.