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Future Directions for the Music Industry: Lessons from the Swedish Independent Scene

The last keynote at AoIR 2010 is by the fabulous Nancy Baym, whose recent work has focussed especially on the Swedish independent music industry. Nancy’s based in Kansas, but is now well connected with the Swedish music scene – and that’s just one example of the international cultural interconnections which we’re now seeing.

Her initial interest in Swedish music stems from exposure to independent music stores in the US which import overseas music; most of these stores are labours of love rather than significantly successful commercial enterprises – and they are now also selling music back to Sweden, in fact! Music Websites in the US and elsewhere in the world which focus on Swedish music are also popular in Scandinavia itself.

The Emergence of Copygrey Services

It’s the last day of AoIR 2010, and the first session I’m attending starts with Jan Nolin, whose interest is in filesharing. He describes this as Internet-based cultural consumption (IBCC), in order to move away from terms like filesharing, peer-to-peer networks, and other more limited concepts. IBCC is a broad and inclusive term, then (though excluding user-led content creation) – it includes societal contexts, technological and economical choices, social relationships, and political and legislative contexts.

IBCC has been important in shaping the Net – it has been in a tug of war pattern between legislation and technology: increased legislation leads to advances in circumvention technology, etc. There was a tech push from filesharers at first, then a legal response, then further evasive technology like Napster, then counter-evasive practices from the industty, and more recently a differentiation between white, black, and grey practices. Most recently there has been a specialisation and commercialisation of grey markets – an emergence of a copygrey business model.

Considering Piracy as More than Just a Criminal Activity

It’s too early, too chilly, and too foggy for words – but regardless, the second day of the ‘Doing Global Media Studies’ pre-conference to ECREA 2010 is about to begin. The keynote speaker this morning is Tristan Mattelart, whose focus is on audiovisual piracy - and he begins by noting the substantial attention already paid to this phenomenon, though mainly as a for of 'criminal' activity. He notes that there is a difference between Internet piracy and physical piracy (the sale of counterfeit DVDs and CDs), and that there are differences in such piracy between different countries.

We already know the legal economy of communication in southern and eastern countries pretty well – but that’s less true for the informal economy of communication, which is nonetheless an important aspect of these overall economies. This informal economy plays a central role in the circulation of media and cultural products, in fact – and what Tristan means by ‘southern and eastern countries’ are countries as far afield as Tunisia, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and others.

Sadly, the existing literature on the subject of piracy in southern and eastern countries is voluminous, but very narrow in coverage. It is formed mainly of self-interested reports by copyright industries (MPAA, IFPI, BSA, IIPA), and contains alarmist analysis of the dangers which piracy poses to the movie, music, and software industries. What such reports contain are figures on the calculated ‘losses’ to the industry due to pirated content; many southern and eastern countries especially appear as zones of maximum instability for the industry.

Publication Update: Three New Chapters

With the Internet Turning 40 and International Communication Association conferences completed, I'm briefly back in Brisbane, before setting off for the Australia/New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) conference in Canberra next week (hopefully with a recharged audio recorder!).

In the meantime, here's a quick update on some new publications I've been involved in - a number of my recent book chapters on a range of topics have now been published:

First, with a chapter on "News Blogs and Citizen Journalism" in e-Journalism: New Media and News Media I'm introducing my work on gatewatching and citizen journalism to an Indian readership - the book was edited by Kiran Prasad, who was my office mate at the University of Leeds while I was there in 2007 to do some research for the produsage book, and was published by B.R. Publishing in Delhi. I don't think the publisher actually has a Website - but there's a good overview of the collection at Cyberjournalist, and it also includes contact details for BR Publishing.

Fansubbing in China as a Form of Produsage

Hong Kong.
The final speaker in this session at The Internet Turning 40 is Donna Chu, who highlights the different forms of content creation which are emerging in Web 2.0 environments as the nature of production and consumption is shifting. Does this mean that users are empowered or exploited in this environment? What forms of civic participation are possible here?

Some of these questions are not new, but continue similar discussions in the area of fandom - fans have been creating content for a very long time, and have now simply moved online to share that content. Fans mobilise in support for discontinued TV shows, create petitions to save characters which are to be dumped from TV shows, etc. TV fans who participate in this way, though, are also contributing free labour to these TV shows, and could be seen as being exploited.

Students' Use of TV Content across Different Platforms

Hong Kong.
The final session for this first day of The Internet Turning 40 starts with a paper by Louisa Ha on the use of multiplatform TV by students. Video is now consumed using TVs, computers, iPods, DVRs, DVD players, and mobile phones, but what are the patterns of such consumption and how does the usage of one affect usage of others? How is this related to different personal factors (gender, etc.), especially for user-generated videos? And how satisfied are the users of these different platforms?

Louisa undertook a national survey in 2008 of some 210 (US) college students in six public universities, 91% of whom watch online video (22% watch TV for more than16 hours per week). 47% were early adopters, having watched online video for more than three years at that point; they mostly came across such videos through surfing or (in 25% of cases) through peer influence. Online, 48% watched user-generated videos exclusively; 34% both user-generated and repurposed videos. Key sources here were YouTube (nearly 100%), Facebook, and MySpace, and mainly comedy and music entertainment videos.

The Reconstruction of the Beatles' Identity through YouTube

The next speaker at Transforming Audiences is Richard Mills, whose interest is in the presence of the Beatles on YouTube. The Beatles' image was carefully guided and constructed by their manager Brian Epstein, of course, and the nascent music press of the early to mid-1960 bought strongly into that, creating Beatlemania and connecting it to the wider Swinging Sixties rhetoric. The Beatles themselves eventually reacted against this commercialisation and commodification, and gradually changed their image to embrace countercultural ideas. The evolution of Beatles iconography on their record covers over time also points powerfully to this shift, of course - from the identical suits and haircuts of the first albums to the blankness of The White Album.

Building Social Capital by Bittorrenting Family Guy

The next session at ANZCA 2009 starts with Lelia Green, presenting on the practices of a small affinity group (a LAN clan) of year 11-12 students in suburban Perth. None of these young men could quantify what amount of time they spent online each day; they used the Net extensively during their non-school time, at any rate. The study focussed especially on the use of Bittorrent, which was invented in 2002 and has been especially used for sharing movie and television content. Bittorrent use becomes more effective the more users are sharing the same file, of course, and there were some 4 million users online at any one point by 2006. By February 2009, some 160 million users had downloaded Bittorrent softwares.

The User-Led Disruption: Self-(Re)broadcasting at and Elsewhere (EuroITV 2009)

The User-Led Disruption: Self-(Re)broadcasting at and Elsewhere

Axel Bruns

  • 4 June 2009 - EuroITV, Leuven, Belgium

The rise of videosharing and self-(re)broadcasting Web services is posing new threats to a television industry already struggling with the impact of filesharing networks. This paper outlines these threats, focussing especially on the DIY re-broadcasting of live sports using Websites such as and a range of streaming media networks built on peer-to-peer filesharing technology.


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