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Current Trends across the Entertainment Industries

Gothenburg.
The next AoIR 2010 session I’m in is a panel on sustainable entertainment, which involves Wenche Nag from the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor, Mia Consalvo, Jean Burgess, Patrick Wikström, and Martin Thörnkvist. Patrick begins by noting the transformations in the music industry, for example, where the largest company now no longer is a record label but a live music company. iTunes and similar models are also making a significant impact, of course. Much of this is now based on artist/audience relationships that are based on passion and substantial emotional investment – which works for some entertainment industries, of course, but not for others.

Also, what are revenues linked to – where do payments come from (now perhaps from subscription fees, advertising, sponsorships, etc., rather than from content sales)? This has led to a rapid succession of various attempted business models – the latest, for example, is Spotify –, some of which have failed already. Spotify, for example, has been an attempt to draw users away from illegal filesharing models and towards legitimate systems.

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.

The Music Industry's Efforts to Rigidify Its Contracts with Artists

Singapore.
For the second round of ICA 2010 papers this morning, I'm in a popular communication session, and Matt Stahl is the first presenter. He notes the ongoing turbulence in the recording industry, dating back to the late 1970s which led it to embrace a blockbuster model for which Thriller is the best example; there was an intensification of rigidity in labour relations as a result (with a focus on high-earning artists in both industry employment and product marketing), but also a flexibility in the exploration of new business models to support this and identify new artists.

Tagging Practices of Brazilian last.fm Users

Milwaukee.
The next speaker in this last.fm panel at AoIR 2009 is Adriana Amaral, who shifts our focus to Brazilian users of last.fm, and points especially to the role of online profiles here. Profiles are often related to a specific scene, subculture, or musical genre, and musical taste is a convergent process involving mass media, word of mouth, friends, community, family, and other social spaces. There are a number of site types here - classification, musical data visualisation, and online radio stations (based on listening data); each of these are important features of last.fm. The way the site deals with tagging intensifies the individual and collective relations of recommendations; its folksonomy can be understood as a narrow typology.

The Roles of Music Recommendation Systems

Milwaukee.
Up next in this panel at AoIR 2009 is Simone Pereira de Sá, whose focus is on music recommendation systems; such systems are mediators or translators to which we delegate the task of recommendation. They promise something else for the different actors in the process: artists are presented to the right people, while listeners find new music they should enjoy, and this is further enhanced through social networking tools and tagging functionalities.

Labelling systems deal with the complex issue of music classifications, choices, and tastes, and this ties into the question of musical genres - so, how do recommendation systems work on this basis, and strain, support, or overcome the idea of musical generes? As Simon Frith has suggested, one of the greatest pleasures of entertainment culture is the discussion of different values and tastes; different opinions have different levels of credibility here. This is also connected to subcultural theory, of course, which ascribes certain subcultural capital to agents in contact with the media and refers to consuming certain exclusive information and the 'right' cultural products.

Types of Friends on last.fm

Milwaukee.
After the first keynote at AoIR 2009, I'm now in a panel on last.fm that begins with Nancy Baym. She asks what the term 'friend' means in a social networking site; this both in an interpersonal context and in the context of society as a whole, where some suggest that the term 'friend' is losing its meaning through its use on social networking sites. Last.fm was founded in London in 2005, and now has more than 35 million users; it is highly international, and based in the first place on the use of audio scrobbling application which share what its users are listening to.

Lamp Post Radio in a Brazilian Favela

London.
The penultimate session at Transforming Audiences starts with a paper by Andrea Medrado, whose interest is in 'lamp post radio' in Brazilian favelas: speakers which are attached to lamp posts and broadcast local radio programming. Such radio - a form of community radio - needs to be understood within the wider sonic landscape of the favela environment.

Most work on community radio as such tends to be overly celebratory and usually does not focus much on the audiences for such radio programming; listening is assumed to be an isolated, individual practice, which is clearly at odds with the public nature of lamp post radio. Andrea approached her research through media ethnography; this was complicated by perceptions of Andrea as a higher-class outsider entering the lower-class social environment of the favela, and this had to be carefully negotiated in order to gain the necessary access to the local community.

The Reconstruction of the Beatles' Identity through YouTube

London.
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.

Music 2.0 (or 3.0?)

Copenhagen.
We move on at COST298 to Stijn Bannier, who focusses on the musical network in the context of Web 2.0 (or 3.0, as the case may be). By 'musical network', Stijn means the network of artists, producers, labels, distributors, and other music industry institutions, which together constitute the industry itself. These are affected by the rise of Web 2.0, not least as it enables users to create, consume, share and remix music; this is potentially exacerbated by further developments towards Web 3.0.

Stijn points as an example to artist self-promotion and self-distribution on MySpace and elsewhere; to musical reproduction, tagging, and metadata sharing (e.g. on last.fm), which may also be analysed quantitatively; to distribution networks built on social networks, peer-to-peer filesharing, and other Web 2.0 media; and to the abundance of content which this creates. This is where Web 3.0 may come in, with its increased emphasis on metadata generation and evaluation.

How Managing Collaboration in Social Media Is like Conducting

Hamburg.
The final presenter at next09 is conductor (as in, music) Itay Talgam. He begins by describing the way an orchestra tunes up - everyone doing their own thing; this is noise, not yet music. But when the conductor steps up to the podium, attention is focussed, and music begins. Whose creation is this music? Who is responsible? Who contributed to the success of the performance?

This is a question of ownership, of course - and it applies just as much to collaborative online environments as it does to an orchestra. The conductor of the orchestra provides the leadership, controls the process, and the musicians follow - but in the process, the musicians also lose some of their independence, their ability to introduce their own personality into the performance.

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