In recent years, digital technologies have changed dramatically, consequentially having a significant impact on the music industry, who have been forced to alter their methods of production; to counteract the increased fickleness of music audiences, whose tastes are ever-changing and seek instant gratification. The evolution of the music industry has been acutely influenced by the developments in technology. It could be argued that technology has been a significant challenge for style of cultural production, the economic relationships within these, and of course… the law.
In addition, whilst piracy has always been an issue, the widespread use of internet based distribution makes this increasingly problematic. Digital technology has never been so diverse; all the time companies are coming up with fresh plans and innovative ideas to cater to the way audiences consume music. Music is now available in the form of: Ipods, both legal and illegal downloads, music streaming sites, music streaming software, digital radio, television channels (including those targeting niche markets), mobile phones, internet sites, file sharing (both online and by members of the public).
Recently there has been an increase in legal music streaming sites, presumably in an attempt to create a compromise between free, illegal downloads and controversially expensive legal ones. This methods also means that music labels are able to have a greater input, though recently – and despite their popularity, the services have come under fire for failing to compensate independent artists fairly. Obviously noticing the decline in physical sales, and the sharp increase of online downloads, many artists began to take note and share their music via Myspace.
It provides a profile for musicians, and enables them to upload their entire discography, regardless of whether or not they are signed to a record label. This has seen the launch of many a popular artist including the likes of Lily Allen, The Arctic Monkeys, Sean Kingston etc. Whereas in the past, music distribution was only available via a record, eight track, compact disk, or tape – it’s now most commonly distributed on the internet and via the use of computers.
However, with this kind of distribution comes problems, most concerning record companies. With computers becoming an essential part of our day to day lives, it is almost inevitable that they have and will have a significant impact on our music; this explains our increasing dependence for the production and distribution of it. There are numerous advantages to accessing music via the internet, even amateur users and able to access virtually any song that’s ever been produced in an extremely short matter of time.
It’s all able to be done from a personal computer, making it accessible to all; and meaning that it’s far, far more accessible than previous methods. Many argue that while it’s there for the taking, user will continue to do just that. The sheer diversity of the music genres on the internet provides a means for users to ‘broaden their musical horizons and discover music that previously would be unheard of.
Music downloading also presents the opportunity for people to sample a preview of songs before they make a purchase, which also provides a major disadvantage for artists – especially those with songs that don’t contain a ‘hook’, this may mean they feel more pressure to conform to certain genres in order to be more profitable, presenting a moral dilemma. However, as for mentioned, new technologies provide less distinguished artists with an opportunity to share their music with fans, who other wise cannot afford any other means for exposure; hence the birth of artists via Myspace.
Conversely – as many artists and record companies argue – music distribution in this manner has many a disadvantage. For example, It has been estimated that over 95% of downloading is done illegally, and the ease of access has turned this type of illegal activity into a casual affair, which is done on a frequent basis. The concern is artists not receiving their appropriate royalties, as obviously when downloading in an illegal fashion, nothing is actually purchased.
Recently there has been quite a backlash, with musicians attempting to sue file sharing and music distributing sites, demanding sums of money for each song that’s been illegally copied. Obviously the issue of theft is rife, but the argument is that it’s the people performing the acts that are against the law that should be punished, and not the technology itself. The publicity in cases like these seem to make the artist appear less popular, and ironically it’s the sites that actually benefit from the media attention, by the increased hits from curious media consumers.
A recent report suggests that only 5% of the music we acquire from online is purchased legitimately. It’s been said that at least 7 million people in Britain alone use illegal downloads, costing the economy not just billions of pounds, but also thousands of jobs too. ‘David Lammy, minister for intellectual property, said: “Illegal downloading robs our economy of millions of pounds every year and seriously damages business and innovation throughout the UK. It claimed that 70% of those aged 15 to 24 did not feel guilty about downloading music for free from the internet and 61% of the age group did not feel they should have to pay for the music they listen to, according to a recent survey. Postmodernism is characterised by irony, appropriation and self-reference, the term came into popular currency in the 1970s and it’s been said to have influenced theology, art, culture, architecture, society, film, technology, and economics over the years.
It’s said to be a ‘three pronged fork’: sociologically (describes the way society is increasingly characterised by consumerism, information technology and globalisation), physiologically (it describes audiences increasing ability to navigate and communicate in the technologically driven modern work, but also the resulting changes to our sense of identity) and finally, philosophically (it suggests that ‘absolute truths’ are non-existent, and questions the concept of reality).
The term postmodernism is one frequently linked to the high concept band, Gorillaz. They have been describes as a collection of musicians, creating music in an eclectic style, with very high levels of anonymity, almost unheard of for artists these days. Gorillaz are an enormously successful ‘virtual’ band, created by Damon Albarn in 1898, of ‘Blur’ fame, and Jamie Hewlett, ‘co-creator’ of the comic book (famed for the cult ‘Tank Girl’ franchise). The animated band consists of four members, ‘2D’, ‘Murdoc’, ‘Noodle, and ‘Russel Hobbs’.
Their music is a collaboration between a diverse range of musicians, Albarn having the only permanent role amongst them. The band’s genre is predominately referred to as Alternative Rock; however it has a number of other influences including Britpop, pop music, hip-hop, and dub. The band has released three albums so far, these being ‘Gorillaz’ as far back as 2001, ‘Demon days in 2005, and most recently this year, Plastic Beach, each of which have been greatly received by the public, with the former two mentioned selling over 13 million copies collectively.
Hypothetically, the Gorillaz and their ‘virtual personalities; separates the music from the far more saleable ‘star persona’ (often associated with many a ‘manufactured’ band), however, in reality, the audience actually become fans of the fictional characters, and the ‘high concept’ transferred their interest into the lucrative territory of cultural fandom. Though it could be argued that the concept of Gorillaz is far from original, instead utilizing cut up pieces of already-established styles and genres to create something new, it is associated with a technique that is known in postmodernism as ‘bricolage.
The Gorillaz slogan ‘Reject False Icons’ tries to confront the trend of the superficiality of fandom; and challenge audience to care more about the music being created, as opposed to the performer. It’s quite a revolutionary exploit for fans that have previously worshipped musical icons, thus ‘sweeping’ away the conventional fandom. Albarn reinforces the argument that Marxists have always presented, critiquing the way that Capitalism commodifies popular culture, and the way that they package desirable identities in purchasable pop acts.
The characters created from Gorillaz aim to appeal to the audiences interest in the ‘diversity and fluidity of identity’, including a female guitar prodigy and a ‘Satan loving’ ex convict. Their revolutionary, solely animated performances are said to blur the boundaries between what we might understand as high culture, and popular culture in the contemporary arts.
The constant intertexuality references within their material ties in with their famously hybridity of cultural forms and genres, that respond to the fluidity of the identity represented, and who constantly accept and adapt to the new relationships of fandom between artists and audiences. For example, their artwork features a number of post modern characteristics, including intertextuality, hyperrality and eclectism. However ,this why pinpointing the band with the label of ‘post-modern’ may be futile, as their unswerving attempt to transcend classification proves otherwise proves.