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From Torrent to Stream

Economies of Digital Music
Martin Scherzinger


Music production in the 21st century shifted from a largely commodified industrial model to a radically decentralized one, technologically facilitated by new efficiencies in search of functionality, delivery, and peer-to-peer connectivity. In the older music economy, the media of music (its tangible forms—vinyl, cassette, compact disc, etc.) were fused with its contents (its sounding forms—songs, pieces, etc.), thereby facilitating their efficient circulation as physical commodities (grounded in licensing agreements, copyright protections, and so on). In the newer economy, medium and content are increasingly delinked; the former is effectively dematerialized (or, more accurately, micro-materialized as virtualized format), thereby posing new challenges to law and policy governing musical creation, distribution, and consumption. In the context of music’s new technological prostheses (digital recording studios, on-demand streaming services, algorithmic aggregators, and the like) the question of equitable sources of revenue for musical labor has re-surfaced as a central debate in our times. The article assesses the promise of disintermediation in relation to new formations of labor, characterized by increased entrepreneurial reliance on flexible and globalized networks of production and distribution.

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All that Is Music Evaporates in Clouds1

  • 1 This article is an expanded version of an earlier essay, “Divisible Mobility: Music in an Age of Cl (...)
  • 2 SRIVASTAVA Lara, “The Mobile Makes its Mark,” in Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, James E. (...)
  • 3 Although it is far from universally adopted, mobile communication has made a considerable impact in (...)

1The convergence of wireless technology and the Internet in the first decade of the twenty-first century has given rise to integrated and powerful new portable microcomputers that are being disseminated on a broad scale. The mass adoption of mobile communication devices reflects a growth rate unprecedented in the history of technologies—from a few hundred million to over four billion people in the first decade of the 21st century.2 This development affords users the world over with enhanced means for social, economic and political interaction; proffering, on the one hand, new modalities of individuality and autonomy and, on the other, of interactivity, collaboration, and connectivity. As mobile-broadband services bypass those of fixed-line grids, web-enabled phones (“smart phones”) are increasingly used not only to communicate by voice but also to text messages, share information, post updates, transmit image, video, and sound files, specify geographical locations, connect to the Internet, play games, and interact on social networking sites. This extension into data applications, multimedia, and entertainment has transformed the character of the portable phone and fashioned new material relations between and across cultural, symbolic, social-interactional, political, and economic domains. In short, these powerful handheld computing tools have extended communication capabilities and convenience, thereby articulating new socialities in the context of changing economic realities.3

2This article reflects on the meteoric rise of mobile smart-phone usage across the globe in the twenty-first-century and the way these devices are increasingly tethered to remote databases (popularly known as “the cloud” or “computing in the clouds”). “The cloud” refers to an immense online computing resource, controlled by mostly private proprietors such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon, as well as agencies of government. The article will investigate the implications of these sites, whose geo-location is largely unknown by the public, for the social, cultural, and above all the financial economies of music. The mobile phone is rapidly becoming the most important technology today for facilitating the distribution of music in the context of potentially ubiquitous digital networking capabilities. While much music today is still stored and stockpiled as content—an album on a compact disc (or, less prevalently, but resiliently, on a vinyl long-playing record), a playlist or a podcast on a hard-drive or a portable digital music device—the global ubiquity of the portable internet-enabled devices marked a shift toward prevalently service-based distribution models for music.

  • 4 See VIRNO, Paulo, “Post-Fordist Semblance,” in SubStance, no. 112, 2007, p. 42-46; and LAZZARATO, M (...)

3Viewpoints are divided about the effects new modalities of digital connectivity (the ubiquitous practice of downloading, file sharing, and particularly streaming from music services) have on patterns of musical production today. For many commentators, internet technologies have ushered in the possibility for economic disintermediation, whereby traditional distribution channels (or intermediaries) have been bypassed, allowing musicians to engage their listeners more directly and diversely. The article assesses the reactionary and the progressive promise of disintermediation in relation to new formations of labor, characterized by increased entrepreneurial reliance on flexible and globalized networks of production and distribution. Premised on the idea that digitally mounted creative content be furnished without charge, musical production illuminates a kind of prescient vertex for the re-structuring of labor practices sustaining the material foundation of capitalism today. While, on the one hand, new technological media proffer enhanced user-generated digital applications (for better or worse, culturally speaking), on the other hand, they simultaneously bear witness to a gradual process of labor degradation. The semi-automated production cycles facilitated by new media simultaneously reflect increasing dependence by capitalist cycles of accumulation on a kind of “post-workerist” immaterial labor—forms of flexible, part-time work and entrepreneurial individualism.4 This article maps the way mobile music is understood in relation to its perceived cultural curse and promise, before outlining how musical production today readily succumbs to the ideology of initiative and individualism undergirding “self-employment” in the context of new technological efficiencies in delivery and experience.

4As high-speed mobile devices (Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, etc.) became widespread, users discontinued the process of syncing and transferring musical tracks from a variety of sources in favor of streaming music from a central server. Cloud-based services thereby render hard drives obsolete, effectively delivering streamlined databanks of musical content to multiple devices, now immunized from the inconveniences of hard drive malfunctions and downloads. In short, the practices of downloading (via torrents and other means) have withered and licensed music access services have become dominant. Spotify, for example, a European-based online music service launched in the United States in partnership with Facebook in 2011, offers unlimited access to its online music library for a small monthly fee based on a “freemium” model, with one advertising-based “free” service and another advertising-free premium model. In a gesture that recapitulates the technological upheavals in the music industry of the past (such as the replacement of vinyl LPs with digital CDs in the early 1980s), early incarnations of the website encouraged users to devalue their current playlists in favor of the service: “Think of Spotify as your new music collection. Your library. Only this time your collection is vast: 8 million tracks and counting.” Here Spotify emphasizes the efficiency of avoiding downloads and the convenience of preserving hard drive memory, no less than its portability and interactive social functionality; its playlist is “free to share.” Spotify exemplifies the shift toward abstracting and virtualizing users’ music collections, which have shifted over the last decades from the bookshelf to the CD holder, then from the computer to the external drive, and finally to the remote server. In this way, users access vast, and highly organized, playlists using their always-connected computers and ever-relocating smartphones.

5The first decade of the 21st century was characterized by services such as Apple’s iTunes, an application for playing and organizing video and music files on digital media players. This kind of application was still based on a purchase-and-download model (which in turn delivers revenues to music rights holders). However, Apple’s 2009 purchase of Lala (a social network service featuring a web-based music catalog) and subsequent closure of the service (in May 2010) signaled Apple’s move toward a cloud-based musical service, aptly named “iCloud” (in October 2011). In the context of Spotify’s emergence, Apple launched its music streaming service, Apple Music, in 2016. Likewise, Google, who made significant inroads into the music industry already with YouTube’s partnership with Vevo, entered the music-delivery industry with technologies that power new cloud-based streaming and music-syncing facilities for Android. Google’s 2010 acquisition of music and photo-streaming services (such as Catch Media in February 2010 and Simplify Media in May 2010) challenged Apple’s dominance on the terrain of mobile music, and culminated in a paid on-demand streaming service, Google Play, in 2013. As well, the music-download store (Google Music), linked closely with Google+, used social networking platforms as a word-of-mouth recommendation vehicle. In October 2015 Google launched its all-in-one streaming service YouTube Red, a subscription tier for its popular audio and video service. With these technologies, Google thereby became a provider for content delivery to a mobile device in any location (a rental car in another country, for example), offering users all-access virtualized playlists, and so forth, in the context of ultramobility. In March 2011, Amazon likewise launched a cloud-based service, called “Cloud Player,” which offered free online storage space for songs purchased on Amazon. Smaller companies currently operating on the same model include Tidal, Rdio, Audio Galaxy, Rhapsody, Audio Box, and Grooveshark.

  • 5 RATLIFF, Ben, Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty, New York, Farrar, (...)

6Streaming automated playlists on platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, and Tidal became the dominant mode of musical listening by the second decade of the 21st century. Given the archaic marketing and promotional techniques of the traditional music labels, industry leaders experimented with a variety of release strategies—from limited releases on specific streaming services (such as Tidal in the case of Kanye West’s 2016 release of The Life of Pablo) to premium cable channels (such as HBO in the case of Beyoncé’s 2016 release of Lemonade)—while the very concept of an album became deeply digital—melting, in Ben Ratliff’s words “into the water world of sound.”5 Skeuomorphism ruled the day. For example, by 2016 the decreasingly relevant “album” concept was redefined by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) as 1,500 on-demand audio streams. Even though the relationship of a particular number of downloads to the conceptual commodity structure of an album was entirely derivative, the industry persisted in its attempt to retain its traditional selling structures and attendant reward programs.

  • 6 WALKER, Rob, “The Song Decoders,” The New York Times, October 14, 2009.

7Interestingly, streaming services would become mobile in another way as well, specifically interactive and customized to individual consumption, whereby variously crafted algorithms generate playlists suited to aesthetic preferences figured across malleable axes. For example, the metrics employed by Pandora—a free (advertisement-based) streaming service for smart phones and computers used by over 35 million listeners in 2009, 30 percent of whom connected via phone6—involve hundreds of elements traversing the terrain of music theory (metric beats per minute, rhythmic topoi, instrumentation, formal criteria, harmonic patterns, and so on), psychology (emotional valences, implied bodily comportments, and so on), and sociology (genre attributions, degree of accessibility, and so on). Noticeably absent from Pandora’s metrics, for example, is the collaborative filtering that characterizes a large part of the musical blogosphere. The website Hype Machine, for instance, a blog aggregator grounded in a numerically derived measure of popularity, emphasized the cultural-contextual determinants of taste-communities. The number of playlists produced by these differently nuanced filters is considerable. But as smart phones become increasingly personalized, the selection of data points for cloud-based computing is itself likely to become flexible—expanded, contracted, shuffled, or otherwise repurposed for a host of algorithms attuned to ever-finer gradations of service-oriented consumption.

Curse of Ultramobility

  • 7 TURKLE, Sherry, “Always-on / Always-on-you: The Tethered Self,” in Handbook of Mobile Communication (...)
  • 8 AULETTA, Ken, Googled: The End of the World as We Knew It, New York, Penguin Press, 2009.
  • 9 CARR, Nicholas, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, New York and London: Norton (...)
  • 10 BENJAMIN, Walter, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations, transl (...)
  • 11 ADORNO, Theodor W., Essays on Music, Richard Leppert (ed.), Berkeley, California University Press, (...)

8Academic and journalistic commentary on emergent mobile technologies often explores their personal, social, and cultural valences, as well as the consequences and effects of users’ interactions with them. This commentary is grounded in a particular theoretical position, which in turn implies a kind of warning or embrace of the new socialities imbricated in technological developments. On the one hand, the commentary presents a range of critique of internet-enabled mobile devices, such as the latter’s distracting character, luring users away from traditional modes of interaction;7 or the fragmentation of social communities provoked by magnified personal differences hitched to narrowing bands of search-based information;8 or the flattening of consciousness produced by the addictively interactive, but ultimately cursory and superficial, reading, viewing, and listening habits encouraged by online devices.9 Such commentary has a well-established history. Pursuing only the first line of critique, we find, already in the mid-1930s, Walter Benjamin’s descriptions of the effects of technological reproducibility on the cultivation of the senses, noting the “state of distraction” produced by then newly reproducible, and hence mobile, media—that is, artworks set technologically adrift from their spatial and temporal coordinates to “meet the beholder halfway.”10 Benjamin’s state of distraction, identified here as an enriched and tactile sensorial engagement and paradoxically linked to a collective, co-productive, and critical experience, was the target of Theodor W. Adorno’s pointed critique. In stark contrast to Benjamin, Adorno warned against the effects of the repetitive and superficially standardized music and art of the culture industry, endorsing instead concentrated absorption as a pathway to dialectics.11

  • 12 KITTLER, Friedrich, “The History of Communicative Media,”, July 30, 1996 (http://www.ct (...)
  • 13 FRIEDMAN, Thomas L., “A Question from Lydia,” The New York Times, May 10, 2010, p. 10.
  • 14 TURKLE, Sherry, “Always-on / Always-on-you: The Tethered Self,” in Handbook of Mobile Communication (...)
  • 15 Ibid., p. 129.
  • 16 Ibid.
  • 17 Ibid., p. 134.

9More recently, media theorist Friedrich Kittler noted how, in the context of encroaching mobile technology, humanity “externalised first its motor and sensory interface, and finally its intelligence, in technical prosthetics,”12 thereby emphasizing an escalation in recent decades of a technologically tethered human subject. The idea that advances in communication technologies contribute to diminished subjectivities is taken up by the popular press as well. In step with Nicholas Carr, Thomas Friedman argues that attention spans are disrupted as interconnections proliferate: “We’ve become absorbed by shorter and shorter-term thinking—from Wall Street quarterly thinking to politician-24-hour-cable-news-cycle thinking.”13 For Friedman, mobile communication comes at a considerable social cost, as “situational values” begin to trump “sustainable” ones in a time of crisis. Less schematically, Sherry Turkle addresses the problematics of artificial intelligence and the tethered self directly in the context of mobile communication devices; a self newly characterized as being in a state of “always-on/always-on-you.”14 In particular, Turkle notes the alluring sense of productivity, efficiency, and mobility afforded by increasingly interactive technological devices such as the BlackBerry.15 Through a psychoanalytic optic, Turkle issues a warning about how such relational technologies encourage a distracted mindset characterized by “continuous partial attention,” that diminishes the quality of relationships.16 Most alarming, Turkle concludes, relational artifacts create new sensibilities and socialities grounded in technologically surrogated relationships. In the author’s words, these artifacts “represent their programmers but are given autonomy and primitive psychologies; they are designed to stand on their own as creatures to be loved.”17 Mobile technologies, in short, distract from and distort the quality of traditional human relationships.

  • 18 WEINGARTEN, Chris, “Don’t Believe the Hype Machine,” Village Voice blog, April 2010 (http://blogs.v (...)
  • 19 LANIER, Jaron, You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto, New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010, p. 79.
  • 20 FARAONE, Chris, “How the Echo Nest is Powering the Internet’s Musical Brain,” Fastcompany Magazine, (...)

10The idea that relational quality is all too frequently compromised in the context of the digital network is regularly taken up by cultural critics as well. The freelance journalist Chris Weingarten, for example, describes how the algorithmically defined harvesting mechanisms that trawl the web to identify musical trends and gauge popularity forgo quality in the name of quantity.18 While designed to bypass both the rigid hierarchies of the music industry representatives and the chaos implied by the hyperlinking traces of “the mob,” these mathematically derived results deliver the surrogated musical taste of “the internet hive-mind,” which is co-terminus with search-engine optimization. Jaron Lanier describes the emergence of such optimization (data aggregators, metablogs, etc.) as an online power struggle: “[Digital Maoism] rewards the one preferred hierarchy of digital metaness, in which a mashup is more important than the sources who were mashed. A blog of blogs is more exalted than a mere blog. If you have seized a very high niche in the aggregation of human expression […] then you can become superpowerful. The same is true for the operator of a hedge fund. ‘Meta’ equals power in the cloud.”19 Lanier’s position is echoed by industry commentators, who recognize the rising value of gigantic, easily searchable databases for music: “Eventually, the most successful music companies may not be the ones that create, play, or sell music. Rather, they may be the ones to collect the most music data.”20 As it was for Adorno, whose industrially administered culture produced standardization, search-derived taste, for Lanier and Weingarten, becomes by definition “bland and middling;” a function merely of speed (mounting content first) and quantity (mounting content in as many places as possible). Where Turkle laments the loss of the technologically untethered self, Weingarten laments the loss of the technologically untethered “stumble culture,” which opens into musically unknown territory by way of qualitative criteria loosened from the inertial tendencies of search. Mapping Weingarten’s terms back onto the emerging cloud-based music delivery systems, it should be noted that algorithmic ranking and sorting methods are central to the process of streaming playlists online. Although not all mathematical algorithms are equal (some may not be based primarily on the logic of click-through rate-based search, others may be designed with nondeterministic or randomized elements, and so on), the task of revealing the grammar of their data-processing formalisms (especially in light of the naturalized opacity by which they are experienced by users) becomes increasingly urgent.

  • 21 See DU GAY, Paul, HALL, Stuart, JANES, Linda, MACKAY, Hugh, and NEGUS, Keith, Doing Cultural Studie (...)
  • 22 BULL, Michael, “No Dead Air! The iPod and the Culture of Mobile Listening,” Leisure Studies 24, no. (...)
  • 23 ARKETTE, Sophie, “Sounds like City,” Theory, Culture & Society 21, no. 1, 2004, p. 164.
  • 24 Ibid., p. 164-165.

11Further lines of criticism addressed to emerging patterns of digital production and consumption of music are related to their social effects. Here critics tend to focus on the socio-cultural fragmentation implied by the personalized use of mobile musical players. This line of argument often gains traction in the context of normative notions of public life no less than normative notions of music’s aspirations toward communal cohesion. For example, the global surge in usage of mobile musical players is shown to corrode prosocial behavior by isolating individual users from the ambient environment, thereby flattening modern communication—reducing social contact to mere status-display practices, for example.21 Michael Bull’s extensive, quasi-ethnographic investigation of emerging geographies of listening likewise emphasizes the private, essentially escapist dimensions of listening habits on mobile devices. Here the flattening effect of such behavior is articulated less to communication practices and more to listeners’ own experiences of contextual complexity. The iPod, for example, allows “consumers to create their own soundworlds [that] simplify the user’s environment.”22 In this view, as users enter into what Sophie Arkette would call an “acoustic enclave”—“a modern-day fortress to preserve privacy”—their actual surroundings retreat from their (frequently oppressive) complexity, issuing instead qualitatively new, self-regulated, affective experiences.23 Arkette even argues that the condition of music itself is undergoing a metamorphosis in the process. Ostensibly the most “liquid” (or “fluid”) artform, music, in its mobile usage, paradoxically comes to represent the least mobile of social functions: the reassuring “physical presence of home territory.”24

  • 25 New Yorker, February 15 and 22, 2010, p. 37.

12Commercial responses to social needs of this sort instructively confirm these lines of argument. The proliferation of noise-canceling headphones and earbuds in recent years, to facilitate either silence (“antinoise”) or listening to music at lower volume levels, betray a demand, on the one hand, for screening out and controlling soundscapes, and on the other, for opening into surrogate enclaves of temporary respite. The print advertisement for Honda’s 2010 Acura Advance exemplified this trend toward sound-filtering devices for mobile technologies. Titled “Our Speakers Can Create an Interesting Sound Silence,” the ad featured three empty (treble clef) musical staves on an otherwise featureless gray-white backdrop.25 Similarly, the aesthetic minimalism and the curved ergonomic simplicity of Apple’s designs for mobile devices harness the reassuring logic of the elementary task in a cluttered environment. This simplicity also relates to the industrial demand for invisible artifacts, to which I will return. Here it suffices to point out that design elements thus project mobile devices (such as the iPod, iPad, and iPhone) as sleek and refined accessories, whose portals effortlessly simplify relations with an increasingly complex social system and informational network.

13Apple’s conspicuous investment in iPod’s silhouette advertisements that flooded billboards and screens across the globe in the first decade of the twenty-first century—thereby visually marking an era in the unfolding history of the music business—likewise betray a keen awareness of a two-fold logic: the need to fortress the self from incursions of unwanted sound and to unleash otherworldly experiences thereby. The relatively simplified and generalized physical details projected by the iPod’s dancing bodies (not, it should be noted, simplified and generalized enough to include fat or old bodies), set against the plain primary colors of the background, vividly captured this stripped-down aesthetic. Aesthetic minimalism here paradoxically recapitulates the very flattening of social expression to mere status-display decried by du Gay and Fortunati in their criticism of mobile technologies. As if to compensate for this gentle contradiction, the ads also offered heightened private experiences unavailable to the nonuser. One early television ad, for example, featured an iPod-wearing pedestrian walking down the street in calm strides, but projecting a shadow-self dancing in musically immersed ecstasy. This compensatory value, however, recapitulates the very echo-chamber effects, isolation, and concomitant social fragmentation denounced by Carr (and, to a lesser extent, Auletta) in their analysis of digital technologies. In almost Schopenhaurian motifs, the iPod silhouette ads shuttled between the perils of this twin logic; at once projecting an act of social distancing or withdrawal and proffering intoxicating surrogate metaphysics. In both cases, commercial advertising thereby paradoxically hitches a ride on a particular strand of cultural pessimism.

Promise of Ultramobility

  • 26 SHIRKY, Clay, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, New York, Penguin Pr (...)
  • 27 SHIRKY, Clay, “The Music Business and the Big Flip,” first published January 21, 2003 on the “Netwo (...)
  • 28 BENKLER, Yochai, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, New (...)
  • 29 Ibid., p. 60.

14On the other hand, academic commentators and journalists have, with matching conviction, equally celebrated the new personal, cultural, and social freedoms afforded by emergent mobile technologies. At a broad level, commentators like Yochai Benkler and Clay Shirky emphasize the positive effects of the social interactions facilitated by multiple communication interfaces today. Far from drifting toward social solipsism, social media technologies, for Shirky, afford new modalities of sharing, conversation, collective action, and creative production, which unleash a hitherto untapped “cognitive surplus,” and transform thereby the passive consumption patterns of the past into a monumental assemblage of collaborative production.26 Adopting an almost Bergsonian riff, Shirky even argues that, in the context of declining production costs, cultural artifacts, such as music, will lose their object-status and become purely expressive experience.27 Benkler similarly argues that the decrease in computational costs, enhancements in digital signal processing, and network architecture will issue a new model of production sustained by collaborative volunteerism.28 Benkler labels this model “commons-based peer production,” characterized by a digitally networked environment that “makes possible a new modality of organizing production: radically decentralized, collaborative, and nonproprietary; based on sharing resources and outputs among widely distributed, loosely connected individuals who cooperate with each other without relying on either market signals or managerial demands.”29

  • 30 Ibid., p. 63 and p. 71.
  • 31 SHIRKY, Clay, “Clay Shirky on ‘Here comes everybody’.”
  • 32 BENKLER, Yochai, The Wealth of Networks, op. cit., p. 69.
  • 33 GEIGER, Stuart R., and RIBES, David, “The Work of Sustaining Order in Wikipedia: The Banning of a V (...)

15Benkler offers various examples of coordinated nonproprietary collaborative activities, such as the institution of free software (or “open source”), which strategically deploys copyright and licensing law (the GNU General Public License) to foster collaboration; and open, peer-produced online reference tools, such as Wikipedia, whose content, analogously, is released under a GNU Free Documentation License.30 Not surprising, both Shirky and Benkler detect in the automated averaging algorithms that disturb Weingarten enormous creative promise. Collaborative filtering in the context of nonscarcity, for Shirky, is the ultimate arbiter of true mass culture; it has “earned the right” to be popular.31 Likewise, in his discussion of NASA clickworkers engaging a collaborative project involving highly modularized individual tasks, Benkler writes: “[The organizers] built in redundancy and automated averaging out of both errors and purposeful erroneous markings.”32 Indeed, Wikipedia’s use of automated robots (“bots”), guided by algorithmically defined tasks to combat vandalism, largely facilitates the monumental task of editing, maintenance, and administration of the site;33 it arguably account for the site’s robustness and overall reliability (certain notable exceptions notwithstanding). Where mathematical automation brings down a curse on some modes of creative practice, therefore, it holds up a promise for others.

  • 34 BARON, Naomi, “Adjusting the Volume: Technology and Multitasking in Discourse Control,” in Handbook (...)

16On the terrain of music and sound specifically, techno-affirmative academic criticism and journalism tends to emphasize the social affordances of personal digital devices, in particular new modes of individual autonomy and socialization—the ability to manipulate both the ambient environment through personalized music and sound and the form that social interactions may take within social spaces. This is the flip side of the pessimistic coin advanced by Kittler, Turkle, du Gay, Fortunati, and others, which is also paradoxically invoked by various commercial branding campaigns. Instead of interpellating “always-on / always-on-you” sociality, for example, Naomi Baron demonstrates how mobile sound applications actually facilitate a detethering of the self from perpetual contact. Enhanced technological capabilities thus allow users to adjust the amount of contact they make with interlocutors in increasingly sophisticated ways. Camouflage services, for example, designed to “provide background noise from a traffic jam, enable a user to say with authority, ‘Sorry, I’ll be two hours late. I’m stuck in traffic,’ while actually sitting at a café.34 Technologies, in this view, accommodate both enhanced communicative control and autonomy no less than increased social access and connectivity.

  • 35 MITCHELL, W. J., Placing Words: Symbols, Space and the City, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2005.
  • 36 Ibid., p. 8.

17William Mitchell, likewise, re-articulates the potentially distracting effects of mobile information and communication technologies in terms of enhanced environmental control, emphasizing the active role users may take in manipulating the social mise-en-scène, thus stimulating and regulating personalized narratives in the context of partial detachment from the actual immediate environment.35 Instead of delinking from reality by retreating into a sonic enclave (which in turn theoretically maps onto Kittler’s externalization, Turkle’s tethering, etc.), the acoustic elsewhere produced by Mitchell’s mobile music deepens the linkages between the actual and the virtual (in the non-Deleuzian everyday sense of the term): “any element of the surrounding scene may serve as a link to memories of past events and distant places, to narratives that you have heard and to facts that you have learned.”36 Mobile devices, in this view, cultivate, rather than sever, new modalities of both being in and thinking about the physical environment, thereby encouraging an arguably more self-aware and engaged relation to it.

  • 37 BEER, David, “Tune out: Music, soundscapes and the urban mise-en-scène,” Information, Communication (...)
  • 38 Ibid., p. 854 and p. 860.
  • 39 Ibid., p. 847.
  • 40 Ibid., p. 855 and p. 857.

18David Beer, writing against Bull’s image of a “utopian zone of exclusion” that envelops users of mobile devices, emphasizes the oscillating character of mobile listening practices and thus their fundamental embeddedness in the informational orders of the physical environment.37 Mobile devices enable users to “remix the city,” actively tuning out various pregiven elements in favor of new experiential connections to the landscape: “This is where users move in and out of the varying, dynamic, and heterogeneous soundscapes of the city, to which they are inevitably exposed, but they may tune out this acoustic environment whilst remaining an integrated part of the sonic, informational and concrete structures of the city.”38 Beer’s observation that mobile listening eludes the inevitable aspects of the actual acoustic environment rests on a well-worn trope grounded in the notion that music and sound cannot readily be shut out; in Marshall McLuhan’s terms, we are not equipped with “earlids.”39 Dialectically speaking, we see here a malleable and particular agent pitted against a rigid and general structure: in short, mobile devices afford flexible and self-empowered (even “reflexively construct[ed]”) experiences within, and independent of, the “process generated and infrastructurally determined aural ecology.”40 Tuned-out listening thereby enacts not merely a retreat from, but also a gentle resistance to, imposed orders of sound and information.

  • 41 KATZ, James E, LEVER, Katie M., and CHEN, Yi-Fan, “Mobile Music as Environmental Control and Prosoc (...)
  • 42 BASSOLI, Arianna, MOORE, Julian, and AGAMANOLIS, Stefan, “tunA: Synchronised Music-Sharing on Handh (...)
  • 43 WILLIAMS, Amanda, ROBLES, Erica, and DOURISH, Paul, “Urbane-ing the City: Examining and Refining th (...)
  • 44 RHEINGOLD, Howard, “Mobile Media and Political Collective Action,” in Handbook of Mobile Communicat (...)

19Where Beer’s optic shifts the social dimensions of mobile listening from its walled-off enclave toward a more porous and punctuated relation with the physical environment, commentators such as James E. Katz, Katie M. Lever, and Yi-Fan Chen argue for mobile music’s outright prosocial attributes. With reference to Apparatgeist theory, which emphasizes the creative modifications and mismatches between producers’ aims and designs and consumers’ actual uses of normative technologies, the latter writers demonstrate how mobile phones and digital music players are often used as “interpersonal-bridging and community-building artifacts.”41 In addition to their status-conferring effects and the environmental-conditioning effects, these technologies also assist modes of social collaboration, sharing and community building. For example, Katz et al. describe the sharing of playlists, the simultaneous listening via earphone-splitters, and the kinesthetic habituation attending the use of mobile devices in various social settings. To Katz’s list of potentially community-forming uses of handheld devices should be added less formal peer-to-peer applications, such as undersound, Push!Music and tunA, which enable users to share music with people in their near vicinity. Instead of being connected to the Internet, these devices are connected via ad hoc wireless networks within mobile geographical settings.42 For Amanda Williams, Erica Robles, and Paul Dourish, these mobile social applications support “fleeting low-obligation interactions,” which “invite users to participate in collective and imaginative experience of a ‘public’ setting”—an interactional scene not unrelated to the flexible social identities imagined by Benjamin in his Arcades project.43 Further, the various quasi-Deleuzian social formations, such as the “flash mobs” where people meet in prearranged settings at an established time and dance to their personalized playlist (“silent raves”) or perform music or dance routines, would not be possible without these new mobile technologies. To this list of emergent techno-social conduct should be added the many internet memes, often involving elaborations of dance-music formations (ranging from Psy’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012 to Silentó’s “The Nae Nae” in 2015), and the like. These new forms of musically-centered social interaction are closely linked to new modes of political organization and resistance, which Howard Rheingold calls “smart mobs.” In these contexts, mobile technologies have the potential to “amplify, leverage, transform, and shift political power by enabling people to persuade and inform the thoughts and beliefs of others.”44 Far from begetting social fragmentation through increasingly isolated cultural consumption, mobile technologies may equally navigate interfaces between physical and virtual environments that amplify social encounters, foster community, and even resist the socio-political orders of things.

Divisible Mobility: Music in an Age of Cloud Computing

  • 45 BULL, Michael, Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience, London and New York, Routledge, 2007 (...)

20Although these writings have been presented here as either primarily techno-optimistic or pessimistic, most of them in fact narrate some dialectical drift between the curse and the promise of mobile technologies in our times. Michael Bull, identified here primarily with those who argue against the prosocial aspects of mobile music listening, for example, equally engages the utopian aspects of such listening. In one particularly daring chapter, for example, Bull even correlates iPod usage to the inherent mobility of music via a Bergsonian model of consciousness—“based upon duration in which the notes of a tune melt into one another to produce an organic whole.”45 Bull writes:

  • 46 Ibid., p. 122-123.

iPod users appear to be embracers of a Bergsonian world of free consciousness, a world in which consciousness is inherently mobile, fluid and in flux—and, hence, ultimately uncontrollable by others, the culture industry or society in general. […] From a Bergsonian position the fluid nature of music itself, coupled with the structure of choice offered by digital technologies like the iPod, complements the very nature of the user’s consciousness, enabling them to construct an “individualized” relationship between cognition and the management of experience.46

  • 47 Ibid., p. 122 and p. 123-124.

21Echoing a sentiment found in Mitchell, Beer, and others, Bull even identifies in this Bergsonian-inflected iPod usage the promise of resistance to pregiven orders, arguing that enhanced “choice” creates a “conceptual distance from the structural organization of these products” (associated here with “the culture industry,” “society in general,” and so on).47

  • 48 COLOMBO, Gianluca, “Actualising Bergson’s Lesson: A Post-post-modernist Perspective,” Journal of Ma (...)
  • 49 GUERLAC, Suzanne, Thinking in Time: An Introduction to Henri Bergson, Ithaca, Cornell University Pr (...)
  • 50 Ibid., p. 159 (Guerlac quotes Bergson).
  • 51 Ibid.
  • 52 BULL, Michael, Sound Moves, op. cit., p. 127.
  • 53 LANIER, Jaron, You Are Not A Gadget, op cit., p. 11.

22Even here, focusing more closely on the figure of Henri Bergson in our times, we find academic discourse suspended between radically different modes of argumentation and interpretation. In other words, Bull’s is a noteworthy and idiosyncratic deployment of Bergson, who, if most recent academic commentary is a gauge, would have actively resisted the digitized modes of mobility to which Bull refers. Gianluca Colombo, L. Lawler, V. Moulard, and others posit the idea that “freedom is mobility” is perhaps Bergson’s best insight, but pure mobility, in Bergson’s view, is indivisible, radically delinked from identifiable nodal points of identification that characterize digital networks.48 Suzanne Guerlac points out, for example, that Bergson was troubled by the possibilities of “mechanism inserted into nature” or of an “automatic ordering of society,” and offers a Bergsonian argument that demonstrates how the human body is itself threatened by new developments in mobile technology: “It undergoes electronic interventions and becomes fitted with prostheses, or nanotechnological interventions that blur the limit between animate beings and inanimate ones, the limit between the human and the machine.”49 Guerlac’s Bergsonism emphasizes the indivisible, nonspatialized understanding of movement. “The indivisibility of movement implies the impossibility of the instant.”50 For Guerlac, any attempt to (digitally) divide movement into its constituent points—bits, parts, or nodes—can only occur because of the illusion that movement can be mapped into space. Such mapping misses the “ongoing event,” amounting to little more than “re-presentation.”51 In sum, for Guerlac, no matter how “Bergsonian” their experience may appear on a micro-level (facilitating, in Bull’s terms, “unparalleled micro-management of mood, environment and sound, permitting the successful management of the self through the contingencies of the user’s day,”52 and so on), digital nanotechnologies, irreducibly mapped onto spatialized macro-designs and infrastructures, cannot but produce a prosthetic, surrogate self. Jaron Lanier argues similarly against the spatialization of locked-in ideas about how software is constituted. Using MIDI and Unix as examples, he maintains such software expresses “too large a belief in discrete abstract symbols and not enough of a belief in temporal, continuous, nonabstract reality.”53 The “mobilities” they afford, in short, are divisible, instead of indivisible.

  • 54 RIBES, David, and FINHOLT, Thomas A., “The Long Now of Technology Infrastructure: Articulating Tens (...)

23Whether we read Bergson in the terms offered by Bull or those by Guerlac (and echoed by Lanier), the difference does illuminate an uncanny theoretical continuity, if not a political alliance, between the arguments mounted on both sides of the debate about the social impact of mobile digital technologies. In other words, Bergson’s critique of divisible mobility draws attention away from the consumption patterns and everyday uses of mobile devices in all their Apparatgeist contrarianism, heterogeneity and diversity, and toward the enframing structural matrices that condition their technical possibility. The overarching intellectual focus on individual and social effects of nanotechnologies (whether pro- or contra-), in contrast, manufactures disinterest in all-too-concealed macro-structures, which include the (cyber-)infrastructural assemblages that invisibly support the various patterns of usage, the institutional maintenance of the technical systems undergirding these technologies, and above all the economic determinants at stake in such support and maintenance. In the words of David Ribes and Thomas A. Finholt, “the ‘immutable mobility’ of data—the holy grail of many CI [cyberinfrastructure] ventures—never persists outside the technical and organizational networks that sustain their meaning.”54

  • 55 STAR, Susan L., “Invisible Work and Silenced Dialogues in Knowledge Representation,” in Women, Work (...)

24For example, as servers scaled to cloud computing, their ability to store and search opened unprecedented possibilities for monetizing flows of online content. In other words, with millions of computers and servers processing searches, harvesting and analyzing data (monitoring music listening habits, for example), new business opportunities emerged in the difficult-to-track “invisible work” of delivery systems themselves.55 An unprecedented digital architecture thus paved the way for monumental information-ranking companies to enter the content market. Corporate investment in music streaming should be read, above all, against these infrastructural developments; as attempts to control the increasingly centralized computing grid. The migration of data to enormously energy-demanding storage sites (such as Apple’s building in North Carolina, known as “The Orchard”) marks a shift away from the decentralization of the Internet and toward its corporate-controlled concentration. For many businesses, economies of scale now make it possible to outsource their storage needs and computer applications to these sites at much reduced cost. Mobile computing on a mass scale has followed suit. Paradoxically, then, the miniaturization of computers, whose uses on a micro-scale are demonstrably erratic and heterogeneous, is tethered to the monumentalization of the computing “cloud,” whose order on a macro-scale is increasingly technically standardized and economically homogenized. In the corporate struggle for control of the “internet of things”—an industry coinage that refers less to things per se than it does to internet-enabled platforms for learning behavior and gathering user information—the dialectical distinction between the heterogeneous, disseminated behavior of everyday practice and the incrementally ordered corporate infrastructures that monitor and automate that practice, cannot be underestimated.

  • 56 SCHERZINGER, Martin, “Enforced Deterritorialization; or the Trouble with Musical Politics,” Soundin (...)
  • 57 SOPHIA, Zoë, “Container Technologies,” Hypatia 15, no. 2, 2000, p. 181-201.
  • 58 See HEIDEGGER, Martin, Poetry, Language, Thought, New York, Harper and Row, 1971; and HEIDEGGER, Ma (...)

25The two-tiered character of dispersed consumption in the context of centralized production thus delineates new zones of visibility and invisibility. To invoke a question I raised in the context of a critique of Deleuzian postmodernism: Is not the argus-eyed and micro-capillaried digital network, its algorithmic surveillance attuned to ever-finer gradations of resonance between consumer desire and niche market production, the very lifeblood of Capital today? Transparently, the experience of “new participatory architectures of the Web” (which Yochai Benkler’s describes as a dispersed creative commons) is tethered, opaquely (i.e. digitized in a minefield of privacy “agreements”), to the algorithmic harvesting machine, which monitors and aggregates user-generated personal and intellectual information to companies controlling mainstream platforms; thereby delivering power to the hands of technology designers and their financiers.56 What makes it difficult to leverage critical traction on the political and economic determinants of infrastructure today is its surreptitious integration into the effortless habituation of the everyday; and its concomitant structural opacity. Guided by Martin Heidegger’s philosophical analyses, for example, Zoë Sophia, Jonathan Sterne, and others, have shown how “container technologies,” often coded feminine, are by definition concealed; “unobtrusively and incrementally ordered space[s] which can be taken for granted as a background for other activities.”57 While Heidegger largely teases out the giftlike, affordant character of his exemplary “thing” (a jug in this case), Sophia draws attention to the paradoxical affinity between the philosopher’s analysis of this cultural item, understood in its delicate specificity, and the large-scale, abstract structures that are “standing-reserve” for aggressive exploitation in the resourced world, to which Heidegger draws ominous attention in his essay on technology.58 Mapping Sophia’s analysis back into the question concerning mobile technology, we find that the concealed (feminine) character of cloud computing servers—at bottom storage and ranking technologies for data—become, under these critical lights, extractive technoscientific utility grids.

  • 59 SOUZA E SILVA, Adriana, “Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces,” in The Cell Phone Reader: Essays in Social T (...)
  • 60 WEISER, Mark, “The Computer for the 21st Century,” Scientific American, September 1991, p. 94.
  • 61 SOUZA E SILVA, Adriana, “Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces,” p. 21.
  • 62 JANSEN, Luke, “Google vs. Apple: Who Will Win?,” 2010 ( (...)
  • 63 Quoted in SOUZA E SILVA, Adriana, “Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces,” p. 22.
  • 64 KHATCHADOURIAN, Raffi, “No Secrets,” The New Yorker, June 7, 2010, p. 42.

26For all the importance of uncovering them, the womblike, feminine character of container technologies should not be confused with feminism. Sophia’s observation alerts us instead to the stealthy aspect of container technologies. As the extensive uses of portable microcomputers (linked to server farms) becomes an ambient aspect of living, and thus further withdrawn from users’ awareness—issuing what Adriana de Souza e Silva calls an “age of calm technology”—the nature of agency and critical leverage likewise shifts.59 It is instructive to note that computer scientists and technicians sometimes consciously deploy an uncannily Heideggerian approach to future developments in technology. During his tenure as chief scientist at Xerox PARC in the 1990s, for example, Mark Weiser claimed that the “most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”60 Already in the 1990s, Weiser predicted the coming of a third phase in the history of computers; an era characterized as one of “ubiquitous computing,” the very antithesis of virtual reality: “While virtual reality puts people inside a computer-generated world, ubiquitous computing forces computers to live out here in the world with people.” Souza e Silva elaborates Weiser’s basic position thus: “The main problem […] regarding PCs was their obvious visibility. They required too much of our full attention. A good technology, according to him, functions like a tool. A tool, when properly used, disappears as a function of its use, moving to the background of our attention.”61 These motifs, almost like consumer reports lifted out of (a literalist reading of) Being and Time, are further echoed and elaborated by industry executives and representatives in describing trends in nano-computation; notably, the quest for intimate digital interfaces. In 2010 Luke Jansen, chief executive officer of Tigerspike, a media company with a specialization in mobile, for example, addressed the possibility of integrating digital chips in contact lenses and teeth.62 Likewise, Hiroshi Ishii, who pioneered tangible user interfaces at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed toward a new frontier for nanotechnologies: “the move into our skins / bodies.”63 Such technological futurism dreams of bursting what Julian Paul Assange calls the “air gap” between the cloud and the self.64

  • 65 BULL, Michael, Sound Moves, op. cit., p. 124.
  • 66 BEER, David, “Tune out: Music, soundscapes and the urban mise-en-scène,” p. 857.

27In a context where full technological integration with the human body marks a profitable telos, academic writing and journalism oriented toward the nuanced socio-cultural dialectics of mobile sound—how new digital interfaces metamorphose our relations to space and community, etc., whether articulated for or against—may become the ideological support for this airtight brand of corporate Heideggerianism. The question of infrastructure cannot be spirited away just because it has become digitally “virtual.” For example, the resistance afforded by Bull’s Bergsonian iPod experiences or Beer’s tuned out listening practices, which gain traction precisely because of their independence from the “structural organization” of the “culture industry”65 and the “infrastructurally determined aural ecologies” of imposed orders of sound and meaning,66 is in fact fettered more insidiously to vast, but opaque, infrastructural orders. It is as if these, basically postmodern, interpretative pluralities foster determined incuriosity toward the metanarratives that undergird fragmentation of socialities into plural dimensions in the first place. The liberatory, utopian aspects of mobile communication in our times become at most a compressed freedom; contained—in both senses—by a rigid, mandatory technological structure. Or, put differently, effortless habituation in divisible mobilities has entailed containing their emancipatory promise, bringing down a curse thereby.

From Disintermediation to Hyperintermediation

  • 67 STERNE, Jonathan, “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact,” New Media and Society, no. 5, 2006, p. 825-842.
  • 68 WIKSTRÖM, Patrik, The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud, Cambridge, Polity, 2009, p. 6.
  • 69 KUSEK, D. and LEONARD, G., The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution, Boston, (...)

28Music production in the first decade of the twenty-first century has shifted dramatically from a largely commodified industrial model to a radically decentralized one, grounded in peer-to-peer connectivity that increasingly gives the slip to the authority and control commanded by the official industry. The very centralization of the global music industry (which, by 2017, has reduced to only three major labels—Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, Sony Corp.’s Sony Music Entertainment, and Access Industries Inc.’s Warner Music Group), concurrently testifies to its consolidated power and its shrinking command over actual musical culture. In the older music economy, the media of music (its tangible forms—vinyl, cassette, compact disc, and so on) were fused with its contents (its sounding forms—songs, symphonies, and so on), which facilitated its efficient circulation as a physical commodity. In the newer economy, medium and content are increasingly delinked; the former effectively dematerialized; or, more accurately, micro-materialized, which is to say transformed from an actual (tangible) medium to a seemingly virtual (digital) format. The virtualization of music parallels the shift toward ever-miniaturized, and therefore concealed, technologies centered around mobility. This is not to say that music has become less “material” or somehow “disembodied” in our times (as Sterne and others have amply shown), but that its potential for commodification, in the limited sense of charging a price for discrete bits of music-informational data alone—is diminished.67 Patrik Wikström notes: “As soon as some kind of information is uploaded to the Cloud, it is instantly universally accessible to everyone connected to the Cloud. In such a ‘friction-free network,’ the commercial value of providing access to an individual track is infinitesimally close to zero.”68 Some commentators even argue that the music be offered as a utility, like electricity or water.69 Indeed, although digital sales were briefly up at the turn of the first decade of this century, and vinyl retained a resilient sub-market, recording industry figures indicated a steep, and seemingly unstoppable, decline in overall unit-based sales of music in the first decade of the 21st century.

  • 70 STERNE, Jonathan, “Is Music a Thing?,” presentation at New York University, February 2009.
  • 71 International Federation of the Phonograph Industry (IFPI), The Digital Music Report 2008 (http://w (...)

29There is now widespread agreement that the demise of music’s industrial commodity form (LP, CD, etc.) is due to the appearance of new encoding formats in the 1990s, notably the MP3, whose lossy compression-decompression algorithm, grounded in psychoacoustic masking techniques, facilitated markedly smaller digital file sizes than those used on compact discs. Interestingly, the MP3 format itself, developed in the 1980s by Karlheinz Brandenburger and others at the Fraunhofer Institute in Erlangen, Germany, was encoded as a commodity form, including, for example, digitally inscribed copyright protections in its code.70 As Jonathan Sterne argues, the development of the MP3 was a conscious attempt by Fraunhofer and AT&T to achieve path dependency in the context of then emerging applications, such as Apple’s Quicktime in the mid-1990s. For this reason, Sterne insists that the MP3, for all its invisibility, retains its thinglike character. This is an important point in the context of the emerging cloud-based music economy, to which I will return shortly. For now it suffices to say that, despite the MP3’s commodified raison d’être, the arrival of open network technologies in the 1990s issued forth new practices of file-sharing, downloading, and sampling that quickly became pervasive, basically crippling the recording industry in the process. With the mainstreaming of peer-to-peer connectivity in the early 2000s, large-scale practices of exchange were no longer primarily governed by financial transactions. According to the International Federation of the Phonograph Industry, only one in twenty digitally downloaded musical tracks was legally purchased in 2008.71 It is as if the era of technological reproducibility finally ushered in its inherently simulacral, paradoxically decommodified, and aura-free medium: the MP3. In the words of David Hyman, CEO of MOG All Access: “There is nothing sexy about the mp3;” along with its withering aura, the commodity value of the MP3 melted into air.

  • 72 WIKSTRÖM, Patrik, The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud, p. 7.
  • 73 TAPSCOTT, Don, and WILLIAMS, Anthony D., Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, New (...)
  • 74 WIKSTRÖM, Patrik, The Music Industry: Music in the Cloud, p. 174.
  • 75 SINNREICx, Aramthe oon xml:lang="ndustry: Mn its.,Amtherat, Univw (...)
  • 66STERANOLVA,Tizriana, Network Cultur:l Politico for theIinformationAgrd,AnonArb or,PluntoBooksy, 204 >
  • 67JENKINMS, Henya, , New York, New York Universitw (...)

s, it is with journalitmic ceverageaind academic commentary on the social effects of mobile music device,s vie points are divoded about the effectstthese new mdialities of digital connectivity( peer-to-peer-sharing, the ubiquitous practice of downloading,nstreaming music pervice,s and so on) haveion patterns of musicmasking toda.e We 2.0g applications,feiaturing usey-centered interactve -designs that facilitatf information-sharing, interopeaibility,/sS reay amounting of uter-generated content( mahupsy, rmixce,sb itds, wkie,s vdelos, etc.s, havehoisted new platforms forreaslly disseminatedramaeuer musi-maskin.k Wikströg, for example, etfectsad markee increane in generalized creativity in the context of We 2.0s: Ffor iistance,presearch into the world of panfrictioy shoes that apprxtimately5%g of a userpopculation creates nds uploats conten, 12%c commens ion that content nds24%e actively roats the content nds the commens.z BredlyHoro wiz, VPs atGoogleaund fomperly atYahoo!,r reports simila,preCulsd from-stuties of user behaviour atYahoo!c Groues.”72 These platforms argtably aph the lope- for cognitave urplous, to whichShirkyt pointd, which is markeebyo an increane incCollaborative, networtedramaeuer musi-maskin,e variouely rferered to as rmixl cultury,” “internet cultury,”74 ckn figutable cultury,” “network cultury,”66 participatory cultury,” and so or.

m describes the development of thsle cultursg of peer-to-peernetwording in terms oe a qailitatvea shift away from the “ radational computer network opn its.e” characterizedbyg “clien- servernetwordiny,” and toward the “friction-fre,” opn its. in which“oith thendiscriuition and the production botlgenacks are almosttentreily gine.”68 Likewise, DavidByrnle argued that the music business (whichthe describes in terms oe its medium alone the business of seollingCDes in plitmic anses)I will “sion bn ove,p” because of theparolfderation ofwebd-basedndiscriuitionmechanises and the dramatiy decreane in production coses for musician8.Byrnle offers various

Tits lnde of thinkingis,f reqrently cupaled toane argumend about music’s yclting from-pervice to produnt nds back agaiy.” In this contex,o live pe formences are reqrently posided as the oisl importantr eveue,nstrea, for Artsnty: Uunder thh radationalmoded,” rsitesAlticrLaPlrant,z “Artsnt,whould […]go ion to iour nde pe foro live to slla more recors.a Nnow ia’s almostflippzed, where people areseollingtThe recores and the Digital downloase to prmnote their cuer, and ability to slla eurchindiley.” WhatfForLaPlrants is g lip-floapped businessmoded,” where musiial caricity no longer resdets in technological reproduntions but in live pe formences,-mar0s, for DavidByrnl,d a return to a more natural, instncrtual rliation to musicwas a social vdets, ckommucal and often utilirariay.”EchgoingShirkya’sem phais ion musicwas experiencergathes thandowtableobjeact,”Byrnle rsitey: Music was nd experienc,r intimatldy maaried toyiourolfd.d […] Titsbe ryas nd nternl burgg to have , largre contextbeycodt f ieice of plitmi. Onhe mihto say t is urggisw pard of our genstic mkeupy.”tThe generae iday that experiencts,”rgathes than oessension,” are increasingly recgnrized aslreading to a happy,” lifesis often echoed intthe ppculer prsn8. Indeed, According3t

seof--mounzedndigital musital downloaseaere nte in themselveslucerativ:, despite thehundrerds ofb itds,lthoshands of downloass, and illtiosn of viesn ofOK Go songs, for example, then and cannot effectively slla their music onlin3. Inansower to the questionwhyd musicianswhould “oluentailly pte new music into such asyistms,”Shirkyt offers the falloeins: “The more generaeansower […]his r placpment ofagreed withl ovy.”Msuch commentary about the emergingstyales of music that loturihe in thsef technologicalecodiationg resonotef with hirkya’scmounzr-culturalrwhetosi3. Inh tsbocke , for example, Ara Sinnreiuch etoels the virtles of the newn onlinfrymodsy of intr"textual musi-maskin,e whose patternsdeftgly reaspiculatf the networtedrrcchitcltursg of new digital technologies. Likewise,iInh ts Sunis Wa fre: >Soun>,Aeffecy,/sS Ecnoloyh of sead,SteivtGoduman eleborates themManiolda net-geursgb loscoming in the context of digital rmixce,s mahupsy, and musisr grounded in sampese from “thebridim, mehood ofJamaficne pp,y to the sampa delra ofUSnh p-hpp,y Theprmixnoloyh of diso, thosle, and techny,/sS hHypedub, mehoonologies of thechad-cfore coediuumy.”Ffrom thepderpfectivs of music listegres toa, the crnuctopid of online listeningicne delinf the musiial fry from-seratifiedknvmnatiosn ofoldadefiwtablecocordirate.t Bn Ratliff>, for examples, bbsersss: “There isae possibility thatheharinesoo much music witbout specfxicallymasking for te develons in the listegrs a urshe kind ofauuralpdecepitDon, nd ability to lizy up sonm and contxrtualise it inae netforpderiocalwayn,rgathes thanimrmediatgly rjeacming t -basedion ah etternl iday ofageur or tyaly.”Noto urprirtingly,Ratliffh etoels theologisn of rmixl and-mahupa, thefustion of lemmens iof wot differen song;,” their “sMark musiialop positiosl.” For thuse wriders, the covmergecek of consumer electSuniss andndigital musiendiscriuition and consumptioa proffered dculture of produntively is oriented creativeprax is achoered inrhiznomic intr"textualifildsy of independetelylaunchded musiial xmpressios.

  • LANIEER,Jarone, , p.202 and p. 209.
  • Ibid., p.312 and p.487.

, the atritmin value ofrdeceng trends in new music is contistedaned indoubt. fry from etfecdinggenuline creativity in the atritury of rmix,d-mahupa, and othefageur-defyking lhoes thatbuiuldewritials question marks […]hinto ourheharind,” rsitrs, likeLpanir, in conrvast, etfece , logih of e contxrtualisrd fragmens, inaon isseblargg tobre xmloiated yg others: Popdculture has entered ino, , nsMlgsicmalrais. Onnlineculture sedoeminated ygtrlivtal mahupse of the culture3Onhe symtrom of the nsMlgsiceturnw s, the paradoxicae emergecek of musital-geursg likegilicthArd, whichaueshnstilized technological ailtursg and-ml functiosy, andVaporwaved, which demonstrably egnaged ouidated sound ( from dEvetirtin jsingvs, and vdeo gamets to rctSe musiial tyale)y oh empressvhe effec.>Aargtabl,gbay leveraging a kind ofhrelfectivs techn-eteroir,r thuse-geursgewritialbly egnagn with the consumercultureupoin whichheyh depen.eLpanir, how evet,whouldregward this kind ofaatritmin practice asneprivtlven and recatioaury.Hne connecsy Theprractve musical culturg to the reduation ofpderiohlood to llustiotarybito-marvice,s(such as the “cultmpl-chgocessidetitgies” organited yg socia-networding platforms likeFacebocky,/sS rrvature of vie pointsbyg htver-mied”cCollaboratioms like>Wikpmedis WhereSinnreiuch/sS Goduman bbserss nd ex lotion of netfnnlinecreativit,eLpanire ntviceyad recatioaur -cultural soun track to rcombfinatn,semi-automdated procesets that diminisa qailigies of human xmpressios.

Benklery shoes thattthe first sitgisw out oghetherbyo an Inteprirtin lemmenaur schgrol rectherhatttheGaunderAacadety inNewfsounlhin,,”wtiuchelines to sites like “eSwmedsch mueumy,” and so or.Tthes ecodtelinf is toaeNorwegi an VirdingNnetwork,f the hiard sitgiswhoistedby aDainisaphotnograpera, thefofurtdby a rcuirea proresory fromPittsnburh,s and so om, all thewsayountll therdirtd sitd, which is “mdle frellymvailtablebyPBSa, theAemeficnePubltcaBroadcaestingSpervicy.”Benklerylassociates this kind ofaectivitynnot with radationalin eentver-based production utn with the “ynaomic uffiliecy,”lassociatdn with the will to creat and te communicaty.” WhatBenklera’scaetualatuveyhmiesets is thewsay t isckommucalmehost is inscribed in the aarked econom. One tefcoerchin,rBenklerymiesets theffact thattthe geneious-cultural proagoniesns in the VirdingShipsa esearchaere largelyewithee upepormed ygtrradationaely alaaried livlihlood ( rectkin,e rcuirnment, etc.s, or pconsrmed ygpubltcs, orrevenbouyright socialast,foundinm-seucltursg(PubltcaBroadcaestingSpervic,.TtheSwmedsch government, etc.. One tefcrtherchin,rBenklerymiesets thewryas(such freentim,”wYord is itegerated ino,ngovlt apprecthsg to the financialization offnnlineprax is. It is in the context of net business pepormunimeeslassociatdn with clour compukin,e where illtiosn of computens and serveseaereelinkeg to human and nn human gmens, invisielyhaerssukin,e procesding, andaonayzoing atra, that freewYord shouldbhescrpukinites.

UpdrtlingTtraraovaa’sdiagnoais iof-free labosaiy ourntimst,whe winresn the crol logih ofcrowd-s ouulingwas nd itegerlw pard of net a gitaistymodsy of productio3. In the first decade of the 21st centurs, for example,Nneflix,e tefconline ovihe rntnal commany, shiftedarpfecms oe its markedingpresearch away fromin-thosll computer ingilcers, prgermmders, andsitatitmicians(ion pyrolal)nto thecCollaborative commans(ion cometdatio):. In quess of a rcommterdctioy oftw are that couldprendiet cstomdera taostis in ovihs 10%y bthes than theirin-thosll oftw areCgilmatchs, for iistance, the companyroffered d illtio-dColler przrg for thewinrding earl. nside from thewinrgres knowanasyBellk or,ae gloraealltrance of some hiaitymeumber),)thfreeyseasn of labo, ivolvning thoshands of eares,f rom over180scmounrgies,miesedn the aar3. In the words ofGreg McAlpion, , oftw are ingilce ( and reaeor of therunrgr-upf ear Ensseble)s: Ount of thoshandsyou) haveiobly woe that succedte.n>Thebigd rsison for enw s, that oisl of thosecCollaboratiomsdsonatwYory.” Ths simpleeca-cuuty of(suchcrowds ouulingsisitparleins:Nneflix paind fo 0.1% ( at ois)e of the otnal labos expundedoin the prjfec.>Oof thosepaint, ectfpderiofrdecirsed$11,111.11 >peryseae ina thfre-yseaeelmiatedntern conrvec.>Ina reture,Nneflix obetaired d10%ysimr ovpmentian theirprendietve o delign algoriths Tits kind of crowd-s ouulin,” n becoming generalized in the aarked toda.eCconsidr>, for example, mazsons mechanivalTuork,wwhich offersa flexsiee,fcrowd-s ouuzed, Yornfock, for specfxi taokes forio-dlmain,r par-ktime prjfects, uffilienelyllinkeg to its clour compukinr functioailils. Likewise, the eb sitgCrowdspering cnks s, nd iterfacer between companies andograpsit-desigtens and wriders,paremiming a aeverage of110 eunrgie >per prjfec.> Ths economic logihirs esidet:, for evers succes fully purchased-desigt,whe fsS aboutcoercundrere rederdantcoes.> Thsaisty of platformsmr oindinmcrowd-s ouuzes pepormunimeesgodsy n.tBenklera’suttopianissiasndisurbsinglyaccuerat:> Thshtver likecCollaborative ufport,e whose ckoses of production is rlivtas,”mady es the versolfdbllood oftthe a gitaismd te coes

Ths currptdatiusealltrance between(suchocos o drnl freedodn and a gitad should not be undetestmafte.nQusitga pard from the ell-testabnishe legcty ofanat-testabnispmentcrendibilityaufpodted ygcmounzr-culturalrwhetosig for the dEvetirtin and raundinm of commodtnies and pervice,s raunis themselves have l so leveraged the aectle- behaviural logihlassociatdn with net technologies for theirdownpens. GabrgillveCc senthny, for example, points ut how Apmple ailsrmed theoaunchy of Tunef with e business plan aimhe hatcreating aorarance between theiindustry and music listegre,) and cupaled with ecCommunicatiom-seraegty thatspoked theoangurage ofyouth,h ThsApmple dEvetirtin cxamasigt,r eveasinglytdalied Rip, Mix,eBture,”w s, tuseablge toagaiynrvection nd the aectler behavirs of free cultury( peer-to-peer-sharing, downloading, etc.dntoddelrveeaudrienctnnto their atrbanks. thile Tunefitmlle repesvenks nfoldernmodel for the ommtrocialddelrveys of music(ionbito lizyccunks,g instead of clour-basedsstreamin),e it is Yoith oating a dowoward trens s, fry s, the gr-uunicr eveuesdrdecirsedby cxtual musicians sn concerte.nByrnleenotes, for example, that,wWhile Tunef retursfae hgtherpdecentrage of itsr eveuesd toaArtsnt,(14rpdecent),sApmple itelfdrdecirss 30rpdecent;o furthe mor, the cxtuall-moundrdecirsedby Artsnt,its resn tantwthatheyhwhouldreecirsd with e radationalCDs

In 203,t panyparemntent Artsnt,blegon to testfy, ny,/sS reven proeast, theffiltursg of the streaming moded,/sS simplicationg of its overallde- financialization for Artsnts While it is not hve eentran concerg of t is arti r,e the pcJulirsemokedizatioa practicis of musig streaming rliarg to thewryas conten >r oinders egnagn-pervice>r oinder.>Innstead ofemokediding eer-streay, music label tterg tobreinvtisted ifrequite(shaeis in thesstreaming pervicey themselve3. Thismevnse thatr eveuesd-generatedby dEvetirtin andsubnscrmptio feces are prpYoiisonotely ioinddy up amingrequitee oldens andiobly thonndiscriuiled toaArtsnts, according to varablgeaagregmens, between Artsnt, and label., Jesy s, consumptioaiasnellinkeg tfer froe,rdmmuderatio,n in thevers of(streamin,s is threfmorenellinkeg from theunito-based legalmodelmevntd togusdee i. Ggiven themismatche between the lhok of a gitadhiny ivtisnment, it is not urprirtint thattthe oisl powefulf musig streaming platform,s(such asYouTubse andSpotify,m are l so theopowsatr eveuer produding platforms for Artsnts Aeyad rscul,s evensstrt, likeLpdy Gagae werelockted ino, recording labe,detaef that-generatednoer eveue, for the Artsny from-sereastioaSpotifys fry fromtterding toward Disintermediatio. tefcld industrial intermeditries have effectivelybeven transformedhinto rdsubntdaustedby achinfulf of clour-basedhHype intermeditrie8.

h1p class="texte">AallWYordAspirhsg to theCcodiatiog of the MusivalWYord(dot.cCommunsm.)



Ths livs ofcreatin,l of mktin,l of connectin,l ofuncreaowtablepasstio. foe akting a difference,foedorineso mehtint thatmpattesg ohcuerselves, theopvel of connectin,lglivin,d reurdins, produdinn, nnd sharins. It is meporvntd toknown whichfil,wet rsd aggmins


  • CARER,Niychoams, TheShaallos:> What the Interke IsDoding toOur Brgaiss, op. cid
  • LANIEER,Jarone, , p.1074.
  • Ibid., p.97.
  • Qunotnd byLpanir,

r oinders and uabnisheseaere decreasinglyrt levntd if thyodoc notregnagn-stratogies os itegeratr theirdiffeiinsg with thshe net clour-basedndiscriuition platform. Howitewillobre possilr,c witbout omeyaway of controlding priding andndiscriuitios, for indviduras foe music companies te crvee expuniltursg rliared to longe-ntern creativeprrjfects, the revelopment of netaArtsnts, sS rllaboraem-stuios productios,s isuoncetgai. In conrvast,its isungliklyf teattthe prpereatose of the mjfor clour compukinrc entesewillo disoueragn the culturyofeunpaind creative labo, e specalbly in the context ofsubnscrmptior-basedsstreaming pervice;,its is even resngliklyf in the context of free(adEvetirtin- rgive)g pervice;, and oislungliklyf in the context ofseearcr-basedspervice3. In the words ofCarr,r thuse>r oinders hhave e financiansstkre in6Lpanire na itiouely points ut teat arndetsSili co Vmallyt a gitaistsa i cuerags “oare and oreg pervicey ina oluenpees-bassy.”Lpanire ex ridntly connecsy The idaln of-free music/sS dlmaines of finanes: Sili co Vmallyt hasaectively>r iseltlizedWrallSstrkea tobuytia to docscrnesn ofoxpu /  free cultury and rowds ouuliny.”Lping fil,drfwnnders ychf this positio;s in thewwords ofChrim Aunderson, despite thebluoster about track recorss and aosts […]htns rallGgenerazedCconten [ docscrnes of(statitmivalrdelribility tfougth xmmermagniltde],h asYouTubse hay.” Ths remise of economic value for creative laboy s, the privtlized clouse that connec, thecrowds siculaneiouelygeurvee profise shouldegiv uis puis..


Asehownsearlnir, ndigital eedid if the 21st centursheverushtered iy wdesplreas newconline ,wwhic,) if ture,hever proftered newneetworted oncialtce3. In the larg-sicahe context of ehmencdt digital uffiliecgies(ionddelrvey,h emprtrence, etc.s, musical production-eecoeisae kind ofmodel for theseof-eampoyles,crreativewYorer. Ggiven the cnntdaustivendependecek of musikling n cCommuntyy(fo, pbut differenll,noin the ubltcnty- uccested ubltc), thismmodel-eecoeisselfectivels,hiny decpitivels,(io)nvisieed wit iy the networ8 One tefcoerc/sS,fconlinecCommuntgieebeare winresn ofintdeemtnten, musical succesies(seof-oaunchedtaArtsnts,fclahfembtrvcenrs and aArtue,daudronviutal e ue,dnvrcal ideds, etc.s wiuchbserss s, ndialbic otttheralturs of fre,teunrrepeneutrial laboiing cntivits wile,noin the othefc/sS,faevaislbeasis ofndijoaiaedscrreative labo, istandin-rrssrved wit iyrhiznomic networtroutnsideffacmolywcalshfor 9 Ths quessiot i,twthat kind of tforowillobre rrci israzedaes theevarporaiinmcrowde increasinglyssrvesn s,eneviusetyistms forttherccumueactinmcclou? Chan thshs newsubjfectivelyai elecred labodera the creative commansioa productioa oeenupl production tftthe ommman? Ooedo the creative commansmferelyaienevrae -a gitaies,iindustry and pervice? H as a netan tfophologicacrecavitsag generalized creative communsmy(for commucaism)d wit iy a gitaisms mophmedhintoae kind ofckommuismd of a gitaism; for morempreilienel,h ecCommunsmr for a gitaism?.

Topeoof gv0
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1 This article is an expanded version of an earlier essay, “Divisible Mobility: Music in an Age of Cloud Computing,” originally published in The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek (eds.), New York, Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 75-102.

2 SRIVASTAVA Lara, “The Mobile Makes its Mark,” in Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies, James E. Katz (ed.), Cambridge (MA), MIT Press, 2008, p. 27.

3 Although it is far from universally adopted, mobile communication has made a considerable impact in developing nations as well, dramatically dwarfing the impact of the internet in those regions. Internet penetration in the continent of Africa, for example, was less than 1 percent in 2010, while cellphone usage increased exponentially, reaching over a third of the population (SMITH, David, “Africa Calling: Mobile Phone Usage Sees Record Rise After Huge Investment,” The Guardian, October 22, 2009). Likewise, on a global scale, despite the overall paucity of fixed-line infrastructure, mobile subscription in developing nations has risen from 12 million in 1995 to over 1.15 billion in 2005. In the least developed countries, cellular services (such as CDMA and GSM-type networks) outpace fixed-line services (copper networks) by a factor of seven (see SRIVASTAVA, Lara, “The Mobile Makes its Mark,” p. 23; and DONNER, Jonathan, “Shrinking Fo(http://blog averldnbly, reaching over a third ofenguin Pressnforchinely connec2bs risen from 12bLreihics Music to Eng over a thirdG>0-41, oIom unobill paon attratsc2bscriptiodiffin Pr anreanRIVAc tnvenverpl2bLre//bd of threna thirzeessc2bspillit ov005.traacybd ofge fingm uoTH, Da;devere ofprodxedhirg Fmobile sng thirrelevth and rodxeptebd ofe imumptebwie p devele, despAftnomySTAVA,Ca, ELLS, 2anueallrdianållr Ragnonea Call risen Trdertebd ofe Usage Seesshng Gnt ae Guardialy connec2bs risen from 12bLreihics Music to Eng over a thirdG48, oNeesevelp. 2wie she rilla thshng onnnan cvit ovbroadbd ofaccp. 2d ofafsity ic in tinent ge ge fingmanent,scriptiodeer ne2wie sennt cs, ce oriLreihngmcap ic inusic hall bAftm Pd n thoghegmaspenternesociaallnLreihng2d ofAftnom/emlifetinent ge zeesscamatica., 2cnteihngg ovdblitegmy a factcp develnations haswldnb hall RIVASed-linedans. Inp develnationsedawldnbast dKenya2d ofTanzaniple, was less thM-Pesple scriptio incr-bntialsysteme, wamncry thenslrtebd ofm/eropact cginavan 1 auna he Oxfe l7r ofs (T Plocegmy a fac toct n ( . Be, wl bitcong onunb bAftm Pcainmobeamnp develindumobiaa W 4TAVA LeebVIRNO, Paulo CallP st-lowdid cSemblt csessnforchineSubs.),ceer a thnordG11ikewis7thirdG42-46R, JonLAZZARATO, 2aurizio CallImwarebiaa L biressnforchineRadfingmT far whileItegyer a thPaolo Virnobd ofenanael H, Otw York, OMinnaapoliic Press, 20142bs innasota8, p. 2r 16thirdG133-150.

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