Music in the Digital Age: Musicians and Fans around the World "Come Together" on the Net

Article excerpt

Abstract

The convergence of music production, creation, distribution, exhibition and presentation enabled by the digital communications technology has swept through and shaken the music industry as never before. With a huge push from the digital technology, music is zipping around the world at the speed of light bringing musicians, fans and cultures together. Digital technology has played a major role in making different types of music accessible to fans, listeners, music lovers and downloaders all over the world. The world of music production, consumption and distribution has changed, and the shift is placing the power back into the hands of the artists and fans. There are now solutions available for artists to distribute their music directly to the public while staying in total control of all the ownership, rights, creative process, pricing, release dates and more. Geographic distances and national boundaries have become irrelevant in distribution and dissemination of music. Worldwide presence and interactivity now allows musicians, music enthusiasts and critics to discuss and share musical knowledge and actual music files. The vision of musicians and their fans and music lovers 'coming together' without any limitations of time and space, without any interference from meddling record companies, is being realized virtually on the Internet.

Keywords

music/ digital technology/ digital music production/music downloading/ musicians on the Internet/ music fans/ music software

One Thing I Can Tell You is You Got to be Free

Come Together, Right Now Over Me

John Lennon

Introduction

The convergence of music production, creation, distribution, exhibition and presentation enabled by the new communications technology has swept through and shaken the music industry as never before. The power seems to have shifted in favor of independent and relatively 'unknown' musicians, and the much neglected fans. Music has been the force which could cut across cultures and transcend borders. With a huge push from the digital technology, music is zipping around the world at the speed of light bringing musicians, fans and cultures together. Musicians have been the first ones to appreciate music of other cultures and to incorporate them in their own repertoire - John McLaughlin merged Indian classical music in his fusion band Shakti, George Harrison brought the Indian sitar into pop music and made Ravi Shankar famous in the West, Led Zeppelin and Sting have infused Middle-Eastern influences in their music. On the other hand, musicians from the Third World and traditional cultures have eagerly mixed hiphop, rock, reggae and western pop music into their indigenous music - Bhangra and Bollywood film music is a good example; Shakira, the latest queen of pop from Latin America was practising a Bollywood dance number for a concert on MTV, and this trend could be seen on MTV-Chi (Chinese version) and MTV-Desi (South Asian version). The new digital communications technology seems to have accelerated the process of bringing western music to Asian, African and Latin cultures and in reverse, music from Asia, Africa and South America to the western consciousness and culture.

The convergent communications technology has upset the apple cart and has made music production and distribution more democratic and participatory at the grass roots level. This has happened not just at the national level but transcended borders to become a global phenomenon. As the writer in Wired magazine notes:

Dragged down by its own bulk and ripped apart by therebellious energy of the file-sharing revolution, the recording industry hit rock bottom. That was three years ago. Today signs of renewal are everywhere: amazing technologies, smart business models, even ringtones as hit singles. The best part? An explosion of creativity from artists and fans alike. Rock on (Steuer, 2006: 170).

The recorded album as we know is going out of style. …