This week I would like to elaborate a bit more – and to hear your opinion – on the digital spaces and the placeless world.
First of all, let’s talk about the digitalization of music and where it all began.
I’d say, the process started around the end of the millennium when high-speed Internet became available to the masses, and we were feeding off the file-sharing websites such as Napster. Remember Napster? It was created in 1999, and by 2001, it had over 60 million users (!) that were attracted with no advertising (!!!) (Leyshon, 2003). Napster was a double-sided coin: yes, it involved a lot of illegal sharing and copying of music files, but thanks to this website music became more accessible and available to those who could not always afford to buy all the records they wanted. Needless to say, Napster has forever changed the nature of technology and the record industry. (On this note, I am beyond thankful that some record stores still exist, thanks to old souls and collectors like myself, but clearly, the way we produce and consume music has been inevitably transformed).
Today, Napster seems like a distant memory. Streaming has changed it all. As a teenager, I used to be pretty proud to have my own, separate device JUST for playing music: from a tape walkman to a CD player, to an MP3 player and iPod. However, around 2017, my iPod got organically replaced by a streaming service on my phone. It was a smooth transition, even though it seemed alien at first – especially the endless opportunities and options.
Streaming has made it possible for musicians to momentarily share their art, and for the audience to consume it just as fast. Think about the creative freedom given by the technology! For example, as per Brian Hracs et al, it is because of technological advancement that Canada has thriving music scenes in smaller remote towns and outside of the major music capital that is TorOn (2011). Musicians no longer have to cluster around a certain infrastructure, as they now have resources to go DIY with both the creation and production of their art.
We love saying that 2020 was a sh*t year and we did not get anything done. However, I heard Steve Davis, chief executive of PATH, saying in his virtual TED Talk that over the last year, the sphere of education has made a leap (related to its digitalization, of course) it would otherwise take in five-ten years. Now imagine the push made by other sectors, such as medicine, telecommunications..? Within the music industry, Zoom, Twitch, and other platforms have become our new universal music venues. Not sure if can consider it a step forward, however it is good to have an alternative to currently non-existent live music.
Now, what about live streams? Because of them, we can finally “attend”, even though virtually, gigs in other countries, instead of waiting for artists to come to our town/or only enjoying the local scenes. We can even interact with our favorite musicians on IG live, and sometimes take a sneak peek into their day-to-day lives (oh, so this is how your kitchen looks like?) However, the music venue was a helluva place. Being in a dark club filled with sweaty people was a CRUCIAL part of the live music experience, and I miss it every day of my COVID life. As much as it is enjoyable to watch artists play music while both of you are sitting on your couches, it is not the same, it could never be the same, live music is meant to be live. All we can do now is sit and wait.
Now I have a few questions for you.
Which elements of the live stream format would you keep after we’re allowed to go back to the venues?
Would you still attend live streams after the live music are back?
Steve Davises TedTalk: https://www.ted.com/talks/steve_davis_the_acceleration_of_digital_transformation_in_uncertain_times
Hracs, B., Grant., J. L., Haggett, J. (2011). A tale of two scenes: civic capital and retaining musical talent in Toronto and Halifax. The Canadian Geographer 55 (3), 365-382.
Leyshon, A. (2003). Scary monsters? Software formats, peer-to-peer networks, and the spectre of the gift. Environment and Planning D, Society & Space, 21, 533–558