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Date of Award

9-2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Music Criticism

Supervisor

Christina Baade

Language

English

Abstract

With its almost exclusive focus on the economics of the music industry, the early-21st century debate over digital music piracy has obscured other vital areas of study in the relationship between popular music and the Internet. This thesis addresses some of these neglected areas, specifically issues of agency, representation, discipline, and authority; it examines each of these in relationship to the formation and maintenance different online music communities. I argue that contemporary online trends related to music promotion, consumption, and criticism are, in fact, part of a much larger socio-cultural re-envisioning of the relationships between artists and audiences, artists and the music industry, and among audience members themselves. The relationship between music and the Internet is not only subversive on the level of economics.

I examine these issues in three key areas. Independent women's music commnunities challenge patriarchal authority in the music industry as they use online discussion forums and web sites to advance their own careers. The tension that exists between the traditional for-profit music industry and the developing ethic of sharing in the filesharing community creates the conditions whereby we can imagine alternative ways that music can circulate in culture. "Citizen media," such as blogs and "open source" encyclopaedias, allows for those who otherwise had no avenue for presenting their thoughts and ideas to engage in public discourse. Traditional understandings of authority and expertise are subject to revision as new ways of assessing authority develop for online sources. This is also evident in the struggles of "old-media" groups in reconciling their established publishing and editorial practices with emergent online practices.

This thesis foregrounds the work of individuals by drawing extensively from interviews, personal blogs, and online discussion forums. In this way, the monolithic "grand narratives" of the Internet, such as the filesharing "battle" or the democratic potential of online discourse, are shown to be the product of many individual subjectivities, each of whom contribute to authoring the online environment.

McMaster University Library

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