IASPM International Conferences - Proceedings, Situating Popular Musics

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Challenges facing musical engagement and taste in digitality
Melissa Avdeeff

Last modified: 2013-01-22

Abstract


The ways in which technology mediates the relationship between people and music has increasingly evolved since the advent of playback devices. With the arrival of digital music, and its inherent culture of digitality, new issues have emerged regarding musical engagement at the level of fan and/or consumer. This paper will explore what and where people are engaging with music, as mediated by technology. These two issues will be categorised by: (1) the immense quantity of popular music available digitally is promoting a culture of eclecticism, whereby people are not tied to specific genres when defining their tastes. Personal genre alliance has fallen out of favour, and replaced by fluid definitions of genres and artists, that are user-driven and highly personalised and subjective: for example, folksonomies. (2) One of the primary ways in which people consume music is through portable media devices, such as the iPods. My data shows that people are predominantly utilising these devices in three sites of engagement: mobile, immobile and quasi-mobile activities. These issues are explored through the results of a large-scale, international study, utilising both quantitative and qualitative approaches, in the form of interviews and surveys, both conducted online and in person. Throughout this paper, I make distinctions between how digital youth, or digital natives, those under the age of thirty who have grown up entirely immersed in digitality, and those over thirty, or digital immigrants, have developed diverse systems of musical engagement. I argue that digital youth, whose relationship with music is increasingly mediated by digital technologies, such as the iPod, are no less emotionally engaged with music than their older counterparts, but their tastes are less genre-focused.

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