Napster, 15 years on: Rethinking Digital Music Distribution

Call for articles
Napster, 15 years on: Rethinking Digital Music Distribution
First Monday
Guest editors: Raphaël Nowak (Griffith University, Australia) and Andrew Whelan (University of Wollongong, Australia)

2014 marks the fifteenth anniversary of the release of the peer-to-peer application Napster. Developed by a student, Shawn Fanning, with the help of his friend Shawn Parker and uncle John Fanning, Napster established music downloading as a mass phenomenon. By 2001, 50 million users had downloaded content with Napster. Many other applications followed – Gnutella, Kazaa, LimeWire, eMule, Soulseek, BitTorrent, among others – further developing and entrenching p2p technology.

Online music distribution has been fiercely contested since Napster. Online availability has changed the way music is produced, sold, distributed, shared and consumed. While these changes are often decried or celebrated through well-rehearsed positions, their implications can also be exaggerated, as attending to contemporary industry business models and persisting analog formats would suggest.

Building on multi- and cross-disciplinary approaches addressing developments in the 15 years since the advent of Napster, we seek papers that advance contemporary debates associated with music downloading (authorized and illicit) and its consequences and ramifications. We welcome 300-word abstracts reflecting on the last 15 years in the realm of online music distribution and consumption. While attending to this broad aim, proposed articles will also address a more specific theme. Potential themes may include, but are not limited to:

– Exchange relations and the circulation of digital objects
– Politics and ethics of p2p practices
– Hyper-consumption, curatorialism and open access music archives
– Online music subcultures and (social) networks
– Domestication of p2p and p2p as/in technoculture
– Communications, transfer, storage, and playback hardware and infrastructure
– Discursive framing: leeches, pirates, free music
– Contemporary music celebrity culture
– Suppression and criminalization of downloading and ‘copyfight’
– Aesthetic experiences and qualities of digital music practices and rituals
– 0day, release groups, pre-releases and leaks
– Affordances, affects and materialities of the mp3 format
– The evolution and ecology of music downloading
– Direct downloads, music blogging, and online visibility
– Monetization, markets and the business of p2p
– Analog formats: continuity and resurgence
– Pre-histories and futures of digital music distribution

300-word abstracts should be submitted to Raphaël Nowak ( by 21 February 2014. On the basis of these abstracts, invitations to submit papers will be sent out in early March 2014. Full papers should be submitted by 20 June 2014, and will undergo the usual First Monday peer-review process. Invitation to submit a full paper does not therefore guarantee acceptance into the issue. The themed special edition will be published November 2014.