Narrating Popular Music: The state of the live music ecology
ABSTRACT: This paper introduces the political and industrial context of the Great British Live Music Census. It builds on the theorization of live music in cities as an ‘ecology’, which has informed the development of the census project, and looks specifically at the role of the state (local and national) in shaping the musical lives of cities and their inhabitants. Whilst music is often deployed as part of city branding exercises, and used to drive trade, tourism and regeneration, venues and musicians are often at the sharp end of such changes. With policy formed with the benefit of the wider economy and populace in mind, musicians and music businesses attempt to carve out a space in the regulatory process to protect and sustain their activities. This paper examines the dynamic between grassroots music activity, the larger commercial operators and policy bodies that has both informed the census and been a feature of the ecology that the project team has had to negotiate. It discusses the political decisions, the responses of musicians and music industry personnel, and the space for academics within this equation.
At the root of copyright’s legislative reach, and practical effects, is the matter of ‘copying’ itself – often referring to what may legitimately (morally or legally) be done with an apparently completed piece. Yet making music, and acquiring the skills to do so, is shot through with acts of copying, from straightforwardly learning a basic riff to the network of socially inflected influences in composition and multifarious technological means of manipulation, particularly in popular music, where criteria for entry to the field are relatively lightly codified. Likewise, as well disrupting longstanding distribution methods, digital technology has blurred the relationship between production, consumption and the ‘finished product’.
Musicians are central to an industry rhetoric in support of copyright protection that often relies upon conceptions of discrete works established in a pre-digital era. This paper explores popular musical practices themselves in the face of a rapidly evolving palette of creative possibilities. How do musicians regard digital techniques—like sampling—and their outputs against other long established forms of copying? At what point do they consider the implications of copyright for their practice?
Keith Negus / John Street / Adam Behr: Digitisation and the Politics of Copying in Popular Music Culture Musicians are at the forefront of discussions around revenue loss in the music industry, yet often neglected in existing studies which usually focus on corporate perspectives or audience activities. Drawing on extensive interviews with musicians operating in different genres – and at different points in their careers – within the broad field of popular music this paper presents initial observations from an investigation of how the notion of ‘original’ ideas and rights of access (and hence copyright) are negotiated by practicing musicians. How do they regard duplicating without permission in order to circulate free copies or bootlegs? How do they see the practice of appropriating, reusing, sampling and imitating? How does this relate to the existing legal and policy framework?