Sunday, January 29, 2006

IPods, downloading and the idea of the malfunctioning consumer

When it comes to IPods, downloading and the idea of the malfunctioning consumer there can be a hysterical back lash against the view that people can use elements of consumerism against its over all logic. It can be easy to forget that people have a great degree of autonomy in how they view cultural products and in how they use them. We're never really going to get anywhere if we keep on insisting that everyone who tunes into MTV is a programmed clone, nor are we ever going to get anywhere if we eye up rebellious elements when they become popularised and mainstream with suspicion and distaste.

According to this view human beings are a like a CD ROM, society can only burn knowledge in to us and we accept it. Personally I think it's a whole lot different than that. Capital constantly finds itself constantly shifting its content, but never its form in order to assimilate, co-opt and neutralise radicalism. The reason for this is that we, the amorphous masses are always finding the op outs which allow us to break free from the logic of capitalism which is the commodity form.

So while people may aimlessly listen to Britney Spears they may also pilfer, burn and download her music for free of the net which is a direct breakage with the logic of capitalism, taking her out of the market against her and the industrys wishes. If I was confronted with a Britney fan, and if part of her musical experience was piracy, then in my eyes; brilliant. That for me is the more interesting part of where music is going.

Piracy is wrecking havoc on the industry and they are definitely on the back foot when it comes to combating it. The IRMA press hullabuloo about the 17 downloaders who are meant to be facing persecution in the courts is obviously nothing more than a bullshit attempt to scare people away from downloading. Its quite obvious none of these people have been brought up yet, its fiction designed to break up the peer to peer networks fucking the music buisiness over, and deservedly so.

There are a number of interesting social consequences from the levels of piracy. There is a huge potential for fusion between differenent scenes,as when anyone with a hint of creativity can download a music editor (pirated again...) off the net and stock up on 10 GB of samples then there is a huge potential for music to be used in a wholly new way. As far as Im concerned, this is the all important bit; the way changes in technology have facilitated people in making a breech with the industries and philosophies that bred the technology in the first place. Back to da mo-phuckin' DIY..... The ability to sample, fucks up the ability to enforce copy right, but means everyone now has the potential if not the desire to start fucking around with beats and some samples. In one way I think this ability to sample is important, no fucker ever declared copyright over the three chord and a riff idea of punk; yet they try to enforce the idea of copyright on a nicked sample meshed with a beat to create something new.

In terms of live gigs, there is undoubtedly a benefit there, the more artists you listen to, the greater your musical palette, then the more likely you are to go to a gig.

In short, people define the industry more than it defines them. As a 16 year old, I seriously got off on RATM and have been a commited anarchist for some years now. Am I alone? I think not. The fact that when RATM toured some parts of the states a few years ago there were riot cops greeting them at every gig and forcing melees with their fans says a lot; this is the part of the RATM experience that needs analysis rather than the fact that they are on SONY or whatever. That may be a contradiction, but hardly anymore so than any of us that end up working in corporate jobs just to get drunk on the weekend. True they could have done it ala Fugazi, but I wonder who politicised more people? Fugazi or RATM. My bets are on RATM politicising people first off, those that get into Fugazi are probably vaguely political anyway. People may be used by the industry but its clear we can also give it our own meaning, such as when we use IPods to raid its vaults, despite the fact they come with a rather ironic sticker saying 'do not use this device to pirate music.' What the fuck else is it for? Or as Alice Nutter and so on did a few years ago we can take the fuckers capital and run.

Some good readings: Review of S
enseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties by George McKay.
Kill or Chill? Analysis of the Opposition to the Criminal Justice Bill. Part One: Sign of the Times
Punk and Autonomia: this one is an analysis of punk as youth defining itself outside of capitalism.

For some reason, probably due to access to be new music I've become far more interested in reading about music than most other things, which is rather dangerous for someone facing into a thesis. There's some good readings too. There's one called Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, which traces the development of the DJ as an art form, interesting bit about that one is the role of technological change in prompting new musical forms and so on. There's one called Flashback which is a history of acid house as well, thats really good. Th ebest one seems to be Altered States which is a similar history there's some mad shit in that book which shatters alot of myths about the overt politics of early acid house, but salvages stuff like the free parties and the continuity between them and travellers in Britan. The Battle Of Beanfield in one sense shows just how seriously the state can take 'drop out's...

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Soundtracksforthem specialises in iconoclastic takes on culture, politics, and more shite from the underbelly of your keyboard. A still-born group blog with a recent surge of different contributers but mainly maintained by James R. Big up all the contributers and posse regardless of churn out rate: Kyle Browne, Reeuq, Cogsy, Chief, X-ie phader/Krossie, Howard Devoto, Dara, Ronan and Mark Furlong. Send your wishes and aspirations to

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