Category Archives: Radio and Popular Music

Audiences & Practices, Consumption and Resistance

In our final week, we looked into audiences and practices, consumption and resistance. We debated the idea of consumption vs. creation in terms of a passive audience become active and making something new. Consumption is generally a passive audience action, we have access to something and take it in. Consumption is a “social, cultural and economic process of choosing goods and this process reflects the opportunities and constraints of modernity” (Zukin and Maguire, 2004).

I looked at two readings: Taylor, I. (2015) From Analogue to Digital, From Pragmatism to Symbolism – The Cassette Tape as a Hybrid Artefact in Contemporary Popular Music and Hayes, D. (2006) “Take Those Old Records off the Shelf”: Youth and Music Consumption in the Postmodern Age.

Through interviews, the indie and punk scenes are researched into their relationship with cassettes and the re-emergence of them as a unit of currency. Tapes have become more popular due to their physicality, collectability, convenience and to fit in “the scene”. (Taylor, I. 2015). Similar to Taylor’s research, Hayes looks at the re-emergence of vinyl’s based on interviews with youth consumers. People become fed up of mainstream pop music therefore actively seek out alternatives.

As mentioned above, the relationship with cassettes with the interviewees showed that it was “an active means of participating and contributing to ‘their scene’” (Taylor, I. 2015). The idea of post-millennial cassette culture is further discussed from research which found that most of the scene felt it important to have a physical object, having actually put their money into something that they can own, to have as something with value to them personally, “it’s not about fetishizing the cassette as a retro artefact, but about redefining it” (Taylor, I. 2015). In comparison to this research, many teenage music fans have moved on from the traditional forms of music consumption such as tapes to digital music such as downloads, iPods and streaming. However, in this research, teenage music fans have complained that contemporary music is populated by untalented artists and profit-hungry executives who are only interested in producing music for “tween” audiences. (Hayes, D. 2006). Hayes concludes that the eight pro-vinyl youth, who still listen and collect vinyl, consume music in such a way to resist the mass media production of music in today’s society.

As online music has become one of the most popular forms of music consumption, I’d like to research into the older generation and their current music habits. This would be researched through questionnaires and interviews to gain personal opinions of people aged 50+.

 

References

Hayes, D. (2006) “Take Those Old Records off the Shelf”: Youth and Music Consumption in the Postmodern Age. Popular Music and Society, 29:1, pp 51-68.

Taylor, I. (2015) From Analogue to Digital, From Pragmatism to Symbolism – The Cassette Tape as a Hybrid Artefact in Contemporary Popular Music. Conference Paper presented at the Westminster-Goldsmiths Symposium for Research in Popular Music, University of Westminster, 24th June.

Audiences, Fandoms and Sub-cultures

This week’s focus was on audiences, fandom and subcultures. Contemporary audience is the most relevant for this topic as they engage with media texts on a higher level than traditional or classic audiences. They interact through other mediums, such as with an artist on the radio, then discussions online – this is the process from passive to active audience: from masses to personal experiences. This also leads to the ideas of ‘fandom’, a community of like-minded people who share a particular interest. e.g. ‘Directioners’.

I read, “Coming Together: DIY Heritage and the Beatles” (Fremaux, S. 2015) and ‘Some kind of innocence’: The Beatles Monthly and fan community (Kirkup, M. 2014). Fremaux uses The Beatles as a case study to illustrate that DIY practices give communities a voice and identity. They’re also becoming just as valuable as other institutionalised heritages. Kirkup discusses the official magazine for The Beatles looking into the historical and social context: pop propaganda, fandom issues, communication between band and fans and the change in their image. These two readings share the similarity of being a fan based creation for The Beatles, however Stephanie discusses it on a wider scale whereas Kirkup focuses on one form.

“Physical artefacts still hold significant importance to fans” these artefacts are a key aspect for the fandom and their identity (Fremaux, S. 2015), there are many practices in DIY heritage that are as much a part of the fandom today as it was ‘Beatlemania’ back in the 60’s. DIY artefacts enable stories to be told through communities and fans’ own personal perspectives, it aids tourism in cities such as Hamburg and Liverpool. On the other hand, Kirkup expresses how controversial subjects were tackled and the fan reactions. Where Fremaux addresses the DIY artefacts created by fans, Kirkup discusses how the magazine communicated their career journey to the fans and how the fans communicated back. The magazine was like a middle ground for the band and fans to come together. The Beatles created the first “modern pop mass fanbase” (Kirkup, M. 2014) using the available media in the 60’s. Without the band doing all these exciting things, the magazine wouldn’t be so successful and the fanbase wouldn’t be so dedicated.

Moving on from fandoms, “subcultures have certain activities, values and territorial spaces” (Clarke & Jefferson 1975), therefore, further research can be made into a particular subculture through ethnography of a territorial space. For example, the indie scene in Birmingham can be observed in places such as The Sunflower Lounge to pick out the style, behaviour and music.

References

Fremaux, S. (2015) “Coming Together: DIY Heritage and the Beatles.” In: Preserving Popular Music Heritage: Do it Yourself, Do it Together. S. Baker (ed.) London: Routledge. pp. 139 – 150.

Kirkup, M. (2014) ‘Some kind of innocence’: The Beatles Monthly and fan community.” Popular Music History. 9(1), pp. 64 – 78.

Clarke, J and Jefferson, T (1975) Politics of Popular Culture: Culture and Sub-culture, Birmingham: Birmingham University Centre for Contemporary Cultural Centre.

Representation, Discourse and Power

This week’s focus was on representation, discourse and power. Representation is how something is portrayed, referring to codes used to create meanings around groups in society. Discourse involves what is being said, who to, how you say it and how it’s understood, it suggests how we create and understand power.

These three key terms are intrinsically linked, giving us a framework for understanding cultural texts and issues.

The readings I looked at this week are, Rock & Sexuality (Frith & McRobbie, 1990) and “Heritage Rock”: Rock music, representation and heritage discourse (Bennett, 2009). Frith & McRobbie look at how music and sexuality are intertwined and how they change over time. The main idea is that rock music is mostly male dominated within the industry and women are discouraged and referred to as sex objects. In contrast to this, while still focusing on rock music, Bennett looks at the representation and discourse of this genre from a different point of view. It illustrates how rock music (defined as an aesthetic back in the mid 60’s), is now being culturally and historically repositioned through the application of “heritage rock” (Bennett, 2009). He breaks it down into three specific forms; Classic Albums Live, Canterbury Sound Website and Songworks Record Label.

The representations of males and females in rock have led to the discourse that females’ creative roles are limited and mediated through male notions of female ability (Frith & McRobbie, 1990). The term “cock-rock” is mentioned, as a way of expressing male sexuality in rock – crude, aggressive and explicit as seen with rock musicians such as Robert Plant. Men are represented as dominant and sex icons which can suggest they have a higher status in the rock scene as they’re seen as desirable to females, whereas women are seen as sexually repressed and in need of male servicing (Frith & McRobbie, 1990).

Classic Albums Live refers to albums already endorsed by the music industry that are chosen for live replications and thus, cited by mainstream music magazines e.g. Rolling Stone. These offer a populist representation, suggesting the “heritage rock” discourse offers new dominant established reading of rock mastery (Bennett, 2009).

To investigate representation of gender further, research into radio DJ’s could be conducted through ethnography. By focusing on one company and seeing their male/female ratio in creative roles, observing how they’re treated etc. could give further insight into females in the music/radio industries.

References

Frith, S & McRobbie, A, (1990). ‘Rock & Sexuality’. In: Simon Frith & Andrew Goodwin (ed), On Record: Rock, Pop & the Written Word. 1st ed. UK: Pantheon Books. pp. (371-389).

Bennett, A. (2009) ‘”Heritage rock”: Rock music, representation and heritage discourse’, Poetics, 37 (5-6), pp. (474 – 489).

Genre, Textual Meaning, Producers & Audiences

This week we covered genre, textual meaning, producers and audiences. We discussed “genre worlds”, meaning that media texts are subject to adaptions, they differentiate from others but not too much so that we don’t understand them (Frith, S 1996). Genre includes codes and conventions, it’s a social construct and is there to categorise texts.

The set reading I looked at this week was ‘Studying Popular Music’ by Tim Wall (2003) and a second reading by Yu-Ching Lin (2009), ‘Exploiting Genre for Music Emotion Classification’. This second reading adds examples to how genre is created and received by an audience.

The key points I noticed in Wall’s chapter are: the understanding of genre, not just classification but the meaning; how genre changes from people to people, depending on the context and who and the limitations with previous academic sources that allow Wall to approach this chapter from various angles.

According to Yu-Ching (2009), “genre and emotion provide complementary descriptions of music content and often correlate with each other”. For example, R&B is usually sentimental and Rock is often aggressive with a narrative of rebellion. These genre conventions also provoke emotion as well as categorising the songs to a certain genre. Research shows a correlation amongst genres and emotion classification, for example, Cluster 4 (genre), has emotion synonyms such as; aggressive, fiery and manic in response to the genre. Presumably, this could be ‘rock’ due to the conventions socially constructed with it.

To understand a genre, Franco Fabbri (1982) created ‘5 broad categories of rules’: formal/technical rules, semiotic rules, behavioural rules, social/ideological rules and commercial rules. With a combination of these, one can understand the music and genre rather than just seeing a ‘type’ of music (Wall, T 2003).

Genre is constantly “debated and contested” (Walser 1993, 4) meaning they’re always changing with technology introducing new ideas and cultural changes. As an audience, genre is argued as it means something different to each person and depending on the context and who is saying it, genre can be different from person to person (Wall, T 2003). For example, one person may refer to themselves as liking ‘rock’, whereas a more underground, niche fan may specify with a sub-genre like “post-punk rock’.

In terms of genre, I’d like to further research into the ‘rock’ genre. Textual analyses of rock sub-genres, involving codes and conventions of the artists themselves, would help distinguish the differences within sub-genres.

References

Wall, T, (2003). ‘Genre’. In: (ed), Studying Popular Music Culture. 1st ed. UK: Hodder & Stoughton Educational. pp.(179-188).

Yu-Ching, L. (2009) Exploiting Genre for Music Emotion Classification. Taiwan: Telecommunication Laboratories, Chunghwa Telecom.

Frith, S. (1996) Performing Rites. On the Value of Popular Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Walser, R. (1993) Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. United States: Wesleyan University Press.

 

Political Economy

This week, our topic was political economy in popular music and radio. Political economy involves the production, distribution and consumption of media texts, in order for this to work, we must consider the funding/ownership, organisation and regulations of media texts. This helps us dissect industries and understand how they work and why.

I looked at, ‘The political economy of Internet music radio’ by Tim Wall and ‘Political economy, power and new media’ by Robin Mansell. While Mansell, R. (2004) focuses on political economy in terms of new media, it links well to the majority of the reading by Wall, T. (2004).

Tim Wall states that social and economic forces are driving developments, such as the World Wide Web and propose ways of understanding what is happening now and what could potentially happen in the next twenty years in the radio industry. This also provokes the suggestion that the media is influenced by what the public do and want. In addition to this, the lack of political economy analysis into research of new media can suggest that these social and economic dynamics of the production and consumption of new media, continue to simply be the subject of speculation (Mansell, R. 2004).

With the advancements in technology and the arrival of the internet, the change from over-the-air-radio to online was obvious. Wall presents a list of traditional characteristics of over-the-air radio, the introduction of the internet and internet radio has challenged some of these ideas. For example, Wall mentions that over-the-air radio is often privately owned by a part of a major media corporation and “such companies are overwhelmingly profit-maximizing, and revenue is in the main generated through selling advertising space in programming or through sponsorship”. With internet radio, this has been challenged through Podcasts, anyone can create them and share them online thus challenging over-the-air radio. Also, there is a lot of work that we can use to build upon in the tradition of political economy of the ‘older’ media. Thus leading to predictions about the future of new media, including internet radio and music, but also to provide a more holistic foundation for future research (Mansell, R. 2004).

An area of the political economy of popular music that isn’t researched so much is festivals. Researching how they’re regulated is particularly interesting due to the number of organisations that take part in festivals; BBC, NME, Relentless etc. They all will have their own regulation standards for a festival.

 

References

Mansell, R. (2004) ‘Political economy, power and new media’, New Media & Society, 6(1), pp. 96–105.

Wall, T. (2004) ‘The political economy of Internet music radio’, Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, 2(1), pp. 27–44.

Regulation & Moral Panics

This week we explored regulation and moral panics. We discussed how the BBC was regulated to provide for a mass audience and that it’s self-regulated by the BBC Trust as it is a public service broadcasting station. Whereas, commercial radio is regulated by Ofcom, these regulations prevent monopolies. “Gatekeeper” refers to a set of people who have power over what the public hear/see in the media. Regulation plays a part in the moral panics that arise within society.

The set reading by Thornton, S. (1994) addresses moral panic, focusing on British rave culture and the regulations that occurred in response to moral panic. Another reading by Cohen, S. (2011) explores the deviance side in more depth about moral panic and the mass media.

The term “underground”, is a group of individuals who refer to their music taste/style as being against the mass media, academics refer to it as, “subculture” (Thornton, S. 1994). Thornton explores the ways that this particular underground audience is reached through micro-media, niche media and mass media and how it is responded to in terms of creating a moral panic. Micro-media (flyers etc.) was the main form of gaining an audience, but this particular case of the ‘rave scene’, the uproar the mass media created by shining a negative light on underground and banning songs (e.g. ‘acid house’ being labelled as a genre and having drug connotations) created a form of moral panic amongst the public. This led to more publicity for the scene. The moral panic could have been created by the mass media leading to the control it had over things such as radio plays. However the idea that deviance leads to this type of control is not as relevant, in fact, the control leads to deviance (Cohen, S 2011).

“The main currency of the underground might be called ‘subcultural capital’”, can be in relation to the image, these individuals are cool and they want people to see it but don’t necessarily want them to join in. This relates back to the types of media, the reasoning as to why they seek the bad press from mass media but target their type of following through more micro/niche media.

An interesting way to research moral panics today, could be done through virtual ethnography. Social media is a large part of daily life, so finding out what people are saying, sharing, doing through this platform could account for a new insight into how moral panics occur.

References

Cohen, S. (2011). Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. Abingdon: Routledge. pp.(1-20).

Thornton, S. (1994). ‘Moral Panic, The Media & British Rave Culture’. In: Andrew Ross & Tricia Rose (ed), Microphone Fiends, Youth Music & Youth Culture. 1st ed. London: Routledge. pp.(176-192).

Industries, Institutions & Histories of Radio & Popular Music

This week we explored the industries, institutions and histories of radio and popular music. The readings by Shingler, M & Wieringa, C, (1998) and Frith, S, (1988) take different approaches to this topic, Shingler & Wieringa touch on political matters and six themes that shaped the radio industry, whereas Frith takes a socialist point of view. However they both address technological advances through history that have created the mediums we have today.

The lecture addressed how the radio and music industries and cultures inform each other, this can be considered as a symbiotic relationship, which Frith brings into focus in his reading. He explains in “Slump”, how the relationship between radio plays and record sales add to the popularity of artists in the music industries. However, he also states that radio killed record sales for popular music but this led to an increase in less popular music. This may have been due to radio becoming a household item. Similarly, one of the ‘themes’ that shaped the radio industry; Vision, explores how it was foreseen by David Sarnoff (Marconi Operator) that the radio would become a household utility like the piano (Shingler, M. & Wieringa, C. 1998).

Exploring the history of music, there is a focus on its authenticity and how new technology has ruined it. The Frith reading discusses how studio-made music has led to music becoming a commodity, thus alienating the public. In “The Making of the Recording Industry” it states that each technological change is a threat to authentic popular music. For example, the double tracking vocals for weak voices, “cheats” the audience, as music is being made to sound good on record rather than to create authentic live shows (Frith, S. 1988). In On Air: Methods and Meanings of Radio, “Competition” similarly discusses technological advances affecting the radio industry. The introduction of television was believed to be an extension of radio (Crisell 1994) however, it led to criticism of radio by calling it ‘second best’ due to its “blindness”, as people’s leisure time became more visual. On the other hand, technology saved radio; with the introduction of car radio and Transistor Radio’s being cheap, small and fashionable, radio became more widespread than before (Shingler, M. & Wieringa, C. 1998).

Continuing the theme of technological changes with radio/music, further research could be conducted through primary research such as interviews. Interviewing a percentage of the population from different generations about their radio/music consumption when they were younger could make an interesting comparison to how it’s evolved.

References

Shingler, M & Wieringa, C, (1998). ‘Radio time-line: History at a glance’. In: Martin Shingler & Cindy Wieringa (ed), On Air: Methods & Meanings of Radio. 1st ed. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. pp.(1-29).

Frith, S, (1988). ‘The industrialisation of Music’. In: (ed), Music for Pleasure: Essays in the Sociology of Pop. 1st ed. e.g. England: Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Incorporated. pp.(11-23).