Some effects of technology on music and protest


This paper discusses the issues of technology, music, and the intersection with social movements such as protest. Relying heavily on discussion of the guitar and music hall as examples where technology has created radical change the discussion centers on the elements that allow for the musician to interact with larger and larger audiences. With political tension and economic incentives in competition the artist and recording label economic models are examined as barriers to larger audience acquisition. The digital music movement has provided methods to remove the recording label and decrease costs to distribution. With the increased freedom from the normal hierarchies new artists are enabled to further their own agendas through music.


Music has always been a central feature to society as it both carries an emotional component and can provide a method of transferring information in an innocuous form. Music may have special contexts that are perceived by some and ignored by others thus giving music a hidden channel for communication. Some music is used to create a sense of solidarity or provide for increased inter-group understanding. This paper will examine specifically protest music in the 1960s as technology matured. The element that may interest the reader and be of value are the changes that technology has supported in the sale of music, the dissemination (production) of music, the intellectual expression of music, and the effects on venues on the audience over the last 100 years.

In the opening to a music technology workshop David Howard describing music technology said, “Music technology and audio processing, whether electronic or acoustic, is about controlling the acoustic pressure vibrations reaching the ears of the listeners, from the user interface with the instrument, through the sound synthesis technique itself, any post-processing that is applied, the diffusion of the sound acoustical and the acoustic treatment of the space in which the listeners are present” (Howard, 1999).

Technology is permeating the creative process in new and innovative ways that enhance and contribute to the artist and audience experience. Though not without criticism music and theater are linked in the audience participatory experience. The emotional upheaval felt by an audience can expand the consciousness of the attendees or inflame passions. Not all artists though are interested in being politically motivated. In fact, some notable exceptions exist in the annals of music history.

Bob Dylan opened much of the music environment to the idea of protest by including themes normal to the liberal viewpoint of the time such as discrimination, exploitation, segregation, and anti-war themes (Rosenstone, 1969, p. 134). This particular artist using these themes is interesting, as we will see later. Artists may have used politically charged themes in their music but still maintained apolitical awareness. Also there are elements to the genre and performance of the music that seems to make a difference in audience acceptance of artists.

Even while regarding music as a method to protest the musicians rarely would record significant commentary against the establishment or government. An interesting point is that in protest songs rarely were politicians specifically mentioned other than by reference. Bob Dylan mentions corrupt ones but the general consensus during the 1960s is to ignore politicians (Rosenstone, 1969, p. 135). Rather than attack the specific individuals the situations or specific policies were open to ridicule and censure. There are counter examples and specific times that this was not true, but in general the music of protest in the 1960s skipped personal attacks.

Artists were subject to being maligned by the popular press of the time. In 1964 the Saturday Evening Post espoused the Beatles as “corny”, and then in 1967 the Saturday Review reviewed their current album at the time as “highly ironic declaration of disaffection” with modern society (Rosenstone, 1969, p. 132). It may be considered ironic that the artists were taking a pass on attacking the political machinery of the time the main stream media had no such qualms. There are several examples in the literature like the Beatles where bands were vilified or treated as quaint and exploded into substantial enterprises themselves.

Along with substantial changes in the political awareness of the baby-boomers, and the technology available to artist expression the themes and content were changing. Though it had part of the culture of folk music (rather than rock and roll) a change that occurred in the 1960s was that performers began writing their own music instead of relying on a folk music repertoire (Rosenstone, 1969, p. 133). In other words new music was being created and not just changing or adapting the folk music of the time. New instruments and amplification systems were allowing for larger venues and enhancing the artistic process of expression.

When considering the tone and content of the music written during the era the picture of the United States was bleak. The songs of the 1960s overwhelming appear to show the United States as a repressive society in search of artificial pleasures and absolute conformity to the norm (Rosenstone, 1969, p. 136). A popular youth culture maturing and gathering momentum was awakening to a new political activism and censure of the culture in general.  Though the culture of the 1960s might have been considered hedonistic they made careful distinctions between mind-expanding non-addictive drugs and hard addictive (destructive) drugs (Rosenstone, 1969, p. 142).  Of course the issues of legality and societal acceptance of drugs were an issue to debate and promote within music rather than the restriction of the same.

An interesting counterpoint to Bob Dylan is that he did not act as a social activist and in 1964 demonstrated that he was interested in his own artistic endeavors more than social activism when performing he insulted the social views of the audience and expressed (mere months after John F. Kennedy’s death) that he saw a lot of Lee Harvey Oswald in himself (Zak, 2005, p. 613). A certain context appears to have been necessary between the artist, the message of the music, and the venue of the performance. For example at the time of Woodstock, much of the music may have been folk music or early rock and roll but was considered to protest due to the venue and other factors. So artists performed other artists’ music and it took on new and expanded meaning.

Bob Dylan’s music was being appropriated by other artists and used in lieu of social protest and rapidly becoming hits for other artists such as “Blowing in the wind”, by Peter Paul and Mary (Zak, 2005, p. 612). In 1965 Dylan would plug in at the Newport Folk festival and play a more rock oriented set that the folk music audience was prepared for (Zak, 2005, p. 613). This caused the editors of Sing Out! to brand Dylan as a traitor and Judas (Zak, 2005, p. 614). So, music that may be accepted by some artists was the subject of ridicule when performed differently or changed in style by the composer. There seems to be some drag on the technological change caused by this seeming absurdity or enthusiastic censure by the community. When Dylan plugged advancing his performance art and incorporating a new technology he was censured.

In comparison to Dylan Jimi Hendrix only playing since 1959 and just through with a tour in the Army was not willing to be constrained by folk music or audience appreciation. His art was more in kind with being Jimi Hendrix than beholden to a musical style or method (Zak, 2005, p. 616). Hendrix would go on to perform the folksy song “Along the watchtower”, by Dylan and in his own way brand the song. Hendrix with enthusiastic flair embraced the new technologies of the electric guitar and impressed upon the music world a new flair and method. Hendrix pushed the bounds of the technology and in doing so advanced the state of the practice to the state of the art.

Dissemination of music to the masses

Whether the discussion centers on the Gutenberg press and the ability to capture and express information as music, or the capture of music in various recording methods the capture of music and the ability to replicate it has been facilitated by a variety of tools and technologies. For this paper we will look mainly at the technologies adopted within the last 100 years and leave the Gutenberg press and the effects of it on society for other scholars. We are though very interested in the amplifier, the amplification of the voice, the recording technologies and the associated effects on music and protest.

The amplifier at first used “tubes” to create the amplification effect. Later in the early 1960s transistor and mossfet technologies would allow for smaller and higher performing amplifiers to be available, but the subtle differences in technologies would keep the “tube” part of the amplification technology far into the foreseeable future.  Discussions about how these technologies work is outside the scope of this paper but their effects are of interest. The amplifier allowed the size of gatherings to grow rapidly beyond the simple 3000 or so maximum size hall of non-amplified voice. Outdoor gatherings like Woodstock, folk festivals, and such became possible and as such the number of individuals able to attend a single event also grew.

Currently the costs for amplifying to a stadium can be exorbitant. To handle large stadiums expensive amplification equipment is needed with target expenditures for a football stadium nearing $300 million dollars (“Touchdown for the pack,” 2004, p. 11). These kinds of costs currently could not be born by a small group of protesters and as such other technologies or sharing of costs have to be considered. In the past simply putting up equipment and “throwing together” a concert was a possibility.

Today though the expectations of patrons for sporting events have changed and people assume that the latest technologies will be available and can create substantial other than sport utilization (“Touchdown for the pack,” 2004, p. 12). Whether the event is a sporting event or music event is not really that different. With the half-time show of Super Bowl events reaching the tens of millions of people on the live broadcast at the same time music and sports events are linked.

The changes in the musical landscape were driven it seems not by the technology but by the shared experience. The capability that technology allowed artists to experience and foster audience participation allowed for larger venues, faster movement of music to market, and some professionalism and expertise to emerge. Careers like sound and lighting engineers suddenly sprung into existence. With the expansion of new technologies the adoption and adaptation of current methods continually intersect and change the methods of adopting new skills. The question arises are these new technologies new or changing and if they are substantially different enough to result in a new way of thinking (Payne, Williams, & Beaujean, 1999, p. 8/1).  In the end it appears that the technologies were really only facilitating the traditional musical expression. That musical expression though reached larger and larger audiences and became even more powerful as a motivator to change as the message was being adapted to the social movements.

It takes time for new ideas to be accepted and mundane and the point before that can become almost humorous in retrospect (Payne et al., 1999, p. 8/2). Where the press and his peers vilified Bob Dylan for plugging in within a decade almost all instruments would be amplified directly (versus a microphone in front of the sound hole of a guitar), and the entire technical aspects of music would change. This paradigm shift created new opportunities while also closing previous paths of solidarity and social consciousness. Music sung by unions to create communities of action and solidarity would fade and be replaced with mass-market music that was quickly produced and performed to massive audiences. The use of music to create change at the community level would expand to national and international level rapidly during the 1960s. Whereas the performer sought out the listener in their community, now the music would travel to the listener alone.

Instruments and technological sophistication

Though the average guitar player would likely grimace at the thought that their instrument was a marvel of modern materials and methods this is an absolute truth. The modern luthier (stringed instrument repairman) will use modern tools to create an instrument with rich heritage. The methods of construction and materials though have not remained stagnant and the technology introduced has expanded the capability of the musician in a variety of ways.

Within this paper the guitar will become the example of change and an iconic metaphor for the advances in technology and music. The piano, organ, synthesizer, or a variety of other instruments would suffice, but the guitar has a rich history and shows the recent and rapid technology shift.  Antonio de Torres Juardo in the mid nineteenth century adapted the Moorish creations that were currently being produced as the predecessors of the guitar as a new design that would pretty much stay with us through the rest of the next century (Sloane, 1989, p. 11). Since the mid 19th century the acoustic guitar construction has changed very little.

When considering the relative popularity of the guitar and its absence from k-12 bands and orchestra it is kind of surprising to see it be so popular. Why did the guitar explode in popularity? The rise of the acoustic guitar is a story linked to be rise of the baby-boom generation (Bennett & Dawe, 2001, p. 89). As the acoustic guitar matured, the electric guitar became known and then affordable, and amplification equipment costs decreased the baby-boom generation matured and took interest.

There is a special relationship between folk music, protest music, and the guitar. The guitar unlike other instruments has been an instrumental (sic) element to protest and tradition of music in the last 100 years. Exemplified in the folk and southern blues traditions as an instrument the guitar is without peer as a choice for traveling musicians (Bennett & Dawe, 2001, p. 11). As a multi-tonal (chord playing) instrument it can be used in a variety of music styles and mimic the piano. The guitar can be played along by a relatively inexperienced musician as an accompaniment or stroked to life as a solo instrument by expert fingers.

With such a well-known history, and with technology impacting everything from the guitar construction to the musical production there are going to be issues with the musical community. The growing and changing aspects of technology rapidly evolve anything that is touched. Michael Molenda says, “But, leave it to guitarists to mess with the technocracy by dragging guitar music into an alliance between its Neanderthal past and its microchip future” (Molenda, 1999, p. 10). To meet the objectives of creating an audience, and producing the music the guitar player has had to adopt new tools. In the past the guitar was maybe hooked to an amplification circuit and today the guitar is hooked to a computer. A computer loaded with Pro Tools (Macintosh software) is simply a new way of changing and adapting the music using digital means thereby enhancing creativity and saving cost (Molenda, 1999, p. 10). The cost factor and production factors are central themes to the impact of technology of music and protest. As the music industry grew and the largesse of musicians increased the corporate elements impacted the musical styling and message. The computer as we will see later has allowed for the intervening layer to be stripped away.

Acoustic guitars are reliant on the wood and materials used to create them. Guitar players and luthiers have often relied on specific tone-woods to perfect the sound qualities and musical tonalities needed (Ellis & Saufley, 2008, p. 81). The woods necessary for creation of guitars are becoming scarcer and thereby creating an awareness of environmental factors. Though guitar construction has absolutely minimal impact on the environment the other uses of resources have a substantial impact on the production of guitars.

The principle woods that concern guitar players are topwood and back & sides woods with each species of wood providing a specific flavor or tone (Ellis & Saufley, 2008, p. 81) some of the woods are plentiful like cherry, but others are becoming rare like Sitka spruce. This is driving another technology change in the material sciences of guitar construction and the amplification of guitars. With the issues of finding wood to construct guitars facing the players, and the answers technology provides available continuing changes are bound to occur.

There is some fear that that the guitar may not survive the onslaught of technology. It is likely that the fear is groundless. Guitars of today are related to guitars of the past, and guitars of the future will be similarly related. The aesthetics and types of woods and construction methods may change but the resulting instrument will still be a guitar (Ellis & Saufley, 2008, p. 83). The Guitar as an instrument is bound to change as musical tastes change. Whether the musical style is flamenco, country, or rock and roll the acoustic guitar is still recognizable. There are some places where that changes though.

With the addition of sound processing equipment and amplification the need for an acoustic sound box to set a tonal range for the guitar evaporated. In the late 19th century the electric guitar was born. The electric guitar has become an iconic American image and uniquely identified with American popular culture (Millard, 2004, p. 8) and as such the electric guitar beget wholly new forms of music.

There is always the question “Who invented the electric guitar” it is one of those mythic questions along with where is Jimmy Hoffa buried. That answer is likely W.H. Gilman who secured a patent for an amplified string instrument on December 20, 1892 (Duchossoir 1998, p. 9). It would take some time for the electric guitar to become a reality and produced as a mass-market instrument. The solid body electric would come along in 1941 and be invented by Les Paul and marketed by Gibson guitars (Duchossoir 1998, p. 41). This is the electric guitar that we know so much more about. The electric guitar came in a few different types (hollow body, solid body).

With the commercial introduction of the electric guitar in the 1930’s and the subsequent explosion with artists using it in specific genres popular music would be hard to trace without linking it to the electric guitar (Millard, 2004, p. 17). Rock and roll and later heavy metal music would not exist without the electric guitar. The technologies needed for the electric guitar were also the technologies needed to amplify and perform in front of large audiences. There is a substantial symbiosis that occurs in the 1960s and 1970s between the electric guitar and the music of protest. Remember back to the ill will that Bob Dylan received when he plugged in the onslaught of electric guitar rock and roll would overwhelm those critics rapidly.

The study of technology is not just about where we have been. Considering the path of where we might go Bowers and Archer discuss creating an instrument that enhances a traditional instrument with the ability to enable new forms of expression through the gestures and use of the instrument (Bowers & Archer, 2005, p. 5). At one point in time the electric guitar in the hands of somebody like Jimmy Hendrix likely solidified this opinion as fact. It will be interesting to see how new expansions to the venerable guitar through infusion of new technologies change and advance freedom of artistic expression.

Architecture and venue

The mass effect of music is dependent on the audience, the venue, the musician, and so many other factors. Looking at the venues we will be able to see that the size, density, and locale has been substantially changed. From closed in clubs, chambers, and churches where music was performed to small groups the venue size has changed and expanded to megalithic festivals and stadiums. This is facilitated by technology. Where an artist might reach a small group of people at one time now they can reach the tens of millions instantly.

In the past groups would gather and they would listen to music that described activities or common stories. In the late 18th century the modern music theater was created and it encompassed the known technologies. Through the 19th and into the 20th century the maximum capacity of music theaters were nearing 3000 individuals. The most liked hall by musicians was the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Germany holding approximately 1560 seats (Beranek, 1992, p. 27). Much of this was the result that distance itself and the physics of sound echoing in the chamber. The reverb of a building (the time of echo) in measured in seconds and the difference can easily be over 2 seconds in a large hall.

Beranek made a definitive study of the technology of music halls. As a side note Beranek is the same as from BBN the engineering company that created the Internet. Concert hall acoustics was first considered to be scholarly work around 1900 and the research done by Harvard on the Boston Symphony hall (Beranek, 1992, p. 26).  At first concert hall scholarly work was done as part of the physics and only after that was the aesthetics considered.

From the standpoint of physics the primary concern is reverberation time. The reverberation time is generally longer for low frequencies and shorter for high frequencies because high frequencies are absorbed by the air(Beranek, 1992, p. 27).  Most concert halls are in a shoe box shape or fan shape, the idea being to contain or constrain the path of sound through the room. In an era where amplification did not exist containment and directional control of the sound allowed for larger halls. The construction and architecture of the halls created aesthetic elements and personality to each hall also.

Besides the architecture constraints of size and shape of halls the size of halls was constrained by the number of people who absorbed the sound meaning that halls holding 2000 people sound better than those that might hold 4000 people (Beranek, 1992, p. 31). Simply packing more people into a room absorbed more sound. The chairs if they were upholstered would absorb sound too. This is what held halls to relatively fewer people and limited the size of performances.

To break the sound/size deadlock new technologies were added when it was noticed that halls with columns, crenulations, gargoyles, and other architectural motifs had better sound qualities. Sounds diffusion panels along with architecture elements expanded audience halls to the size of 5000 individuals (Beranek, 1992, p. 37) which is where they are still sized. Without amplification that appears to be the largest halls will expand to ever.

The answer to allowing outdoor performances of any size larger than a few thousand people was to use amplification technologies. An anonymous answer to the question of how to make music in a large outdoor environment was “Watts the problem?” The answer is to make substantial power available and deliver the music at minimal delay as it reaches out to the crowd. The work on sound indoors informed the methods used to create synchronized delivery of sound over large areas outdoors and in stadiums. The amplified music is partially delayed to outer speakers so that sound coming from the front is arriving at the same time. Then there is always the ability to just apply “watts” power at the front of the venue and push the music out. Unfortunately all of the same issues identified inside of absorption, loss of high frequencies, and such will still exist.

With the available technologies in the early 1960s the size of venues increased. The idea of stadium concerts became possible and the ability for the artists to interact with larger audiences was enhanced. Concerts also took on a more social movement flavor as the reason for congregating around the music took on apparent other messages (e.g. Woodstock).  Technology was facilitating truly mass messaging to extremely large groups of people instantly. There were still issues with the mass marketing and control of message enjoyed by the recording companies.

The digital conclusion

As the music industry adopted to using new amplification technologies and then digital copying and recording technologies the artists started to adapt them to production. Groups of audiophiles began in the 1970s using digital tape to make perfect recordings of music as it was played or off of other media. There were a variety of court decisions brought about but the musical fidelity of the earlier digital tools was hard to dissuade users from and that beget the first compact disks. The music would be one of the things to change as the digital revolution impacted all levels of the musical production ladder.

Changes in practice and at all odds

We are at a stage where computers have entered the classroom and that includes the music room in the K-12 education environment. Computer based music technology is in the secondary and tertiary school systems where they have also been used for more mundane tasks such as auditory training (McDowall, 2003). The experience of the student is that the computer is a gateway tool to a variety of methods of free expression. Computers and digital recording devices have expanded into the music class room such as being used as an accompaniment to choral groups (Rudolph, 1991, p. 84).  The use of synthesizers is well known, but a computer with a connection to the amplification system can mix music, recreate music, record, and provide a library of differences in a small transportable package. The digital immersion into music includes drum controllers, composing and printing music, keyboarding or piano teaching, and synthesizer ensembles to cover missing instruments in a group (Rudolph, 1991, pp. 85-86). With so many instruments available the ability for a student to create and conduct their own symphony is virtually unconstrained. The goals is to have software in the music environment that can be used to enhance education and expand the repertoire that students can utilize thereby enhancing creativity (McDowall, 2003).

Consider the interconnected nature of social networks and the impact on social consciousness and social issues that students are exposed to by the relative ubiquity of the Internet. The Internet is not just a delivery mechanism and has become a collaboration tool and an instrument itself (Bowers & Archer, 2005, p. 5) where expression is enhanced and allowed to flourish. This is leading to changes in the way we think and use music as a form of expression.

The way we purchase music, hear a song for the first time, produce music in the studio, and write music is changing. This is creating a substantive change in the business of distributing music too. The music industry is absolutely transforming in the wake of the adoption of digital recording, production, and dissemination by artists (Bockstedt, Kauffman, & Riggins, 2006, p. 7) who now are controlling larger parts of the production cycle.

Consider that during the 1950’s and 1960s the ubiquitous 45-rpm single was the chosen method of putting a single song into the hands of the consumer. This allowed for a priced good to be affordable to consumers and allowed for maximum choice (within the specific paradigm) (Bockstedt et al., 2006, p. 8) as long as the record company agreed to sell the song and as long as there was consumer interest in the song. This directly impacted the social consciousness message of the time as barriers to production and blacklisting (e.g. McCarthyism) could be used if the message was not to the record companies liking.

Then the long playing record (LP) arrived and delivered more volume of music (more songs per purchase) and sometimes at a lower cost per song, but the purchaser was receiving more songs irrespective of choice or taste but the LP became an adopted choice as the 1960s progressed (Bockstedt et al., 2006, p. 8)

The recording companies and ancillary agents of the recording companies used to be responsible for all of the costs of producing and disseminating an album and as such held a relative monopoly on the expression and tastes of an artist (Bockstedt et al., 2006, p. 8), so that had a vested interest in seeing an album do as well as possible. This makes the publishing entity a risk averse partner and gives them a controlling stake in the music to be sold and disseminated. There was a risk to profits that not all recordings of artists would pay off as well as expected and that some would not sell enough to cover the cost of production (Bockstedt et al., 2006, p. 8) and as such many artists would never see the ability to produce music ever.

Bockstedt, Kauffman and Riggins state that “The current state of the digital music market is in a pre-price-dispersion state that may change as consumers begin to show differentiated demand for songs in digital formats and for the service providers.” (Bockstedt et al., 2006, p. 11).  This means that music pricing strategies are very fluid and seeking equilibrium depending on normal market trends. This would not be an issue but when considering the mass market and the popular audience not all music that supports or engages in transmission of a protest message is either popular or targeted to a mass audience. So, under the original and current digital music pricing models the ability for ran artist to get heard by an audience is still controlled through the recording companies and interrupted by their vested interests.

There are factors effecting distribution outside the capitalist need and desire. The advent of radio and television changed the scope and marketing methods for music. With radio the centralization of authority became apparent as local radio programming personnel were replaced with centralized authorities and programming. When the record companies were negotiating with radio stations there was an equivalence of power and even some monopolistic powers where radio stations were owned by recording studios and vice a versa. This is interesting but outside the scope of this paper.

The interesting contributing element with digital music is that the standard entities involved in the production and dissemination of music are not found in the digital distribution model. The producers and musicians are within the model the recording companies may not be part of future contract negotiations as artists drop from the labels (Bockstedt et al., 2006, p. 15). With record companies no longer assumed to be within the model artists either creates their own record label or they abandon the corporate wrapper of the label entirely.

The record companies may lose in this marketing shift. The normal costs of producing an album no longer apply and a willing audience can purchase high quality music directly from the band without the associated marketing influences (Bockstedt et al., 2006, p. 21). Along side this is the marketing costs are born by third parties for free such as Internet websites, blogs, and web-forums. Artists are judged more on their creativity and less on their commercialality. Ideas such as social justice, environmental politics, and ideology of the artist are expanding as market drivers as they are exposed by the audience.

The price of production as steeply declined. The equipment required for recording music digitally and producing audio quality compact disks for distribution along with the software are relatively inexpensive in relation to professional analog equipment (Gallagher, 1999, p. 115). Some bands now create concert recordings that are available for purchase at the concert and can be picked up within minutes of the concerts ending. Completely removing the record company from the equation.

With commercial interests pushing the digital distribution model to sale of a single song as the perceived sale model is it possible that some music might be missed? One concern for a model returning to single song distribution and consumer ability to ignore other music is that an echo-chamber effect or lack of broad based awareness of other music will close off other bands. The method of insuring this does not happen is part of the larger social networking movement. Websites like that were founded on the idea of users sharing their tastes in music, political, and personal views have flourished and grown exponentially (Ahn, Han, Kwak, Moon, & Jeong, 2007, p. 835).

The problem with an echo-chamber may be solved by sheer volume of people that can be exposed to music rapidly. Social networking websites show interesting phenomenon where users are “friends” that are relationships that can be stronger than “real world” relationships. Social networking relationships are usually based on common interest and not subject to real world issues such as leaving a job, moving, or other concerns not germane to the Internet social networking environment (Ahn et al., 2007, p. 844). With social networking sites the web of trust (general rather than specific) can create highly valuable recommendation patterns. If consumer “a” likes music “x.y.z” and consumer “b” has similar tastes than it is likely that either consumer may share similar tastes across the spectrum.

As to production costs the hardware and software systems required for producing and editing music are trivial when compared to high end instruments. The usual issues of customized hardware and software have been partially solved with the newer technologies breaking down barriers to entry for enthusiastic musicians who might have been unable to make the leap previously (Gallagher, 1999, p. 116). The usual hardware required for creating music and distributing are the computer itself some type of mixer software, recording software, and converter boxes for making music digital from the analog signal we normally hear (Gallagher, 1999, p. 117).

There are other advantages to the digital music movement that should be considered beyond distribution and audience. Miniaturization of music devices allow for music to be appreciated anywhere. This allows for people to listen to and even participate in music events mobile that may be currently happening or have happened in the past.

There are interesting and eclectic intersections between different music technologies beyond the portability of miniaturized play back devices. Mobile music devices as a new distribution mechanism may contain contextual awareness such as locative properties (think museum docent systems), or network/distributed capabilities. Mobile music more than a radio in your car as a digital medium may interact with physical elements in the environment (Gaye, Holmquist, Behrendt, & Tanaka, 2006, p. 22). Mobile music creates a relatively new relationship between participants (musician, listener, and location) (Gaye et al., 2006, p. 23).

With the advent of the Internet and selective playback or song lists comes flexibility. But, there is also the ability to replicate the traditional radio show with playback of live shows and recorded music as a stream or flow of information. Internet audio streaming has become common place with as a baseline Compact Disk audio quality the standard benchmark. The transmission has been near commonplace for this level of music to be transmitted, and all of the required technology is in place (Hodson, Varakliotis, & Hardman, 1998, p. 4/1) for the general hobbyist to engage in streaming.

The primary issues for transmission of music over the Internet are the delivery bandwidth (issues with volume available and cost), the end to end transit time (quality and availability issues), and applications that are capable of handling the issues (Hodson et al., 1998, p. 4/2).

One aspect of Internet music streaming is the disassociation of location and musician from the equation of collaboration. The collaboration of musicians has been greatly enhanced by the ability to stream music in real time across the Internet and play music together in real time. Though not without some issues and requiring substantial Internet connections those wishing should have the ability for on-line collaboration (Anderson, 2000, p. 23). Though it may be opinion it is felt that there is substantive loss in the lack of audience and personal interaction the possibilities of collaboration and audience are significant. As to social protest the ability to use music as a commonality between audience members and engage in social events leading to action in a disbursed environment at minimal cost and high interaction level. The Internet was designed for collaboration and digital music takes that to a new level.

Unfortunately there are some issues with digital music distribution and they are formed in the intellectual property rights discussion and issues with peer-to-peer sharing. If you borrow your neighbors LP you share that item from one person to another (peer-to-peer). With digital media you in the act of sharing give that person an exact duplicate without giving up your original. This is one of the reasons digital distribution of music is instantaneous and so cheap.

Any discussion of peer-to-peer networking would not be complete without discussion of Napster the music sorting service that made MP3 music file sharing possible and trivialized the process while being both vilified and glorified in the media. The advent of the MP3 file type and a service to track the location on peer machines of files for sharing is what made Napster bother famous and infamous (Weiss, 2000, p. 20).  Filling a perceived need the Napster tool allowed for users to find and suggest music across a wide a diverse universe of music. Though Napster was only an intermediary in the process and neither stored nor existed as a website the role as intermediary found it being challenged by the recording industry and ultimately destroyed as an Internet tool (Weiss, 2000, p. 21).

There is rampant criticism of peer-to-peer sharing of intellectual property in the form of music and the method of protecting it is digital rights management.  The financial stake that corporations through the record companies take into distribution is quite large and this leads to attempting to define methods of protecting the music (Grimm & Nutzel, 2002). When the market shift that currently is occurring began the music companies had a hard time keeping pace. The independent musicians though were more than flexible and embraced the change. The people who were found on the edges were musicians that through varieties of protest were either to unskilled or to politically difficult to find recording contracts.

The ability to time shift music is a protected right of the user. One aspect that has been attempted is to provide a digital rights management model that allows users the maximum use of their content without being shared or otherwise absconded with by the end user (Grimm & Nutzel, 2002).  Unfortunately most attempt to utilize digital rights management tools have ended in broken encryption techniques and failure of the tool.

This brings up the issue of usability between different devices. The ability to find music and listen to it is as almost a big of an issue as finding the music you like. An issue with peer-to-peer music sharing networks usability is that searching for media is not always easy and that content awareness, genre awareness, and the actual music classified is often a factor of the opinion of the classifier (Cheng, 2003, p. 376). This increases the role of the social network to make those recommendations and the power of the network to expand use acceptance.

For searching music sharing sites there are a variety of tools available including the ubiquitous iTunes by Apple. The building of tools is important as the vast amount of music meta-data (data about the data about music) is largely not constrained by normal rules within the culture and population sharing it. The context of the music is determined in a large part by the social interactions of the raters. As such the relevance of music choice and the type of music being categorized (as a taxonomy) is important for maintaining recommendation systems (Cheng, 2003, p. 381).


Music has been associated with social movements and protest throughout history and this thesis is supported by the common causes of today. Whether the guitar or some other instrument the technology curve has left few elements of music alone. The music hall, the performance venue, and so many other elements of technology have affected music. The social interactions of the audience and the adherence to different models have both helped and expanded the sphere of influence a musician can have.
Technology and music are as linked as the social interactions of the audience members. Since music is a form of communication, and tools like the Internet are communication conduits it should be of no surprise when they are mixed. The social activist roles of the audience easily make the transition to the Internet and become part of the mix. The number and scope of the impact that specific messages can have expand relatively quickly as the Internet becomes an amplifier for the message and music. Often the Internet is considered to be an entity (noun) instead of an amplifier (verb). As we have seen with amplification technologies expanding the number of individuals able to participate in a concert or activity the Internet expands the creativity and disassociates the locative features of the participants and musicians. Where the heavy commercial venues of the Super Bowl or other large activities would have their association political baggage easily the same number of people can partake on the Internet for nearing zero price.

In conclusion social protest and music are linked through technology where technology is a message multiplier of unequaled power other than the social interactions of the listeners.


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