Music is Free(dom): Digital Music Platforms, Surveillance, and Subcultural Resistance to Datafication

Coughlin, Breanne, Media, Culture, and Technology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Vaidhyanathan, Siva, Media Studies, University of Virginia

Musicians’ frustration over their inability to make a living from current music streaming models and increased industry anxiety over platform viability mark a crisis in the music industry. While many actors are scrambling to implement new streaming design, few have offered clear solutions to assuage current concerns. Further, while much work has been done to outline how current music streaming platforms are shaping our cultural landscape, little scholarship exists that points to new ways of conceptualizing streaming platform design that might maintain the integrity of music, artists, and listeners. In this thesis, I argue that music should be valued beyond its function as a commodity in platform design. I turn to a previous crisis in the music industry – the introduction of Napster – and look at bootleg music subculture and their media use to learn how subcultural values, practices, and identities ultimately shaped the present-day streaming platform: My analysis of reveals how music can be treated for its aesthetic value and function as a technology of the self in constructing new platforms, not simply as a datafied commodity or technology of surveillance, ultimately leading to a more equitable streaming landscape for artists, music, and users alike.

MA (Master of Arts)
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