INART 115: THE POPULAR ARTS IN AMERICA - POPULAR MUSIC
The Popular Music Forum: Assignment #1
A Position Paper on The Future of Popular Music.
To be followed by a Response Paper
NOTE: This assignment is to be a minimum of 500 words in length and due no later than 11:30 PM
on Wednesday, September 16, 2009. The response paper is due no later than 11:30 PM on Friday,
September 18, 2009.
Post your position papers by clicking on "NEW POST" above (on the left).
Now, as in the past, technology is redefining how music is produced, marketed, and distributed. This is
nothing new. What is happening today has happened many times before. Sheet music was replaced by
phonograph records, which, in turn, were replaced by audiotapes and CDs. Now, mp3 files are replacing
audiotapes and CDs. As the means of recording music changed, the marketing and distribution changed
and each change altered the very nature of the music industries.
And with each change came new methods of illegally copying and bootlegging written or recorded music.
However, this time there is a difference in both the scale of the change and in the response to it. The
digital revolution is creating change on an unprecedented scale and that change is taking place very
rapidly. It has made the production and especially the distribution of popular music faster, cheaper, and
easier than at any time in history. Songs can be reduced to a simple code of 0s and 1s and sent
anywhere on earth in a matter of seconds. Digital technologies have also made music piracy equally fast,
cheap, and easy with the resultant effect that more music is traded illegally over the Internet each day
than is legally sold in retail outlets…and the music industries have, so far, been unable to curb piracy
either through legal action or technological means. For the music industries, this is a crisis of
monumental proportions that shows no sign of abating. For popular music, this also may be a crisis of
monumental proportions because it threatens to undermine the most fundamental processes of the
marketplace. For fans and consumers, this is a crisis of a different kind…one that raises important
questions about the future of popular music.
However, before attacking those questions, let's look at a little history…
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MUSIC DOWNLOADING
The explosion of music downloading and Internet piracy began in the fall of 1999. Shawn Fanning, a 19-
year-old undergraduate at Northeastern University, launched the original Napster, which allowed computer
users to share and swap files, especially music, through a centralized file server. It was a service that