Friday, October 10, 2008

Specific Strategies

Toward the end of my presentation on whether political music is still being heard I raise five specific strategies that can be employed which will enhance the reception of political music.

These include:

Firstly, allowing dedicated space on digital music store sites for music with a social justice, environmental or political nature. This could be in the form of feature artists but I don’t think this is the most effective way of enhancing the reception of this form of culture.

Rather I propose combining the power of web 2.0 technologies such as blogs or wikis to allow users to develop themes therefore incorporating a range of styles and songs and compiling them together to provide more comprehensive access to political music. By bringing together the songs, their context and linking with other tracks that refer to the same issues, it is possible to remove the additional steps needed to research, find and buy political music.

eMusic and Yahoo have recently taken steps to incorporate Wikipedia pages and YouTube videos into their music sites, however from what I have read this appears to be limited to artist biographies rather than providing the context in which political songs were written or linking songs of a similar kind together.

Amazon and IMDB have also recently launched a music focused wiki called SoundUnwound that anyone can edit. While integrating YouTube videos, from the beta version of the site it seems that this will also be artist specific.

Secondly, discussion forums could also be linked to digital music stores to encourage greater participation in the discourse of political music. By increasing the discussion around songs of this nature a greater level of peer production can be achieved providing a context and a forum in which to express personal perspectives on the music. Many lyrics sites provide an opportunity to discuss the interpretation of political songs but are removed from the music.

Thirdly, search engines could also be developed which can search lyrics or imbedded tags to provide increased access to oppositional culture. This would enable users to search for themes rather than just genres or artists and provide results based on content.

Yahoo has recently begun integrating full length streams to its standard search engine but the search parameters are limited to artist names and song titles. Up to 25 tracks can be streamed once each in a one month period.

Fourthly, grass roots political campaigns should be entitled to link to and use political music on their websites. Provided this was for registered charities or incorporated associations (genuine non profits) there should be no impediments to the use of music to educate, illustrate and empower members of the public.

Statistics in both the United States and Canada indicate that more people purchase music when they are exposed to it. Adopting this strategy requires an acknowledgement that not all free downloads or streams equate to a lost sale. For political music this would equate to radio air play or television exposure that this form of culture currently lacks.

While I dont think it is necessary, limitations could also be imposed such as restricting the number of songs each organisation could stream at one time or imposing an arbitrary limit such as 10,000 streams per song. This could most easily be achieved through an exception to copyright infringement under the Copyright Act.

At present there is a distinct separation between activism and protest music. Breaking down this barrier would result in both increased awareness of issues as well as greater exposure, consumption and use of political works.

When one looks at material relating to the civil rights era in particular as well as other movements from the 1960s it becomes evident that the protests and other campaigns that took place at the time directly integrated with political song with many works being performed and sung on mass as part of the protest. With the exception of the Get Up Mobs version of ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’ which was a song recorded and released as part of a Get Up campaign at the time of the apology to the Stolen Generation, it is difficult to find examples in recent times when songs were linked directly to political issues.

Finally, another important change that would improve access to protest music would be the development of a central repository or archive. This should not be limited to works that have entered the public domain but should offer the public streams of content. This could be operated by a non profit association incorporated in numerous jurisdictions around the world and could integrate with wikipedia pages which discuss specific social events or concerns.

Further Reading
Digital Music News, eMusic Goes Under the Knife; Makeover Unwrapping Soon (17 July 2008) <> at 18 July 2008

washingtonpost, Yahoo to open music to other services (11 September 2008) <>at 14 September 2008

Digital Music News, Yahoo Music Starts Opening Up; Early Blueprints Revealed (12 September 2008) <> at 14 September 2008

Digital Music News, Aaliyah to ZZ Top: Amazon, IMDb Launch Music Wiki (4 September 2008) <> at 4 September 2008 <> at 10 October 2008

Yahoo, Yahoo hopes to boost search fortunes with new music search (19 September 2008) <> at 21 September 2008

CNet News, Yahoo adds full-length music tracks to search results (18 September 2008) <> at 21 September 2008

Get Up, From Little Things Big Things Grow Campaign (January 2008)
<> at 10 October 2008

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