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Music collecting in the streaming era : materiality, practices and discovery

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posted on 2023-05-27, 23:51 authored by Ellis, JM
In the current era of music consumption, cloud-based streaming services are the dominant mode of distribution and reception for artists and audiences. Music streaming services represent the latest reconfiguration in the way music is consumed, driving new cultural relations with music founded upon subscription-based access. Conventional understandings of music collecting became challenged within these new media conditions, as the intimacies of individual ownership and acquisitive logics are traded for immediate access to abundant music databases. Conversely, the resurgent popularity of vinyl records suggests the enduring relevance of music ownership, physical music media and music collecting. This thesis interprets these parallel developments through a reassessment of the contemporary music collector, evaluating the position of different music media formats and technologies and their relationship to collecting practices in the era of streaming music consumption. Drawing on a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews with Generation Y music consumers, my analysis demonstrates the heterogenous composition of music collections, unpacking how different media technologies are adopted, resisted and coexist within configurations of practice and locating their role in processes of meaning making and in orienting social life. In doing so, this thesis provides a timely re-examination of established scholarly literature on music collecting in a new era of streaming music consumption and addresses a lacuna in knowledge regarding the broader integration of music streaming services within existing configurations of technologies and individual practices. Through close examination of music discovery within the context of collecting, this thesis also addresses a central component of streaming consumption experiences and provides an extended perspective regarding music collecting practices in the streaming era. As I will show, the contemporary music collector remains characterised by significant personal, financial and social investments in music. Ownership of vinyl records continues to dominate conceptions of the music collector among interviewees, however owners of music collections comprised of CDs and digital files also readily identified with the label of music collector, suggesting a broadening perspective on the collectability of music technologies in the streaming era. While music streaming services were enthusiastically used for everyday music consumption and were the site of distinct music management practices related to saving and organising new music discoveries, interviewees were hesitant to accord music streams the same status as collections of vinyl records, CDs and digital files. The lack of ownership over music streams and the reduced control prescribed by platform interfaces were found to be largely incommensurable with collecting practices established with previous music technologies. Music streaming services therefore did not support the same emotional and personal investments as existing music collections but occupied a practical role alongside these collections as a means for convenient music consumption, exploration and discovery. Reassessing the contours of the contemporary music collector, this thesis provides important contributions to ongoing debates concerning the nature of evolving object relations, shifting understandings of digital and material culture, and processes of musical meaning making in the era of streaming music consumption.

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