Dwell streaming and the emergence of platform musicians – Keith Negus and Qian Zhang |

Dwell Music Trade Weblog

On this weblog submit Keith Negus (Professor of Musicology at Goldsmiths, College of London) and Qian Zhang (Affiliate Professor on the Faculty of Music and Recording Artwork, Communication College of China) current observations and a case-study from their new journal article on the evolution of the reside music economic system and new patterns of commodification which can be rising within the face of digitalization.

The article is printed in Standard Music and Society and may be accessed at:

The Covid-19 pandemic halted many actions we took with no consideration, but accelerated adjustments underway lengthy earlier than the virus began circulating. It disrupted our habits and routines, but launched new patterns of behaviour into our lives – whether or not in houses, faculties and workplaces, or at sport stadiums, and in bars and eating places. As recounted in lots of posts on the Dwell Music Trade and past, it has had a huge effect on reside music, but additionally given momentum to adjustments already underway.

We think about these adjustments, and their broader context, in an article simply printed in Standard Music and Society  which offers a genealogical narrative of those shifts within the economies and industries of reside music, together with altering understandings of the reside expertise. On this submit, we define a number of the key arguments of the article and supply an illustrative instance of how these adjustments to the music economic system have performed out in China.

Adjustments to the reside expertise

The article highlights how digital applied sciences have been built-in into reside occasions inside a broader ‘expertise economic system’, and the way reside music has been included into digital platforms and social media inside an ‘consideration economic system’. The expertise economic system (sometimes regarded as the specialness and shortage of live shows), and the eye economic system (requiring us to barter an abundance of tracks, clips, messages, apps, video games and so forth) exist collectively. As audiences seize performances on smartphones for importing and sharing, so reside music turns into a recorded component of content material. The streaming of reside motion – whether or not a set from a basement membership, pageant area, or a singer’s kitchen – can supply entry to a novel expertise. But, it additionally struggles for consideration within the swirl of plentiful content material, after which turns into a fraction of knowledge saved within the warehouses, mountains, and subterranean caves of cyberjunk.

Digital platforms, streaming, and social media are altering how we take into consideration reside music, and including additional dimensions to being a musician. Turning into a pop musician now not includes turning your self right into a ‘performing artist’ and a ‘recording artist’. It additionally entails changing into a ‘platform musician’ or, maybe, a ‘platform artist’. Within the following paragraphs we’ll clarify what we imply by these statements.

In our analysis we’ve drawn on the work of Philip Auslander who identified that the time period ‘reside music’ started showing in dictionaries through the Nineteen Thirties to tell apart between reside and recorded sound in radio broadcasting. When folks listened to a phonograph cylinder or disk they had been fairly clearly listening to voices and music transmitted from a recording. However, the sound of a radio broadcast was extra ambiguous. The reside/recorded distinction grew to become an moral and a authorized manner of categorizing broadcast sound (Auslander 2012). As Auslander additionally notes, the concept of reside music all the time implied a way of spatial and temporal co-presence. But, for a few years, the liveness of the actual place was valued greater than the liveness of the actual time.

Social media and digital platforms are more and more demonstrating that an expertise occurring in actual time is starting to accumulate better emphasis and worth within the streaming of music. The reside expertise is now not primarily about being current within the place the place a efficiency happens.  Simply because the Walkman made recorded music extra cellular and built-in into various environment, so streaming permits audiences a distinct expertise of reside music. Dwell streams may be accessed throughout a transitory journey on a prepare amongst strangers, when sitting alone in a park, or when gathered with pals in a personal dwelling or in bars and cafes.

Platform Musicians in China

In our article we embrace a extra prolonged dialogue of how the reside turns into a recording, and the way the recording turns into a part of a reside stream, and the way this each challenges and bridges the reside and recorded fashions of reaching audiences, and gaining success. We illustrate this right here close to the growing significance of streamed Chinese language expertise exhibits, and the best way digital and social media have offered alternatives for what we name ‘platform musicians.’ We embrace these examples, partially, to counteract the best way China has been uncared for in discussions of the worldwide music industries, with students typically assuming a North Atlantic construction of the music enterprise and careers of fashionable musicians derived from the research of rock music.

Expertise exhibits have been central to the music industries of Japan and South Korea. Expertise exhibits in China began life as showcases for the kind of selection leisure related to tv. They had been just like different expertise exhibits broadcast around the globe, however significantly influenced by exhibits produced in Korea. But, a more recent sort of expertise present has been launched and may be seen as a part of an extended historical past that traces again, exterior of tv, to the ‘battle of the bands’ that befell in native rock venues from the Sixties, and to contests in jazz ballrooms through the Nineteen Thirties. It’s a trendy digital inheritor to those pre-digital competitions, in addition to drawing on actuality tv.

The streamed Chinese language expertise present has grow to be an essential route by which musicians can attain followers and attain stardom. Though initially dominated by pop idols, the format now embraces a wider vary of genres, types, and identities. It has grow to be a strategically vital format for indie, rap, singer-songwriters and dance musicians to interrupt out past restricted alternatives in small venues in native scenes, and out of doors of the trade constructions nonetheless dominated by idol manufacturing. Success on a expertise present will increase an act’s worth and offers efficiency alternatives throughout the standard levels of venues and festivals, together with the proliferating social media and digital platforms that require reside and recorded ‘content material.’

So, for instance The Rap of China (Zhōngguó yǒu xīhā) has opened up an area for the presentation of a style of televisual Chinese language rap, whereas encouraging debates about aesthetics, identities, and codes of public expression. Rave Now (Jì kèdiànyīn) is an digital dance music expertise present that provides viewers a window into the best way tracks are produced and remixed utilizing turntables, laptops, and software program. I’m CZR–I’m Singer-Songwriter (Wŏ shì chàngzuòrén) follows contenders from their early demo tapes, by studio association, after which on to rehearsal, and staged efficiency.

The Large Band (Yùeduìdexiàtiān), streamed on iQIY owned by Baidu, is a present that permits bands to be acknowledged, typically after years of taking part in small gigs. It has helped revitalise the indie scene, and allowed older performers to achieve newer audiences. A notable instance is the band New Pants (Xinkùzi) that had been fashioned in 1996, launched their first album in 1998, but solely achieved wider success and recognition after successful The Large Band in 2019.

Streamed Chinese language expertise exhibits cross the reside and recorded. Performances could also be streamed as they’re going down. They could even be pre-recorded, along with narrative sections, after which streamed to permit voting and for reside feedback to be inserted throughout the display. Expertise exhibits present reside music to these unable to attend a gig venue (like reside broadcasts), and the publicity offers musicians entry to a extra standard touring profession on stage in entrance of audiences.

The expertise present dramatizes what Simon Frith as soon as known as the ‘shifting boundary between the “staged” and the on a regular basis’ (1996: 204). This statement from the pre-digital age is equally relevant to digital platforms. It’s dramatized within the narratives and representations within the expertise present, as a lot as within the staged video or streamed performances on YouTube, Kaishou, or TikTok. The expertise present condenses the mechanics of the fashionable music trade. It turns into a metaphor for the conflict of aggressive individualism and collective participation, as performers journey the legendary journey from obscurity to stardom, cashing in on a winner-takes-all economic system while concurrently embedded into scenes, communities and fan cultures.

Exterior of the expertise exhibits in China, a dynamic digital music infrastructure is creating inside which over 100 platforms, at the moment reaching over 600 million streaming customers, present shops for musicians to add recordings, stream performances, and obtain commentary. Though, within the early days the rewards had been through varieties of ad-hoc ‘digital gifting’, the platforms have gotten more and more redesigned to permit beginner and unknown musicians a structured route in direction of audiences, and to attach with media and music industries intermediaries. For instance, in 2017 Tencent Music – a Chinese language firm on-line platform that develops streaming companies – initiated an ‘incentive challenge’ to encourage indie musicians to add their recordings, claiming to achieve doubtlessly 800 million month-to-month customers. Tencent reportedly paid out 590 million Yuan (roughly 84 million U.S. {dollars}) to musicians (though contractual particulars of this should not clear, and it’s a difficulty for our ongoing analysis). This challenge grew to become extra formally constituted because the Tencent Musician Program – a platform that enables musicians to create and share their music, join with publishers, and to obtain enter and recommendation on publicity, advertising and marketing and copyright. On the identical time, the platform permits listening, watching, socialising and interacting. Music platforms in China, starting from brief video platforms like TikTok, social media platforms like SinaWeibo, and music streaming platforms like QQ music, have initiated related tasks to encourage musicians and acquire ‘content material.’ Final 12 months, Tencent introduced extra tasks to help extra conventional folks and Chinese language dialect music.

In our article we confer with ‘platform musicians’. This emergent id builds upon and extends the best way commerce, trade and know-how, intersecting with the actions of musicians and audiences, allowed for the emergence of the ‘recording artist’, and business venues afforded the ‘reside performer’. A superb instance of this could be No Get together For Cao Dong (Cao Dong Meiyou Paidui). This Taiwan band has, since its formation, used platforms to launch recordings, to reside stream recordings and performances, and created the title tune for the online game Devotion. Though there are numerous variations between what No Get together For Cao Dong are doing and the presentation of musicians on expertise exhibits (and the best way idols and celebrities use platforms), there’s a rising development for bands to make use of audio streaming and reside apps from their earliest days. Quite a lot of platforms afford the mixing of efficiency and recording with different visible arts and shifting photos. Platforms enable musicians to create with different musicians, and to place their work on-line and obtain quick responses, and to achieve followers and to work together with these followers. The platform musician bridges the stage, studio, and display. The stage turns into a platform, and the platform turns into a stage.

Keith Negus and Qian Zhang


Auslander, Philip (2012) ‘Digital Liveness: A Historico-Philosophical Perspective’ PAJ: A Journal of Efficiency and Artwork, 34/3, pp. 3-11.

Frith, Simon (1996) Performing Rites, Oxford: Oxford College Press.

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