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

Dwell Music Alternate Weblog


On this weblog put up Keith Negus (Professor of Musicology at Goldsmiths, College of London) and Qian Zhang (Affiliate Professor on the College 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 stay music financial system and new patterns of commodification which might be rising within the face of digitalization.

The article is revealed in Fashionable Music and Society and will be accessed at:

The Covid-19 pandemic halted many actions we took without any consideration, but accelerated modifications 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 properties, faculties and workplaces, or at sport stadiums, and in bars and eating places. As recounted in lots of posts on the Dwell Music Alternate and past, it has had a big impact on stay music, but additionally given momentum to modifications already underway.

We think about these modifications, and their broader context, in an article simply revealed in Fashionable Music and Society  which offers a genealogical narrative of those shifts within the economies and industries of stay music, together with altering understandings of the stay expertise. On this put up, we define a number of the key arguments of the article and supply an illustrative instance of how these modifications to the music financial system have performed out in China.

Adjustments to the stay expertise

The article highlights how digital applied sciences have been built-in into stay occasions inside a broader ‘expertise financial system’, and the way stay music has been integrated into digital platforms and social media inside an ‘consideration financial system’. The expertise financial system (sometimes considered the specialness and shortage of concert events), and the eye financial 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 stay music turns into a recorded ingredient of content material. The streaming of stay 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 ample 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 stay music, and including additional dimensions to being a musician. Turning into a pop musician now not entails 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 have now drawn on the work of Philip Auslander who identified that the time period ‘stay music’ started showing in dictionaries in the course of the Thirties to tell apart between stay and recorded sound in radio broadcasting. When folks listened to a phonograph cylinder or disk they have been fairly clearly listening to voices and music transmitted from a recording. However, the sound of a radio broadcast was extra ambiguous. The stay/recorded distinction turned an moral and a authorized method of categorizing broadcast sound (Auslander 2012). As Auslander additionally notes, the thought of stay 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 larger emphasis and worth within the streaming of music. The stay 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 special expertise of stay music. Dwell streams will 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 house or in bars and cafes.

Platform Musicians in China

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

Expertise reveals have been central to the music industries of Japan and South Korea. Expertise reveals in China began life as showcases for the kind of selection leisure related to tv. They have been just like different expertise reveals broadcast world wide, however notably influenced by reveals produced in Korea. But, a more moderen sort of expertise present has been launched and will be considered as a part of an extended historical past that traces again, exterior of tv, to the ‘battle of the bands’ that happened in native rock venues from the Nineteen Sixties, and to contests in jazz ballrooms in the course of the Thirties. It’s a fashionable digital inheritor to those pre-digital competitions, in addition to drawing on actuality tv.

The streamed Chinese language expertise present has change into an necessary route via 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 change into 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 outdoors of the business 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 stay 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 way in which 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, via studio association, after which on to rehearsal, and staged efficiency.

The Massive Band (Yùeduìdexiàtiān), streamed on iQIY owned by Baidu, is a present that allows bands to be acknowledged, usually after years of enjoying 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 have been shaped in 1996, launched their first album in 1998, but solely achieved wider success and recognition after successful The Massive Band in 2019.

Streamed Chinese language expertise reveals cross the stay and recorded. Performances could also be streamed as they’re going down. They might even be pre-recorded, along with narrative sections, after which streamed to permit voting and for stay feedback to be inserted throughout the display. Expertise reveals present stay music to these unable to attend a gig venue (like stay broadcasts), and the publicity provides musicians entry to a extra typical 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 remark 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 trendy music business. It turns into a metaphor for the conflict of aggressive individualism and collective participation, as performers journey the legendary journey from obscurity to stardom, benefiting from a winner-takes-all financial system while concurrently embedded into scenes, communities and fan cultures.

Outdoors of the expertise reveals in China, a dynamic digital music infrastructure is growing inside which over 100 platforms, at the moment reaching over 600 million streaming customers, present retailers for musicians to add recordings, stream performances, and obtain commentary. Though, within the early days the rewards have been through forms 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 providers – initiated an ‘incentive venture’ to inspire indie musicians to add their recordings, claiming to achieve probably 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 usually are not clear, and it’s a difficulty for our ongoing analysis). This venture turned extra formally constituted because the Tencent Musician Program – a platform that permits musicians to create and share their music, join with publishers, and to obtain enter and recommendation on publicity, advertising 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 achieve ‘content material.’ Final yr, Tencent introduced further tasks to help extra conventional folks and Chinese language dialect music.

In our article we discuss with ‘platform musicians’. This emergent identification builds upon and extends the way in which commerce, business and expertise, intersecting with the actions of musicians and audiences, allowed for the emergence of the ‘recording artist’, and industrial venues afforded the ‘stay performer’. instance of this is able to be No Celebration For Cao Dong (Cao Dong Meiyou Paidui). This Taiwan band has, since its formation, used platforms to launch recordings, to stay stream recordings and performances, and created the title music for the online game Devotion. Though there are various variations between what No Celebration For Cao Dong are doing and the presentation of musicians on expertise reveals (and the way in which idols and celebrities use platforms), there’s a rising development for bands to make use of audio streaming and stay apps from their earliest days. A wide range of platforms afford the mixing of efficiency and recording with different visible arts and shifting pictures. Platforms permit musicians to create with different musicians, and to place their work on-line and obtain speedy 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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