¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Critiques of music industry antipiracy campaigns are often framed in terms of the industry “hating technology” or being “resistant to innovation.” Yet history shows that technological change has always been a central facet of the industry’s evolution.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 From the beginning, the music industry has viewed emerging technology as a double-edged sword, offering the promise of greater power and the threat of obsolescence in equal measure. The industry has often branded itself as a champion of both cultural and technological innovation, and has invested heavily in a narrative of perfectible fidelity and sonic quality in order to migrate consumers to new platforms that either increase industry power or boost sales and advertising revenues. Yet there is some truth in critics’ accusations of music industry luddism or obstructionism; innovative technologies like FM stereo have taken half a century to take root, while other promising developments have withered on the vine, due to political and economic factors rather than quality or potential market demand.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 In addition to the record companies and broadcasters, several other stakeholders have played a role in the development of music technology; these include other music industry sectors such as publishers and musicians, as well as electronics and software manufacturers, government regulators and consumers themselves. This last group has perhaps added the greatest amount of complexity to the process; production, distribution and broadcast platforms can all be understood as battlefields on which the competing interests of music buyers and sellers vie for superiority, and this dialectical tension continues to steer technological development in unexpected directions.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 We cannot understand the industry’s reaction to recent, innovative technologies such as peer-to-peer file sharing, the MP3 and the iPod without taking these historical processes into account. Just as “digital music piracy” is a concept that obfuscates the transient and ephemeral nature of the legal codes and economic systems it ostensibly threatens, the premise of “pirate technology” suggests a stable and unchanging technological system compromised by a rogue element. As I have argued in this chapter, nothing could be further from the case. The invention and adoption of these technologies are part of the same constellation of competing and collaborating forces that have shaped the evolution of music industry technology since the days of moveable type. As I will discuss in the next chapter, the industry’s combative stance in the face of these innovations was a conscious choice among several possible strategies, rather than the only logical response to an inevitable threat.