Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 August 2019
It is hard to think of another field of cultural practice that has been as comprehensively turned upside down by the digital revolution as music. Digital instruments, recording technologies and signal processing techniques have transformed the making of music, while digital dissemination of music – through the Internet and earbuds – has transformed the way people consume it. Live music thrives and mostly relies on digital technology, but alongside it music has become integrated into the patterns of social networking and urban mobility that increasingly structure people’s lives. The digital revolution has destabilised the traditional music business, with successive technologies reconstructing it in different forms, and at present even its short-term future is unclear. (Just as this book is going to press, Apple has announced the discontinuation of iTunes, the most commercially successful response to Napster.) Meanwhile digitalisation has changed what sort of thing music is, creating a multiplicity of genres, some of which exist only online – indeed, downloads and streaming have problematised the extent to which music can reasonably be thought of as a ‘thing’ at all. Technology that is rapidly pervading the globe is re-engineering relationships between geographically removed traditions (including by removing geography from the equation). Some see this near meltdown of so many aspects of traditional musical culture as a harbinger of fundamental social change to come.