Breaking Rocks is a volume of the Dislocations series published by Berghahn Books, a series closely associated with Focaal and FocaalBlog. The immense dislocations and suffering caused by neoliberal globalization the retreat of the welfare state in the last decades of the twentieth century, and the heightened military imperialism at the turn of the twenty-first century have raised urgent questions about the temporal and spatial dimensions of power. Through stimulating critical perspectives and new and cross-disciplinary frameworks, which reflect recent innovations in the social and human sciences, this series provides a forum for politically engaged, ethnographically informed, and theoretically incisive responses.
Capital’s resilience as technologies and cultures change lies in the systematic priority placed on value development and extraction. However, this does not imply that actors in these systems clearly understand their roles in the process. As industries change, equal amounts of optimism comingle with confusion as practitioners experiment with new roles and practices that they had not anticipated. In this article, I explore such changes and adaptations in the music industry following the advent of digital technology and the Internet. Specifically, I look at how musicians have had to rethink where their value lies for listeners and how some have come to believe that it rests in developing and exploring online social communities.
There was a strong relationship between music and political-economic power in the precolonial Congo basin. This was because music was an integral part of a ritual nexus that dominated social life. Those who controlled the ritual nexus became rich and powerful, and controlled trade between locals and an expanding capitalism (MacGaffey 2000). Here I will show how music was important to this interface.
In contemplating music and capitalism, we might imagine alternative framings to “art versus commerce.” Art versus commerce understands music as perpetually compromised between musicians’ desire to produce l’art pour l’art in a context in which they must be commodity producers. In this regard, the challenge facing musicians is to register discourses of truth, authenticity, and subjectivity within the structure of commodity production (Frith and Horne 1987). Arguably, the primary theoretical reference for such analysis is presented by Adorno and Horkheimer’s ( 1997) culture industry thesis, which posits a negative dialectic between orders of culture and industrial production. By focusing on the possibility of artistic production autonomy, a shift seems to take place wherein the spirit or aesthetic possibility claimed by the artist becomes emphasized and the music is analyzed with such spirit in mind.
David Harvey (2014) cites alienation as a catalytic concept fundamental to animating political action in order to displace and dispossess the many-headed hydra of late global capitalism. However, despite its position as a basic contradiction of capitalism, there is still only passing consideration in even Marxist music scholarship of the topic of alienation, even though music and capitalism in general is receiving increasing attention.
The literature on sustainable livelihoods in the field of development studies emphasizes the importance of fostering diverse sources of income for economic entities like individuals, families, and communities (Chambers and Conway 1992). Especially in rural areas, economic actors often cope with shocks and stresses by spreading their bets, using different forms of capital (such as human, economic, and physical) to produce specific livelihood strategies (Scoones 1998: 6–8). Some (see O’Brien Bernini 2015) have recognized the relevance of this approach to music making. Continue reading
Contrary to widespread opinion, Richard Wagner started off his career as the most revolutionary composer of the nineteenth century, not just in a musical sense but also in a more straightforwardly political manner. Contemporary obsession with alleged anti-Semitism in his dramatic works, aided and abetted by the de facto prohibition upon their performance in Israel, has tended to drown out all other controversy, of which there should be more, not less, both in quantity and in quality.
The Indian music industry of the early 2000s was extremely volatile, as the overproduction of new recordings and ready availability of pirated material led to a decline in overall sales and waning profitability for the physical circulation of recorded music. Indian music retailers had to navigate a complex social and business environment in which their customers could shop for music in a bewildering array of successful retail outlets, ranging from street hawkers to family-owned shops to large, organized chain stores, to mobile phone providers.
The evangelical preacher Joel Osteen, whose nondenominational Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, attracts an estimated 40,000 worshippers weekly, is often presented as paradigmatic of the ways faith, media, and capitalism intersect in today’s media environment (e.g., Einstein 2008). Osteen’s message is communicated through his best-selling books, CDs, and DVDs; his satellite radio program and television network; and a well-managed Internet infrastructure of platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; podcasts, direct-marketing emails, a blog, mobile phone apps, and even an iPad magazine (Bosker 2012). In other words, “Joel” is more than a preacher; he is a branded media package. Continue reading
Capitalism originated first in the city-states of Renaissance Italy and grew to become a world system with trade, industrialization, and colonialism (Braudel 1982; Arrighi  2010). Thus, capitalism encompasses core centuries of the development of Western classical music and the transformation of classical and folk musics across the world under colonialism and modernity. However, research on music and its relationship to capitalism remains limited and focuses more on popular music and cultural industries. This is due to deeply rooted notions about “high” and “low” arts and “art” versus “commercial” music. The 1938 searing indictment of mass culture as an instrument of capitalist oppression by the musicologist, composer, and leading Frankfurt theorist Theodor Adorno also carries a strong responsibility (indeed, it was Adorno who coined the term “cultural industries,” giving it a strongly pejorative meaning ).