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






Stay Music Alternate Weblog

On this weblog publish 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 dwell music financial system and new patterns of commodification which might be rising within the face of digitalization.

The article is printed in In style Music and Society and might be accessed at:

The Covid-19 pandemic halted many actions we took with no 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, colleges and workplaces, or at sport stadiums, and in bars and eating places. As recounted in lots of posts on the Stay Music Alternate and past, it has had a big impact on dwell music, but additionally given momentum to modifications already underway.

We contemplate these modifications, and their broader context, in an article simply printed in In style Music and Society  which gives a genealogical narrative of those shifts within the economies and industries of dwell music, together with altering understandings of the dwell expertise. On this publish, we define among 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 dwell expertise

The article highlights how digital applied sciences have been built-in into dwell occasions inside a broader ‘expertise financial system’, and the way dwell music has been included into digital platforms and social media inside an ‘consideration financial system’. The expertise financial system (usually considered the specialness and shortage of live shows), 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 dwell music turns into a recorded factor of content material. The streaming of dwell motion – whether or not a set from a basement membership, pageant subject, or a singer’s kitchen – can supply entry to a singular expertise. But, it additionally struggles for consideration within the swirl of considerable 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 dwell music, and including additional dimensions to being a musician. Changing into a pop musician 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 now have drawn on the work of Philip Auslander who identified that the time period ‘dwell music’ started showing in dictionaries throughout the Nineteen Thirties to differentiate between dwell and recorded sound in radio broadcasting. When individuals 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 dwell/recorded distinction turned an moral and a authorized means of categorizing broadcast sound (Auslander 2012). As Auslander additionally notes, the concept of dwell music at all times implied a way of spatial and temporal co-presence. But, for a few years, the liveness of the true place was valued greater than the liveness of the true 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 dwell expertise is 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 dwell music. Stay streams might be accessed throughout a transitory journey on a practice amongst strangers, when sitting alone in a park, or when gathered with associates 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 dwell turns into a recording, and the way the recording turns into a part of a dwell stream, and the way this each challenges and bridges the dwell and recorded fashions of reaching audiences, and gaining success. We illustrate this right here as regards to the growing significance of streamed Chinese language expertise exhibits, and the best way digital and social media have supplied alternatives for what we name ‘platform musicians.’ We embrace these examples, partly, 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 common musicians derived from the examine 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 world wide, however notably influenced by exhibits produced in Korea. But, a more moderen kind of expertise present has been launched and might be seen as a part of an extended historical past that traces again, exterior of tv, to the ‘battle of the bands’ that passed off in native rock venues from the Sixties, and to contests in jazz ballrooms throughout the Nineteen 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 turn out to be an vital route by way of 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 turn out 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 outdoors of the business buildings nonetheless dominated by idol manufacturing. Success on a expertise present will increase an act’s worth and gives efficiency alternatives throughout the normal phases of venues and festivals, together with the proliferating social media and digital platforms that require dwell 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 way of studio association, after which on to rehearsal, and staged efficiency.

The Huge Band (Yùeduìdexiàtiān), streamed on iQIY owned by Baidu, is a present that allows bands to be acknowledged, typically after years of enjoying small gigs. It has helped revitalise the indie scene, and allowed older performers to succeed in 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 profitable The Huge Band in 2019.

Streamed Chinese language expertise exhibits cross the dwell and recorded. Performances could also be streamed as they’re happening. They could even be pre-recorded, along with narrative sections, after which streamed to permit voting and for dwell feedback to be inserted throughout the display screen. Expertise exhibits present dwell music to these unable to attend a gig venue (like dwell broadcasts), and the publicity offers 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 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 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, taking advantage of a winner-takes-all financial 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 forms of ad-hoc ‘digital gifting’, the platforms have gotten more and more redesigned to permit newbie and unknown musicians a structured route in the 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 undertaking’ to inspire indie musicians to add their recordings, claiming to succeed in 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 are usually not clear, and it’s a difficulty for our ongoing analysis). This undertaking 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 similar 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 comparable initiatives to encourage musicians and acquire ‘content material.’ Final yr, Tencent introduced extra initiatives to assist extra conventional folks and Chinese language dialect music.

In our article we seek advice from ‘platform musicians’. This emergent id builds upon and extends the best way commerce, business and expertise, intersecting with the actions of musicians and audiences, allowed for the emergence of the ‘recording artist’, and business venues afforded the ‘dwell performer’. A very good instance of this could be No Occasion For Cao Dong (Cao Dong Meiyou Paidui). This Taiwan band has, since its formation, used platforms to launch recordings, to dwell stream recordings and performances, and created the title tune for the online game Devotion. Though there are a lot of variations between what No Occasion 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 pattern for bands to make use of audio streaming and dwell apps from their earliest days. Quite a lot of platforms afford the mixing of efficiency and recording with different visible arts and transferring pictures. Platforms permit musicians to create with different musicians, and to place their work on-line and obtain rapid responses, and to realize followers and to work together with these followers. The platform musician bridges the stage, studio, and display screen. 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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