The discovery of the [1]forty-thousand-year-old Aurignacian Flute is a perfect example of how music has evolved from simplistic roots to a technological phenomenon. Nowadays, music is thought of to be more than meticulously manipulated sounds, but instead an experience capturing all five senses of the human body. [2]Tim Wall explains this in his introduction to Studying Popular Music Culture, writing that ‘music has been called the soundtrack to our lives’, as it has become essential, but also unavoidable to each of us.


[3]Jacques Attali, in his book ‘Noise’, wrote about his view of there being four stages of music in history. The first stemming from early rituals and sacrifices. The second he calls [4]‘the age of representation’ as ‘music’s social function is not to make people forget, but to make them believe’. The third comes at a time of growing capitalist society, where repetitive music is believed to be merely a tool of distraction and stimulation, to ensure social order is kept at all times. His final stage links with music becoming essential, as he believes that music has become a creative channel for anyone to express and feel their emotions to the full extent.


In Attali’s third stage, music became commercialised and subsequently tied to artist image, branding and merchandise; leaning towards the idea of style over substance. This is because music is so often attached to something outside of itself, and can be shown with examples like company jingles linked to advertisement. [5]Paul Greco, director of music for JWT, spoke about the notion of an artist being seen as a ‘sell-out’, but also explaining the benefits of being linked with companies, as ‘the artist gets exposure and financial support’.


[6]In a chapter about ‘Radiohead and Philosophy’, Jody Tate spoke about how Radiohead acted in conjunction with the views of Karl Marx, in their decision to sell directly to consumers on a pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth basis. In the chapter it is made clear of Radiohead’s clear view of ‘blood sucking’ and ‘capitalist’ record labels, after experiencing extreme exploitation. [7]Marx believed that the role of the capitalist was to create a cookie-cutter effect on all products, he wrote that [8]‘Machines were… the weapon employed by the capitalist to quell the revolt of specialized labor.’ This forms a connection with [9]Adorno’s theory of standardisation, along with the concept of Fordism, as record labels are constantly on a mission to find or create the new Adele or Bieber, originality is not sourced anymore as companies have become trapped in a very low-risk cycle.


[10]Attali also spoke about commercialisation and how lack of happiness depreciates the value of market wealth, beginning in the 1950’s with the idea of the American Dream. Families were encouraged to set up independent businesses and not trust the government, but to create a business where it can be passed down through generations. However, often the children of the entrepreneurs have separate personalities and inclinations, are not happiest joining on the family business or trade but have little choice in the matter. The music industry arguably has the same issue as artists frequently release repetitive, ‘catchy’ songs in order to get the most plays and not to express the issues that they want. There are exceptions to this, for example Lady Gaga singing about LGBTQ rights, however this has been built up as part of her brand image and she arguably exploits the community by targeting them for sales, with raising awareness being a secondary benefit. Attali backed this point in saying [11]‘What is called music today is all too often only a disguise for the monologue of power… [as] music now seems hardly more than a somewhat clumsy excuse for the self-glorification of musicians and the growth of a new industrial sector.’


[12]Atalli also looked idea of neoliberalism and a widening freedom of trade, as governments started to deregulate in the early 1980s, the power of multinational corporations and branding became apparent. An example of brand power versus freedom would be [13]supermarket chains refusing to sell Nirvana’s album, ‘In Utera’, as the album cover of two foetuses did not conform with their branding.


Along with deregulation, many governments reduced spending as businesses were shifted from the public sector to the private. Looking at [14]Keynesian economics in accordance with this, it is encouraged that governments need to be more liberal with their spending, especially in economic downturns. If government spending is increased dramatically in a downturn then it will encourage consumer spending, which in turn will generate more money in the economy and reduce unemployment and raise disposable income levels. This is particularly helpful for the entertainment industries as a state of recession would lower disposable income, and consumers are likely to hold back from spending money on luxuries like music.


A combination of  low-income and greed is likely the issue that piracy originated from, as this [15]made music become free. The music industry as a whole has seen a large downward shift in profit within the last decade, with cheap downloads being a resulting factor. [16]Amaechi Uzoigwe, Head of content and affairs at Official FM stated that in “the last ten years we’ve seen the decline of the record business, and now we are seeing the rise of the music business”. This highlights that the problem with selling records still exists, but shows that subsequently it has caused the music business as a whole to shift and expand its sources of income beyond the sales of music itself. Therefore, causing a conflict between labels and artists, as profits are now found from elsewhere, for example gaining royalties from songs being in television or films, sales of merchandise, annual touring, and appearances, which for a while gave artists the power and a larger cut of the money. [17]However, record labels quickly became wise to this and started bringing in 360degree deals, which involves gaining a cut of every aspect of the artist’s career, musical or not. Yet, with the built-up relationships in recording, producing and promotion, it is difficult to be successful without one.


Nevertheless, new technological advances using [18]Blockchain technology could potentially put an end to piracy and free downloads in the near future and bring back larger record sales. If intellectual copyright organisations and Blockchain technology were to collaborate then every song could be left with a lasting digital footprint. This would enable the footprint to be tracked and eternally stored within the Blockchain. This technology paired with technology similar to that involved in the popular music recognition app Shazam, could change the game with music sharing and the collection of royalties. [19]The technology used in Shazam stems from the company’s library of over 8 million songs. The technology then uses ‘a technique to break down each track into a simple numeric signature—a code that is unique to each track. “The main thing here is creating a ‘fingerprint’ of each performance,” says Andrew Fisher, Shazam’s CEO. When you hold your phone up to a song you’d like to ID, Shazam turns your clip into a signature using the same method. Then it’s just a matter of pattern-matching—Shazam searches its library for the code.’ This technology mixed with Blockchain technology could potentially stop people re-recording and uploading songs and putting songs on the black market.


Alternatively, Blockchain can also be used within the music industry for creating [20]smart contracts, meaning that there would always be efficiency and transparency to the highest standard, and ownership rights, royalties and splits would go straight to their rightful owners and continue to do so, cutting out the somewhat unreliable middleman. This ease and efficiency can also be utilised for promotional means, with projects like [21]Mycelia, which aims ‘to unlock the huge potential for creators and their music related metadata so an entirely new commercial marketplace may flourish, [and] to ensure all involved are paid and acknowledged fully.’ This should open up a whole new world for transporting meta-data accurately and efficiently, for example [22]Imogen Heap, spoke in a Midem conference about how using Blockchain can give information about song-writing, lyrics, where and why the song was written and what exact instruments were used, all when the song is bought. She spoke about songs becoming a ‘beacon of information’ used for promotional purposes, showing that Blockchain is the way forward for the music industry, as it displays many opportunities for advancement and transparency.




[1] Lovett, M. Political Economy + Attali 2016 2017.ppt, MD4214. University of Gloucestershire, unpublished.

[2] Wall, T. (2012). Studying popular music culture. London: SAGE.

[3] Attali, J. (1985). Noise: the political economy of music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

[4] Lovett, M. Political Economy + Attali 2016 2017.ppt, MD4214. University of Gloucestershire, unpublished.

[5] Inside JWT: Music Supervision and Production at a Large Advertising Agency. (2012, May 07). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from

[6] Forbes, B. W., Reisch, G. A., & Tate, J. (2009). Radiohead and philosophy: fitter happier more deductive. Chicago: Open Court.

[7] The Marxist Critique of Capitalism – Boundless Open Textbook. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2017, from

[8] Engels, K. M. (n.d.). Marx Quotes: Quotes from Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Retrieved January 10, 2017, from

[9] Lovett, M. Standardisation and Authenticity 2016.ppt, MD4214. University of Gloucestershire, unpublished.

[10] TED. (2014, June 04). Entreprendre sa vie | Jacques Attali | TEDxIssylesMoulineaux. Retrieved January 06, 2017, from

[11] Attali, J. (1985). Noise: the political economy of music. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

[12] James, R. (n.d.). Robin James, Neoliberal Noise: Attali, Foucault, & the Biopolitics of Uncool – PhilPapers. Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

[13] British group Radiohead inspires staffer to write. (n.d.). Retrieved January 07, 2017, from

[14] Lovett, M. What the hell is going on Capitalism etc 2016-17.ppt, MD4214. University of Gloucestershire, unpublished.

[15] Witt, S. (2015). How music got free: the end of an industry, the turn of the century, and the patient zero of piracy. New York: Viking.

[16] Label Execs Talk ‘Decline of Record Business, Rise of Music Business’ at New Music Seminar. (n.d.). Retrieved January 05, 2017, from

[17] Jones, M. L. (2012). The music industries: from conception to consumption.

[18] Midem. (2016, June 05). How Blockchain can Change the Music Industry – Midem 2016. Retrieved January 07, 2017, from

[19] Manjoo, F. (2009, October 19). How does the music-identifying app Shazam work its magic? Retrieved January 10, 2017, from

[20] Midem. (2016, June 05). How Blockchain can Change the Music Industry – Midem 2016. Retrieved January 08, 2017, from

[21] Washtell, F. (2016, July 14). How to revive the music industry, Blockchain could bring about a revolution (C., Ed.). Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

[22] Midem. (2016, June 05). How Blockchain can Change the Music Industry – Midem 2016. Retrieved January 07, 2017, from