Vinyl Meltdown: Side B

Part 1 in Datacide 13 set out the dialectical character of noise, arguing that distribution media can be used to amplify a disciplining or intensifying function, and that for those attempting to create spaces of possibility media becomes an important site of struggle. Here, part 2 looks closer at the move from tangible to intangible sound objects, and the tension between engagement and pacification.

The strange loop
In 1999 it was rumoured that more turntables were sold than guitars (Collins; 2003). True or not, the turntable was by this point an acknowledged performance tool and for decades had been an important part of sound system culture. 1999 was also the year that Napster launched as a crude software tool that allowed peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing of digital copies of MP3s. MP3 compressed audio files making it possible to move them around electronic networks easily. MP3 compression was a standard developed by and for the culture industry, and together with the transmission potential of the internet and advances in digital audio recording, it appeared to enable a ‘democratisation’ of the means for distribution. The possibilities for the distribution of audio were emphasised by those interested in self-organising at the time. As Douglas Kellner and Steven Best pointed out in an essay written in the late 90s: [Read more →]