28 September 2020


'Music as a Technology of Surveillance' by Eric A Drott in (2018) 12(3) Journal of the Society for American Music 233-267 comments 

 This article explores surveillance in cloud-based music streaming. Key catalysts in the transition from ownership- to access-based models of music distribution, services like Spotify, Pandora, or Deezer have positioned themselves as a means of reintegrating listeners into “digital enclosures” over which rights holders exercise greater control. Yet streaming's promise of remonetizing musical commodities demonetized by filesharing has been called into doubt by difficulties in converting users of advertising-based “freemium” services into paying subscribers. In need of alternative means of extracting value from users, streaming platforms have increasingly refashioned themselves as enterprises whose business extends beyond music-related services to encompass the collection, aggregation, and exchange of user data. In pursuing this strategy, streaming platforms place themselves in direct competition with other new media companies trading in user data. In order to distinguish themselves from such competitors, streaming platforms cast music as a particularly valuable source of data, offering privileged access to listeners’ innermost selves. But they also cast music as an ideal tracking device, accompanying individuals across a variety of social, physical and geographical spaces. In this way, the very attributes that make music so powerful a “technology of the self” facilitate its transformation into an equally powerful technology of surveillance.