Napster and beyond: How online music can transform the dynamics of musical production and consumption in DIY subcultures

Jhessica Reia


Online music distribution has been changing since Napster first appeared in 1999, and it certainly caused several impacts on musical production, distribution, consumption and sharing dynamics, particularly among those subcultures that are notoriously active at the margins of the music industry. This paper aims to discuss how the emergence of Napster opened a way for producing, sharing and consuming music that has benefited DIY youth cultures in Brazil, with a special focus on the straight edge community in the city of São Paulo. This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out between 2011 and 2013, which had online music as a permeating analytical subject. Even after three decades of existence, straight edge still has significant activities around music festivals and DIY musical production, affirming that the Internet — from Napster to social networks — improved their access to the international scene and bands (mainly through downloads, authorized or illicit), as much as it has served as a window for showing their own work to the world. Online music has a crucial role in São Paulo straight edge: some bands cannot release an LP, but they can put it on the Internet to share with potentially interested people and with friends. Moreover, the simultaneity of distributive forms is also interesting, since both digital music and vinyl records co-occur among them. Furthermore, discussions around piracy and ‘illegal’ digital file sharing are an important feature of this context, stressing the perspectives straight edgers have on copyright — whether it belongs to them or to other parties.

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