MP3s and ‘The Great Firewall of China’

Phil Gyford links to a very nice article about the way Chinese DJ’s are using the net to get the latest Western music. It seems ‘illegal downloads’ are playing a major part in establishing contemporary music culture, and that part of the social kudos of the downloads is their illegal status:

“Among some in the Chinese underground hiphop scene, only tracks which have been downloaded are considered truly “underground” and thus valuable, while any music which is available for purchase in physical form is seen as being tainted by commerciality to some degree”

This reminds me of the way in which northern soul DJs used to cover up their singles with white labels, so that other DJs or clubbers couldn’t identify the tracks. What’s interesting here is that the physical form itself is seen as ‘uncool’ – only MP3s or anonymous CDRs are seen as ‘authentic’.

Is this, like the fad for i-Pod Parties, a sign that music culture is mutating from fetishising material objects (vinyl records, gig tickets, autographs, etc) to fetishising participation and networks (playlists, cut-and-paste bootlegs, P2P, etc)?

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