A photo of the Twitch iOS app displayed on an iPhone X provided by Caspar Camille Rubin on Unsplash. May 26, 2018

THE NEUTRAL ZONE: DEEP DIVE

The music industry continues to reshape itself in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the unveiling of new platforms, as well as rising cultural influences and trends.

The popular video streaming platform Twitch is bumping heads with the music industry over the method by which it processes copyright claims. Twitch streamers have enjoyed light supervision in regard to playing copyrighted music on livestreams until lately, as The Digital Millennium Copyright Act led to a crackdown and multiple suspensions of popular Twitch accounts for playing unlicensed music. The Recording Industry Association of America alongside several other music industry organizations has called for stricter actions by platforms such as Twitch, stating the streaming service is “allowing and enabling its streamers to use our respective members’ music without authorization, in violation of Twitch’s music guidelines.”

Video streaming platform YouTube continues to inch its way into music streaming, recently adding a music platform akin to  Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. Backed by Google Play Music, YouTube Music aims to continue to develop its user experience and curate personalized playlists through targeted user data for what the platform describes as an “eclectic listening experience.”

Technology is not limited to the business development end of the music industry either, as companies like Chile’s “Runway” are using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to create music. 

Artificial intelligence could also replace artists themselves in some instances. K-Pop girl-group Aespa makes its musical debut on Nov 17 with four human singers as well as four respective “avatars” that will represent the “AI personas”. The group name Aespa is a mash-up of “Avatar X Experience” and the word “aspect” to signify the dual identities of the real-life and artificial personas. “Members in the real world and members in the virtual world share an AI brain that will allow them to meet with each other in the digital world and talk to each other and help each other by sharing information about their respective worlds,” stated Lee Soo-man, head of the group’s record label SM Entertainment. “Humankind is going through a dynamic change in lifestyle due to the technological revolution. The future will be all about celebrities and robots. And with our new girl group, we open up the doors to a new future in entertainment.”

The virtual aspect of Aespa has led to a conversation concerning the dehumanization of K-pop artists as well as the promotion of unrealistic body images, although these concerns seem to be more prevalent among Western K-pop fans due to cultural differences in the way technology is viewed. USC communication professor Lee Hye-jin noted the difference in conversation around the band between Koreans and Westerners, stating that Koreans took less of an issue with dehumanization because they “don’t think about technology as ‘social problems’ but as tools to fix social ills.”

K-pop supergroup Blackpink became the world’s most popular musical artist in October. Despite the fact that most of the lyrics in songs performed by K-pop acts such as BTS and Blackpink are in Korean, their popularity and mass appeal continue to grow in both Spanish- and English-speaking countries. The K-pop fandom is rapidly becoming an influential part of American subculture, as many memes involving the U.S. presidential election mimicked the “fancam” style posts originally made popular by fans of the South Korean genre. K-pop fans have also banded together using social media platforms to engage in forms of politically motivated activism, notably having been responsible for trolling a President Donald Trump rally in June.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

Blackpink Is the Biggest Pop Group In the World, A First For South Korea – Bloomberg – 11/10/2020
Alongside the boy group BTS, Blackpink has achieved a level of global popularity unprecedented in the history of music. Musicians that speak English have traveled all over the world for decades. Musicians that speak Spanish have started to top the charts across the Western hemisphere over the last decade. But only in the past couple of years have acts from Asia developed such strong followings across the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

Houston Rock N’ Rolls Out Relief to Bayou City’s Struggling Music Industry – Houstonia Magazine – 11/10/20 Eligible musicians will receive up to $5,000, and eligible music venues can receive up to $50,000 or $100,000, depending on the size of their budget, according to a press release. To quality, musicians and venues must live/be located within the city limits; must provide evidence of how business revenue has decreased due to challenges created by the pandemic; and must be in good financial standing with the city. A weighted scoring matrix will be used to ensure funds are distributed equitably. 

Musically Fed offers help to struggling music industry workers – Atlanta Journal-Constitution – 11/10/2020
From Kenny Chesney to the Zac Brown Band, Elton John to The Lumineers, artists willingly donated their unused food. But then the pandemic hit, and Brunner started receiving different kinds of calls. Anonymous calls from people who work in the music industry — one that employs more than 12 million people nationally and is still almost entirely shut down, with scarce federal aid to staunch the hemorrhaging.

Country stars call out ‘hypocrisy’ of crowded Biden celebrations amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic – Fox News – 11/10/2020
“Time to start booking shows,” said the star on his Instagram story, per Variety. “The hypocrisy is unreal.” He added: “If you don’t agree with me, fine. We can still be friends. But I have a family, band and crew that need to be provided for and taken care of. If it’s OK for us to party in the streets with no ‘social distancing’ then we can book shows right now.” Wallen, 27, was pulled from his October “Saturday Night Live” appearance early in the month after being spotted at a crowded house party with no face covering or social distancing.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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