March 3, 2014
Please join us this coming Thursday, 6 March, for our penultimate EthNoise presentation of the Winter Quarter.
We are delighted to host Owen Kohl, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago
GOH 205, 4.30 – 6.00pm
“Sounding Like an Uncertain Future: Hip Hop Economics in a Post-Industrial Context of Scarcity”
The Yugoslav music industry, which continues to be locally portrayed as once the envy of other Eastern European states, underwent a dramatic transformation during the 1990s. The biographies of ex-YU artists, consumers, and distributors straddle a period of seemingly never-ending ‘transitions,’ not only from self-managed state socialism to neoliberal democracy, but also within a regional music industry whose business models have radically changed in the wake of new forms of legal, quasi-legal, and primarily illegal digital distribution. Music scholars have explored in detail the war-time politicization of musical differences along national lines (e.g., Baker 2010, Čolović 2008, Gordy 1999), but the ongoing transformation of the socialist-era industry has yet to be as systematically thematized. Artists often narrate the transformation of the record business in ex-YU in terms that run parallel to the trajectories of other regional industries that have been subject to bankruptcy, offshoring, and forms of ‘rational’ restructuring. Despite the recent proliferation of music festivals, independent labels, and clubs that distribute and support ‘alternative’ genres, pursuing hip hop in any sort of professional capacity demands that most artists must have other sources of income. Ex-YU remains a region in which Apple’s iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, eBay, and other legal online distributors of music remain largely absent. Regional music rights organizations now try to curb rampant illegal download in order to recoup profits. However, a vociferous debate rages among artists as to whose future the support of intellectual property law, the crass mass mediated promotion of pop genres, and a more integrated EUropean future best serves. Now that gigabytes of music are downloaded with swift mouse-clicks as opposed to painstakingly collected, older DJs lament the increased competition for scant gigs and the deterioration of listening practices. In Chapter 2, I analyze artists’ articulations of present-day professional limitation and argue that the past, sometimes including an era of ‘good life’ socialism, often emerges as a nostalgia-inflected historical epoch during which music could be more than just a hobby for a broader demographic of performers.
Owen Kohl: As a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology, Kohl attends to the shifting significations of ‘urban’ music, national identity, and economically re-structured local culture industries on EUrope’s southeastern periphery. His dissertation research is focused specifically on a newly transnational network of hip hop musicians in Zagreb, Croatia, Belgrade, Serbia, and Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. This follows on his earlier investigation of global manifestations of hip hop social practices in France, Senegal, Croatia, Russia, and Mongolia.