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‘Music that actually matters’? Post-internet musicians, retromania and authenticity in online popular musical milieux

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posted on 2023-08-30, 14:38 authored by Michael Waugh
This thesis is the first academic text to apply the notion of the ‘Post-Internet’ to music, uniquely deploying the concept to stress the role that authenticity has played in contemporary online musical milieux. Using digital aesthetics and themes, Post-Internet art considers a symbiotic relationship between post-millennial youths and their technological devices that has ramifications for contemporary identity and communication. This thesis argues that Post-Internet musical cultures also exhibit these motifs. Much academic analysis of post-millennial musical milieux is narrowly focused on changes to the music industry that occurred at the turn of the millennium, or maintains that the mass archives of the Internet promote retromanic musical production. This thesis contrastingly analyses contemporary musicians that evince Post-Internet themes in their music and self-representation. One of the thesis’ original claims is that these musicians have developed an authentic representation of Post-Internet existence due to their sensitive examination of post-millennial cultural and personal experiences. Post-Internet themes and academic debates about authenticity are presented as a key context for the textual analyses of these undertheorised Post-Internet musicians. The thesis’ multi-disciplinary focus draws on posthumanism, queer theory, notions of information overload, social media theory and representation politics. Academic works by theorists such as Simon Frith, Simon Reynolds, Nathan Jurgenson, Mark Fisher, Sarah Thornton, Richard Middleton, Adam Harper and Steve Jones are analysed. The texts explored in this thesis include albums, YouTube videos, social media, live performances, games and digital mixes. References to influential blogs and magazines such as Pitchfork and The Fader illustrate online reaction to these musicians and emphasise the authentic reputation that they have attained. I conducted fifteen interviews with the key musicians, exploring the perspectives of these practitioners as a means to illuminate their oeuvres. The research spotlights, for the first time, music that self-consciously expresses Post-Internet themes to explore digital technology’s impact on identity, culture and society. One of the key original arguments offered is that these artists develop authentic representations of Post-Internet cultural and personal experience through their output and public personas. The conclusion notes that the aesthetic trend outlined here has also informed mainstream musicians, with many commercially successful artists appropriating from, and collaborating with, Post-Internet musicians in order to develop a comparably authentic representation of Post-Internet culture and identity.



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