Most of us humans take pleasure in listening to music, however what seems to differ is the economic value that we ascribe to the music we listen to.

With the inception of mp3 downloads (whether this be legally or illegally), YouTube and streaming sites such as Spotify and Grooveshark, has made listening to our favourite music very easy and very cheap. I remember the days when I’d try to record a song of the radio onto a cassette tape, and I’m still only in my 20s!

“These changes have raised a number of questions to which present research has largely failed to give satisfactory answers. For example, why do some individuals continue to buy physical copies of music, when it is unquestionably cheaper and more convenient to download the same songs electronically? One possible explanation is that some people might use music to define and express their identity more readily than others, and as a consequence exhibit a greater willingness to pay for music and engage in the conspicuous consumption of music.

Sociological analyses of music have for some time considered the possible socio-cultural and economic significance of musical taste, and the symbolic role music consumption might play in the development / expression of an individual’s identity. Only recently have psychologists attempted to address this question, and now there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that the development of our musical tastes is, to some extent, informed by considerations of self-identity and group membership. This studentship will therefore invite students to consider a variety of different topics areas (e.g. psychology, sociology, economics) to explore how these social factors might influence the way people use, respond to, and value music.”

(Lonsdale, 2014)

I know that I still prefer to buy physical copies of music because that way I actually feel like I own it – I have a physical object otherwise if it’s in a digital format I don’t feel I can have ownership over something which does not have a corporeal form. However I have recently downloaded my very first album but this was because it will be featured on my social media profile once I have written a review on it and I want to be seen to be associated with this particular musician. I still feel like I would own the music more if I had a physical copy, but in this instance it is a small sacrifice to pay.

Even though the music may be more expensive this way, if it is music that I want to own enough to pay money for it in the first place then a couple of pounds more isn’t much to pay. However, these days it is very easy to listen to good quality music online, and as most people now listen to music on their pc or laptop having CDs isn’t so important if you want to listen to music, as it was say 10 years ago when internet was all dial-up and probably limited bandwidth.

I have friends who also prefer to still buy physical copies of music for the artwork. Although this can be downloaded at the same time as the music, it is still not the same as holding a physical copy. I believe it is this dichotomy between tangible and non-tangible that music (and books) is the reason why there are still people who refrain from legally downloading music and would rather purchase a physical copy.

Writing this raised the following questions in my mind: Is music involved in the construction of self-identity in non-musicians? And what are the differences between non-musicians who have music as a constituent of their identity and non-musicians who do not have music as a constituent of their identity?


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