Music Piracy and the Value of Sound, 1909-1976


Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowships




This project analyzes the industrialization of sound and its conflicted evolution as a form of property in twentieth-century America. It uses debates about piracy to highlight changes in the ways consumers, businesses, and legal authorities understood music. The project identifies key technologies, such as tape recording, that made it easier for consumers to copy music, and examines the pirated record as a form of cultural expression. In the process, it exposes the roots of piracy in an American economic infrastructure that produces both entertainment and the means to appropriate it. The project concludes that artists and labels may deemphasize the model of selling sound as an object (e.g. a CD), instead exploring ways to profit from the free distribution of music through digital media.