Music in the audiovisual context of Social Media short-form-videos Brief insight into the current state of research on music in digital media and further research directions “work in progress”-paper

Carolin Geyer

1.       Purpose

The following article is a “work in progress”-piece that is part of the dissertation with the working title: Music in the audiovisual context of social media short-form videos that was presented at the Doctoral Conference at the Faculty of Music JAMU 2020. The purpose of this article is to provide an insight into the current state of research on music in digital media and my scholarly interest of my dissertation. To achieve this purpose, the article begins with background information on the impact of digitalization on the music industry and musical usage. Followed by a broad definition of music and (social) media. Subsequently the current state of research on the topic will be presented with the help of a brief literature review. The goal is to bring the reader up to date with the current literature on the topic. Furthermore, I will theorize about the subject and state the reasons for my scholarly interest. The article will conclude with future research directions.

2.       Introduction

In the past century, technology has changed the production, distribution, and possibilities for reception of music considerably. The invention of the phonograph by Thomas A. Edison in 1877 paved the way for the technical conditions of transforming the musical communication process. For the first time, music became independent of time and space. In 1923 the first radio service in Berlin (then known as “the wireless”) started broadcasting on a regular basis. By 1925 it already had one million listeners. Over the next couple of decades, different physical mediums, such as the cassette tape, and nonphysical mediums, like “the wireless” become more significant. The advancement of the sound carriers, their corresponding players and their establishment as a music medium became an industry of its own (Burow, 2001; Gronow, 1983; Wicke, 2019). This technological evolution facilitates new ways of experiencing music. Silent movies, sound films and the development of the video recorder transform music into an artistic element and integral component of cinematic dramaturgy. As a result, music as part of media became part of the everyday life of their recipients more and more. The rise of music television and the consequent visualization as well as globalization of music, prompts music culture to change again. In the early 1970s the record industry started producing promotion clips and the usage of pop music for advertisement purposes increased. This usage can be understood as a precursor of today’s video clips. Digitalization and the resulting data compression methods, such as a high data quality, increased the music distribution of nonphysical formats even further. The digitalization gave the music industry an improvement of recording- and playback capacities, a revolution in production- and reproduction technology that simultaneously changed traditional concepts of live performances (Burow, 2001; A. Schmidt, 1999). Because of these changes in music production, new means in terms of the availability of music, the reproducibility, as well as an additional mobilization of music presented themselves. It should be added that because of the digitalization, the presentation of music becomes exceedingly independent of space-time co-presence (Anderton et al., 2013; Smudits, 2013). From this, it can be deduced that the audio-visual content is not being received in places, like the movie theatre, that are explicitly conceptualized for its reception. A technological change had been implemented by making it possible to format visual, auditory, visual performative but also typographic content into abstract data. This created the possibility to process the data continuously. It is apparent that audio-visual material adopts and evolves existing communicative cultural skills, creating something new in the process. Humans create culture, the created culture in turn changes the life conditions. This is accompanied by an active and autonomous multimodal usage by the users of digital technology. Especially adolescents engage themselves in media and music while reaching maturity. In this process music in a media context serve as an orientation aid, as they influence the construction of their self-image and worldview and thus represent a central role of socialization. In addition, adolescent show a high competence and creativity while actively receiving music. By experiencing music, it is also possible to influence emotions and help process internal struggles, which helps with their socialization. Furthermore, music consumption has been rising steadily, especially with adolescents. This can, in part, be explained by the fact that music has taken up an omnipresent role in our everyday life and that it helps adolescents to set processes of self-discovery in motion (Dollase, 2005; Friedemann & Hoffmann, 2013). This implies that when music is received by the media it is not solely for entertainment purposes, but also in order to think about and anticipate the demands of society in regard to socialization processes.

Against this background, it is not about one-dimensional concepts of effect, but about an understanding of the everyday handling of music in digital media from the perspective of the active recipient.

2.1.       The impact of digitalization on the music industry

Statistical information shows that the use of digital technologies and the Internet is increasing globally. Today, the Internet is used by over four billion people. The social networks have around 3.8 billion active users per month who, on average, spend more than two hours logged in every day (Poleshova, 2020; Statista, 2019). These developments influence the music industry and the related concept of music distribution in different ways. Organizations and Internet-based media, which previously were not related to the music industry, are now highly relevant to the value chain and its related range of music. This includes music downloads and music streaming services like Apple Music, Amazon or Spotify as well as social networks and messaging services which allow access and the reception to music. These do not see themselves as curators or creators, but as technology companies. The core business of this lies in the collection and distribution of data supported by algorithmic recommendation systems based on analyses of listening behaviour. At the same time, the emergence of these platforms has led to the fact that music is no longer exclusively marketed through companies in the phonographic industry, but rather that musicians can autonomously distribute their music via the Internet as independent artistic entrepreneurs. This leads to substantial changes in the relationship of power, as well as to distribution and market structures. Particularly through social media (SoMe) the phonographic industry has lost its exclusive role of music public relations and music marketing. SoMe – complemented by user generated content (UGC) – makes it possible to address large audiences, which previously was only possible through traditional media (Tschmuck, 2016, 2020). In addition, the different apps and platforms can be connected to each other and content can be transferred from one to the other. For instance, the biggest viral songs from TikTok Music can be found in a regularly updated “TikTok Trending 2021” playlist on the music streaming service Spotify (@RexDow, 2021).

The mentioned statistics intentionally refer to the time before the lockdown carried out in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So far, it cannot be ruled out that the lack of public spaces, the Europe-wide lockdown and curfews have resulted in a relocation of leisure activities to SoMe. Apart from that, considering the worldwide download rates, TikTok (Chinese: Douyin), a SoMe platform for short-form videos, emerges as a new trend in the fourth quarter of 2019, especially among young people. In January 2020, TikTok recorded almost 800 million active users globally in 141 countries, making it the sixth largest social network and messenger worldwide. In 2016, Beijing Bytedance Technology brought TikTok to the market and is now considered the most valuable unlisted company (Einhorn) in the world (adjust GmbH, 2020, o.S.; Poleshova, 2020, p. 6). The economic potential of music plays a major role here because the music is located at an interface between culture and industry, which interact with each other and shape music at the same time. It is a complex connection between appropriation, production and representation. The media representation of music inevitably leads to changed approaches and thus to a media and technologically determined appropriation of music. This media context in which music is conveyed in turn leads to more attention and a greater reach, which can indirectly or directly lead to increased sales and profits (Seifert, 2018). These explanations can be demonstrated using the example of Lil Nas‘ country trap song Old Town Road and its medial conveyance via SoMe video platforms. After its first release on YouTube, combined with excerpts from the computer game Red Dead Redemption 2, the song subsequently led to a record deal with Sony Music for Lil Nas via TikTok. Based on the YouTube video, a TikTok user generated a 15-second challenge that went viral, turning TikTok into a promotional tool (Chow, Andrew, R., 2019).

This example shows on the one hand the positive effects for musicians and the music industry and on the other hand the economic potential for technology companies. Due to the enormous demand for TikTok clips, with millions to tens of millions of views and the associated potential, the largest video streaming platform YouTube with the App Shorts and the largest social image network Instagram with the App Reels followed at the end of 2020 (Heath & Toonkel, 2020). Reels‘ basic feature set is incredibly similar to TikTok’s. Only the editing options differ slightly. In addition, content from TikTok can be uploaded as reels. These developments indicate that the music industry is entering a new phase in the digital music revolution. SoMe short-form videos are not only a means of marketing music and the musicians themselves, but also serve to market services and consumer goods. On the one hand, music itself can be sold at low cost and, on the other hand, music can be used to advertise other products effectively and efficiently. An economic and strategic advertising coupling of music to visual content for better marketing, for example a tourist destination or an event and, as it were, a pure consumer good, is increasingly being used. The attention-drawing and attention-grabbing structure of SoMe results in new possibilities for integrating cross-genre music in advertising strategies. In view of the developments through digitalization and Web 2.0 as well as the worldwide download rates, audiovisual content is emerging as a trend and a new form of advertising (Fahr & Bell, 2016). This suggests an expanded commercialization and instrumentalization of music through digital and global medialization, which could lead to the economic aspect of music dominating and music being produced as a product for a mass audience. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets make their contribution through quick and easy operation and good quality video recordings (Holman & Baum, 2013). With the supply of video clips and the video editing features contained therein, as well as the large, freely available music library, it is currently possible to easily produce, share and consume audiovisual online videos from a few seconds to a few minutes. These new possibilities have also contributed to a fusion of active music-making and passive music reception.

2.2.       The impact of digitalization on musical usage

Simultaneously, the technological advancements have led to yet changes in musical culture. The music culture, once directed by the music industry, is now determined by the recipients, and expresses itself as a demanded music culture by the recipients (Tschmuck, 2016). Accordingly, music can take on different functions, especially in connection with SoMe video clips. On the one hand, music is produced multiple times on a media basis, distributed and received, whereby the technology enables a diverse and creative use of media content. On the other hand, users are discovering musical titles via SoMe channels and thus contributing to virtual communities. The cooperative and collaborative processes that result from liking, posting, and commenting create new realities. Media and music are an orientation aid for adolescents, as they influence the construction of the self-image and worldview and can thus play a central role in socialization. Today it is possible for young people to express their affinity for music, musicians, or certain music genres via SoMe. Posters, mix tapes and specific band clothing are no longer necessary. As a result, the utilized media have a tremendous influence on what music is and how it is experienced, how it is understood and how music is used (IFPI, 2019; Münch, 2018; Richter, 2015; Ruth, 2019). In addition, music is integrated into video clips and incorporated into contexts that address other levels of meaning in addition to the sound experience. The multimedia interplay of images, narration and music also results in a variety of effects, as they reach the recipient via different sensory modalities. The reason for this is that music is primarily integrated into the context of visual user interfaces in the context of reception. These aspects can have a lasting influence on the individual as well as the handling of music and are therefore mandatory for understanding music-related behaviour (Bullerjahn & Hantschel, 2018; Münch, 2018). This leads to the assumption that a change in usage gives rise to new listening situations and habits, but also that the means of access to music are expanding. Music is omnipresent across genres, when actively communicating about and receiving it, as well as background or accompanying music. Musical video clips represent a large part of the fast-moving audiovisual culture (Neumann-Braun & Mikos, 2006).

SoMe short video productions are an important trend across a wide range of platforms on the internet. Within the last five years, auditory moving image projects have spread rapidly due to the digital transformation. Due to the novelty of the format and the interactive use, unresolved questions exist. What effect the new media and the behaviour of the active recipients will have on developments in musical culture cannot be estimated at this point in time.

Against this background, the question arise, what part does music take in the composition of diversified and user-generated audiovisual content and to which extend has this has significance for the use and appropriation of music in SoMe short-form videos.

3.       Music and media

Following on the introduction of background information on the impact of digitalization on the music industry and musical usage, this chapter is dedicated to terminological clarification. In the following, the aim is not to find generally valid definitions, but rather to improve understanding for the reader. Because I am interested in exploring music in an audiovisual context it is necessary to first clarify the term music.

By today’s word usage, music has a very broad range of meaning. In various lexicons, the word music as well as the Latin word musica is derived from the Greek word, μουσική (mousike), which translates to art of the muses. This expression stands for musical art, poetry and dance (Duden, 2020). Numerous attempts at definition throughout history show that the definitions mostly describe only part of the complex overall phenomenon of music.

In antiquity, the Middle Ages and in the musical definitions of the 18th century, reference is made to the ambiguity of music as a science and as an art form. Subsequently the term music has been emotionally influenced by various poets, which puts experience and sensation in the foreground through the connection of tones. Over the centuries the term has undergone various changes in meaning. This shows that music is dependent on its historical, sociological and cultural origins and can occur in a variety of ways (Hüschen, 2016; Riethmüller, 2016). This indicates that music is an integral part of culture, which constructs and organizes social action. Music, whether it is utility music, art music, light music or serious music “[…] is characterized by a multi-layered structure. The individual constituents of the structure such as melody, rhythm, harmony, timbre, tempo and dynamics condense in the course of time into a structure of meaning with several levels of information” (Rösing, 1983, p. 4). Music is contextual because of its ambiguity. It only works through the musical reception, because without the sound of a piece of music and conscious auditory perception, it is not possible to absorb the intended musical message of the musician and turn it into a musical work of art. In contrast to perception, musical reception is to be understood as a conscious auditory perception and the emotional and rational processing of an aesthetically intended stimulus. The multi-dimensionality of music must be considered, which is important for the understanding of the musical work due to the external environment, such as the social milieu, tradition, culture of the individual, transmission formats and time. Here it can be argued that music is a specific way of conveying information with emotional-affective and poetic-associative levels of information. The reception takes place in an active process in the form of a “[…] creative act of appropriation, which actively processes, analyzes and spontaneously structures incoming stimuli and inserts them into the context of previous experiences, attitudes and needs […]” (396). This means that it is an active perception and interpretation of the sound event and that reception is also seen as an active creative process that takes place on several sensory levels (Rösing, 1983; Ross, 1983).

3.1.       Social Media

Likewise, a plurality is to be applied in relation to the term media. Even if the expressions new media, medium or even social media have already long established themselves in everyday language, there can be no talk of a uniform term for media in science.

In general, „media“ is a tool for people to communicate, with media specifically serving to record, transmit and reproduce information. Based on this definition and the everyday usage of the term “media”, objects or things such as the smartphone or the radio are to be regarded as media (Burow, 2001).

The defining characteristic of the subject of investigation is that it is digital and online. This refers directly to the internet and prioritizes the element of connectivity as well as communication. Therefore, the use of technical aids on both sides of the information flow is required. With the first emergence of social network platforms, Web 1.0 has changed from pure information consumption to a participatory Web 2.0. Which led to new possibilities between mass media and interpersonal communication, due to web-based communications tools that enable users to interact with each other independent of time and place. In a wide cited definition by Kaplan and Haenlein (2010, p. 61) the term social media is defined as “a group of Intent-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundation of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content”. This prioritize the organized communication of people who are interested in relationships, thereby “focusing social interaction and the exchange of self-created, either content-related or person-related information” in a many-to-many communication setting (Kollmann, 2019, p. 671). Users create content, share it, network and can represent explicit relationships in the form of contacts or confirmed friends. Without specific technical knowledge, it is possible to publish audiovisual content on the internet, reaching audiences worldwide (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010; J.-H. Schmidt, 2018).

According to J.-H. Schmidt (2018) the wide variety of different SoMe platforms can be divided into specific categories. Into

(1) Multimedia Platforms, which focus on uploaded content such as images, videos, or music tracks, and

(2) Blogs, which focus on diary-like text documentation. Schmidt also distinguishes between

(3) Instant Messaging Services such as WeChat, Snapchat, or WhatsApp, which focus on individual communication by means of an additional chat system, and

(4) Wikis, which refer to the exchange of knowledge mostly in the form of an online encyclopedia.

Since the integration and publication of audiovisual content in and between almost all the above-mentioned SoMe forms is technically possible, figure 1 shows a subcategorization in relation to the disclosed content on the platforms. Figure 1 illustrates the best-known social networks in German-speaking countries in combination with the largest SoMe platforms worldwide, categorized according to the number of users in January 2020 (Statista 2020). It should be noted that the boundaries between these categories are not clearly outlined. Instagram, for example, is originally based on imagery content and therefore considered as “social image network”. But with the new implemented feature Reels, it is possible to post video content in addition.

Figure 1: Social Media categorization (own illustration)

To provide an insight into the current state of research on music in electronic and digital media, with a specific focus on SoMe, the term Social Media is classified according to the definition of Kaplan and Haenlein. Thereby, access to music takes place by means of digital media and the access possibilities are determined by media technology.

4.       Brief literature overview of music in media

To make sense of the complexities of the topic I conducted a narrow literature review, drawing from disparate areas of research. In science, different types of literature reviews are carried out using different methods. These can mostly be divided into traditional and systematic literature research. A narrow literature review is a mostly selective selection of literature that provides a broad overview of a specific research topic. This mostly serves to identify a gap in research and to classify one’s own research (Hart, 2018).

4.1.       Music in electronic and digital media

Music in electronic and digital media has already been examined in sub-areas of the complex and interdisciplinary research area with well-founded scientific results. The manuals by Holger Schramm et al. (2017; 2019) address current issues relating to music and the media and go into the history of their development. In addition, the handbook Youth, Music and Socialization by Robert Heyer et al. (2013) provides individual chapters on the complex relationship between music socialization, music acquisition processes and the media. There are also some descriptive surveys, that provide results on everyday media life and music listening behaviour (Bernath et al., 2020; Clement et al., 2019; IFPI, 2019, 2020). Volume 29 of the yearbook Music psychology (2019) focuses on aspects of listening to music in an audiovisual context and points out that this is the most common form of music reception today. The issue deals with a variety of topics, such as music in movies or commercials, as well as the behaviour of streaming service users on the Internet. Studies on the topic of music on SoMe or, more specifically, music in social video networks, however, have not been published.

Music streaming and music piracy

In recent years, a large number of studies have examined music streaming services and the psychological effects of music streaming on recipients, as well as the importance of music streaming for music piracy (Dörr et al., 2013; Hampton-Sosa, 2017a, 2017b; Henning & Ruth, 2020; Lee et al., 2020; Sinclair & Tinson, 2017; Stark & Weichselbaum, 2013). Bolduc and Kinnally (2018) provide results on possible factors that influence digital music listening behaviour on music streaming services. They point out that the theory of planned behaviour, which is used to understand and predict behaviour, needs to be expanded to include social identification. If we consider this expansion, it is possible to have a better understanding of people’s intentions regarding digital music streaming services and listening time. Their study suggests that people see music as a significant part of their social identity, spend more time on digital music streaming services and are more likely to provide psychographic information to the streaming services. From an economic point of view, this behaviour is advantageous for streaming services’ possible marketing measures. From the findings of the study by Bolduc and Kinnally (2018), it can be deduced that social identification is promoted through interaction with other users. Considering the implementation of music in a SoMe short form video platform, it can be assumed that a longer length of stay is achieved through interaction with other users and that there is an increased need for users to share activities, interests, and opinions. The theory of planned behaviour as well as the model of technological acceptance, which attempt to predict the use of certain applications, were often used in connection with music streaming services for studies on music piracy (Dörr et al., 2013; Henning & Ruth, 2020). Stark and Weichselbaum (2013) deal with the active recipients and their handling of the changed digital media environment, in their case study on web radio, with the Uses and Gratification Approach. Here they work out how to deal with the new interactive and personalized listening experience as well as the available music tailored to individual preferences and usage behaviour.

Film music and commercial

Further research on the effect and function of music in the audiovisual context can be found in the sub-disciplines of film music and ludomusicology. Various studies show that music acts as an emotional-cognitive support for narration in film, television, advertising and video (games) and that computer game music as a design element can evoke an immersive and intense gaming experience (Bullerjahn, 2001; Fritsch, 2018; Herget, 2020; Kuchinke et al., 2013; Palencia-Lefler, 2020; Pauli, 1981; Singel-Voigt, 2014). In this context, Anabel Cohen (2013) has developed a model for the cognitive processing of film music by recipients, which has been expanded several times to this day. Research on music and advertising has produced meaningful results over the past few years. Studies show that music in combination with moving images can influence the behaviour of the recipients and has a positive effect on the marketing of services and products (Breves et al., 2020; Galan, 2009; Herget et al., 2020; Lalwani et al., 2009; Shevy & Hung, 2013). For example, Yuanyuan Chen et al. (2019) found out, that music has a positive effect on the imagination of recipients and thus create an emotional bond with a tourist destination without them having visited it before.

Music clips and the effect of digitalization on music 

In 1996 the Uses and Gratification Approach was already used by Klaus Behne and Renate Müller to research the meaning of music in music videos. In doing so, they worked out five different dimensions related to the specific musical experience and discovered that young people experience music videos mainly audibly and audiovisually (Müller & Behne, 1996). In addition, there are studies that deal with the life of musicians, especially of young people, in the media environment, as well as with music appropriation from convergent media, the formation of media repertoires, changed music preferences and listening habits (Baumann et al., 2010; Behne, 2001; Lepa, 2014; Pluretti & Bobkowski, 2019; Smudits, 2004).

Müller (1993, 1999; 2002) examines music, media and young people from a sociological perspective, as well as musical socialization in this context. Looking at audiovisual content and the reception of music videos on television, some studies have shown that young people are very interested in the reception of music videos. In addition, specific, stylistic and design features of music videos as well as usage motifs were worked out. However, the more recent studies are mainly limited to the reception of the main music broadcasters at the time, MTV and VIVA (Grüninger & Lindemann, 1995; Neumann-Braun, 1999; Neumann-Braun & Mikos, 2006; Sun & Lull, 1986). Taking into consideration the theory of digital mediamorphosis by Kurt Blaukopf (1989), various studies deal with the effects of digitalization on music and cultural creation, as well as on the change in musical culture and explicit changes in the manners of appropriation of pop music (Smudits 2002, 2013, 2007; Sperlich 2007; Seifert 2018).

On the subject of music in SoMe in conjunction with self-marketing and image creation, some research deals with user-generated content on social networks and, in general, with the consumption of music videos on video platforms such as YouTube (Airoldi et al., 2016; Astigarraga-Agirre et al., 2016; Dewan & Ramaprasad, 2014; Edmond, 2014; Hiller, 2016). Research on SoMe clips from social video platforms and apps such as TikTok focused primarily on the medium itself and the effects it has on recipients across various scientific disciplines. Music is given little or no consideration in this context (Z. Chen et al., 2019; Wang, 2020; Zhang et al., 2019; Zhu et al., 2020).

Taken together, the literature points to a wide interdisciplinarity and heterogeneity of research interest among disciplines. Considering this, Bullerjahn and Hantschel (2018) postulate that the results on music in the audiovisual context from numerous studies show methodological weaknesses and thus do not allow any clear statements or logical conclusions. They also point out that interdisciplinary collaboration is the exception, which leads to only limited comparability of the results. In addition, Friedemann and Hoffmann (2013) argue that the long-term effects of music should be increasingly examined, considering various parameters that are part of music appropriation. They find that there is an increasing need for research in the field of music and media, due to the dynamically developing digital media, and the fact that there are only few studies on reception and appropriation in this context.

In summary, there are already well-founded scientific results on music and media. However, there is a specialization and further development of individual and closed theoretical concepts and approaches within disciplines. The aim should be to link approaches from different disciplines in an interdisciplinary way to analyses the complex and dynamic phenomena of music in the context of the digital media. Thereby, it is necessary to take the activity and autonomy recipients into account in their socially and culturally contextualized environment.

5.       Cursory considerations of the theoretical background

Due to the interdependence of the objects of investigation, research in this dynamic field is interdisciplinary and several disciplinary approaches seem to make sense. Various methodological and theoretical approaches emerge from different subject areas such as music psychology, communication studies as well as music and media sociology and thus provide a wide variety of scientific perspectives. It should be noted that there is a connection between music-sociological and music-pedagogical perspectives, especially in regard to the process of musical appropriation. The following will discuss, the active and interactive appropriation of mediated music, whereby the individual reception experience takes a centre stage. In view of the research into the use and appropriation of music in the context of SoMe short-form videos, systematic musicology with its discipline of music psychology, supplemented by music-sociological perspectives, is the most important research discipline for the subsequent dissertation. The focus is on empirical surveys before academic theory formation so that a practical reference can be established. Accordingly, the following overview serves to give e brief subsumption of possible theoretical and empirical approaches of the dissertation.

In general, the question arises as to which extent music becomes or can become accessible to the individual. This accessibility of music takes shape in social formations. It is not intended to show developments and differences between different modes of appropriation. The starting point of this dissertation is, access to music by means of technical media, ensues explicitly through SoMe short-form videos. The first contact with music is therefore only possible through digital media technology services. The use and appropriation of music are examined accordingly in this context. It is assumed that due to digitalization, the associated expansion of the musical offering, simplified access and media options, the use and appropriation of music has changed. “Consuming music listeners have become active appropriators who use their media skills to use the new options individually and optimally in their own way” (Seifert, 2018, p. 16).

5.1.       Music in the mediamorphosis

The sociology of music researches the social conditions of interacting with music, as well as the use of music. It should be noted here that the sociology of music in German-speaking countries cannot be clearly located in systematic musicology and can nonetheless be found in cultural sociology. Here, too, the focus is on reception, which overlaps with the sub-discipline of music psychology. In view of the media-technological access to music and its mass media communication, the theories of Kurt Blaukopf (1996), based on the fragmented writings of Max Weber (1921,1972) on the sociology of music as well as further works by Alfred Smudits (2002, 2007, 2013) on influence of mediamorphosis has be classified as relevant for the dissertation. Therefore, the theoretical considerations of the media morphosis will be briefly discussed in the following.

Weber’s reflections on the sociology of music are based on his interest in social processes in modern society, which he puts in connection with his rationalization thesis. Music sociology is intended to represent the overall musical-social context, with the attempt to remove the separation between musicology and sociology. In general, the concept of rationalization is to be understood as a system of order established by humans. Rationalization represents the process in which social, economic, and cultural life is systematically organized according to the principles of efficiency, with a predefined goal being achieved using the best possible means through standardized procedures. The concept of technical, rational progress is important here. Weber advocates a non-judgmental concept of progress, which is “entirely limited to the determination of the technical means which a certain will to form uses for a fixed intention” (Weber, 1972, p. 520)

Accordingly, he understands music history as a progressive process of rationalization and tries to anchor this in social theory. Weber tries to prove this universal historical process of rationalization on the basis of sound psychological and music ethnological findings (Bontinck, 2007; Braun, 1994). “Weber sees the social validity of a certain tonal system as the expression of a maxim of practical-musical behaviour based on social action […] his focus is not primarily on the work of art as the historically late result of musical action, but on the musical communication process as a whole” (Bontinck, 2007, pp. 61–62). Following the concept of Max Weber, the task of the sociology of music according to Blaukopf is to recognize musical action as social action and to explain the occurrence in order to uncover the conditions for the change in musical action accordingly (Blaukopf, 1996). Thus, the process of common musical action forms the starting point for building social networks of relationships. It is not the work of art itself, but the music as social activity that is at the centre of interpersonal relationships. Music thus represents an ongoing and dynamic process. This inevitably requires examining the change in music in connection with social developments. This means that musical action and the resulting social consequences for musical structures can be viewed holistically. music sociology. “Behaviour is understood to be people’s observable actions and omissions”, whereby regularities of cultural behaviour can be identified. These are also relevant to musical behaviour in the form of norms and standards. “[…] The behavioural expectations characteristic of every social structure result” from these “regularities […]”. As a result, musical action could, according to the most general definition, be understood as “action aimed at generating sound events with a sense intended for the behaviour of other senses” (Blaukopf, 1996, p. 3). However, due to the very broad definition of the term, these musical behaviours must be related to the prevalent cultural behaviours. Because this definition integrates musical mediation and linguistic communication and thus refers to the recurring subject, word or tone in music history (Blaukopf, 1996). In this context, the regularities of behaviour such as “musical behaviours”, “musical behaviour patterns” and additionally “musical behavioural expectations” can be summarized as “musical practice” (Blaukopf, 1996, p. 5).

These explanations point to the fact that a detachment from musical-aesthetic and linguistic-Semitic mediation as well as facial and gestural expression is not possible and that a dependency exists. “The ability to store, transmit or even technically produce music has led to the emergence of music industries. At the same time, new communication channels were opened up to music through terrestrial radio systems, cable networks and satellite channels” (Blaukopf, 1989, I X). Blaukopf (1989) describes the changes in culture due to the influence of electronic media in his monography and coins the term mediamorphosis. He examines the connections between social, technological and musical developments. In doing so, he applies economic approaches to the analysis of cultural processes and clearly works out the interdependence between those who create culture and those who consume.

The elements of mediamorphosis according to Blaukopf (1989, pp. 5–6) are:

  1. The adaptation of the musical message to the technical conditions of recording and playback;
  2. The use of technical possibilities in the interest of the musical message;
  3. The change in the reception of the musical message caused or made possible by these moments.

Smudits (2002, 2007, 2013) further develops the theory on five central mediamorphoses of cultural creation. The typologies originally used have been revised and the differences between graphic and technical mediamorphosis are no longer considered. He refers to the current state of communication technology, written, reprographic, chemical-mechanical, electronic, and digital mediamorphosis. Both Blaukopf and Smudits concentrate in their theory on the areas of cultural creation, production, sales, distribution and reception and not on holistic change through ICT (Smudits, 2013). This assumption of the theory is based on the theories of Marx and the Frankfurt School. The concept of mediamorphosis is subject to the “productive power theory of media [/ communication technologies]” (2007, p. 112; Smudits, 2013, p. 76), which states that communication technologies represent productive forces in cultural creation and the state of technological development of a society. A distinction is made between “media”, i.e., means of production, which represent the physical, chemical basis of all communication, and “codes” which contain immaterial control systems and media competence. There is an oppositive relationship between the two. On the one hand, the verbal, auditory or visual codes use the materials and shape them. On the other hand, the codes must adapt to the conditions and specifications of the media, which makes them perceptible. This means that communication is only possible if there is a causality between media, codes and social application (2007; Smudits, 2013).

The described mediamorphosis always means technological evolution. These evolutionary processes and their effects can be illustrated using many examples from the history of music technology. From the gramophone to the Walkman to the present-day mobile device, to name just a few contemporary witnesses of the technological diversity. This detachment from the sound carrier to streaming services and the collective consumption and production of content points to a socio-technical transformation. Therefore the music experience goes hand in hand with the necessary technical equipment and the necessary media competence (Seifert, 2018). In the culture and creative industries, it is evident that digital mediamorphosis is already underway. The connection to sound carriers has been completely eliminated and music is available via digital communication channels regardless of time and space (Sperlich, 2007). The mediamorphosis can be demonstrated by confirmed social developments such as the “changed position of music in the human experience” or “the change in musical language” (Blaukopf, 1989, p. 155).

6.       Concluding thoughts and future directions

The assessment of the status and thus the importance of music in SoMe is proving to be difficult due to the content’s heterogeneity. Here, the statistical information on usage behaviour and download rates serve as indicators. The statistics listed at the beginning refer to the first justification of relevance. Given that audiovisual content in the form of SoMe video clips has become an important form of reception, it can be argued that a deeper understanding of music in SoMe video clips is needed. There is an increased quantity of media entertainment options through SoMe in which music is a central component. Here, advertising-oriented video clips can hardly be distinguished, if at all, from user-generated content or the content of artists. Dollase (2005) accordingly focuses on the musical outside world and culture and emphasizes the importance of studying vertical variation within a society. Vertical, in this case means to observe at different points in time. It is therefore even more astonishing that the current development of SoMe short form video and their consequences for music have received so little research. In view of the object of investigation, the launch of the platform TikTok on the European market is a good starting point for this work. Compared to earlier decades, music is more present in everyday life and has an accompaniment, entertainment, and advertising function. Adolescents are confronted with audiovisual content of content-related and formal complexity that is designed to meet their needs, combined with communication and interaction options (Dollase, 2005; Neumann-Braun & Mikos, 2006). SoMe has changed the way we deal with music. In addition to the changed reception, young people can follow their favourite artists via SoMe accounts and get to know them on different levels. You can also share your personal musical preferences with a global audience and obtain feedback. This can lead to the fact that music preferences and sense of belonging are influenced. In addition, there is the aforementioned average time spent on SoMe platforms of two hours a day, which enables a constant mutual exchange and increased reception of media content within the network community. This leads to the assumption that the increased media reception of SoMe short form videos can change or influence the needs and expectations of media users regarding the acoustic content. Technology, in connection with the social components, changes the access to the related use of music, which leads to new ways of musical appropriation in a media context. Young people become more professional in dealing with music-related media and, with the help of additional apps, can actively design and distribute audiovisual content. The media access to music and the followed mediatized appropriation of music, has become the norm due to the technological context (Pluretti & Bobkowski, 2019; Seifert, 2018). This leads to the second justification of relevance. The recipients are both producing and consuming, the homogeneous mass audience has given way to a pluralistic media reality in which various audiences interact. This associated changed “[…] consumption of products from the culture industry [represents an active] process of appropriation within the framework of the relevance structures of the living environment. Consumption is therefore not passive, but active and productive” (Mikos, 2015, p. 220). Considering the general processes of music reception, which is understood as an active process of appropriation, it is necessary to examine the musical reception contexts to embed them in music-sociological and psychological approaches and to demarcate them accordingly. The multimodal online music landscape is an area in which it can be assumed that technological advancements has changed the conditions for the appropriation of music through its use in SoMe short-form videos. Technological developments can lead to profound structural changes in the musical environment and culture, which in turn can lead to different modes of experience and behaviour. These developments find their most recent form in the digital mediamorphosis postulated by Alfred Smudits (Smudits, 2013). On the one hand, the use of music short form videos already shows an adaptation of musical messages to the technical conditions in accordance with Kurt Blaukopfs theory of mediamorphosis. SoMe short-form videos reduce the music titles used to 15-second excerpts and thus compress the musical message many times. On the other hand, it can be asserted that, this use causes a change in the reception of the musical message, which, in addition to the visualization and participation of people on SoMe, could lead to differing interpretations. A different meaning could be assigned to the actual musical message through visual user-generated content because the combination of image and music creates an increased intensity of the musical experience and can therefore result in stable changes in attitudes and behaviour for recipients.

SoMe short-form video productions are an important trend across a wide variety of platforms on the Internet. Within the last five years, auditory full-video projects have expanded rapidly because of digital transformation. Due to the novelty of the format and the interactive use, there are some unanswered questions. In summary, the use of music in SoMe short-form videos, its musical appropriation, and the effect of music in this context on the user, has far-reaching social, cultural, and economic relevance and requires scientific research. Taking the above statements into consideration, it can be assumed that mobile digital end devices are among the key technologies of digital mediamorphosis. Consequently, music itself and musical activities, which are reflected in use and appropriation processes, must be examined to gain insight into the relationship between music and society. In this sense, the musical experience is to be empirically examined in the context of technological progress to research the process of musical activity and the development of musical structures caused by it. Accordingly, this research project aims to provide scientifically statements on the use and appropriation of music in the audiovisual context of SoMe short-form videos.



Carolin Geyer completed a master’s degree in cultural management with sub-specification in musicology. Currently she is PhD candidate at the university of music Franz Liszt Weimar and works as research associate at Lucerne University of Applied Science and Arts in Switzerland. She is involved in various research projects in the fields of cultural tourism and the use of digital media in this area. In the scope of her dissertation, she focuses on the topic: Music in the audiovisual context of Social media short-form-video supervised by Prof. Dr. Steffen Höhne.


Music in the mediamorphosis, Music and Social Media, Audiovisual short-form videos, Audiovisual content, Musical use and appropriation


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