Introduction: The Laws of Music

Mathieu Deflem

This is a copy of the Introduction to Music and Law, edited by Mathieu Deflem. Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Volume 18. Bingley, UK, Emerald Group Publishing, 2013. 

Please cite as: Deflem, Mathieu. 2013. "Introduction: The Laws of Music." Pp. ix-xxi in Music and Law, edited by Mathieu Deflem. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing. 

The chapters in this volume deal with a variety of issues concerning the relationships between music and law. The nexus of law and music can intellectually be approached within the social sciences from at least two angles, which can each and both usefully explore a wide number of interesting themes.

            One, looking at law from the viewpoint music, the sociology of law and other social and behavioral disciplines focused on law and law-related phenomena can untangle social issues posed by music as a cultural expression in its relation to the social reality of law. In the sociology of law, by example, the relationship of law to culture has been of central concern since the development towards modern sociology (Deflem, 2008). Classical scholars such as Emile Durkheim and Max Weber,  in their opposition to Marxian thought, devoted considerable attention to the continued relevance of culture vis-à-vis economic aspects of industrialization. In the move toward contemporary sociology, the cultural-idealist viewpoint of Talcott Parsons (1971) and other modern giants of sociological thought likewise accorded a central role to culture and especially sought to uncover its relationship to the need for normative integration. In the work of modernist scholars like Jürgen Habermas (1996) the relationship between values and norms becomes the central problem of the modern age, contemplating especially on the continued need for normative integration in the light of a drift towards hyper-multiculturalism.

            Two, looking at music from the angle of law, intellectual refuge can be sought in the sociology of culture, in general, and the sociology of music, in particular (Roy, & Dowd, 2010). Developing from the classic contributions in the sociology of music by the likes of Max Weber (1921) and Theodore Adorno (1976), the contemporary sociology of music has done much to advance our understanding of the important social dimensions as well as s sociological relevance of music as a relevant aspect of contemporary cultures (Roy, & Dowd, 2010). Among the forces particular to be reckoned with --useful for settling the score, one could say, in the sociology of music-- are aspects of power and market commodification (Dowd, 2003, 2004), technology (Dowd, 2005), racial and gender issues (Dowd, & Blyler, 2002; Dowd, Liddle, & Blyler, 2005), career opportunities and constraints (Dowd, & Kelly, 2012), and indeed law and legality, as the chapters in this volume show.

            Needless to suggest then, the answer to a question on the sociology of music is easily answered as there is nothing sociological about music, while there is much sociologically relevant about music. And in analyzing this relevance not of the least importance is the role of law and legal regulation. In this day and age, in fact, the expansion of so-called entertainment law at the level of professional legal training stands as a prime expression of the heightened relevance of the legal dimensions of music, especially in the digital age. It is in the light of this contemporary relevance that the present work is situated.

            The chapters in this volume are divided into three parts. In Part I, the main emphasis of the contributions is on the normative frameworks and sanctioning mechanisms that are applied to musical expressions in the contemporary world. Dan Schwender opens the book with a detailed account of some of the legal issues involved with the use of popular music at presidential campaigns in the United States. Schwender usefully demonstrates the relevance of copyright issues and how the courts deal therewith. The chapter by Serona Elton continues with exploring legal aspects of online piracy in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Elton argues that a graduated response can be most successful in addressing the problems at hand. Mitch Daschuk and James Popham devote their chapter to an analysis of the recording industry in guiding copyright policy. Their analysis is especially relevant in the light of technological changes affecting music today. Jon Garon, in the final chapter of Part I, centers on the consequences of legal issues for the creative and artistic side of music. Garon also suggests the practical consequences of his analysis for musicians and their counsel.

            Part II of the book contains chapters that in various ways address issues of politics and culture. Jean-Marie Seca researches the main characteristics of the social construction of the policy of electro-amplified popular music in France. These musical forms, Seca shows, mediate between a deliberative rationalization of protest and a musicalization of revolt. Cynthia R. Nielsen next articulates an historically attuned model for the understanding of jazz. Nielsen’s analysis affirms African-American musicians’ artistic contributions to the shaping of modern jazz as a respected art form. In the context of Japan, Masaya Takahashi discusses cultural norms of traditional folk music. Takahashi argues that the practitioners of such music see the tracing of the roots of their work as an obligation. Heitor Alvelos focuses on pop music production in relation to a range of analogue sound artefacts. Alvelos shows how actual developments are confronted with an orthodoxy by media labels and distributors. Victor Corona’s chapter researches prison depictions in fictional contexts of popular music, specifically concentrating on Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Lady Gaga. Corona’s analysis is significant by linking queer expression in this context in relation to some of the most iconic superstars in pop music.

            The final part of this volume addresses deviance and other forms of illegalities involved with music. Sara Towe Horsfall develops a framework for understanding deviant genres of music. She identified the three important functions of social criticism, spreading the news, and public catharsis of exceptional events. Cecilia Blengino’s chapter discusses the criminalization of sharing music on peer-to-peer networks, especially in the Italian situation. Blengino shows that treating the matter with the means of criminal law produces unintended consequences. Finally, Juan D. Montoro-Pons and Manuel Cuadrado-García offer a quantitative analysis, conducted in the context of Spain, concerning the effects of copyright infringement on recorded music purchases and live music attendance. The authors find positive effects of copyright infringement on both album purchases and live attendance. Collectively, the chapters here presented hope to show the reader much of what social-science research can offer in analyzing the connections between music and law.

Mathieu Deflem


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Consult the synopsis and table of contents of Music and Law