‘Pirates’ and ‘Freetards’: the Discourses and Rhetoric of Online Music Consumption

Webber, Nick (2014) ‘Pirates’ and ‘Freetards’: the Discourses and Rhetoric of Online Music Consumption. In: The Urban Gaze: Exploring Urbanity through Art, Architecture, Fashion and Media. Inter-Disciplinary Press.

Webber UP3 Accepted version.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (199kB)


The availability of recorded music in online digital formats (e.g. mp3, streams), and the increasing use of the Internet to access and acquire music, has provoked significant public debate in recent years. Sharing of music, for little or no cost, has been extensive and music industry organisations, whose revenue streams and established business models are threatened by this activity, face off against what they see as consumers and advocacy groups that support this alternative to commercially-priced physical recordings. Yet the digital music market has matured as this debate has proceeded, and in 2013, music is available through a variety of paid online services, to stream or download at relatively low cost. And while many of the earlier arguments advanced both for and against online formats and free filesharing have proven difficult to sustain, the rhetorical positions adopted by many producers, distributors and consumers of music more than a decade ago are recited broadly unchanged. And indeed, sharing has long been at the heart of debates about the economics and culture of music. What, then, can this debate tell us about music consumers and their relationship to the music industry?

This paper investigates the ways in which online music consumption has been presented during the period from 1999 to the present. It focuses specifically on both internal and external constructions of music consumers, including file-sharers and their communities. The study examines these discourses and rhetoric not for their oft-cited commentary on rich music industry organisations or freeloading filesharers, but instead for their insights into popular music consumption cultures and their practices. Their narrative of criticism and justification help us to explore the identities performed by music consumers, and to understand how those consumers make meaning from their consumption.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: popular music, online music, music industry, music culture, file sharing, downloading, discourse, rhetoric.
Subjects: CAH24 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01 - media, journalism and communications > CAH24-01-05 - media studies
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham School of Media
Depositing User: Nick Webber
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2023 09:58
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2023 09:58
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14593

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


In this section...