Music Music in the Digital World
William Gibbons, Paula Harper
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 November 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0299


Digital technologies have impacted and reshaped almost every aspect of 21st-century life, from communication and commerce, to work and leisure, to education and politics. This bibliography represents a collection of scholarship that seeks to detail how varied and ubiquitous digital technologies have reshaped music, and how music has in turn shaped the digital world. Since the first years of the 21st century, widespread access to digital technologies, including social media, smartphones, and Web 2.0 have fundamentally transformed musical aesthetics, creation, performance, consumption, and reception on a global scale. As of October 2020, there are around 4.66 billion active internet users around the globe, nearly all of whom interact with music in one way or another. This bibliography addresses how this “digital world” is implicated in 21st-century digital regimes, and in the global flows and local assemblages of music’s production, circulation, and consumption. Like the technologies themselves, scholarship on music in the digital world is a rapidly shifting field. Readers are encouraged to understand this bibliography as a fluid network of related topics, with substantial thematic overlap between sections. Except when a subject touches on topics unique to this bibliography, the authors have omitted topics covered extensively in other Oxford Bibliographies, including “Film Music,” “Video Game Music,” “Electronic and Computer Music Instruments,” and “Music Technology.”

General Overviews

Although they vary significantly in methodologies and perspectives, the sources in this category each attempt to offer a large-scale perspective on the impact of digital technologies on sound, music, and culture. Given the highly time-sensitive and multifaceted nature of the digital world, most of the research is the result of loosely organized edited collections, with a few monographs dedicated to specific subjects. Ayers 2006 offers an early set of perspectives on the digital revolution in music, laying the groundwork for later studies to follow. Nowak and Whelan 2016 and Purcell and Randall 2016 bring interdisciplinary methodologies to the study of digital music’s cultural impact. Miller 2012 and Whiteley and Rambarran 2016 explore the performance and consumption of music in virtual spaces. Lingold, et al. 2018 and Strachan 2017 each focus on the technologies underlying digital music production and consumption. Cook, et al. 2019 offers a thorough and up-to-date broad overview of major topics, and provides a useful starting point for research.

  • Ayers, Michael D., ed. Cybersounds: Essays on Virtual Music Culture. New York: Peter Lang, 2006.

    A valuable early contribution to the study of music’s circulation and consumption online. Chapters cover a wide and interlocking range of topics, including examinations of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks from legal and anthropological perspectives, ethnographic analyses of online music communities, studies of musical entrepreneurship and self-promotion in digital spaces, and analyses of digital musical collaborations and online-exclusive releases.

  • Cook, Nicholas, Monique M. Ingalls, and David Trippett, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Music in Digital Culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

    Combines academic music scholarship and shorter “personal takes” from industry experts to offer perspectives on a wide range of topics related to music in the digital world, including identity, liveness, globalization, virtuality, and economics. A highly useful introduction that intersects with most other sections of this bibliography.

  • Lingold, Mary Caton, Darren Mueller, and Whitney Trettien, eds. Digital Sound Studies. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018.

    This collection addresses digital technologies and content from the (inter)disciplinary perspective of sound studies, analyzing a broad collection of musical and sonic phenomena. Particularly useful in this collection are the multiple methodological reflections around digital tools and publications for the study of musical and sonic content, such as the chapters on “Sounding Out!” and “Outkasted Conversations.”

  • Miller, Kiri. Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199753451.001.0001

    Taking a primarily ethnomusicological perspective, this source traces the impact of virtual music spaces on music performance and identity. Major themes include representations of identity and race in Grand Theft Auto, YouTube as a tool for music pedagogy, and music-based games like Guitar Hero as a vehicle for musical creativity and fan communities. See also Digital Platforms and Liveness and Virtuality.

  • Nowak, Raphaël, and Andrew Whelan, eds. Networked Music Cultures: Contemporary Approaches, Emerging Issues. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

    Predominantly sociological in nature, this collection of essays focuses on the consumption and circulation patterns of digital popular music. Notably, several chapters address topics outside the United States and Western Europe. See also Digital Platforms.

  • Purcell, Richard, and Richard Randall, eds. 21st Century Perspectives on Music, Technology, and Culture: Listening Spaces. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

    Interdisciplinary volume that explores in particular the impact of digital music consumption practices on both individual listeners and on culture more broadly. Particular themes include ethics of listening, music and place, and digital platforms. See also Globalization and Place, Digital Platforms, and Ethical Considerations.

  • Strachan, Robert. Sonic Technologies: Popular Music, Digital Culture and the Creative Process. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

    DOI: 10.5040/9781501310652

    Readable overview of the impact of digital technologies on the creation and consumption of popular music. Major topics include democratization of music production, shifting meanings of “creativity,” and digital aesthetics. See also Digital Music Making.

  • Whiteley, Sheila, and Shara Rambarran, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Music and Virtuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    Wide-ranging volume with chapters addressing many aspects of “virtual” music creation and consumption, broadly defined. Major themes include music performance in virtual spaces, digital music stars and virtual bands, online music communities, and digital fundraising models. Highly useful as an introductory text. See also Liveness and Virtuality and Economics and Labor.

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