Our relationship with pop songs is, in some ways, markedly different to our relationships with other forms of popular culture. First, this relationship is becoming less and less material: the rapidly expanding market in portable digital music players has ensured that popular music is increasingly becoming obtained, stored, and otherwise traded purely as data files, rather than as tangible physical property. Music is ideally suited to electronic storage and playback, unlike other entertainment forms, where true portability is still some way off. Films and television programmes, for example, are still largely rooted to the domestic setting, with portable video technology encumbered by either unsatisfyingly small screens or lack of true portability due to size and short battery life. Music is also freely available ‘on the move’, most commonly through radio broadcasts, in a way in which other forms of popular culture are not; music radio can and does serve as ‘background noise’ to other activities, while the parallel activities of watching television, reading newspapers or magazines, or even browsing the Internet, demand their audiences’ full attention.
Secondly, the notion of authorship in popular music appears far more diffused than it is in other popular culture forms. The emergence of such phenomena as cover versions, remixes, karaoke and most recently, mashups, points to popular music having a far more transient relationship with the notion of an identifiable single ‘author’ than other media, with the writer(s), performers, publishers and record companies all having varying sets of institutional, legal and associative claims to the individual songs.