Listening to music videos on YouTube. Digital consumption practices and the environmental impact of streaming
Jean-Samuel Beuscart, Samuel Coavoux, Jean Baptiste Garrocq
Publications – Article/chapter
Jean-Samuel Beuscart, Samuel Coavoux, Jean Baptiste Garrocq. Listening to music videos on YouTube. Digital consumption practices and the environmental impact of streaming. Journal of Consumer Culture, 2022, https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03813009 ⤤
YouTube is currently the most widely used platform for music streaming. Users listen to music videos rather than watch them. This is environmentally suboptimal since video data requires more energy than audio data to be hosted and transmitted. Why are consumers using a video platform to stream music? In this paper, we sketch a framework for analyzing digital practices as consumption practices and their transformation in the context of the ecological transition. We interviewed 29 online music consumers from varied backgrounds. Drawing on practice theory, we conceptualize online music use as a combination of sociotechnical configurations articulating listening devices, types of attention to music and the social contexts of daily life. We analyze how different platforms, especially YouTube, are embedded in specific configurations. We first establish that configurations in which videos are actually watched are rare. Though users are aware of the carbon footprint of streaming, this representation does not inform their listening configurations. We describe three types of online music practices according to the role YouTube plays in, that correlate with music passion: YouTube can be framed as a free and open listening platform (especially to casual listeners), as an efficient soundtracking device in many contexts, as a useful complementary listening and music sharing device. The paper extends the literature on green consumption to digital consumption, analyzing relations to infrastructures in a regime of abundance, and contributes to the sociology of online music consumption, showing how platform choices are linked with music passion and embedded in social contexts.