Rampant Reproduction and Digital Democracy: Shifting Landscapes of Music Production and 'Piracy' in Bolivia

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This article examines the transformation of recorded music production and distribution in Bolivia that has occurred in response to the rise and growing democratisation of digital technology, especially over the past decade. It charts the collapse of the large-scale record industry*due both to high levels of piracy and to its gradual loss of technological advantage*and its replacement by a host of small-scale producers, many of which target emergent low-income markets. The dynamics of ‘pirate’ production and distribution are examined, including the key role of the video compact disc in the escalation of music piracy. It is suggested that national imaginaries, as well as economic factors, have underscored Peruvian domination of the large-scale production of pirated music for the Bolivian market. In recent years, however, dramatic reductions in the cost of reproduction equipment and optical discs, and in turn vendor profits, are leading to more localised and smaller-scale forms of domestic pirate production. The downscaling and localising of both ‘legitimate’ and ‘pirated’ record production might be seen to democratise the music industry, giving Bolivian consumers access to an unprecedented diversity of budget-priced recorded music. However, the longer-term implications of this situation for musicians’ livelihoods and particular musical genres remain unclear, as does state policy with regard to the protection of cultural resources and copyright.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-56
Number of pages29
JournalEthnomusicology Forum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2010


  • Music Piracy; National Imaginaries; Record Industry; Indigenous Music

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