Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age
eBook - ePub

Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age

Politics, Economy, Culture and Technology

Ewa Mazierska, Les Gillon, Tony Rigg, Ewa Mazierska, Les Gillon, Tony Rigg

  1. 304 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age

Politics, Economy, Culture and Technology

Ewa Mazierska, Les Gillon, Tony Rigg, Ewa Mazierska, Les Gillon, Tony Rigg

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Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age explores the relationship between macro environmental factors, such as politics, economics, culture and technology, captured by terms such as 'post-digital' and 'post-internet'. It also discusses the creation, monetisation and consumption of music and what changes in the music industry can tell us about wider shifts in economy and culture. This collection of 13 case studies covers issues such as curation algorithms, blockchain, careers of mainstream and independent musicians, festivals and clubs-to inform greater understanding and better navigation of the popular music landscape within a global context.

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Part One

The Music Industry


Rethinking Independence: What Does ‘Independent Record Label’ Mean Today?

Patryk Galuszka and Katarzyna M. Wyrzykowska
Until the 1990s, the term independence had a certain descriptive value. It had been regularly employed by artists, journalists, and listeners to distinguish between different products of culture. This distinction was essential in the music industry, as the independents were believed to bring an alternative to the oligopolistic practices of major record labels. Today, however, its meaning is very broad (perhaps too broad): it is widely used to name and classify artists as ‘independent artists’ (Brown 2012), labels as ‘independent labels’ (Lee 1995a, 1995b), or music genres as ‘indie rock’ or ‘indie pop’ (Hibbett 2005). Because of its extensive application, the term artistic independence used today has lost its semantic value. The diminishing precision of the term independence manifests itself in ‘the uncritical grouping of a wide variety of bands, soloists and other combinations of musicians and songwriters under the heading “successful independent artists” ’ (Brown 2012: 520). As a result, both Radiohead (a band that cooperated with a major record label for many years) and a little-known singer-songwriter, who gathered funds for the release of their first album through the Kickstarter platform, are classified as independent. This confusion is the reason why we believe it necessary to reconsider the notion of independence in music.
Authors have indicated many different reasons for the overuse of the term independence, from the partial burn-out of the ethos of ‘post-punk independent record labels’, through the appropriation and co-optation of independent labels by major companies, to the triumph of the neoliberal attitude towards economic activity (Hesmondhalgh and Meier 2015). Problems with today’s understanding of the term independence also stem from the economic and technological changes that the entire music industry is undergoing as a result of the digitization and spread of online methods for the distribution of recordings. Because of these methods, the distributor of a given record label is no longer a valid criterion for the distinction between dependent and independent labels (Fonarow 2006). In other words, does the fact that the catalogue of a given record label is available on Spotify or iTunes make the label dependent or independent? The difficulties with answering even a basic question such as this one show that the criterion of distribution has lost its key importance. In this context, we share the view of Hesmondhalgh and Meier that ‘the current moment calls for a revisiting and perhaps redefinition of what independence means and could mean for popular music’ (2015: 111). Consequently, the general goal of this chapter is to discuss what the term independent record label (or, more broadly, music label) means today. Since giving a full answer to this broad question would require much more than the space here affords, our goal in this chapter is narrower: drawing from empirical data gathered within a particular recording market, Poland, to find a new criterion to distinguish independent record labels from ‘mainstream’ or ‘dependent’ ones. In-depth interviews conducted with representatives of fifty-two record labels operating in the same economic and legal conditions allow us to compare the answers provided by our respondents. We believe that analysing the development of independent record labels in a country located away from the centre of the music industry may enrich the global debate on the issue, and that our conclusions will prove interesting to scholars working in other countries. In other words, we do not aim to present a complete picture of the Polish music market (see Galuszka and Wyrzykowska 2016 for an analysis of this type); rather, we try to look for more universal ways of distinguishing between various types of record labels. Before we move on to analysing the data collected, we provide an overview of literature on the subject of independence in music.

Independence in popular music

A definition of independents reads: ‘[t]he true independents distribute their records through independent distributors’ (i.e., distributors not affiliated with major record companies) (Passman 2009: 67). The emphasis on the ability to distribute records independently results from the economic importance of distribution in the music industry before the internet became widely popular. This ability meant that a label could reach its listeners on its own (or through independent distributors). A lack thereof meant that a label was either unable to sell their records or had to use a major record label distribution network and, consequently, share profits with the music establishment, which (in light of the definition quoted above) made the label ‘dependent’. It is for this reason that punk record labels active in the 1970s and 1980s put so much emphasis on building their own distribution networks (Gosling 2004). Controlling a label’s own means of production (including distribution) meant being autonomous from the mainstream music industry. The establishment of the British indie record chart exemplified this logic: only records distributed without the mediation of major record companies could be listed (Fonarow 2006).
However, it should be noted that a definition of independence based purely on the distribution criterion does not give weight to the way in which a given label treats its artists and how it approaches artistic concerns. Hesmondhalgh pointed out the importance of these aspects:
The discourses of fans, musicians and journalists during the counter cultural heyday of rock and soul in the 1960s and 1970s saw ‘independents’, or minor record companies with no ties to vertically integrated corporations, as preferable to the large corporations because they were less bureaucratic and supposedly more in touch with the rapid turnover of styles and sounds characteristic of popular music at its best. Such companies were often, in fact, even more exploitative of their musicians than the major corporations.
Hesmondhalgh 1999: 35
This leads to the conclusion that the ability to distribute records independently is only one of the determinants of independence. Ethical and aesthetic factors are equally important. As the citation above shows, this was not entirely obvious until the advent of punk rock in the second half of the 1970s and the emergence of do-it-yourself (DIY) record labels releasing punk music. These labels opposed the mainstream music industry not only through building alternative distribution networks, but also through political engagement, the employment of different business practices, and more democratic, community-oriented repertoire choices (Dale 2008). Hesmondhalgh notes that the development of ‘[a]n aesthetic based on mobilization and access’ (1999: 37) was one of the determinants crucial to the success of independent labels in the 1980s. It was this aesthetic that allowed independent labels to be perceived as more than just ‘minor’ record labels or merely smaller-size copies of ‘major’ record companies (Negus 1992).
Cammaerts recapitulates the philosophy of independent record labels:
A more equal sharing of profit among the whole work force involved in the creative process, a shared ideological culture between artist and record label, the participation of artists in the running and functioning of the record label, the development of alternative and genuinely independent distribution channels and the adoption of a distinct aesthetic mirroring this different attitude and ideology to music production and distribution.
Cammaerts 2010: 7
Lee (1995a, 1995b) shows that the attainment of these ideals should go hand in hand with an adherence to the elementary rules of management and economy. Otherwise, a label may be confronted with substantial financial problems. However, the need to adjust to market requirements may mean compromise. An independent record label that treats its artists fairly by paying them higher royalties, for instance, needs to compete with companies that act differently and can therefore potentially make a greater profit, which in turn allows for greater market expansion. The literature on this subject provides examples of independent record labels that managed, at least for a time, to reconcile their ideals with the difficult economic reality of the music industry (Hesmondhalgh 1997; Webb 2007). This could usually be attributed to the great success of an artist who signed a contract with a particular label (for instance, The Smiths signing a contract with Rough Trade). Such success, however, brought another type of risk: if a label somehow managed to succeed, it would very often have to resist the temptation of being ‘bought out’ by a major record company, resulting in what Negus describes as follows:
The absorption of independent labels was a significant feature of the music business throughout the twentieth century and has become increasingly institutionalized through a series of joint ventures, production, licensing, marketing and distribution deals, which have led to the blurring of ‘indie’/‘major’ organizational distinctions and mindsets.
Negus 1999: 35
This absorption was particularly visible in the 1990s, when many record companies that emerged from post-punk independent record labels created in the 1980s either went bankrupt or started a close cooperation with major record companies (Hesmondhalgh 1999; Hesmondhalgh and Meier 2014). Such a state of affairs was far removed from the ideals of independence developed in the 1980s. The meaning of independence was diluted by the different forms of cooperation between major record labels and independent labels (e.g., the establishment of quasi-independent labels controlled by major labels) and the evolution of the term indie, which began to primarily denote a musical genre (Dale 2008). In effect, some labels, especially the smallest ones (which could be called ‘micro-labels’ or ‘DIY labels’), have focused on putting a strong emphasis on their autonomy in order to stress the ‘symbolic resistance to the totalizing discourses of capitalism’ (Strachan 2007: 248). In their case, to use Bourdieu‘s terms (2005), economic assets (which are not likely to be obtained due to the niche appeal of their repertoire) are replaced by symbolic assets (which, in the owners’ opinion, legitimizes the non-profit activity). It is worth noting at this point that, even though the subject literature is especially interested in DIY record labels originating from punk rock (Dale 2008; Dunn 2012; O’Connor 2008), some independent record labels that operated in the 1990s onwards had different origins. Such labels, despite a number of commonalities such as size, did not always share the ideology of punk rock labels, as Hesmondhalgh (1998) showed, based on the record labels that specialized in electronic music.
Apart from the tightening of cooperation between some independent labels and major record companies, the second half of the 1990s and the 2000s also brought far-reaching technological changes: the universalization of the internet and digitalization. Many authors saw these changes as a chance to equalize the opportunities for small and major labels (see the overview in Rogers 2013). Even though writers in the 2000s demonstrated excessive optimism about the democratizing impact of the internet (for example, Fox 2004; McLeod 2005), it is difficult to deny that independent record labels can now more easily reach listeners scattered across the world. In other words, the development of distribution networks is not as challenging now as it was when the post-punk independent record labels were emerging. What remains a challenge is the financing of production and promotion costs (Hesmondhalgh and Meier 2014) and the precarization of working conditions for musicians (Stahl 2013; Morris 2014).
The aforementioned phenomena (the decreased importance of distribution ...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Half-Title Page
  3. Title Page
  4. Contents
  5. List of contributors
  6. Introduction: The Future of and Through Music
  7. Part One The Music Industry
  8. 1 Rethinking Independence: What does ‘Independent Record Label’ Mean Today? Patryk Galuszka and Katarzyna M. Wyrzykowska
  9. 2 The future of Digital Music Infrastructures: Expectations and Promises of the Blockchain ‘Revolution’ Paolo Magaudda
  10. 3 ‘The Sound of the Future is Here Today’: The Market for Post-rock within the Traditional Small Music Festival Landscape Kenny Forbes
  11. 4 ‘They Sold the Festival Out!’ Axionormativity as the Future of Festivals Waldemar Kuligowski
  12. 5 The Hidden Worker Bees: Advanced Neoliberalism and Manchester’s Underground Club Scene Kamila Rymajdo
  13. Part Two The Musicians and their Music
  14. 6 The Adaptive Musician: The Case of Peter Hook and Graham Massey Ewa Mazierska and Tony Rigg
  15. 7 Where Do We Go From Here? The Future of Composers in the Post-digital Era Lars Bröndum
  16. 8 Searching for International Success in Europe’s Periphery: The Case of Gin Ga and Fran Palermo Ewa Mazierska
  17. 9 Electro Swing: Re-introduction of the Sounds of the Past into the Music of the Future Chris Inglis
  18. Part Three Music Consumption
  19. 10 Back to the Future: Proposing a Heuristic for Predicting the Future of Recorded Music Use Mathew Flynn
  20. 11 Current Music and Media use of Young People in Austria: The Musical Practice of the Future? Michael Huber
  21. 12 Curators as Taste Entrepreneurs in the Digital Music Industries Emília Barna
  22. 13 An Echoic Chamber: Algorithmic Curation and Personalized Listening Andrew Fry
  23. Index
  24. Copyright
Stili delle citazioni per Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age

APA 6 Citation

Mazierska, E., Gillon, L., & Rigg, T. (2018). Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age (1st ed.). Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/859194/popular-music-in-the-postdigital-age-politics-economy-culture-and-technology-pdf (Original work published 2018)

Chicago Citation

Mazierska, Ewa, Les Gillon, and Tony Rigg. (2018) 2018. Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Publishing. https://www.perlego.com/book/859194/popular-music-in-the-postdigital-age-politics-economy-culture-and-technology-pdf.

Harvard Citation

Mazierska, E., Gillon, L. and Rigg, T. (2018) Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age. 1st edn. Bloomsbury Publishing. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/859194/popular-music-in-the-postdigital-age-politics-economy-culture-and-technology-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Mazierska, Ewa, Les Gillon, and Tony Rigg. Popular Music in the Post-Digital Age. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.