In With the New? Online Music Industry Issues

Post-Fordism/neo-Fordism in the music industries: Are major record labels devolving risk through a neoliberal restructuring? – Guy Morrow, Denis Crowdy, Diane Hughes, Sarah Keith and Mark Evans (Macquarie University, Australia)

With the introduction of digital technologies for the production, distribution and promotion of music, the music business, from a label’s point of view, is still a risky business yet strangely risk averse. This follows a neo-Fordism model (because of Henry Ford and his car manufacturing business model), where big corporations (record labels and middlemen) externalise financial risk by passing it to the artist, who is now in charge of the investment risk of assets creation and preliminary marketing. 

Following Anderson’s ‘Long Tail’ theory, this new model is possible because of the abundance of media outlets, but at the same time, involves a higher challenge for career sustainability because of the scarcity of audience attention. Thus, the model has gone from linear to circular, where the circle feeds itself based in the following pattern: artist – fan – industry – artist – fan – industry – endlessly…where the three actors are more active and inter-dependent than ever before. 

‘The Gift that Keeps Giving’: Music Copyright and Gift in the Digital Music Economy – Kenny Barr (University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK)

Barr echoes Hyde’s (1983) statement: Where there is no gift, there is no art. Copyright and gift are not in opposition. It’s naive to say that artists give gifts just for the sake of it. Most of the artist interviewed confirm that they give gifts aiming to get into mainstream. Therefore, the gift economy is a qualitative exchange system of a copyright work that involves: skill, labour and judgement (gift of the artist), originality (gift to society) and cultural commons (gift from the commons).There is a significant qualitative and quantitative value in Soundclud exchanges: a mixed gift/market economy model.

In conclusion, the inexorable expansion of copyright erodes its spirit of gift in copyright. Soundcloud contains elements that are analogous to a gift economy. (See more at

No Limits: The economic value of the Dutch online music industry – Koos Zwaan, Sabine de Lat and Sanne van Oort (Inholland University of Applied Sciences, Diemen, Netherlands)

Zwaan and Delant are part of an ongoing research that analyses the economic value of the Dutch music industry. Economic value is based on record sales and live performances. According to this, Dance music is the most successful genre in the Dutch market. Only two singer songwriters feature in the top 21 most successful artist. According to the results, and all the variable taken into account, it is evident that the new business models of the music industry reflect a higher emphasis on the relationships that artists build with their fans more than the content itself.

Full abstracts:

Guy Morrow: This paper examines the research question: In modern times, are major record labels devolving risk through a neoliberal restructuring? To address this question, the music industries will be located within the broader creative industries. The argument will be made that there is a parallel between the way in which McGuigan (2010) notes that: “Television now, like other cultural and media industries, is a risky business yet it is strangely risk averse (330)” and, in some instances, the contemporary role of major record labels within the music industries. This paper draws on a series of focus groups with Australian artists and practitioners within the music industries and will feature a case study of the Australian artist management company Parker & Mr French. Within our focus groups, an interesting juxtaposition emerged: some respondents explained that they believed the industry to be constituted by many more “small and nimble” entities than in the past, while others noted an increasing monopolization. In this context, ‘artist entrepreneurship’ serves certain vested interests within the music industries; rather than artist entrepreneurship being a force of disruptive ‘creative destruction’ (Schumpeter, 1939), the value placed on this form of entrepreneurship reflects the increased workload that has been placed on artists themselves in a way that suits entities such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group.

Kenny Barr: The music industries are, to a large extent, constructed upon the exploitation of copyright that subsists within musical works and performances. This market economy trading in music rights appears to operate in opposition to conceptions of musical creativity as a process of reciprocation, community, exchange and tradition: a gift economy. The ‘market economy/gift economy dichotomy’ takes on increased significance in the digital environment where music can be transmitted instantaneously to global audiences. Using Lewis Hyde’s seminal work ‘The Gift’ (1983) as a touchstone text, this paper examines the extent to which professional and semi-professional creators (songwriters and performers) attempt reconcile these two apparently oppositional forces as they operate in the contemporary digital music market. Drawing on in-depth interviews with a number of independent music creators operating in the UK, the paper analyses and critiques these informants’accounts of their own practices and attitudes. The paper finds that independent creators are often highly adept at resolving the apparent incompatibility between trading music as commodity and gifting music to audiences. Indeed, it appears that a mixed model of commodification and gifting lies at the heart of the commercial decision-making of creators in the digital age.

Koos Zwaan: At every pop music conference and in every music industry discussion, both within academia as well as in the professional field, it is commonly acknowledged that “the game has changed”. Downloading, video and music streaming, social media and crowd funding have opened up new alleys for the music industry. What is lacking from most of these discussions is how to measure the online presence and how to convert this presence into an economic value. This is the focus of a current study conducted by the Inholland University of Applied Sciences, in collaboration with BUMA Cultuur, the Dutch music export organization (also the organizer of events such as Eurosonic Noorderslag and Amsterdam Dance Event). The aim of our study is to design a method to measure the value of online for Dutch pop musicians. We will present recent findings from our study for which we have interviewed key figures in the Dutch music industry, as well as ‘new industry players’ including Spotify, YouTube and Deezer. We will sketch the current business model(s) and how the value of online presence of a sample of Dutch musicians can be valued.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s