“There is no ‘music industry.’ There are many industries with many relationships to music” (Sterne, 2014, p.53). Research by Williamson and Cloonan (2007) say the use of the term in various arenas implies that it is a homogenous industry. They however argue and explicate that the music industry (singular) or industries (plural) are neither homogenous or just one thing. Rather it is concerned with the creation, management, and selling of music, either as a physical/digital product, a performance or as a bundle of intellectual property rights with common interests.
According to Hesmondhalgh (2002) cited in Wikström (2009), the music industry consists of three distinct segments of recording, performance and licensing, the core, which all other aspects revolve around. It is a fluid industry with various associated sectors, and where no distinct traditional business model fits. The music economy as suggested by Leyshon (2001) cited in Wikström (2009) consists of a series of four sequential processes (creativity, reproduction, distribution and consumption). Rutter (2016) visualises Stonehenge as offering a simplified model for the music industry (see figure1) if we are to understand and unmask the nitty-gritty involved with the economics and politics within. Similarly, the music business or industry as suggested by Deuze (2007) and Rutter (2016) encompasses vast “interconnected entertainment industries”, “economies and social systems” with many aspects and sectors to it that are intricate and intertwined, independent yet in a symbiotic relationship with each other.
In this conceptualization, “the music industry” is broadly concerned with the monetization of music recordings.” (Sterne, 2014, p.50)
Figure 1 – Simplified Music Industry Model (Source Rutter 2016; the Music industry handbook)
It is difficult to determine what constitutes a role in the music industry and what is a business. According to Deuze (2007), one must transform them into an enterprise that is seamlessly adept at self-managing and that takes on today’s preferred or forced flexible workstyle of independence and autonomy rather than the relative stability of a lifelong workstyle. As an entrepreneur, I have found myself wearing many different hats. This is also the case in observing my colleagues and other musicians, artists or others involved within the music industry. Hamelink (2014) states that due to its precariousness it is never capable of predicting the success of a given product. According to Deuze (2007), the so-called “boundaryless” approach to employment is ideal in a market-sensitive world. Similarly, Hesmondhalgh (2002) cited in Wikström (2009) refers to the strategy of “throwing mud” in order to see what sticks.
Nonetheless it is fair to say that music creation is the backbone of the music industry because without it and the musicians and artists who are the creators, there would be no business within this industry. Most musicians/artists enter the creative arts industry to make music for pleasure and not necessarily to make money, and often get exploited when money is exchanged for their creativity.
Negus (2014) states that musicians’ lives are balanced on what he calls an axis of recognition-rejection as he gives an account of the challenges he faced entering the music industry. I can relate to Negus’ experience and his involvement juxtaposed to my 15 odd years trying to get a footing, build rapport and reputation in the industry and getting recognition within the education sector. According to Rutter (2016) it requires persistence, and similarly Deuze (2007) adds that one has to have a deep personal type of self-determination and management in an industry where happenstance plays a big part. I have come to understand that networking cannot be understated, and that being proactive and professional is essential to be an entrepreneur.
Wikström (2009) and Rutter (2016) also state the music industries have a high level of uncertainty and volatility due to shifting markets, new media trends and fickle audiences. Many musicians/artists are in the industry writing songs to order with the intention of targeting certain a audience demographic. Based on this, Rutter (2016) argues that the business ethic ensues music is monetised. The music business works on supply and demand operating in a competitive environment where “most successful bands knew exactly what genre they were playing, recognised its musical and social boundaries and understood what their audiences wanted to hear, see and be told” (Negus, 2014, p.6)
Deuze, M. (2007) Media work. Malden, MA: Polity Press.
Hamelink, C.J. (2015) Global Communication. London: Sage Publications Ltd.
Negus, K. (2014) Music genres and corporate cultures. London: Routledge.
Rutter, P. (2016) The music industry handbook. 2nd edn. Oxon: Routledge.
Sterne, J. (2014) ‘The is no music industry’, Media Industries, 1(1), pp. 50–55.
Wikström, P. (2009) The music industry: Music in the cloud. Malden, MA: Wiley, John & Sons.
WILLIAMSON, J. and CLOONAN, M. (2007) ‘Rethinking the music industry’, Popular Music, 26(02), p. 305.
Anderton, C., Dubber, A. and James, M. (2012) Understanding the music industries. London: SAGE Publications.
Dumbreck, A. (2016) Music Entrepreneurship. Edited by Gayle McPherson. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
Henry, C. (ed.) (2007) Entrepreneurship in the creative industries: An international perspective. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Hesmondhalgh, D. (2012) The cultural industries. 3rd edn. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications
Wikström, P. and Wikstrom, P. (2013) The music industry: Music in the cloud. 2nd edn. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Polity Press