A few readings about the recording industry

Hi all!! During the last week I’ve been reading a few papers about recorded music and how culture, business, laws, consumption behaviours all meet in a crossroad called “Recording Industry”. I read three papers, the first three in the references list you find at the end of the post, and these are my thoughts about them:

  1. As regards the Homan’s paper about the legal dispute around copyright issues in Australian nightclubs, two aspects in particular struck me. The first one has a more technical/economic nature: the difficulty in creating objective parameters that could make it possible the calculation of a “reasonable” copyright rate for venues and nightclubs, which can be understood by these operators as an equal rate. The second aspect is a negative cultural attitude: the fact that the venue representative bodies critiques of the PPCA argument where mainly based on the idea that “music was at the best a secondary input into their businesses”. This particular fact, as the Australian government pointed out, demonstrates how many points of hostility and confusion there are between the collection societies and their clients and how important is an information campaign on copyright role, flanked by a shared decision-making on copyright policies. What is more, the most critical point relates to the shift from copyright as a “regulatory mechanism” to copyright as a “proprietary mechanism” that has now become a tool which doesn’t encourage music distribution and consumption. These limits have been reported by several authors and recently in the Hargreaves Report, a “review of intellectual property and growth” ordered by the government in which professor Ian Hargreaves has made a list of recommendations of how to “update” copyright in the UK and in the music business too. Moreover extremism in copyright laws is producing “a growing copyright abolitionism” as argued by Lawrence Lessig in this TED conference.
  2. In the second paper, Gander and Rieple argued that major and indie labels are characterized by a complementary but at the same time detached relationship where “resources and capabilities are a feature of the typology of each firm and resist transfer from one to another”. This paper made me think to an interesting article that I read recently (http://hs.riverdale.k12.or.us/~hfinnert/exhib_06/davidp/paper2.html), where these characteristic are confirmed and is pointed out that an interesting shift is going on in these relationship: a reversal in the relevance that indie labels will play in the future, caused by digital technologies that are spreading among both artists and consumers. More than ever, artists have the ability to succeed without the backing of a major record label. “Marketing can be hired out to powerful and effective agencies, and there are numerous distribution options for independent artists” (Kusek and Leonhard) and “As consumers move towards internet stores and digital music stores, independent musicians and labels have a better chance of competing with major labels, since independent labels have the same access to these digital stores as major labels” (Barnet and Burriss). So even if this inter-organizational relationship between majors and indie labels has been dominated by the biggest companies, now this relationship could become more balanced because of the digital distribution.
  3. In the third paper, Rob Drew investigates how a totally free cultural activity, making mix tapes, has been put at the centre of commercial interests for the purpose of selling music, “transforming an everyday cultural activity into labor on behalf of music business”. This representation, although it may bring up the music industry like a leech, does nothing but emphasizes its primary reason to be: the pursuit of a profit. Digital distribution facilitates the diffusion of music allowing us to share and expand our musical knowledge far beyond friends circle. This results in an extension of the potential market: pricing mix tapes, does nothing but increases record industry’s profits, allowing users of these services to share their mix and promoting music among other users. Moreover, what I find really interesting in this paper is the role that technology had in the mix tapes making since the beginning. It obviously began with tapes, was accelerated by CDs and formalized with digital distribution. By this technological evolution a cultural behaviour has reached its formalization too: the disaggregation of the album and a new way to consume music, using for instance streaming services that “casually” offer the possibility to share mixes and playlists too.


Homan S. Dancing without Music: Copyright and Australian Nightclubs. Popular Music and Society. 2010;33(3):377-393.

Gander J, Rieple A. Inter-organisational Relationships in the Worldwide Popular Recorded Music Industry. Creativity and Innovation Management. 2002;11(4):248-254.
Drew R. Mixed Blessings: The Commercial Mix and the Future of Music Aggregation. Popular Music and Society. 2005;28(4):533-551.

David P. How are independent artists and new technologies dismantling the impact of major record labels? available at: http://hs.riverdale.k12.or.us/~hfinnert/exhib_06/davidp/paper2.html

Kusek, David and Gerd Leonhard. The Future of Music: Manifesto For The Digital Music Revolution. Bonston: Berklee Press, 2005.

Barnett, Richard D, and Larry L. Burriss. Controversies of the Music Industry. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Lawrence Lessig, Laws that choke creativity: http://www.ted.com/talks/larry_lessig_says_the_law_is_strangling_creativity.html


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