Music exports and cultural policy

Music is an important and celebrated cultural form, part of the entertainment and creative industries. The “cultural turn” (Ray and Sayer, 1994) has taken many forms in the past three decades, with various implications for cultural and creative industries, govermnents and consumers as “the economy is increasingly culturally inflected and ... culture is more and more economically inflected” (Lash and Urxy, 1994, p. 64). This book traces the rise of music exports within contemporary popular music contexts,1 and the subsequent emergence of particular industry and state policies seeking commercial advantage and improved cultural trade balances. It derives from an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage project, The Economic and Cultural Value of Australian Music Exports, led by the University of Newcastle (Australia) in partnership with Monash University, APRA AMCOS, the Australia Council for the Axis and Sounds Australia. The project comprised three overlapping stages to:

  • • Map and assess the economic and cultural contribution of the Australian music export sector;
  • • Document the strategies and practices of Australian artists, managers and industry as entrepreneurs, including surveys and interviews of selected managers and artists; and
  • • Broadly assess the entrepreneurial xnodes of nations, including analysis of international export organisations and models and comparative case studies of international music export offices and schemes.

Beyond its emphasis upon Australian contexts, we were also interested in exaxn- ining how the music expoxl sector was faring in relation to a number of global debates about the popular music industries that range across the technological, cultural, govermnental and industrial. Like other creative industries (such as books, gaming, fashion, film and television), the popular music industries have not been immune to rapid change that has forced re-assessments of production, consumption and regulatory practices.

This book, then, engages in debates about how industries and nations organise “culture”, and specifically, changing relationships between economics and culture. The history of related debates about cultural/creative economies and cultural policy is worth briefly reflecting upon here, especially the broader shift from arts to cultural policy, and what this implied for activities on the ground. While arts policy from the 1950s to the 1970s in most western nations constituted funding of (and access to) “elite” and "heritage” arts, the 1980s wrought decisive shifts to forms of entrepreneurialism designed to ensure the “creative industries” contributed to an economic nationalism:

Culture creates wealth ... Culture employs ... Culture adds value, it makes an essential contribution to innovation, marketing and design. It is a badge of our industxy. The level of our creativity substantially determines our ability to adapt to new economic imperatives. It is a valuable export in itself and an essential accompaniment to the export of other commodities. It attracts tourists and students. It is essential to our economic success.

(Commonwealth of Australia, 1994, np)

The subsequent marketisation of both arts and cultural practices and products was “a growing recognition of the place of creativity—and the ‘creative’ in place—as a key driver of economic growth in the new economy, with its associated appetite for content and lifestyle goods” (Luckman, 2015, p. 351). The much-discussed emergence of “Britpop” is a useful example of the intersection of nation, culture and economy in the UK. The 1990s sub-genre refers to a particular moment of British international chart success (driven by bands such as Oasis, Blur and Pulp) that also came to stand for recycled discourses of Britishness. In this instance, individual band ambitions and broader national creative industries policy became hard to separate in terms of marketing and national identities (see Harris, 2004). “Creative Britain”/“Cool Britannia" embodied New Labour thinking on the need to connect individual entrepreneurialism to national industrial/export goals.

We broadly concur with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s thinking (UNCTAD) (2008, p. 15) in arguing that:

  • • The “creative economy” is an evolving concept based on creative assets potentially generating economic growth and development;
  • • It can foster income generation, job creation and export earnings while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development;
  • • It embraces economic, cultural and social aspects interacting with technology, intellectual property and tourism objectives;
  • • It is a set of knowledge-based economic activities with a development dimension and cross-cutting linkages at macro and micro levels to the overall economy;
  • • It is a feasible development option calling for innovative, multidisciplinary policy responses and inter-ministerial action;
  • • At the heart of the creative economy are the creative industries.

At the same time, UNCTAD's definitions of the “creative industries” and related sub-categories sidestep various complexities. For example, popular music is not only part of the “performing arts”, but also encompasses “heritage” aspects. There are also problems (cf. Peck, 2005; Hesmondhalgh, 2013, pp. 172-174) in their incorporation of Richard Florida’s boundaries of precisely who can be labelled as "creative”; we take issue with "creative entrepreneurs” being so loosely conceived as to include “creative professionals in business, finance and law ... artists or engineers, musicians or computer scientists, writers or entrepreneurs” (Florida, 2002, p. 16). As discussed in the next section, explanations of the creative process no longer hold with artist-centric foci. Indeed, this book examines an increasingly complex network of industry workers where the artist (and the song) is situated at the beginning of interlocking processes of creation and promotion; and where branding and identity construction in some ways are brought more sharply into focus than within fan-artist relationships.

The central 2008 UNCTAD definitions of “creative economy” do retain and acknowledge social and cultural contexts and values that go some way to incorporating the “symbolic” dimensions of industrial and consumption practices (Hesmondhalgh, 2008) (which has led others to use “cultural and creative industries”—CCI—as an all-encompassing term). It is a useful summary of the interdependencies of states and industries that captures the emergence of the creative industries as both national and city assets for wider economic growth.

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