Music-Media Technologies

The pace and extent of change wrought by technological shifts within the music (and cultural) industries over the past two decades have been profound. This has seen a shift from music as product to music as a “service” (Tschmuck, 2003) that offers consumers new contexts of consumption (Wikstrom, 2013). Indeed, “mobile telephony-driven music streaming ... looks set to be the most important development, on a par with the introduction of the phonograph, vinyl records and the CD [in] producing new dynamics of personalisation and mobility” (Hesmondhalgh and Meier, 2018, p. 1562), with music primarily used as a cultural form to lead consumers to new digital technologies, with music consumption a secondary consideration (ibid., pp. 1566-1568). This has been accompanied by the presence of new global companies (such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Spotify, Live Nation) that are significant for their distributional power, which is increasingly translated into influence across related sectors, including music publishing, live performance and recording. The new (unequal) shifts in power were forcefully put by one of The Guardian’s music writers:

[Spotify] is still a thing of wonder, easily among the most miraculous manifestations of digital ingenuity ... [but] you have quite a charge sheet: exploitation, the turning of music into wallpaper, and the slicing and dicing of great art according to the crassest of considerations ... why do artists still blithely put their art into such unreliable care?

(Harris, 2018)

In relation, the rights of artists—and consumers—remain contested as nations attend to significant lags in intellectual property law and governance of the digital aggregators, and as industries confront ever-increasing sources of song revenues and exploitation. While digital streaming revenues have corrected the precipitous decline in artist and company incomes experienced since the 1990s, the inverted business model for most artists (except the “superstars”) remains, placing greater dependence upon touring and merchandise revenue (rather than recording income). The decreased prospect (unlike in the “golden age” for recording artists from the 1950s to the end of the 1980s) of artists with national recognition achieving durable careers requires them to increasingly look to international markets fox- economic viability.

How and where to locate (and maintain) audiences was an explicit concern for the musicians, artist managers and export managers we interviewed. At the same time, complaints about jet lag and doing business in different time zones are now accompanied by acknowledgements of the possibilities of the digital platform era. Songwriters and performers are confronting both the threats and opportunities presented by constantly evolving digital networks of production, consumption and networking. Increasingly complex digital technologies have various obvious implications for the music industries, including opportunities for “co-evolution between the streaming and live music industries” (Naveed et al., 2017, p. 1).

As with other forms of mainstream media/entertainment, the music industries are part of a new era where both producers and consumers are confronted by an “infoglut” (Andrejevic, 2013, pp. 1-19) with an attendant increasing “‘datafica- tion’ of listening” (Prey, 2016, p. 32). In the broader historical shift from media scarcity to media abundance, the music sector is required to pay much greater attention to data management as a core rationale for success. David Hellburg, Head of Digital for Warner Music Sweden, argues that:

The huge amount of data that we have access to now is really, really interesting. It allows us to make smarter choices when it comes to marketing and even in terms of how we want to portray an artist, or what type of content we want to release. But the most exciting part is probably the fact that we don’t know what the next big thing in music will be. Things change so fast, which forces us to always be on top of our game, trying new things and making educated decisions based on the outcome - that’s really something I love.

(Hellburg cited in IFPI. 2018, p. 39)

“Datafication” represents new oppoxtunities for artists, managers axid recording labels to better plan for emerging export opportunities, especially in tracking axid analysing new potexxtial territories. However, it also requires industries and firms to be equipped with the means and knowledge to manage axid exploit the precise information on offer across markets and platforms.

Certainly, the internet now "enables the development of niche xnarkets that make specialised and esoteric cultural goods available to consumers all over the world, thus increasing cultural diversity” (Towse, 2009, p. 400). In the contexts of export, this exitails advantages and threats in relation to ideas of the "creative” career discussed earlier. Many of our interviewees spoke to the potential of access to instant sales data, and forging (hopefully) long-term relationships with international fans in ways that can transform older ways of “doing” export. At the same time, artists, managers and industry bodies have raised the problems for export offices in enabling strong international profiles amongst very crowded markets and social media platforms, the related need to work with the “right” online cura- tors/platforms and being able to respond to quickly emerging interest from audience bases. It seems, too, that digital track records of domestic/overseas success will be increasingly used in evaluating requests for market assistance.

 
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