Transitions in the music industry are a hot topic that often evokes discussions around concepts like framing and transversality, which are practices and phenomena that interact in complex ways, to improve (or perhaps restrict) media consumption and reach, along technological evolution.
Conglomerates reign, a glory pastime
In the past, and perhaps not very long ago, musicians and singers relied on record companies to produce, promote and distribute their works, mainly due to the huge expenses involved with making records and because of the domineering market share media conglomerates, such as Sony BMG, Universal Music and Warner Music, hold. But before anything was drafted or established on a contract, the right to recognise and assess how valuable these artists might be or become lay in the hands of these media conglomerates. Looking at this process of selection, it is quite obvious that the traditional music industry was heavily framed, in terms of their structured steps to filter music talents or charismatic celebrities, even prior to any investment made or music released. Not to mention their power to get the CD out in stores and gain access to music channels, exposing artists’ music videos to a wide audience. These guidelines, built upon industrial competitions and enterprise affordances, were metonymic of frames, but they were also obstacles that made music production a difficult business to compete against. If the potential artists could not get their voices heard and appreciated by record companies their dreams were likely to be shattered. Like Taurean Casey, the co-founder of Music Assistant Now, said, “It was unthinkable to go against these conglomerates” (2011) back in those days.
New Players Transverse the Platforms of Distribution and Consumption
Flipping to a new chapter of the music industry
Then, when new media ecologies started to emerge and the convergence of multi-platforms proliferated, music enthusiasts were no longer undermined by established frames. In the age of Web2.0, Internet users are encouraged to be interactive with online content. This social norm later works hand-in-hand with online shopping. Together, they facilitate Amazon, Google and Apple to provide alternatives to underground and independent artists to have their voices heard by the general public on a globally mediated arena. In turn, the possibility for transversally distributed music heightens and, thus, brings new opportunities for consumers to play with their purchases and archive their own idiosyncratic playlists.
Such transversals, nevertheless, often reconstruct frames that may underlie promotional strategies of music and impede freedom of artists, who have contracts with record companies after they were discovered on converged media, like Youtube, which foster amateur productions and personalized online channels. More than often, notoriously rebellious artists, for example, Lady GaGa, are branded as creative pop kings/queens and people who are current with leading communication norms, such as tweeting on Twitter or holding iTunes festivals. We might recognise the dilemma with these new kinds of frames and transversals when Lady GaGa sang her new song (at the time), ‘Edge of Glory’, for her live audience before the actual release date as she refused to follow strict policies made by both her record label and iTunes (See this on Youtube).
Also, Taurean’s argument that new Internet facilities are cheap ways to produce and distribute music is gradually withering away when David Lowery makes it clear that
“essentially THE NEW BOSS in the new model is iTunes and Amazon (also indirectly Google) and THE NEW BOSS is actually more greedy than the old boss” (as cited in Paul 2012)
It is interesting to see how the interactions and interrelations between frames and transversals are triggering unforeseen climates of media ecologies today. And it will continue to shape, transform and redefine the ways in which we associate with and consume music. But ultimately, the extents to which individuals are affected by such transitions in the music industry depend on their roles and degree of participation in relevant media events.
Casey, T (2011). ‘The New Music Industry Is Not Coming’, blog post, 6th of May, accessed 14th March 2012, <http://www.diigo.com/bookmark/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.musicthinktank.com%2Fblog%2Fthe-new-music-industry-is-not-coming.html?tab=people&uname=andersand>
Paul, (2012), ‘I’m a Successful Artist. And Here’s Why Things Have Never Been Worse…’, news article, Digital Music News, 14th of February, accessed 14th of March, <http://www.diigo.com/bookmark/http%3A%2F%2Fwww.digitalmusicnews.com%2Fpermalink%2F2012%2F120214cracker?tab=people&uname=andersand>
Wagstaff, K (2012), ‘How Small E-Book Sellers Could Help Break the Amazon-Apple Duoplay’: http://techland.time.com/2012/04/16/in-wake-of-apple-case-could-indie-booksellers-help-solve-publishers-e-book-problem/?iid=tl-main-feature