Happy Monday! To those in the U.S., hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving breaks. Despite the fateful politics of November 8, the reverberations of which are still shaking the ground, we have much to be thankful for; we owe a lot to many of our leaders, thinkers, innovators and friends for keeping us connected, informing and challenging our beliefs, pushing the boundaries of human creativity and intelligence, and raising our voices.
This month’s subject line concerns how people use the word “industry,” particularly in relation to music. I just finished reading Keith Negus’ book Music Genres and Corporate Cultures
, which illustrates one of the most comprehensive, coherent images I’ve ever seen of how corporate music companies influence wider cultural and artistic transformations, and vice versa.
Towards the end of the book, Negus riffs on the contrast between the corporatized culture industry and the industry of culture consisting of enthusiasts, fans and musicians—between the work of bureaucratized institutions and that of individual humans who apply “sustained application and effort” to a given goal on their own terms, “as an effort of will.” Emerging artists can choose either to follow the standard, unforgiving rules of the corporate world, or to experiment and subject themselves to the whims of “the combined cultural industry of their supporters.”
This dichotomy got me thinking about how many of us think about the music “industry” today: as a collection of stubborn companies, rather than as a rallying of individuals. Data-centric approaches to curation and concert recommendations on Spotify, Songkick and other platforms are already shifting corporations’ focus to individuals, but I think it goes even further than this. Many apps that go on to be considered as cornerstones of the music “industry,” such as Musical.ly and [short-lived] Vine, were cultural tools first and corporate tools second.
Hence, with each new method of communication, curation and creation that individuals adopt, they contribute in ways large and small to the drawing board that will have significant impact on the music industry over the next five years.
To quote another one of Negus’ quips: industry produces culture, but culture can also produce an industry.