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In L’Industrie musicale à l'aube du XXIème siècle. Approches critiques, pp. 167-199
(invited author)
Editors: Jacob T. Matthews, Lucien Perticoz
Paris: L'Harmattan, 2012



The disparities and the ambivalence of the music industries are the focus of this paper where the recording industry is considered a part of a larger system within the socio-economic formation. Taking into account the facets of the production of culture, the intention is not to examine a sector in its particularity, but a system revealing the contradictions of the socio-economic formation. Hence, the micro-level is seen through a societal perspective.

In the first part, the notion of a single music industry is challenged based on relevant arguments developed over the past decades (especially by Williamson and Cloonan). The functions of this notion when used in the public sphere, are briefly explained and it is outlined a far more complicated and contradictory system of music industries, adding to the existing literature and discussion. Considering the realities of the production and circulation of music, relevant research, and the uses of the notion of a single industry, the paper insists on a more relevant model for understanding this field of cultural production.

In the second part, the complexities, the contradictions and the ambivalence of the music industries are discussed examining the flows of content carriers, music hardware and musical resources. Disparities on a micro-level are also discussed and the failure of the cultural industries for the least favoured countries and artists is outlined. The paper holds that the disparities and the ambivalence of the music industries, depict a much more complicated field compared to any simplistic understanding of the cultural imperialism thesis. The perspective employed is also found incompatible with the ideological harmonization emanating from the industry rhetoric. To summarize the contradictions, the disparities and the ambivalence as structural characteristics of the music industries as well as their implications, the term disparity feature is suggested.

Considering the disparity feature, then, in the third part, the current mutation of the music industries is discussed based on Peterson’s model for the production of culture and on the concept of creative destruction. In this perspective, the paper holds that there is no crisis of THE music industry (which actually does not exist), neither of the music industries, but a process of adaptation of several sections within various sectors of the music industries. Finally, a scenario for their future is outlined in the context of the current socioeconomic crisis and taking into account the disparity feature. In the light of the suggested perspective, the paper concludes that the analysis of contradictions and complexities and the departure from the dominant logic of the oligonomy, may reveal some unexpected ramifications of the current mutation.