notes on the progress of my third year dissertation (towards BA (hons) Music Industry Management and Studio Production) comprising links to research, extracts of essays and thoughts on the research for this project. This blog essentially ties together the dissertation's presence on the internet.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Literature Review.

This literature review aims to provide a theoretical framework, based on the current literature available. From this, theories will be developed into a conceptual framework underpinning the primary research. This framework will provide the source of the further research. The literature review will survey several key texts regarding genre theories that might be used to describe a market for use in the design of business strategy. The review will compare and contrast the theories presented in these texts to determine common grounds of agreement, as well as any grounds for dispute. The review will also highlight any gaps in the knowledge that may hinder further research.

The theoretical frame work of this literature review is an adapted version of one used by Wall (2003). Wall uses social, economic and technical factors as the predominant factors affecting a genre. Two categories have been kept, but have expanded economic to “economic and industrial” to better reflect the focus of this research, i.e. the benefit a record label gains from understanding the market. I have also added an additional initial category dealing with genre as a whole to provide a reference point for the factors affecting genre.

There is a considerable volume of literature relating to genre theory, so, where possible, concepts that are covered in greater depth or with greater relevance to this particular research, are reviewed at length here, whilst literature that overlaps with these key works are duly acknowledged.

Rock / Pop / Electro? Electro/ Disco / Indie? – Genre.

Frith (1998) writes of genre that they are ever subject to change. The way we have classified music over the years has altered radically. The reason for this need to organize music is because, as Frith and Fabri demonstrate, people expect something from the way music sounds. Genre allows the average record buyer to find what he wants a record store, and with it, similar sounding records. It would be nigh-on impossible to find a band you could not remember the name of in an alphabetically organized store. Similarly, it would be impossible to communicate a new release to an audience if there was no forum dealing in that type of music. Genre definition is based on many things

Shuker, R (1998 p. 145) suggests that genres are little more than categories. One way to define these categories is to be guided by the music industry and take their word for what constitutes any given genre. Failing this, Shuker determines that definitions may be based on ideological rules, similar to those developed by Frith (1996) from the writings of Fabri (see below). Shuker cites Weinstein (1991) on concepts relevant to this research.

Art is about restriction. Fuck art, let’s dance - Social Factors Affecting Genre.

Wall (2003) argues that changes in popular music often coincide, but are neither the result, nor cause, of sociological change. Many cultural things, such as art and literature, may also be spawned at a similar time reflecting the society that spawned it.

“As long as we avoid the danger of being over-deterministic – that is, seeing the social change as causing the social shift – then this linkage of social to musical changes can produce important insights.” Wall (2003 p.37).

Wall takes this further by discussing how music can be political, or pertinent to specific groups in society, so people may relate to kinds of music as they reflect their own experiences.

Sociological and ideological rules, according to Fabri (cited in Frith 1996 p. 93) “cover the social image of the musician regardless of reality” and “the nature of the musical community and its relationship to the wider world”, whilst behavioral rules determine the ways in which “musical skill and technique” and “musical personality” are shown in both the artist and the genre. These are the things people look for when buying a record from a genre, and the things they relate to when they think of the genre. Whilst an artist may not fit any single genre perfectly, without genre he is lost to those looking for him.

Mclaren, M (2003) gives the impression that “8bit” is a reaction to today’s overpriced and sometimes inaccessible/intolerable Hi-fi culture of CD, iPods and Pro-Tools and as such appeals to people fed-up of these things too. Therefore it follows that, based on McLaren’s writing, and by applying genre theory, fans of “8bit” might also carry mild grievances with todays Hi-fi convenience culture.

McClary, S (writing in “Microphone Friends” Ross, A & Rose, T) starts her essay citing Plato’s “Republic”. She does this to show how far back the notion that new forms of music have always rattled established social (as well as political) values. McCaly however goes on to note the writings of critics form the Frankfurt School as stating that music is a platform for the airing of social grievances. Could it be then, that for fans of “8bit”, their way of life has become too spoon fed? Is this a market that wants to work for it’s music?

Wall (2003) argues that music happens in a social context. As the context changes, so does the way music is listed to and consumed. As society progresses, the music of yesterday is consumed in a different manor to the music of today. Frith (1996 p.84) also notes the progression of music “will, inevitably, become “lite”, “gold” and “easy listening” in the years to come”. As “8bit” evolves, it may therefore become more widely accepted.

Street (1992) writes with regard to music being political, Shaw (1987) writes in respect of the hedonism of the 1920’s being tied to jazz music as well as other forms of culture, Potter (1995), Ward (1998), George (1999) and Bradley (2000) write on the subject of the use of music to define African-American and African Caribbean identity in racist cultures resulting in funk, reggae and rap, and how genre is created through this. These are all relevant texts that form much of the ground work for the sociological study of genre.

Lo-tech Music For Hi-tech People - Technological Factors Affecting Genre

Wall (2003) asserts that technology has had a huge impact on music. It impacts in four key areas: music production, recording, distribution and how music is consumed. This expanded use of technology has meant that music has become more valuable as a commodity as it can be broadcasted and distributed to huge audiences on a global scale.

Negus (1999 p. 33) and Wall (2003) are in agreement that technology has an impact on the way the product of music manifests it’s self. Negus picks up on the idea that artists are now required in order to provide agreements for the “cross-collateralization” of other products that the artist may feature in i.e. music videos, television performances and appearances in commercials. Negus also points out that the way a product is “conceptualized” is likely to change with the progress of technology. We have seen this in the move from vinyl to MP3 over the last thirty years.

Negus (1999) notes that information management, as used by major record company’s marketing departments the world over, is powered by advances in information technology. Technology forms the backbone of the administrative side of the recorded music industry and advances in technology can have significant benefits in the form of the efficiency of a record label. This means that record companies are more able to determine a range of information quicker and easier. This can impact on the formation of a genre as priorities shift with the ready availability of additional information.

The Internet, a crucial tool within the genre of 8bit, also has ad a massive impact on music genre. The ability to discuss and find out about music on a global scale undoubtedly affects where and how music is consumed.

Wall (2003 p.221) states three key internet technologies that have reformed, in part, the dissemination of music. These are:

• File compression i.e. MP3 – the ability to reduce the size of a file to make possible the transference of data (music) between computers over the internet. The smaller size of the file means much less bandwidth is required and the speed of the transfer is greatly increased.
• Streamed audio – the broadcasting of audio over the internet. This is comparable to a radio broadcast.
• Peer-to-peer networks – The sharing of music files globally through systems and protocols. The Gnutella network services popular files-sharing programs such as Limewire ( 2007).

Also worthy of note at this point is Bittorrent. This is not dissimilar to peer-to-peer networks but the protocol used is different. Bittorrent allows users to download from several people with the same file at once using a system based around Seeders (people with the whole file) and Leachers (people downloading the file). Collectively these are known as Peers. This system further improves the speed of downloading. REFERENCE!!!!!!

“The Technology of file-sharing was exploited so that music fans could swap MP3 music files, and is now increasingly the basis on which record companies attempt to reassert their ownership of music that had slipped into the hands of music fans.” This quote from Wall (2003 p.222), although now a little dated, perfectly sums up the attitude of the major record companies towards these now fundamental technologies. Their insistence on Digital Rights Management (DRM) means that legitimate uses of these technologies benefit the industry to the detriment of the consumer. REFEARENCE HERE!!!!

Social-networking websites, most notably – a website that allows, among other things, artists to create a profile about themselves and upload their own music to the profile for streaming or downloading for free - are significant in the way they allow both the artists and the fans of 8bit to communicate. Artists have a database of fans that they can market to for free, and also a contact point on the internet that anyone can access.

Fabri’s (as cited in Frith 1998???p.????) “Formal and Technical rules” looks at how the music is played and the instrumentation used, what level of skill is required to perform it, and the musical structure. The instrumentation helps to define the sound of the genre and can be hugely affected by technology. The advent of synthesizers, drum machines and the home computer have all lent to new forms of music. “8bit” uses computer hardware from the 1980’s as its choice of instrumentation. This leads to a very distinctive sound, and whilst “8bit” artists may draw influence from many different sources, the technology they use to produce their art creates a distinctive lo-fidelity sound.

(Negus, K. 1992 p.20) distinguishes two categories of musician; techno-phobic and techno-euphoric. It is curious to note that 8bit musicians fall into both these divisions. On the one hand, this is a techno-phobic group of artists who seem to shun modern technology for production, and yet on the other hand, they are techno-euphoric about a specific point in technology’s history and make full use of the internet and social networking websites to communicate with each other. This provides a different view of “8bit” to the sociological views outlined above.

Economic and Industrial Factors Affecting Genre

Wall (2003) cites Earl (1986) and attributes the commercialisation of music to the “Industrialisation and unbanisation in Europe from 1850" resulting in music as a commodity and a profession.

Fabri’s (as cited in Frith 1998???p.????) Commercial and Juridical rules govern how a genre acts with respect to the music industry - how an artist distributes work to consumers, the rate of return the artist receives for this, and the extent of this remuneration (and by whom it is paid) are all governed by this aspect of the genre. This rule forms a key part of the conceptual framework for the following primary research as these factors will determine to what extent artists and fans of 8bit will tolerate commercial exploitation.

Negus (1999 p.47) references Frith’s (1996 p. 85) view of using genre to make the marketing of music more efficient by dividing music into manageable parts that can be relatively easily found by the consumer, and targeted by the company. Negus takes this further by posing the idea that by basing the structure of a label around the genres that it deals with, individual units are formed and can be monitored for signs of growth or a fall in sales. Negus is then able to apply the idea of the “Boston Box Matrix” to the roster of a labels acts, genres or sub-labels to determine which are performing and to what level. This enables a company to effectively manage their portfolio based on genre.

Negus, K (1999) writes at length about the relationship between genre and the corporate culture of the recorded music industry. He highlights several key theories relevant to this study. The central theme of his book “Music Genres and Corporate Cultures” (1999) is that “an industry produces culture and a culture produces industry” (p. 14).

The use of corporate strategy in the music industry allows record labels to organize and control some of the uncertainties that are inherent in the business of commodifying an emotionally based product for sale on a mass scale. Corporate strategy also allows a company (be it an entertainment company or not) to increase the predictability of certain aspects of the business, and also hold accountable those who do not perform for the business. In the entertainment business, corporate strategy allows a company to balance the production of a product with the consumption of it (Negus, K. 1999 p.47).

Market intelligence, a concept that the research is primarily concerned with, is exploration of what Negus describes as two key concepts – purchase and consumption and is inextricably linked with Fabbri’s fifth genre rule. This can be done in many ways, from elaborate market research through focus groups to profiling artists and considering the massive amounts of statistical data available through such sources as “Soundscan” in the US (the source of the billboard chart) or through the BPI in the UK. Some of the general questions raised by Negus (p. 53) as being part of this are:

• Who buys what, where and when?
• How frequently do they buy?
• Is price/image/etc an influencing factor?
• Are DJs/Clubs/Radio/TV an influencing factor and if so which ones?
• Do people buy singles or albums of a particular artist?
• Which single lead to the purchase of the album?
• How does music buying fit into the consumer’s lifestyle?
• Where, with whom and for how long do people listen to music?

Negus however questions the value of research (p. 60). Whilst research can help the process of strategy and decision making, Negus feels that it can distort the reality of the business of selling a cultural product. There is a very real danger when conducting this kind of research of fabricating a reality that simply is not there.

“Semiotic rules” are concerned with the way a genre communicates, the roll a singer plays in the music, what type of meaning is conveyed and how this is achieved. These rules form the bases of the dialogue between artist and consumer.

Define the concepts under investigation

Discuss the relationship between concepts (form framework)

Examine and summarise essential lit

Locate your topic in the lit. Show research builds on existing knowledge

State clearly the purpose of research

Provide a rational for the study.

No comments: