#musicatwork – Part 2: Consumption Music

The first part of this post collated music that soundtracked work activities. I differentiated ‘work songs’ from ‘workplace background music’. The lines drawn between these categories are a bit blurry in traditional oral cultures but, since the ‘workplace’ as such is strongly associated with industrial capitalism, they still (ahem) work. Once recorded music comes along, and we move more into white collar work, things start to get a bit messier. Though there might remain strong differences between company and worker, the dividing line between production and consumption definitely starts to fade. The company song and the corporate anthem are songs about working environments, for instance, but aren’t exactly a worker’s reflection on that work. Indeed, they seem to encourage workers to consume the idea of the company and the idea of work.

The production/consumption division also gets muddied from the other side as well, with music being an important gelling agent in retail and hospitality spaces, or circulating in intra-industry circles to strengthen a brand, for instance. The below brings together ways in which music is put to work to aid the process of buying and selling, alongside a quick survey of popular ‘songs about work’ – that is songs that comment on the nature of work more critically while themselves being offered up for consumption – or, in a pleasing return to the times of the Light Programme, played on the radio in the office background.




#musicatwork – Part 1: Production Music

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article on the most efficient music to listen to while working, which reminded me of Anneli Haake‘s research. I started a spontaneous journey through the hyperlinked byways of the internet, looking for ways in which music and work have come together, and using the #musicatwork hashtag on Twitter to catalogue it (I call it ‘research’). It’s peripheral to my doctoral interests really, but the purpose was to help me think through instances in which music might have been more functionalised (other than sync or brand partnerships, where music is literally put to work) – to try and get away from the idea of music purely as entertainment, escape, or emotional release. I gathered a far richer collection than I expected and really underscored music’s seeming capacity for getting deep beneath the skin and regulating affective flows.

I’ve collated these across two posts, divided along the lines of production and consumption. Part 2 here.



20(…ish) Things to Read from (roughly) The Last Year

So I think that studying the music industry is very important and very now. I’m sometimes asked what I can recommend to back this claim up, so below are 20 recent books and other bits of writing that were all more or less published in the last year or so. I’ve organised them around three main topics:

–          the politics and economics of new technologies and business models
–          economic markets and creative work
–          narrating the industry – representation, image-management, rhetoric

Within these topics I’ve not distinguished between books for the academic sector, for public readership, websites, policy reports and so on – this is deliberate. I think each should be taken on its own terms and read (critically) against the others, so that more productive dialogues between traditionally distinct industries and markets might start to emerge. Some books may not be rigorously referenced but they can nonetheless present new perspectives and unheard voices; academic writing is not tailored for the needs of industry or everyday reading (and often runs the risk of being dry) but this distance can produce insights that reach a little further and deeper as a result.

At the bottom are some forthcoming books to keep an eye out for. It’s a necessarily idiosyncratic list, and I don’t endorse everything on it, but it’s a useful collection I hope.

On the political economy of digital music:
–          Chris Anderton, Andrew Dubber, Martin James, Understanding the Music Industries
An undergraduate/initiate’s entry to grappling with the complexities of the modern industry’s greater focus on content-management alongside retail consumption

–          Tim Anderson, Popular Music in a Digital Economy: Problems and Practices for an Emerging Service Industry
The music industry as a state of perpetual ‘becoming’ as it moves from (ownership-based) product retail to (access-based) service industry

–          Jim Rogers, The Death and Life of the Music Industry in the Digital Age
Challenges the dominance of the ‘rise and fall’ narrative of the music industry, suggesting that existing power structures have been consolidated rather than dismantled.

–          Jeremy Silver, Digital Medieval: The first twenty years of music on the web… and the next twenty
A digital music consultant’s argument for more fluidity between music and cross-media platforms

–          Jonas Andersson Schwarz, Online File Sharing: Innovations in Media Consumption
Important examination of the attitudes and justifications of Scandinavian file-sharers

–          Don Passman, All You Need To Know About the Music Business (8th ed.)
I always recommend this book when people ask me about introductory texts; it is now twenty years old but the fact that it has had so many updates is telling – this new edition came out last year

–          London School of Economics – MPP, Copyright & Creation (Media Policy brief)
A masterclass in how academics can take important debates that could usefully flesh out a dialogue that’s already being had in the public sphere – and then killing that opportunity with hollow argument and needless antagonism

–          International Journal of Music Business Research
Launched in 2012 with interesting people on board, two further issues appeared last year – it’s an interesting experiment in potentially crossing commercial and academic interests.

–          David Beer, Popular Culture and New Media: The Politics of Circulation
Cheating, as this isn’t strictly about music, but it’s as relevant as it can get without being so

On music markets and creative work:
–          Lee Marshall (ed.), The International Recording Industries
A closer look at emerging music markets…

–          IFPI – Engine of a Digital World
…and the industry body’s official perspective on the same

–          Nick Wilson, The Art of Re-enchantment: Making Early Music in the Modern Age
Historical case study of the emergence of a now well-established market – the early music movement in classical performance – from the perspective of its entrepreneur-artists

–          Matt Stahl, Unfree Masters: Recording Artists and the Politics of Work
Recording artists as workers or as property owners? Placing the argument within a broader social context of contemporary US labour markets

–          Mark Banks, Ros Gill, Steph Taylor (eds.), Theorizing Cultural Work: Labour, continuity and change in the cultural and creative industries
Cheating again. Not a proper music book, but lots of important chapters in this regarding creative industries in relation to their history, their literature, intellectual property, and so on

On criticism and narrating the industry:
–          Devon Powers, The Village Voice and the Birth of Rock Criticism
Important questions being asked about the industry’s relationship to its media commentary (should be read alongside Powers’ other articles on criticism, ‘hype’, and ‘company freaks’)

–          Kristin Lieb, Gender, Branding, and the Modern Music Industry: The Social Construction of  Female Popular Music Stars
I’ve not read this one but it’s a timeless theme in a significant historical moment. Old school cultural studies meets the star system – I hope it’s not as clunky as it clearly has the possibility of being

–          Tim Wall, ‘The X Factor’ [in Pete Bennett and Julian McDougall (eds.), Barthes’ Mythologies Today: Readings of Contemporary Culture]
A chapter – but significant that SyCo’s iconic brand is considered one of today’s most telling mythical signifiers (also an acknowledgement of how important I think Barthes is to these discussions…!)

–          Morrissey, Autobiography
The one man myth-machine narrates himself,

–          Bob Stanley, Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop
And further commentary on the meaning of popular music from the perspective of an artist and connoisseur.

–          Dave Hesmondhalgh, Why Music Matters
The social significance of music’s emotional ties, from a key voice in creative industries scholarship. Resemblance to the BPI’s awareness campaign is coincidental, so I am told, but not inconsequentially so, I don’t think.

–          Toby Bennett, The Libidinal Economy of Music Videos
Had to get a plug for myself in here somewhere too, of course…

Forthcoming in 2014:
–          Mark Mulligan, Meltdown: The Music Industry in a Digital Age
Respected music industry consultant’s perspective on what digital means and where it’s going

–          Mark Rye, Over Under Sideways Down
More myths, stories and purported realities from the people behind the Rock History interview blog

–          Martin Cloonan, Shane Homan, Jennifer Cattermole – Popular Music Industries and the State
A global policy perspective on music’s social value based on three national case studies

–          Simon Napier-Bell – Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay
The manager-author delivers another volume of his industry experiences – this time mapped against his own history of the industry

–          Sumanth Gopinath and Jason Stanyek (eds.) – The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies: Volume 1 & Volume 2
Everyone knows that music is mobile now – the academic voices here are key in working out what this means in terms that are not strictly technical or economic, and how music might be experienced in a different way as a result.

–          Timothy D Taylor – New Capitalism, Music and Social Theory
After studies of sync licensing and advertising, this could be an interesting entry into developing a field of music industry studies.