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People do not know what they want until you show it to them (Business week may 25th 1998). This is one of Steve job’s famous quotes. By this, he meant that niche production was not always the best way of introducing products to the market. Often at times people enjoy the use of products, they had no idea of their possibility. Steve, Chief executive of Apple Inc was involved in the production of equipment that would make ease the use of computers. Steve made his own creations. These creations were then adopted by consumers.
The music trade is one of the greatest beneficiaries of Steve jobs creations (Business week may 25th 1998). The growth is attributed to digitalization. Digitalization has changed the way in which music is produced, distributed and consumed. The entire business model in the music industry has experienced a complete change especially in this twenty first century. Prior to digitalization major music labels monopolized the market. The main source of income for the industry was the sale of physical records. This was, however, destroyed when electronic recording was introduced in the market. This gave rise to illegal music streaming and downloading. Despite this shortcoming of digitalization, it has enabled music artists to market and distribute their music, in addition to widening the scope of their audiences. Based on Steve jobs quote, this essay will examine the production, distribution and consumption of music in this century. Theories such as those put forward by Adorno and Bourdnieu and other concepts will be used for the analysis (longhurst 2007 p.12).
Theodore Adorno theories discuss culture industry and product/commodity fetishism in the music industry. Adorno’s theory of standardization explains the production and textual forms as well as the consumption of music in the market. According to this theory, music is merely reproduced. It also shows how the textual form of music is standardized similar to responses and feedback from the audience which equally standardized. Standardization refers to conformity of music products to a uniform structure irrespective of the fact that the range of listeners is increasing thus the supposed growth of the market. A formula is used to standardize the market. Adorno enjoyed relevance to music sociology due to his critique of genres of music in the twentieth century. He referred to the music as standardized. A culture industry according to him is an assembly procedure. A culture industry is one that is involved in the production of many products that it imposes onto society (Negus 1997 p 37). This form of industry is characterized by a worked out procedure of production. It is an industry that shapes its consumers tastes and preferences. This is the same concept held by Steve Jobs. This means that the origin ought to not only be from the consumers but could originate from the producers themselves. The culture industry according to Adorno serves to deceive its consumers as it encourages them to conform to the products produced as opposed to critically analyzing the product to determine the suitability of its feature to their needs. The result of which according to Adorno led to regressive hearing where the listeners lose their ability to analyze critically the content of the music. An industry established on a cultural basis is exploitative by its production, distribution and consumption processes (Negus 1997 p 37).
Commodity fetishism refers to the exceeding concern placed on the unique qualities of products that are merely products of man. (Longhurst 1995 p 8) This theory was postulated by Marx but helped built on Adorno’s theory on standardization. The imitation of music products is done through the application of a formula and thus the lack of innovation in the industry. Technological advances in recent years have resulted in mass production of the same while at the same time sacrificing on both quality and standards. There are reasons as to why music production has been transformed to reproduction. Pop artists have borrowed music formulas from other genre of music such as from jazz or western music. Secondly, it makes economic sense to reduce the cost of producing by not investing too much in the innovation process. Reproduction of songs would also mean that the other artists would enjoy the success and the financial prosperity of the original song. Thirdly the fear by music labels to market new music in the industry for fear that the audiences may not accept the music leading to financial losses (Longhurst 2007 p8). Adorno’s theory concludes that music production is a standardized process, one that merely involves copying the content from an original song. The record labels in charge of music distribution lack the incentive to demand innovative music. The audiences also have a standardized way of listening to the music even with the advancement of technology. However, popular songs have the element of both newness and familiarity. This is a phenomenon where the songs are somewhat expected to sound like other songs while at the same time having some degree of difference. This phenomenon is known as pseudo individuality (longhurst 2007, p.49).
Pierra Bourdnieu’s understanding of music production, distribution, and consumption is built on his theory of culture as being a system of symbols. He rejected the notion that consumer tastes and preferences result from individualistic decision on choice by the human intellect. He preludes that taste is influenced by the society and that consumption of goods is a show of what dominates in the society (Bourdnieu & Wacquant 1992, p. 84). Bourdnieu’s approach in the analysis of consumption behavior transcends the structural-agency theory. This theory seeks to relate a relationship between human behavior and his interaction with society. It was put forward by Durkheim and Marx who sought to explain the dependence between human behaviors to the structures laid down by society. His theory argues that music consumption is class based. People tend to consume that which has been determined by influential people in the society (Bourdnieu & Wacquant 1992 p 84). He suggested that music products should be universalized in order to make it legitimate. However, such universal music may not be distributed equally. Factors that determine accessibility to universal culture (to include music) are independence from economic necessity, freedom from practical urgency and the availability of leisure time to take in the cultural product as well as the creation of innovative education systems that discourage reproduction. Bourdnieu does not give a clear insight into marketing and consumer research and their relationship to making universal cultural products. He emphasizes that researchers of consumer behavior must invest in activities that help maintain the chain of command (Bourdnieu & Wacquant 1992 p 84).
Taste and preferences are influenced by the society’s elites. Producers of music impose on their audiences. In effect music marketers unreflectively sustain the cultural chain of command by offering mobile versions of the music. By so doing, the marketers are likely to profit from misidentification of the dominated while strengthening the misidentification. For nonprofit dealings, the marketers reproduce the music in the assumption that such duplication will enrich the lives of consumers by opening many opportunities for people to experience the music (Bourdnieu& Wacquant 1992 p 84).
Other concepts used in the analysis of music business process are the reception and the audience theories. The reception of music by audiences varies from individual to individual. The differences in reception calls for research into what the music means to the audience. This research would ensure that the audience is active in the production process as opposed to merely absorbing the meaning the artists want to relay. The audience theory thus states that research ought to be carried out. This then creates a paradigm in which audiences discuss, interpret and evaluate the meaning in the film and music industry (Moores 1993 p 130).
Digitalization created a new problem for the music labels as free music was being shared and streamed amongst friends. This created a free service that meant reduced profitability resulted from reduced volumes of sales. Secondly the music labels lost their business of music promotion and distribution as the artists took up this role to promote and distribute their own music (Keen 2009 p10). The overreliance on the music labels for these two roles has been reduced as the internet has provided the artists with an opportunity to steer their own marketing strategies. Live concerts have become popular with artists in the place of tape sale. Consumers pay for the opportunity to see their artists, though, they don’t pay for the music they listen to via the radio and other mediums. In this digital economy, the artists have resorted to giving away their records in the hope that it would encourage the listeners to attend the concerts. This is opposed to the pre-digital era where artists performed at concerts in order to sell their recording (Keen 2009 p10).
In light of Steve job’s quote, the digital world in which he has made significant inventions has rapidly transformed the music industry, a change that had not been anticipated by the consumers. The digital world has transformed the manner in which music is experienced and intellectualized. The digital era has challenged the legal frameworks that sought to intellectualize music. As opposed to just facilitating piracy, the digital world has led to innovativeness in the music industry thus leading to increased revenues for the consumers. The production, distribution and consumption of music have been improved from standardization to innovativeness.