The small economies of the ‘new’ music industry

Severn Pop Network inaugural conference

The small economies of the ‘new’ music industry
University of Bristol

25th March 2013

The music industry is in a well-publicised state of upheaval. The emergence of digital reproductive technologies (such as CD burners and MP3s), of digital distribution and consumption technologies (such as the iPod, iTunes and Spotify), and of new social media (such as Myspace and Facebook) have radically disturbed established systems of production and consumption. The benefits of these changes have fallen unequally and most cultural commentary has focused on the problems caused to the global record industry. However, one of the distinctive features of the music industry is the continuity between localised ‘para-industrial acts’ and mainstream commercial practices. The importance of geographic and genre-based scenes means that small music economies have a greater significance for the structural organisation of the music industry than in other cultural industries: ‘in the music industry… the small is as significant as the big’ (Frith, 2000).

This conference focuses on the small-scale commercial practices developing in the ‘new’ music industry, paying particular attention to local economies and ‘direct’ interactions between musicians and fans. While research exists on how declining record sales may be affecting the major industry, how (if at all) are they impacting musicians at a more local level? Is declining record income relevant or is it being offset by falling costs of recording and distribution? Are the disintermediating technologies of the internet offering greater opportunities for ‘monetising’ musical activities? How are musicians, managers, labels, promoters and fans adapting to the new circumstances? How are the relationships between these key players changing?

We invite papers on any aspect of the ‘new’ music industry outside/beyond the major-dominated mainstream. Possible topics include:

Fan funding and crowd sourcing (such as Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter campaign)
The ‘monetisation’ of fan engagement
Initiatives to create local economy/scene infrastructure
The effects of changing regulation (including copyright) on local music economies
The emergence of new cultural/economic intermediaries (such as Bandcamp)
The role of recorded music in local music economies
New business models (such as Netlabels)
Promotion in the online music industry.

Please send proposals, of up to 250 words, for 20 minute papers, and a short author bio, to The deadline for submissions is 18 January and authors will be notified of the outcome by 30 January.

The Severn Pop Network is an academic network of scholars interested in popular music and based at several universities spanning the river Severn. We meet approximately four times each year for paper presentations and reading group discussions. If you would like to get involved, please contact

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