‘Fair Music: Transparency and Payment Flows in the Music Industry’

The ‘Rethink Music Initiative’ at the Berklee School of Music recently published a study of the contemporary political economy of music (that’s the pdf below, h/t dmf for the link).

There is a great deal to admire in this study. I have been looking for a breakdown of how value is extracted from the circulation of recordings in the digital age and this piece does exactly that. They (rightly, I think) are outraged at how little the artists are compensated for their work in comparison to labels and other copyright-holders. And the Latourian in me is overjoyed at the term ‘black-box’ being used repeatedly to describe the shroud of secrecy surroundingĀ just how exactly the mechanics of payment take place.

Of course they are reformists and reactionaries in a strong sense. Rather than thinking the crisis of value Internet-based distribution inaugurates for the economy of music as an invitation to criticize the capitalist model of exchange, they seek simply to streamline the system in order to make sure that ‘creators’ are ‘fairly compensated.’

Nonetheless, this study is an invaluable contribution to the study of the political economy of music.



8 thoughts on “‘Fair Music: Transparency and Payment Flows in the Music Industry’

    • that was quite an interesting podcast. i appreciate Imogen Heap’s emphasis on rectifying the currently lopsided distribution of profits back towards the artist, and the block chain method of payment seems to be a decent proposal to cut out the middlemen in some ways.

      The section on the history of recorded audio was wild, esp. the parts on how the medium of recording influenced the content, instrumentation n performance of music. this sort of work shows the need to think past recording-as-representation.


      • indeed, reminds me of the false lines between say science and engineering, or engineering and bricolage, part of why I like Andy Pickering’s Mangle b/c the it has a sense of how our environs offer us affordances and resistances like JJ Gibson tried to bring to light in psychology.


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