Ad Hoc Entrepreneurs: Middle-Layer Musicians and the Contemporary Media Landscape

27. Oct 2016

The dissertation is about is about how structural changes in media and music industries shape the organization of professional activities and media practices of middle-layer rock musicians. This is studied through an integration of analyses of structural changes in the music industries based on quantitative industry data, and qualitative case studies.

The dissertation contributes to the music industry research with a particular interest in the musicians’ perspective, and integrates micro and macro perspectives on the economic, organizational, communicational and social consequences of digitalization.

The dissertation is organized in three main parts.

Part one reviews literature and concepts from three distinct research traditions that each cover their perspectives of the nexus between music industries (Horkheimer & Adorno 2006/1944, Hirsch 1972, Negus 2011/1993, Hesmondhalgh 2012, Wikström 2013), media theory (Baym 2012, Baym & boyd 2012, Benkler 2006, Jenkins 2006, Hearn 2008, Meyrowitz 1985) and cultural labor (Ryan 1992, Banks 2007, Stahl 2013).

Part two analyzes first the structural and economic change in the music industries since the advent of digital distribution from a macro perspective. It argues that there has been a significant shift in revenue streams from the recording industry to the live and publishing industries, and that organization of the industries has developed in response to this. It also argues that digitalization has led to a democratization of cultural production that polarizes the music industry and create challenges for middle- layer musicians.

Secondly, it investigates the micro perspective by analyzing empirical case studies of the organization of professional activities and media practices of four musicians from Copenhagen and Boston in the early 2010s. The case studies illustrate the idiosyncratic approaches musicians take in shaping their professional practices in response to the structural challenges. Both in terms of strengthening their independent professional organization, and in terms of utilizing new media to develop their communication, media production, and business models.

Part three develops two primary analytical themes. First, the conception of musicians as entrepreneurs is developed, and the emerging social role of middle-layer rock musicians is conceptualized as ad hoc entrepreneurs. Second, the relation between new media and social change is developed drawing on Meyrowitz’s (1985) conception of feedback loops as a way of understanding how organizational changes in response to new media practices can lead to a reestablishment of structural equilibrium, while substantially changing the social roles of the musicians.

Read the dissertation HERE (in pdf-format)