This article examines a very basic question for popular music studies: what is ‘the music industry?’ It surveys the usage of the term in various arenas and argues that it is often used in ways which state or imply that the industry is a homogenous unit with shared objectives and interests. However, the reality is that this picture is, at best, outdated and an inaccurate portrayal of the organisational structure of the global music economy in the mid-2000s. In addition, to think of a single ‘music industry’ rather than music industries, plural, is simplistic and does little to aid understanding of those cultural industries which are primarily concerned with the creation, management and selling of music, either as a physical/digital product, a performance, or as a bundle of intellectual property rights. We tease out the implications of this, especially as they relate to understanding what is routinely referred to as ‘the music industry’ and the development of policies for it.
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