The double meaning of the title for this volume, and for the symposium that preceded it, is of course intended. The first meaning, which one could paraphrase as ‘What music is (or ought to be) about’, contrasts with the second, which is: ‘How music is produced and consumed, bought and sold’. But even if the two meanings are quite different, they are intertwined. No one is so naive as to imagine that the material circumstances of music's existence leave no mark whatever on its character. The important questions are, rather, whether such influences are (or should be) central or marginal and whether, on balance, they are good or bad.
No musical tradition is wholly unanimous about the answers. Where music produced in our own age is concerned, a kind of litmus test is provided by reactions to the description ‘commercial’ and its subtly different pair of antonyms, ‘non-commercial’ and ‘uncommercial’. Within the Western art music tradition, commonly known as classical music, it would usually seem inadvisable, even improper, to apply the term ‘commercial’ to the music itself. Of course, everyone wishes for success (the composer and his or her performers must eat!) and for wide dissemination, even if, unexpectedly, to the vulgus. But in the view of the musicians most intimately involved, this success must appear almost accidental rather than engineered. If the community of practitioners and professional commentators describes a composition as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to its consensual aesthetic and technical standards, this quality remains unaffected by public success or failure and sticks to the work for as long as the experts remain in agreement.
The insulation of the concept of artistic value from survival in the marketplace is perhaps logical for a tradition that prizes durability and, almost uniquely among musical practices, likes to take the long-term view. Viewed in this light, the subsidy of classical music from the public or private purse is a great benefit, since it validates a distinction between artistic and commercial value: a deus ex machina plugs the gap between what concertgoers are willing to pay and how much composers, performers and venues need to earn in order to keep going. But such patronage is simply a different kind of commerce from the more familiar brand rather than a negation of commerce as such.
Historians have recently been much exercised with debate about changing patterns of consumption and the rise of consumerism. The pioneering work of J. H. Plumb, Neil McKendrick and John Brewer placed the focus firmly on Georgian Britain. Subsequent research has explored the expansion and transformation of consumer culture in the later nineteenth century: the topics covered include shopping, the rise of a ‘mass market’ and the changing social role of goods and leisure, the relationship of the private and public spheres (as well as of suburbs and the centre) and the place of women in urban society. Yet despite music's obvious role in the commercialisation of leisure (and of luxury goods for a widening market), it has barely figured in mainstream discussion. The numerous cultural histories of London during the 1890s make hardly any mention of music or musical life, except in so far as Wagnerism inspired the decadent movement. Even Erika Rappaport's Shopping for Pleasure: Women in the Making of London's West End, an exhaustive recent view of London's urban culture around 1900, makes only scant reference to concert life as opposed to the theatre.
This omission is all the stranger, given the absolutely central role that music – live music, of course – played in the daily life of the city. This role is abundantly evident from the prominence and extent of its coverage throughout the contemporary literature, especially in newspapers and periodicals. For not only did the press expand prodigiously during the 1890s in terms of the number of titles: its attention to music also increased beyond recognition. The Daily Telegraph, for example, always included a dozen or more concert advertisements on its front page during the season (and many more for sheet music), while the Standard reviewed several concerts every day. Even suburban newspapers such as the Brixton Free Press reviewed concerts both central and local. Indeed it is scarcely possible to pick up a publication of the 1890s that does not comment on London's musical life: not mere gossip (though this exists, too) but serious and perceptive analysis of musical trends. The weekly periodicals – the Athenaeum, the Spectator and the Saturday Review – continued to give detailed coverage, but so, too, did family and women's magazines.
I find it symbolically apposite that the symposium at which this chapter originated as a paper fell almost exactly at the climax of the first year of the delivery, at the University of Liverpool, of an MBA in Music Industries (MBA MI), a degree for which I act as Course Director. This particular MBA is the first of its kind in the world. ‘The first of its kind in the world’: this phrase cannot but sound like an advertising slogan, and an archaic one at that (at least in terms of the accelerated history of popular culture). It comes with an almost irresistible connotative ‘pre-echo’: ‘Roll up, roll up, see the first MBA of its kind in the world.’ Indeed, the first year of the degree owes a debt, if not to P. T. Barnum himself, then certainly to the circus. There have been death-defying high-wire acts, leaps from one trapeze to another, bareback rides, flaming hoops and custard pies – much as there inevitably are whenever any new venture is undertaken. In short, the course ‘on the page’ is not the course in the lecture theatre, since, from the outset, there has been a constant need to adjust learning methods and teaching goals to the needs of students. There has also been a need to make a Popular Music Studies perspective on the music industry harmonise with, or at least exist alongside, an orthodox management approach to teaching business. Taking all factors together, and within a much wider context of novelty, there have been tensions around exactly what needs to be taught as the ‘music industry’ and why. In this chapter I want to review not so much the teaching experience itself, nor even (necessarily) the goals of the course. Rather, my main aim is to isolate and examine the source of these (arguably general) tensions in the emergent area of music-industry education. My reason for choosing this aim is driven by my own sense of unease that arises from having the responsibility to deliver a coherent, working understanding of music-industrial practice. As music teachers, we are all present at the birth of music-industry education – and already, confusions and misconceptions about how business is conducted in and by the industry can be seen, arguably at least, to be apparent.
One aspect of the traditional music scene that has long been recognised is that it lacks a professionally managed infrastructure. Some of the informal amateur structures within the folk scene are at times one of its greatest strengths but at other times one of its gravest weaknesses.
Some years ago I conducted a selective review of the contemporary folk industry and media from a popular music perspective as part of my doctoral thesis. I concluded that historiographical pressures concerning what folk music actually was and how (or, indeed, whether) it should be marketed had acted in such a way as to minimise economic and cultural progress and positively encourage an inefficient, albeit dedicated, distribution network of information and music. I further suggested that this happened to such an extent that some folk music lovers who entered the ‘industry’ and attempted to market the music were subject to over-sensitivity and socio-political (and thus generic) pressures and judgements. They had allowed themselves to be deflected from the pursuit of profit by continuing to perceive an opposition between heritage (the natural) and enterprise (the massproduced); this dichotomy remained central to a continual struggle for meaning.
Although I concluded my discussion of this problem by suggesting that certain sections of the folk music industry and media were beginning to face the challenge of commerce, my monitoring of both areas in the intervening years has revealed no substantial progress away from the margins of popular music production. My conviction is that the music of the folk ‘movement’ (if it may still be described as such) remains largely hidden from, and consequently unheard by, the vast majority of the general public. Moreover, despite the efforts of such singers as Billy Bragg, and certain progressive elements within the folk music industry (the Internet-based magazine Musical Traditions, for example) to raise the profile of the genre in the United Kingdom, it seems to me that what little is revealed of folk music participation remains tarnished by the revival's own countenance. After an interval of over four years I cannot but ask whether the folk revival has moved into an irretrievable period of decay – or whether it is merely going through the transitional pains of adjustment to the vagaries of postmodernity in popular music production and reception.
This chapter focuses on the music business in order to explore connections between music and the city. More specifically, it examines policy initiatives of the 1980s and 1990s aimed at developing citybased music industries and thereby improving music's contribution to urban economies. Using the English city of Liverpool as a case study, the first part of the chapter describes several such initiatives, while the second part highlights key features of the discourse that they generated and outlines the main occupational groups involved with formulating and implementing them. These groups are shown to have often conflicting interests in, and perspectives on, the music business and its connection with or value for the city and to promote a ‘rhetoric of the local’ that serves to further their own interests. So although Liverpool's music-industry policy initiatives have tended to be strictly concerned with economics and with music's economic impact on the city, they have also been very much about culture and politics, representing a political battlefield in which different groups have struggled to control connections between the music industry and the city, and promoting a contested discourse that connects the music industry with city identity. The chapter ends by considering some of the implications of this for how we think about and value the music business and its connections with the city.
Developing City-based Music Industries
Most major British cities house a variety of music businesses. In Liverpool during the 1980s and 1990s, for example, there were businesses concerned with the staging of live music performance (such as venues, festival organisations, PA and lighting companies); others concerned with music as a recorded medium (examples are recording studios, studio equipment manufacturers and repairers, record retailers and DJs) or with both live and recorded fields of musical activity; one or two associated businesses (such as law firms specialising in the music and entertainment business and companies producing and distributing music-related merchandise); and bodies engaged in both commercial and publicly funded activity (including community music activity and further or higher music education and training). Many of these organisations dealt with a range of music genres, while some were associated with specific genres (local classical, dance, folk and country music ‘scenes’, for example, had their own particular network of businesses that included specialist retailers and live performance venues).
Although Nadia Boulanger's reputation as one of the greatest music teachers of the twentieth century is secure, surprisingly little is known about her approach to teaching and the content of her classes. Nadia Boulanger herself is most to blame for this, as she rarely revealed anything of importance about her life or work to interviewers and always turned down offers to publish her teaching materials. She was always keen to emphasise that the musical work, rather than the performer or a commentator on the music, should be the centre of attention. The aura of mystery that she created only enhanced her reputation, giving her students the impression that they belonged to an elite group.
Although one might presume that a teacher of her eminence would have taught only elite students, Boulanger taught a surprisingly varied student body that included those with little previous knowledge of harmony as well as successful students who were promising young composers. The three principal types of student she taught can, in general, be placed into separate categories by virtue of their financial status and their gender. Some of her students were young female amateurs who viewed music as an essential accomplishment for someone of their background; others were men who aimed for a professional career in music, usually as composers or performers. The third principal group – women who sought a career as music teachers – often considered Nadia Boulanger as a role model. My initial assumption was that there would be substantial differences between Boulanger's approaches as a teacher to these three groups of student, since the aims and objectives of the different types of pupil were clearly very varied.
While she was, of course, obliged to tailor the content of classes to the abilities of her students, there are several common threads running through her teaching career. In particular, the transmission of a central Western musical culture, based on great composers and the masterpieces they wrote, was fundamental to her outlook. Also, for many of her students, she represented the prestige, civilised qualities and socially desirable aspects of French culture. Boulanger handed down this cultural heritage to students from many different countries and backgrounds.
Publishing and the Music Trade
A conspicuous feature of nineteenth-century English musical life was the establishment of a large number of firms trading in music, offering items and services as diverse as a burgeoning market for music demanded. There were sellers and repairers of musical instruments, many of whom manufactured their own instruments for sale, organ builders and firms dealing solely with the manufacture, sale and maintenance of pianos. There were ‘professors of music’, which in the present context means persons who professed, or taught, music. These professors sometimes organised themselves into commercial groups, perhaps under the title of ‘Academy’, and many of them also held positions as church organists. Any, or all, of these types of individual or organisation could (and often did) publish music. In addition, there were booksellers, printers and stationers, whose main activities concerned the written word but who were also sometimes commissioned to print or sell items of music. In the early part of the century, therefore, the concept of the music publisher as a specialist principally in that single area was almost non-existent. Even in the second half of the century, well after the establishment of such large London firms as Novello (1810), Chappell (1811) and Boosey (c.1816) and the midcentury advances in music-printing technology, this multiplicity of functions continued for the most part to prevail. It did so for much of the twentieth century, too, and some such firms are still in existence, for example Banks of York and Forsyth of Manchester.
For the present-day investigator of music publishing, whose principal sources of evidence include sheet music, catalogues and advertisements, as well as trade directories, in which classifications are unfortunately seldom sufficiently precise or accurate, the concept of the music publisher in the nineteenth century can sometimes be uncomfortably vague. An interest in enhancing personal fame or fortune from music in print seems here to have been the determining factor, rather than a particular function in the process of producing or disseminating it. For example, in one instance the composer of a piece of music might be recorded as its publisher, because this single person had carried out every stage in the music's creation and dissemination except the act of printing it. In another, a commissioning body might be recorded as the publisher, although this organisation might nowadays more commonly be termed the sponsor or promoter.
The music business can be defined as the ensemble or complex of practices and institutions that make possible and regulate the production, distribution and consumption of music.
Since music is generally situated in the sphere of the communicative, this definition has the merit of being structurally homologous with the tripartite and venerable model of communication that posits a linear relay between sender, message and receiver. For the purpose of this chapter, it also provides the boundary that ‘contains’ its primary object of analysis: the role of intellectual property rights in relation to the music business.
Any sustained attempt to unpack the components of ‘production’, ‘distribution’ or ‘consumption’ would immediately and inevitably begin to complicate and problematise this neat triad. For instance, should ‘production’ include performance and recording as well as composition, and, if so, in what dimension? And how far can a model of musical production (or any form of semiotic or symbolic production) be based on the political economy categories of relations, forces and means of production? Here is one of the – no doubt several – junctures where such an analysis would be confronted by Adorno, who, it will be recalled, deployed certain categories drawn from the discourse of production in his Philosophy of Modern Music and elsewhere.
The sphere of ‘distribution’ could in turn be subject to examination. If the ‘work’ of the composer – while recognising the complexities of this category evident in the papers from the previous Liverpool Music Symposium – is taken as axiomatic of a certain type of ‘production’, then its performance or its recording might be identified as ‘distribution’. But in those modes of musical practice where the creation of recordings can plausibly be regarded as belonging to the sphere of ‘production’ the more mundane industrial processes of manufacturing, marketing and retailing would occupy the space of ‘distribution’. Here, too, would probably be the place of the ‘cultural intermediaries’ of music, such as broadcasters and journalists.
In turn, the space of ‘consumption’ must be orientated to that most Janus-faced of signifiers, ‘the market’, with its twin denotations as a simple geographical space of exchange and as the most ideologically charged category of classical economics.
In the new era of Internet publishing and self-promotional Web sites it might seem that the comprehensive services that Durand et Cie provided for Debussy (and Ravel) in the first quarter of the last century no longer had any relevance. Like his father Auguste before him, Jacques Durand acted for his chosen composers as a benevolent factotum. This combination of legal and artistic adviser, impresario, public relations officer, moneylender and personal friend seems like a forgotten ideal in what is now a much more commercially orientated world. Thus, in a halcyon age when composers composed and publishers saw to everything else, Debussy could disdain the activities of the ‘business-man’ and pursue a path of financial incompetence in the knowledge that he was by no means unique and that Durand would always be there to put things right. Becoming something of a recluse after the scandals surrounding his marital life in 1904, Debussy might, in retrospect, have been attracted to the concept of managing all his affairs from a home computer: but as the only practical skills for which he showed any aptitude were cordon bleu cookery and gardening, I have severe doubts about this.
During the upheavals of the First World War the relationship between composer and publisher in France changed very little. Making light of the paper shortages and restricted concert life, Jacques Durand continued to bring out Debussy's new works within months of their completion, and he also embarked on a new and comprehensive French edition of the classics. With a far from scholarly brief, Debussy was put to work on Chopin, and Ravel on Mendelssohn, so that French pianists would never need German editions again. Debussy had earlier contributed Les Fêtes de Polymnie (1908) to Durand's equally well-meaning collected edition of Rameau, inaugurated under the general editorship of Saint-Saëns in 1894. After the Great War and Debussy's death the contractual advances paid to such composers as Ravel at last began to rise substantially. But it was the runaway success of Ravel's Bolero in the 1930s through technically improved recordings that assisted the breakdown of the old order and the move towards a more commercial postwar world, in which success would come to be measured as much in financial as in artistic terms. For, as Ravel freely admitted, Bolero was simply a superbly orchestrated crescendo with only minimal musical content.
This chapter is concerned with how various forms and practices of popular music are addressed and represented within agendas for the arts and in the development of cultural policy. Discussion will centre on the funding policies of the Arts Council of Ireland, the largest funding body for the arts within the Republic. Using the Arts Council as an example, the chapter will discuss how popular music is valued and supported by funding bodies and how views of the music industry are built into institutional understandings of popular music practice. The intention is to question the way in which the music industry is popularly defined as a self-sustaining economy. Specific reference will be made to grassroots initiatives aimed at supporting popular music in Ireland and to the relationship that community-based groups have with policy-makers, the Arts Council and the music industry. We argue that the questions thrown up by the issue of grant funding for popular music highlight broader debates between different arts organisations over what the ‘use value’ of the arts can or should be. Popular music will be used to examine the tensions between the ‘fine arts’, ‘cultural industries’ and ‘community arts’ models that were central to the debates around cultural policy in the second half of the twentieth century.
The research for the chapter was conducted in Dublin as part of a European-funded project that mapped and assessed support for small businesses working within the music industry in the city. What became apparent during this research was that any satisfactory understanding of ‘support’ required the examination of the activities of a complex patchwork of organisations and institutions. These latter included national government, education and training institutions, general business support agencies, the unemployment agency and arts funding bodies. In fact, many of the major sources of support originated in non-sector-specific institutions that were seemingly unrelated to ‘the music industry’. Moreover, we encountered a wide range of practitioners who were deeply involved with popular music in their everyday working lives but did not necessarily conform to commonsense notions of ‘music industry workers’. The sheer variety of individuals and organisations that we came across raised the inevitable question of how the ‘music industry’ should be defined: whom does it include and whom does it exclude?
Contracts are useful documents for historical research, even if their significance is based more on inference than on fact. They do not say what happened, but they point unequivocally to what was feared might happen. Embedded in them is the memory of past mishaps and misunderstandings. They also illuminate, again obliquely rather than directly, the power relationship between the parties. Whoever sets the most conditions or exacts the heaviest penalties is likely to be the dominant party. Lastly, they can reveal a lot about the financial calculations underpinning the operations to which they refer: how much was spent, when it was spent, and who spent it.
Without doubt, opera has always been, ever since its creation shortly before 1600, the art form that is organisationally most complex, financially most problematic and artistically most diverse. It is the co-operative genre par excellence, depending as it does on the harnessing of several very distinct talents and roles. Any serious dissension between the major participants, and the whole project, affecting dozens of livelihoods, is imperilled. Crucial to the enterprise is the sharing out of risk, so that all the interested parties know that they have to sink or swim together. On the surface, a contract relating to opera may appear at times to place the two parties in an oppositional position, but at a deeper level it furthers solidarity by reinforcing their interdependence.
The present chapter takes the form of a detailed examination of a contract made on 11 December 1714 between the co-proprietors of the Venetian opera house known as the Teatro Sant'Angelo and the freelance impresario Pietro Denzio. It begins with a citation of the entire document in English translation (a transcription of the original is given in Appendix A). This is followed by a point-by-point commentary that makes frequent detours in order to build up a more complete picture of the operatic context as it existed in Venice in the early eighteenth century. The focus here is less on artistic matters than on economic, administrative and social ones.
Music and the Law
The starting point of this chapter is straightforward: the music industry is dependent on the law. All business in capitalist societies is dependent, of course, on the law: on enforceable contracts and on markets whose ‘freedom’ is a matter of regulation. But the music industry is especially dependent on the law. Some of the implications of this have already been described by Dave Laing in his sophisticated account of ‘The Text of the Law’ that defines the copyright system. But copyright is only one of the legal issues with which contemporary music-makers have to be concerned, and I can best illustrate the peculiar importance of the law for everyday musical life journalistically. While I was writing the first draft of this chapter in autumn 2000, I noted the following:
• The issue for 30 August of Music and Copyright (a high-priced fortnightly subscription newsletter for music industry executives and investors) carried a press release from the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society detailing its anti-piracy actions in the UK in the first six months of 2000. These began with a raid on a house in Caerphilly in which five hundred CDs were taken and finished with a seizure of 2,500 mp3 files at a computer fair in Hull. In total, during this period, sixty people were arrested and goods worth £2.7 million confiscated.
• The September 2000 issue of Business Affairs Report (a quarterly supplement of the British trade paper Music Week) carried five stories:
Massive Attack talk to lawyers over Tories’ conference tune. ‘Massive Attack have not and will never support the Conservative Party or their policies,’ the statement says. ‘Their music has been used by the Tories without their knowledge or permission.’ Conservative central office has made light of the usage, but the law states that permission must be obtained from the copyright owner before compositions can be appropriated for specific use – for instance, in connection with a political campaign.
IFPI litigation expert to lead piracy team. This is a story about personnel changes in the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, the music business's international trade body. ‘This appointment reflects the growing importance of plant litigation in IFPI's work, and the increasing effectiveness of our strategy to make the CD pirates pay for their infringements.’
There is scope for debate over the exact historical period when the concept of the musical work was established, still more over the moment when musicians started to produce works, but we shall surely agree on the central defining characteristics of this category: a work, as Lydia Goehr puts it, is ‘a complex structure of sounds related in some important way to a composer, a score, and a given class of performances’. There is a suspicion that this type of musical production is peculiar, at least in its origins, to that system, with all its associated social, aesthetic and discursive apparatuses, which Leo Treitler has termed the WECT: the West European Classical Tradition. (Acronyms can serve the reificatory function, useful on occasions, of displaying the object for the fascinated scrutiny characteristic of the museum visitor.) As the authority of this system apparently implodes in the late twentieth century – at the same time, ironically, as it completes its dissemination to the last corner of the globe – it seems natural to question the sustainability of the work-concept. The contemporaneous rise in prominence of pop music provides a particular and pressing context for this question, since popular music, as Goehr points out, seems generally to be uncomfortable with ‘work’ thinking. It is not surprising, then, that a key theme in popular music studies since its beginnings some thirty years ago has been a concern to place a politics of pop practice in opposition to the apparently quasi-religious inventory of iconic classical objects.
The pop critique, explicit in much of the scholarship, implicit (arguably) in the music, is three-pronged. Popular music pieces can only rarely and in heavily qualified ways be attributed to a single author: a composer. More commonly, their production is a collaborative process, which may involve lyricists, songwriters, singers, instrumentalists, arrangers, orchestrators, producers, engineers, set designers, video directors and more. Transmission of these pieces between musicians is as much – and often more – through aural and oral channels as it is through scores; notation is rare today, and even when used is, and has been, generally no more than a sketch, an outline, a starting-point, or else an attempt to approximate what has already been achieved, in performance or recording studio, through non-literate methods.
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