The task undertaken in this dissertation is to determine the extent of the challenge facing the major firms (majors) who currently control over 80% of global sound carrier and publishing revenue in the popular (pop) music industry. The aim of this thesis is to explain the disorganising effects currently being experienced. Specifically, the central question guiding this thesis asks: what will be the effect of new technologies on the future organisation of the music industry?
I focus broadly on recent universally accessible digital technologies which have raised questions about the future of the industry’s current organisational structure and processes both in terms of input (creation of music products in their commodified form) and output (access and consumption of music products). The industry’s processes are highly integrated and its business model is complex because it centres around the sophisticated management and aggressive appropriation of intellectual property (namely copyright) for repeated exploitation for decades after its initial acquisition. The purpose of this research, therefore, is to examine not only the tangible aspects of the manner in which the industry’s organises its products but also the intangible dimension.
Significant recent changes experienced by the industry are identified. The literature is not conclusive in terms of explaining these developments. While existing research exists on recent developments, a comprehensive analysis of the organisation of the industry both in terms of input and output remains underdeveloped in the literature. In particular, in relation to product re-organisation and consumer behaviour, copyright development and corporate restructuring, the literature is not fully developed. Current research is focused on illegitimate technological attacks – namely digital piracy. However these do not adequately or comprehensively explain current disorganisation in the industry. This dissertation remedies this deficiency by proposing four separate but interconnected factors are affecting the highly concentrated status quo. Together, the positive and negative impacts of emerging technologies have created a serious dilemma in terms of product commodification for the controllers of the industry. I argue interconnected illegitimate and legitimate technological challenges are at play suggesting re-organisation is occurring multidimensionally.
The research undertaken is empirically grounded, and though primarily based on qualitative data (and subsequent quantitative data for statistical corroboration), the current work has implications for understanding the industry’s methods. Together, these approaches form the basis of the dissertation’s methodology. The research reported in this dissertation attempts to determine to what extent the use and consumption of these different technologies can be regarded as the primary catalyst for the challenge to corporate control of the music industry, and the manner in which it is structured. If the dominant few intend to identify and rationalise challenges in terms of their corporate model, then they must understand the dynamic nature of interacting technologies.