New Potentials for “Independent” Music: Social Networks, Old and New, and the Ongoing Struggles to Reshape the Music Industry

Evan Wendel

Evan Wendel

This thesis explores the evolving nature of independent music practices in the context of offline and online social networks. The pivotal role of social networks in the cultural production of music is first examined by treating an independent record label of the post-punk era as an offline social network. This develops a useful framework for then considering the similar and distinctive ways in which contemporary independent practices are enabled and/or shaped by online social networks. Analysis is based on close, comparative readings of the structures and affordances of two case studies: the UK-based Rough Trade record label (1978 – 1991) and MySpace (2003 – present). Numerous examples of artists and their practices are drawn upon to illustrate how discursive meanings of independence are negotiated within each network. Investigated are potentials for realizing not only autonomy from the mainstream music industry, but also a range of other post-punk ideals tied to a broader independent ethos concerned with issues of access and participation, artistic control and freedom, as well as desires to engender more diverse music cultures. The intersection of offline and online networks in the context of today’s dynamic, transitional music industry further provides new opportunities for more meaningful artist-to-artist, artist-to-fan, and artist-to-company/label interactions. By emphasizing the centrality of social networks, conceptions of autonomous, “do-it-yourself” music making are problematized in favor of “do-it-together” understandings that foreground cooperation.

147703404-evan-wendel-new-potentials-for-independent-music-social-networks-old-and-new-and-the-ongoing-struggles-to-reshape-the-music-industry.

 
 

Share this Post