Rethinking the Music Business

Rethinking the Music Business 1st ed. 2022

Author in the category "Miscellaneous"
  1. Daniel Nordgård
  2. Guy Morrow
  3. Peter Tschmuck
Rethinking the Music Business

COVID-19 had a global impact on health, communities, and the economy. As a result of COVID-19, music festivals, gigs, and events were canceled or postponed across the world. This directly affected the incomes and practices of many artists and the revenue for many entities in the music business. Despite this crisis, however, there are pre-existing trends in the music business – the rise of the streaming economy, technological change (virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, etc.), and new copyright legislation. Some of these trends were impacted by the COVID-19 crisis while others were not.

This book addresses these challenges and trends by following a two-pronged approach: the first part focuses on the impact of COVID-19 on the music business, and the second features general perspectives. Throughout both parts, case studies bring various themes to life. The contributors address issues within the music business before and during COVID-19. Using various critical approaches for studying the music business, this research-based book addresses key questions concerning music contexts, rights, data, and COVID-19. Rethinking the music business is a valuable study aid for undergraduate and postgraduate students in subjects including the music business, cultural economics, cultural management, creative and cultural industries studies, business and management studies, and media and communications.


We received a University of Melbourne School of Culture and Communication Publication Support Grant in 2021. This grant funded the copyediting of this book. Thanks to the University of Melbourne, and various administrative staff, for making such grants available. Thanks also to Kate Leeson for copyediting the book and for providing editorial suggestions.

We would also like to thank the other series editors of the Music Business Research book series—of which this contributed volume is a part—for accepting our original proposal: Dennis Collopy, Beate Flath, Sarita M. Stewart, and Carsten Winter.

Guy Morrow, Daniel Nordgård, Peter Tschmuck
May, 2022


Abstract Inthischapter,weintroducethebookbyfirstoutliningthechallengesof designing, writing and editing a research-based book during the COVID-19 pandemic. We explain why Part 1 features six chapters that concern the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the music business, while Part 2 is comprised of six chapters that present original insights into the music business in general. We edited this book in solidarity with the various authors who managed to contribute chapters to this volume despite COVID-19-related disruptions and time out from work due to illness. We also edited this book in solidarity with all the participants who contributed to our own research projects that feature in this book and with the participants who took part in our contributing authors’ research projects. Our aim in this book was to provide as holistic a picture of the music business as we could at this time by gathering contributions from authors who were in the United Kingdom, Austria, Zimbabwe, Germany, India, Australia, Norway and the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.1 Book Design

In designing, writing and editing this book, we encountered several challenges. Of course, bringing together a diverse group of scholars and case studies to present a global perspective on the music business during the COVID-19 pandemic meant that several contributing authors and editors contracted COVID-19 during this time, and some of the team behind this book are still suffering from long COVID. The pandemic has made many things more challenging, including the creation of this book. Yet despite this, our contributing authors rose to the challenge, and we managed to submit this book to our publisher (roughly) on time. Likewise, much of the music business itself has stopped and started and adapted and evolved during this time, and it has been fascinating to see how innovation and creativity have been harnessed to regenerate and rethink the music business.

This juxtaposition between the catastrophe of the ongoing COVID-19 disaster and ‘business as usual’ also informed the design of this book. Indeed, another challenge we faced in compiling this book concerned how we could both consider some of the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the music business, as well as pre-existing trends in this business that were not directly impacted by this crisis, and research that was conducted prior to the pandemic. To provide as holistic a picture of the music business during this time as possible, we resolved to split the book evenly into two parts. Part 1 features six chapters that concern the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the music business, while Part 2 is comprised of six chapters that present original insights into the music business in general.

1.2 Outline of Part 1

It may be years before we can understand the true impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the music business—we are not able to zoom out far enough at this time as it still encircles and threatens to suffocate us. In Part 1, our contributing authors have only been able to zoom in to analyse some key issues. In Chap. 2, George Musgrave examines media representations of musicians’ mental health during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom (UK). The media narratives that emerged from these many representations are his specific concern, and Musgrave traces two primary ones. The first relates to employment anxiety and the loss of income, while the second concerns musicians’ loss of purpose and thus the existential anxiety faced by many musicians.

While Musgrave does not claim that musicians’ mental health concerns were worse than those of other members of British society during this time, he does argue that his work here is significant because the live music industry—and the music industries in general because the various sectors or industries are very interconnected—was one of the hardest hit by pandemic-related lockdowns. Live music venues were amongst the first to close and the last to open. Musgrave’s discussion of musicians’ eligibility, or lack thereof, for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme in the UK leads him to consider the particularly poignant question of the economic viability of musicianship and whether, on average, musical work has ever been economically viable.

Continuing with a similar theme, in Chap. 3, Peter Tschmuck, Lukas Hirzberger, Armin Radlherr, Sandra Stini and Nils Wlömert examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on freelance classical musicians in Austria. They do this by working through the results of an online survey they conducted with 1777 participants. They found that the classical musicians who participated in their study suffered less than musicians in other music genres. They argue that this is because these musicians more often combine their freelance work as musicians with fixed- term work for orchestras and work teaching music than musicians who work in other music genres do.

While they claim that almost all musicians suffered pandemic-related income losses, and the points Musgrave makes in Chap. 2 about musicians’ mental health are no doubt also relevant to classical musicians, when they introduced gender into their analysis, Tschmuck et al. found that the pandemic has so far had a different impact on the income situation of women and men. At a first glance, it seems that female artists suffered less from the pandemic than male artists. In relative terms, however, they found that women often lost more than men, despite men having higher absolute income losses than women. Yet female classical musicians were better off than women working in popular music genres in Austria.

In Chap. 4, Paul G. Oliver and Stefan Lalchev examine digital transformation in the music industry and the question of how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated new business opportunities. Using secondary data, they ‘map the territory’ to uncover new phenomena and identify emerging patterns of behaviour within the music business. They identify five key trends that illustrate how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced practitioners to ‘rethink’ the music business: the evolution of creators, the social audio platforms, the ‘metaverse’, blockchain and non-fungible tokens and the evolution of streaming. They argue that, even though digitisation had been changing the music business landscape for years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, new trends that emerged within a period of less than 2 years because of the pandemic accelerated numerous new business opportunities. Overall, they con- clude that the pandemic created a ‘perfect storm’ for the music business, which, in turn, led to this business putting much of its resourcing and attention into the digital domain. Within only 2 years, the pandemic has been a catalyst for creative and innovative output that ordinarily might have taken a whole decade.

In Chap. 5, Victoria Blessing Butete uses social capital theory to examine the strategies three Zimbabwean female musicians used to manage their careers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on her doctoral research into the government’s role in Zimbabwe’s live music sector, Butete uses a case study approach and analyses data gathered through in-depth semi-structured interviews and document analysis. Her overarching finding is that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the three Zimbabwean female musicians differently and in both positive and negative ways. She notes that, overall, the loss of live music performance opportunities had negative economic, social and cultural impacts. This forced her participants to regenerate their human capital by learning new skills. She argues that this learning process aug- mented their extant social capital and enhanced their proficiency by creating new COVID-19-friendly networks. She claims that her participants utilised their cognitive, bonding, bridging, linking, relational and structural forms of social capital to exploit and expand existing networks and that therefore social capital sustained the three Zimbabwean female musicians who participated in her study by allowing them access to economic, cultural and symbolic capital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Chap. 6, Niklas Blömeke, Jan Üblacker, Johannes Krause, Katharina Huseljić and Heiko Rühl explore the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on live music venues in Germany. They ask the questions: How did COVID-19 and related measures to reduce contact impact live music venues in Germany? Was the cultural value or the social value of live music particularly affected and how? What are the likely longterm consequences for the live music sector? To answer these questions, Blömeke et al. conducted exploratory research during the northern summer of 2020. This included 14 semi-structured interviews with key actors in the live music sector (e.g. club owners, politicians, live music associations). Blömeke et al.’s findings indicate that music venues are confronted with an existential crisis that exceeds their economic pressures. This includes venues in Germany facing the loss of informal support networks within the sector and decreasing ties between artists, venues and audiences. Besides economic effects, they identified three areas of impact that the situation caused by COVID-19 had on cultural value. These are the obstruction of musical creativity and co-creation, general cultural lethargy and disruption of talent development. They also identified three areas of impact on social value: loss of communal experience, loss of voices in political discourse and decreased potential for identity formation. Blömeke et al.’s work here is significant as it highlights the importance of live music events as social spaces and the importance of venues to thelive music ecology.

Chapter 7 concludes Part 1 of the book. In this chapter, Sarah Raine, Haftor Medbøe and José Dias examine how four jazz festivals across the UK adapted their processes and practices to rethink jazz festivals during the COVID-19 pandemic. They explore themes such as pandemic-exposed fragilities, community resilience in the face of adversity and industry recovery. Raine et al. provide a fascinating ‘insiders’ perspective’ into the jazz scene during this time by using their own reflexive positionalities: each of them has built a scholarly career on a personal and pre-existing passion; two of them are also performing musicians, and one of them is the Director of the Board for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. Their positioning as both scholars and musicians/participants makes this chapter particularly poignant; it was written in solidarity with their participants, participants who gave up their time to discuss a traumatic period in their lives to share their experi- ences and potential lessons with others. These lessons include understandings of the challenges and opportunities that arose through the shift to virtual live music experiences; the potential longevity of economic models developed during COVID-19; changing relationships with audiences, musicians and funders; and changes in the role of jazz festivals in society.
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