Music Industry 2.0 A case study on the role social media plays on the music industry


New media is constantly reshaping the music industry. Influencing the distribution, production and communication channels professionals use, the industry is constantly evolving to keep up. Keeping in line with Web 2.0 characteristics, barriers have been broken down to allow for the flow of User Generated Content to be shared to a large audience- a phenomenon not seen before in the industry, thus in turn has redistributed power within the industry.

Social media is an assemblage of the artifacts, practices and social arrangements of new media in their associated social contexts (Lievrouw & Livingstone, 2005, p.2) . The infusion of these technologies, social practices and people then lead to the phenomenon of techno-social hybridity.  This in conjunction with the coming together of digital media and technologies (computing), media (content) and the networks and communication that binds everything together facilitate wider changes that begins to move away from traditional, older industry and business models (convergence).


The music industry is a pillar of the entertainment industry as a whole. Facing uncertainty due to a rise and fall in record sales, the introduction of compact disks in 1982 started the digital reform (Yue, 2011, p.4), as seen in the brochure image before, it had been dubbed 'The Digital Audio Revolution'.

A SONY CDP-101 brochure - Benj Edwards - Image Sourced From

The relationship the industry and audiences were quite static where the flow of information was very uniform, mostly being top-to-bottom as seen in the info-graphic below . Prior to what is now deemed the digital music industry, record labels greatly controlled the market. Due to this, audiences relied heavily on what was being released by the label onto physical disks that were then distributed and available for purchase from store fronts (Salo, Mäntymäki, Lankinen & Kajalo, 2011, p. 283).

Pre-Internet Music Business Model - Huntington Cudahy - Image Sourced From

Before the digital revolution, record sales were the backbone of the industry, accounting for most profits made by professionals


Alternative Distribution and Production

Below is a video discussing alternative rock band, Arctic Monkey's, rise tof ame through what was considered unconventional social media fandom.

The Arctic Monkeys, starting their careers in 2003, distributed their work through an alternative method that challenged the norm. Amidst a time where file sharing was overwhelming the music industry, the band started to give away free demo tracks at their concerts and shows which were in turn shared through the social networking and file sharing site MySpace by their fans.

Arctic Monkeys' Fan MySpace Page - Alex Elert - Image Sourced From

MySpace is a networked public that encourages users to interact and share with others on the site. Users create a profile and can start connecting with friends and share their own or other users content. Being a networked public, it serves the same needs that individuals have for physical publics, such as gathering for social, cultural or civic purposes, however these networked publics have affordances that shape user participation (Boyd, 2010, p.39). Due to anonymity of these networked publics then lead to some promiscuity as it leads into the ideas of invisible audiences where a creator cannot always see all who are present in the audience. This als blurs the line between public and private spaces Networked publics, such as MySpace, as said before hold affordances that are not possible in the physical, information created and shared in these spaces can be duplicated (replicated), persistent as well as searched for and seen by a large scale audience. These four affordances are shaping the industry as before, in the pre-internet model shown earlier, were non-existent as music sharing happened in a physical public, this is shaping the environment in which audiences are now behaving to in publics digitally (Boyd, 2010, p.39)

These networked publics, empower audiences as they allow for user-generated content (such as the fan made MySpace sites for The Arctic Monkeys), two way flow of information and engagement with participatory culture (Green & Jenkins, 2006, p.109). Being deemed the saviour of the audience, with powerful and easy to use tools, web 2.0 technologies allow the once mute to speak, figuratively. Decentralising power, web 2.0 redistributes power and allows for grass-roots content. Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud and MySpace are all examples of how through the use of Web 2.0 technologies audiences don't just consume content but can also produce content, this with it brings the idea of audiences becoming 'produsers' - both producers and users of content. For example, in context with the Arctic Monkeys and MySpace example, MySpace users can interact and consume content made available through the service but also can listen, download and share other users content also.

Bedroom Producers - Breaking away from Labels

Prodsumption focuses not production and consumption as singular actions but on both working simultaneously (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010, p.14). Before the rise of social and new media, the music industry focused on moving products down through label, distribution and retail fronts to customers in a linear fashion where audiences could only consume. However with sociological shift of power and information has allowed and encourages audiences to force music upwards from the bottom up, examples of this in recent times include artists such as Justin Bieber who was found on Youtube and Macklemore who is self produced and distributed- he discusses this in the interview below.

This idea of the 'bedroom producer' (someone who produces music somewhere other than a formal studio) who makes it into the industry without the help of a label or distribution deal are key examples of how social media is changing the relationships. The once linear approach to breaking into the industry has been abolished as artists can now reach an audience in networked publics such as MySpace and Youtube with their own content and be supported to the affordances outlined by Boyd. Now that everybody can access the internet, as explained the Behind the Music segment discussing the Arctic Monkeys' rise to fame, audiences share content freely on these networked sites to reach large scale audiences that are not available in physical public spaces. However although the barriers for user generated content have been broken down, many are being exploited by major media outlets who manipulate content in order to make money.

Present Music Business Model - Huntington Cudahy (b) - Image Sourced From


Explaining that although it is exciting that the boundaries have been lowered allowing for entry into the industry as a producer Green and Jenkins also place emphasis onto the fact that audiences play an important role as an audience (2011, p.111). Time in 2006 named 'you' as Person of the Year, and as Josè Van Vijck explains " After decades of vilifying the passive couch potato, the press now venerates the active participant in digital culture", major media distributors and creators were starting to place value on the audiences taking part in and creating user generated content (UGC). This then leads to a hybrid economy that, as explained by Lawrence Lissig, is the coming together of the sharing and commercial economies (2009). Elaborating, an example of this is the UGCs YouTube and their entanglement with Google. Growing rapidly from its launch in early 2015 until mid-2016, the site was created so that users could create, upload and share content online. Following this media company Google acquired the site, this being finalised in November 2016. the two companies, one being apart of the commercial and the other formerly being apart of the sharing economy, now rely on the voluntary contributions made by YouTube's contributors in order to collect data that can be used by Google to present audiences with content (such as advertisements) that are linked to previous behaviours in the networked space that have been stored and archived.


Networked spaces, user-generated content and creation skill devolution are all bi-products of the web 2.0 and social media intervention in the music industry. Changing the relationships between labels and artists as well as with distribution channels with audiences have formed change in the industry that has altered the nature of music professions. In this case study it is important to take away that although the barriers into the industry have been broken down and audiences can now participate as producers in the creation and distribution of content, the audience just as an audience that consumes still plays an important role in the industry and in the landscape of new media as a whole.


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Created By
Morgaine Jenkins


Created with images by Unsplash - "concert performance entertainment"

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