When the term corporate or corporation is applied to an industry, immediately images of a machine like structure consuming everything within its path with little or no concern for anyone or anything, except the bottom line come to mind. In a quote taken from an article of the online Alternet news magazine, Julianne Sheppard states; ‘It's no secret that corporate conglomerates basically run consumer goods, swallowing up smaller businesses like voracious monsters in order to maximise their bottom lines’. Further making the point that as consumers we all feed into these companies (Shepherd 2012). In the second chapter of his book Popular Music In Theory, Keith Negus explains that very often the music industry is seen as such, a corporate and ruthless machine which seeks to control creativity, and continually compromises aesthetic practices offering audiences little or no choice at all (Negus 1996).
If this line of thought is followed then no credence is given to the accommodating structures that facilitate a relatively un-known artist or musician, to rise from a place of obscurity to the covers of every magazine, the headlines of every gossip column, and a place where even the attachment of their name to an un-related product sells as if it is the last of its kind on earth. In seeking to explore the role that corporate structure plays within the music industry these seemingly opposing values will prove the facilitator of each.
Theodor Adorno was one of the first to theorise the concept of the culture industry, implying that music was not independent of industry and commerce, that it was produced en-mass in a standardised format with no other purpose than to maximise profits, in an assembly line like production method. Citing the Tin Pan Alley method of producing jazz standards for ordinary consumption, and thereby sabotaging the very essence of improvisation which characterises jazz, further stating that even the pseudo like improvisations on recordings and live performances were manufactured and well planned in advance (Negus 1996). Ardono likens the culture industry to an all dominating force that seeks to control everyone, and everything in its path. To the point that over time this controlling factor has condition even the way consumers think in conformity to the industry’s designs, and so creating a whole culture. Anyone who fails openly to observe and propagate the established guidelines is forced to remain outside the pale (Adorno 1991).
Adorno’s theories have much been misunderstood, and have enforced the belief that the music industry is this great corporate consumer eating machine. On the contrary however, Ardono does not accuse the music industry of spreading a false consciousness or a great deception, but that it has identified what the masses require and focused on these (Scott 2009).
A more balanced approach is required when seeking to understand the relationship between the corporate music industry and the...