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Struggling to define value: a critical and discourse‐based study of strategic sensemaking in the recorded music industry

Wheeldon, J. (2009) Struggling to define value: a critical and discourse‐based study of strategic sensemaking in the recorded music industry. DBA thesis, Henley Business School, University of Reading

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Despite evidence suggesting that music is being consumed more than ever, the global market for recorded music has lost more than one third of its value since its peak in 1999. This thesis explores the implications and competing interpretations of this development via discourse analysis of conversations between the author (a former industry ‘insider’) and 16 senior and influential individuals representing both new and long-established industry stakeholders. The research finds that music is still highly valued, but that the relative value attributable to record companies is contested: not only by artists and consumers, but also by many others who are exploiting new media and technologies to offer products and services which derive value from music. Many strategic solutions have long been recognized or imagined by record companies, but have failed to be executed. Such failure is traced to cognitive and social obstacles to generative dialogue which impede collaboration between powerful stakeholders. Building from the constructs in the participant texts, a number of identity-bound narratives are elaborated, including tales attributed to protagonists such as the patron, the inventor and the curator. From these, the concepts ‘Tin Pan world’ and ‘Wiki world’ are introduced to frame and illustrate how obstacles to strategic collaboration are rooted in alternative value systems, producing a dilemma which is as much social and political as it is commercial. On the one hand is the desire to protect a long-established economic system of patronage and cultural intermediation based on the principle of intellectual property. On the other is the desire to disrupt this ideology and its restrictive power relations and narrow cultural privileges, promoting instead broader civil rights to access and to generate cultural capital in new ways made possible by developments in media and technology. The research responds to calls for approaches which can incorporate the sociological and political dimensions of industrial strategizing. It proposes that the study of discursive practice and discursive resources together can make complex and unresolved dilemmas more visible and discussible. Fragmentation of institutional power and the socially-constructed constraints and enablers of change are themes of relevance not only to the music industry, but also to other industries which are sustained by intellectual property rights and which face the threats and opportunities of the so-called convergence in media and technology.

Item Type:Thesis (DBA)
Thesis Supervisor:
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:86007


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