Queensland Music Industry Trends: Independence Day?

Ninan, Abraham, Oakley, Kate, & Hearn, Gregory N. (2004) Queensland Music Industry Trends: Independence Day? Mapping Queensland’s Creative Industries series. CIRAC, Creative Industries Faculty, QUT.



It’s a great time to be an independent. With the majors distracted by the main game, it gives us this opportunity to get in there and concentrate on selling the records, make people aware of them … If you’re a major record company, what you have to do is put records out and sell records. As an independent you can jump around and do all sorts of things, plug your CDs that are not necessarily exactly what you were doing before … You have a lot of scope to try different things and it’s an exciting time. (Panellist from a large independent label) Times are changing in the music industry and while for the major labels this is a period of great concern — with increased piracy, digital downloading and declining record sales — for some independent musicians at least, this flux is leading to new opportunities. For once it isn’t all about ‘making it big’, getting discovered or getting forgotten. Instead, some can now see a way to make a living, doing what they love and drawing on a supportive milieu established in Queensland over recent years. In terms of the capacity to adapt to changing markets, the micro-businesses, SMEs and other smaller music firms in Queensland have a distinct advantage over the big labels. The smaller firms are more aware of and sometimes better suited to capturing emerging local genres of music, changing market supply and demand and transforming local cultural expressions into market niches. The question is, is this enough for a sustainable business? This report is the story of these independents, told partly in their words. It is part of a series of three reports published by QUT. The first, Queensland Music Industry Basics: People, Businesses and Markets sets out the basic demographics of the music industry, offering a robust description of size, location and characteristics of the sector in Queensland, and the third Queensland Music Industry Value Web: From the Margins to the Mainstream explores the value chain or ‘web’ in economic or industry development terms. The three reports are outcomes from an Australian Research Council funded Linkage Project titled “Creative Industries in Queensland: Cultural Mapping and Value Chain Analysis‿.

This is the second report in the series and its aim is to understand and exemplify the creation of value in detail, by examining working relationships in the context of technological change. The study is based on twenty in-depth interviews across a spectrum of representative members of Queensland’s music industry. Interview transcripts were compared for emerging common themes, which were then used to develop further questions in ensuing discussions. The respondents also suggested the names of people who they thought were relevant and either supported or opposed their viewpoints. This developing snowball sample was then used as a springboard to conduct further interviews. The method is a way of capturing the major issues the industry faces, in its own terms, without any pre-judgements being made by the researchers. In analysing the material, we have been influenced by Michael Porter’s work1 on international competitiveness. Porter argued that a nation’s leading export firms are not isolated success stories but belong to successful groups of rivals within related industries. He termed these groups ‘clusters’, sets of firms related by horizontal and vertical links of various kinds, including, but not confined to, inputoutput trading linkages. Porter argued that the significance of these clusters resides in the interaction between various factors, including the local context; the firms themselves and their competitive strategies; the input conditions, such as labour, available to them; the demands of consumers; and a series of related and supporting industries. In the case of the music industry, ‘related and supporting’ industries can encompass intermediaries such as A&R people, as well as other creative sectors such as design (merchandise, or CD sleeves) and public support bodies or initiatives. In analysing Queensland’s music industry, therefore, we are not just concerned with individual companies, performers or intermediaries — but we are interested in the environment or cluster in which they work. We have considered various aspects of the industry, including human capital or skills, public support, and the changing ways in which consumers can now buy or experience music. The reportthus asks how well and in what ways Queensland’s music industry is responding to these changes. A range of different firms are involved in any local music scene — how dense are the interactions between them in Queensland? To what extent does geographical proximity matter, or is digital technology making it irrelevant? And to what extent can the Queensland music industry be described as a ‘cluster’, let alone a successful cluster, if at all? The report is presented in a series of short chapters. The next chapter will look at what is driving change in the Queensland music scene and internationally. It examines some of the tensions that this exposes between commerce and creativity; about who owns intellectual property (IP) and for whose benefit, and between a small scale, self-help culture and the realities of the global music market. Chapter 3 looks at the ‘DIY culture’ that has grown up in Queensland in response both to changes in the industry and to the familiar issues of geographic isolation, small home markets and lack of access to commercial markets. We look at how self-help networks operate, the role of public support in nurturing them and the links that have formed between the music industry and other creative industries in the State. In Chapter 4, we ask how sustainable this business model is for small independent companies, and, if this really is a window of opportunity, how fast that window is closing. We present the views of those who are less optimistic about the state of the industry, examine the limitations to DIY culture and the barriers to growth, and ask if, and how, those barriers can be effectively challenged. The final chapter summarises the preceding discussion and asks what, if any, is the role for public policy in the music industry.

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ID Code: 2411
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
ISBN: 1741070562
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > PERFORMING ARTS AND CREATIVE WRITING (190400) > Musicology and Ethnomusicology (190409)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 (The authors)
Deposited On: 08 Nov 2005 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:28

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