How can entrepreneurial musicians use electronic social networks to diffuse their music

Kaya, Maria, Steffens, Paul R., Hearn, Gregory N., & Graham, Philip W. (2010) How can entrepreneurial musicians use electronic social networks to diffuse their music. In Langan-Fox, Janice (Ed.) Proceedings of the 7th AGSE International Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, Swinburne University of Technology, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, pp. 679-691.

View at publisher


Principal Topic:

''In less than ten years music labels will not exist anymore.''

Michael Smelli, former Global COO Sony/BMG

MCA/QUT IMP Business Lab

Digital Music Think Thanks

9 May 2009, Brisbane

Big music labels such as EMI, Sony BMG and UMG have been responsible for promoting and producing a myriad of stars in the music industry over the last decades. However, the industry structure is under enormous threat with the emergence of a new innovative era of digital music. Recent years have seen a dramatic shift in industry power with the emergence of Napster and other file sharing sites, iTunes and other online stores, iPod and the MP3 revolution. and other social networking sites are connecting entrepreneurial artists with fans and creating online music communities independent of music labels.

In 2008 the digital music business internationally grew by around 25% to 3.7 Billion US-Dollar. Digital platforms now account for around 20% of recorded music sales, up from 15 % in 2007 (IFPI Digital music report 2009). CD sales have fallen by 40% since their peak levels. Global digital music sales totalled an estimated US$ 3 Billion in 2007, an increase of 40% on 2006 figures. Digital sales account for an estimated 15% of global market, up from 11% in 2006 and zero in 2003. The music industry is more advanced in terms of digital revenues than any other creative or entertainment industry (except games). Its digital share is more than twice that of newspapers (7%), films (35) or books (2%). All these shifts present new possibilities for music entrepreneurs to act entrepreneurially and promote their music independently of the major music labels.

Diffusion of innovations has a long tradition in both sociology (e.g. Rogers 1962, 2003) and marketing (Bass 1969, Mahajan et al., 1990). The context of the current project is theoretically interesting in two respects. First, the role of online social networks replaces traditional face-to-face word of mouth communications. Second, as music is a hedonistic product, this strongly influences the nature of interpersonal communications and their diffusion patterns. Both of these have received very little attention in the diffusion literature to date, and no studies have investigated the influence of both simultaneously. This research project is concerned with the role of social networks in this new music industry landscape, and how this may be leveraged by musicians willing to act entrepreneurially. Our key research question we intend to address is: How do online social network communities impact the nature, pattern and speed that music diffuses?

Methodology/Key Propositions :

We expect the nature/ character of diffusion of popular, generic music genres to be different from specialized, niche music.

To date, only Moe & Fader (2002) and Lee et al. (2003) investigated diffusion patterns of music and these focus on forecast weekly sales of music CDs based on the advance purchase orders before the launch, rather than taking a detailed look at diffusion patterns. Consequently, our first research questions are concerned with understanding the nature of online communications within the context of diffusion of music and artists. Hence, we have the following research questions:

RQ1: What is the nature of fan-to-fan ''word of mouth'' online communications for music? Do these vary by type of artist and genre of music?

RQ2: What is the nature of artist-to-fan online communications for music? Do these vary by type of artist and genre of music? What types of communication are effective?

Two outcomes from research social network theory are particularly relevant to understanding how music might diffuse through social networks. Weak tie theory (Granovetter, 1973), argues that casual or infrequent contacts within a social network (or weak ties) act as a link to unique information which is not normally contained within an entrepreneurs inner circle (or strong tie) social network. A related argument, structural hole theory (Burt, 1992), posits that it is the absence of direct links (or structural holes) between members of a social network which offers similar informational benefits. Although these two theories argue for the information benefits of casual linkages, and diversity within a social network, others acknowledge that a balanced network which consists of a mix of strong ties, weak ties is perhaps more important overall (Uzzi, 1996). It is anticipated that the network structure of the fan base for different types of artists and genres of music will vary considerably. This leads to our third research question:

RQ3: How does the network structure of online social network communities impact the pattern and speed that music diffuses?

The current paper is best described as theory elaboration. It will report the first exploratory phase designed to develop and elaborate relevant theory (the second phase will be a quantitative study of network structure and diffusion). We intend to develop specific research propositions or hypotheses from the above research questions. To do so we will conduct three focus group discussions of independent musicians and three focus group discussions of fans active in online music communication on social network sites. We will also conduct five case studies of bands that have successfully built fan bases through social networking sites (e.g., The idea is to identify which communication channels they employ and the characteristics of the fan interactions for different genres of music. We intend to conduct interviews with each of the artists and analyse their online interaction with their fans.

Results and Implications :

At the current stage, we have just begun to conduct focus group discussions. An analysis of the themes from these focus groups will enable us to further refine our research questions into testable hypotheses. Ultimately, our research will provide a better understanding of how social networks promote the diffusion of music, and how this varies for different genres of music. Hence, some music entrepreneurs will be able to promote their music more effectively. The results may be further generalised to other industries where online peer-to-peer communication is common, such as other forms of entertainment and consumer technologies.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

730 since deposited on 13 May 2010
55 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 32167
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Entrepreneurial Musicians, Electronic Social Networks
ISBN: 9780980332865
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Entrepreneurship (150304)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Current > Schools > School of Management
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 13 May 2010 04:28
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2016 00:57

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page