It’s not me, it’s you : a participant observation case study of the self-publishing musician in the 21st century

Brown, Hugh (2010) It’s not me, it’s you : a participant observation case study of the self-publishing musician in the 21st century. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


This thesis explores the business environment for self-publishing musicians at the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st century from theoretical and empirical standpoints. The exploration begins by asking three research questions: what are the factors affecting the sustainability of an Independent music business; how many of those factors can be directly influenced by an Independent musician in the day-to-day operations of their musical enterprise; and how can those factors be best manipulated to maximise the benefit generated from digital music assets? It answers these questions by considering the nature of value in the music business in light of theories of political economy, then quantitative and qualitative examinations of the nature of participation in the music business, and then auto-ethnographic approaches to the application of two technologically enabled tools available to Independent musicians. By analyzing the results of five different examinations of the topic it answers each research question with reference to four sets of recurring issues that affect the operations of a 21st century music business: the musicians’ personal characteristics, their ability to address their business’s informational needs; their ability to manage the relationships upon which their business depends; and their ability to resolve the remaining technological problems that confront them. It discusses ways in which Independent self-publishing musicians can and cannot deal with these four issues on a day-to-day basis and highlights aspects for which technological solutions do not exist as well as ways in which technology is not as effective as has been claimed. It then presents a self-critique and proposes some directions for further study before concluding by suggesting some common features of 21st century Independent music businesses. This thesis makes three contributions to knowledge. First, it provides a new understanding of the sources of musical value, shows how this explains changes in the music industries over the past 30 years, and provides a framework for predicting future developments in those industries. Second, it shows how the technological discontinuity that has occurred around the start of the 21st century has and has not affected the production and distribution of digital cultural artefacts and thus the attitudes, approaches, and business prospects of Independent musicians. Third, it argues for new understandings of two methods by which self-publishing musicians can grow a business using production methods that are only beginning to be more broadly understood: home studio recording and fan-sourced production. Developed from the perspective of working musicians themselves, this thesis identifies four sets of issues that determine the probable success of musicians’ efforts to adopt new technologies to capture the value of the musicians’ creativity and thereby foster growth that will sustain an Independent music business in the 21st century.

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ID Code: 47034
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Dillon, Steve & Graham, Philip
Keywords: self-publishing musician, music industry
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 16 Nov 2011 01:04
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2012 14:10

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