How do economic relationships conflict with or support existing power structures through the Internet? Choose an example from your first module and discuss.
Music fans have found ways to illegally download an artist’s music, a fact that undermines a traditional music company’s business model. Such piracy affects sales as “… consumers no longer have a fixed perception of the value of music and thereby how much they are willing to pay for it” (Brown, 2011, p. 203). The example of Nine Inch Nails (NIN) illustrates how fans are willing to pay for his recorded music depending on this kind of perceived value. Trent Reznor successfully capitalised on the NIN brand – he gave away some of his music for free, sold his music in limited edition releases with special artwork on its covers, and personally autographed a small, finite amount of albums – a feature keenly sought out by his fans. Since the current trends in the music industry is for music fans to listen via streaming services such as Spotify, Last.FM and Pandora, it has become increasingly difficult for the industry to profit from their creations and products.Reznor managed to take advantage of these changes to the ways music was packaged and sold, building on the fact that “… live music is argued as the ultimate combination of connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy, where recorded music now effectively sells live music” (p. 209). This fact turned the music industry on its head.
The case of NIN illustrates that artists must construct relationships with their fans if they are to realise ongoing mainstream success and positive economic developments. Currently, such changes conflict with existing power structures in the music industry, but the examples provided by NIN, Radiohead and Pearl Jam demonstrate that such seismic shifts can support present and future power structures. The methods of marketing and selling an artist’s work needs to be re-addressed. It has become imperative to involve the fan base of the artist so that they feel a sense of loyalty and, therefore, buy albums and tickets to their shows (p. 207). Even the creative process has been transformed. It is now possible for artists to establish a reciprocal working relationship with their fans: “The commitment to work towards a shared goal is inspirational, and indicative of their commitment to the band” (p. 207). However, these developments are still to be addressed in the music industry, as the success realised by NIN may also be due to that fact that it had “pre-existing fan bases, motivated by fan worship and perhaps habit” (p. 208). Seeking innovative ways to generate such fan worship and loyalty when one is starting out in the industry is paramount. The exploration of making fans feel as though they have the power to affect, remix and improve upon the product of a new artist or band would do well for the purpose of increasing revenue in the future.
Brown, S. C. (2011). Artist Autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails. Empirical Musicology Review, 6(4), 198-213. Retrieved from http://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/52949/EMR000124a-Brown.pdf?sequence=1