The music industry has been waging some very significant battles in recent years, reacting to numerous inter-related crises provoked by globalization, digitalization and the ever more extensive commercialization of public culture. These struggles are viewed by many as central to the survival of the central mediators in the consumption of popular music. These battles are not just against piracy and the sharing of digital song files on the internet. The music industry is also struggling to find ways to compete or integrate with many other forms of entertainment, including films, television programmes, mobile phones, DVDs and video games in an extremely crowded communications environment. The battles currently being fought by the music industry are about nothing less than its continued ability to create and maintain specific kinds of profitable relationships with consumers. This book presents two inter-related cases of crisis and opportunity: the music industry’s epic struggle over piracy and the ‘Idol’ phenomenon. Both are explicit attempts to control and justify the particular ways in which the music industry makes money from popular music through specific kinds of relationships with consumers. The battles over piracy have been fought with a remarkable collection of campaigns consisting of advice, coercion and argument about what is or is not the best way to consume music. From these complicated and often contradictory campaigns we form an unusually clear picture of what many within the music industry imagine their industry to be. In a complementary way, ‘Idol’ works to demonstrate the joy and pleasure of consuming popular music the ‘right’ way. By creating a series of intertwined relationships with consumers around multiple sites of consumption, incorporating television, radio, live performance, traditional print media campaigns, text messaging and all manner of internet-based systems of communication and ‘fan management,’ the producers of ‘Idol’ present an ideal relationship between musicians and audiences. Instead of focusing on selling CDs, the music industry’s digital Achilles’ heel, ‘Idol’ has given the music industry an integrated platform for displaying its expanded palette of products and venues for consumption. When understood in specific relation to the battle against piracy, Fairchild’s analysis of ‘Idol’ and the emerging promotional cultures of the music industry it exhibits shows how multiple sites of consumption, and attempts to mediate and control the circulation of popular music, are being used to combat the foundational challenges facing the music industry.
Pop Idols and Pirates Mechanisms of Consumption and the Global Circulation of Popular Music